Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New week, new age

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Last week we wrapped the scheduled shooting, capturing the views and perspectives of Fortune 500 leaders, and innovative business approaches to the issue of climate change.
As the scientists indicated before them, the view is that we are in a new age, one where profit and sustainable aren’t just smart, or good citizenship, but required.
As we have clearly left the last natural geologic period for whatever we might call this carbon loaded and human influenced one, the society has also moved on. Whether is it the next industrial revolution, or merely the green age, there is no way that we are in the information age, nor even the internet age.
Here is what the incredibly pragmatic and visionary people we have interviewed tell us about this age-
It is collaborative. Whether in the sciences, or business, the leaders and winners are team players. The best people want to be part of efforts that represent all their aspirations and values, and are seeking out enterprises and organizations that give the largest purpose to their work. Every progressive company is finding that by making a real commitment to sustainable long term practices, they are attracting the best talent. They also report raised morale, and enthusiasm both internally and externally. When a utility like PG&E has its customers proud to be their customers, something radically different is happening.
It is integrated. Nothing you do is isolated. Every single action becomes either part of building a sustainable future or holds it back.
It is interdisciplinary. If you know about polar ice, your information is critically of interest to wildlife biologists. If you have a clue about a lower embedded energy building material or method, there are a lot of green builders that want to talk to you.
Put these together and what happens is that every action becomes part of not only living well, but making it possible for everyone else on the planet to live well. Your consumption doesn’t alienate you, but connects you, provided you apply yourself to being informed, and smart about which choices you make.

Horses to horsepower to joules

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

The next industrial revolution is social. Imagine every consumptive socially alienating act of mundane daily life transformed into a connection to the rest of society. Imagine that your living well not only comforts and supports you and your family, but makes it possible for the other seven billion or so, and their heirs, to have that same possibility.
Have purpose and connection to the earth, the forces of nature and all living things, and live even more comfortably than you do now.
That is the promise of the sustainable industrial revolution, of living with intention.
Forget saving the planet. Save yourself and make civilization a term Gandhi would speak of in the present tense.

Requistion for a Public Dream

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Just back from a day in the SV, where they say that they are the best at everything they do. I can’t offer much argument. Most of what I experienced was what we typically think of as the American way- can do, best practice, dive in get it right, everything is possible.

Also got tons of feedback supporting the approach of engaging threats as opportunity and support for telling the climate change story with that perspective.

My AP puts it this way- there has been a request for a public dream and this company got the PO.

Back to work….

Regime Change

Friday, June 29th, 2007

As of this day, Ceilings Unlimited and its related project on climate change is officially and fully under new management. Expect to see updates on the project posted here on a regular basis.

Making presentations

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

The origins of this project are in the Small Business Innovative Research program, which was instituted by Congress to have all government agencies with a research budget spend some of that budget with small business in the United States. Here is a site which lists all the programs-
At NOAA, this is often things like undmanned underwater submarines, or lenses that won’t cloud up after 18 months at sea in a buoy, or neat new ways to measure natural phenomena. In the Oct 2004 request, there was one to develop a treatment to tell the story of the NOAA climate suite of products. In a competition of ‘less than 200’ applicants, ours won.
We presented a proposal to inventory the story elements, and create a fictional group of scientists that are on assignment to figure out just what it is that Nature is doing in terms of climate. The idea was pitch this to the networks as a topically hot variation on “The X files” (the truth about Nature is out there) or a “CSI: Climate change”. Since it wasn’t really a procedure show ( “Who dies this hour” is not a climate style question, although lots of people might die if we don’t act on what we know about climate change) and it wasn’t clear to the few development people we did get to pitch, our prototype has been dead in the development waters (still afloat and available!).
So we have proceeded to Phase 2 with a different design- a more traditional documentary with prospects of partnering with a cable network with a taste for science and humans. Phase 2 in SBIR consists of a project proposal, with a request for funds, a budget and all the stuff that goes with it. Experts in the field are then hired to review, and reports to the decision committee made. Then a presentation is made.
In this years NOAA SBIR Phase 2 process, 28 proposals were presented. Each had a half hour to present. Seven people, one from each of the NOAA lines, sit. The one from the line that made the original request is not able to vote for a proposal out of their line, so there are six people to win over.
The date for this exercise was May 10. The rules specified transparencies. That’s right. To keep the playing field flat, and reduce technical issues, everyone was transported back to 1984. The presentation was authored in PowerPoint, and printed by Joe on dual sided blanks available at Staples.
Having never presented with slides, I was apprehensive. All the way there- two flights and six hours, I kept looking through the paper copies ( don’t touch those transparencies! as if they might become opaque) thinking about how to do the handling. I got to my hotel early enough the evening before to test how long the walk was to NOAA HQ, and have a dinner in the nearby Silver Spring town mall. Back at the hotel, I rehearsed several more times. In the morning, I got dressed and practiced in the mirror. When I couldn’t see myself doing anything but getting anxious, I packed up and headed over.
I arrived an hour or so early. This worked out, as the group scheduled ahead of me was late. I took the earlier opportunity, figuring that it would be good to get it done, and hopefully earn a little good will for being flexible and helping the folks who were late. I also got to review the schedule, and noted that of the 28, none of the others looked like either climate or outreach. In any competition with a group of winners, there is some advantage to being the opportunity for the judges to have breadth and diversity.
The room was neutral. Of the six I needed to convince, no one was overtly in hostile posture, but clearly I was going to need to warm them. Ten slides, and twelve minutes later, we started what turned out to be a lively conversation that covered far more territory than the proposal or the presentation. Turns out the getting the word out about NOAA and what it does for your tax money is a significant concern to those for whom this is their life’s work. All the questions were relevant, and in each case there was an answer present in my mind to articulate. There had been discussion about what might be considered weaknesses in the proposal, and the presentation apparently answered those, as none of the questions were targeted at those areas. I was enjoying having a room of people actually interested in what has been a small project when the SBIR director announced that time was up. I actually wanted to spend more time, not out of any sense of needing to sell the committee, but appreciating having an audience for the subject that I have spent so much time working on.
Upon leaving, one SBIR staff member followed me past the grateful late group waiting to enter, and thanked me ‘for stealing’ his ‘soapbox’. Turns out the afternoon before he had started a conversation with the group on the issue of what difference does it make to have the knowledge, if the public doesn’t know, and the policy makers are left to make billion dollar decisions without public support. Another staff member spent a genorous amount of time explaining to me how the selection decisions would be made, what the variables were in terms of the calendar etc.
As I left the building, I was thinking that I liked transparencies. They give you a mechanical reason to pause. You get an excuse to look at the screen to make sure the slide is aligned, both cueing the audience and reviewing the next segment for yourself.
There is a chance to do a little physical movement as you change them, which is a great opportunity for a bit of expression compared to the click of even a wand remote on a PowerPoint presentation. I was also thinking that I liked our chances.

Alternative channels

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

While working on getting the NOAA project together, one of the frustrations is with the existing channels and their various mechanisms for filtering. Originally we conceived extracting the elements of drama from the NOAA story, putting them in the hands of an award winning writer who has experience fictionalizing reality, and producing a dramatization that would fit the most widely seen stories in our society- prime time television. In spite of the recent success of science oriented dramatic presentations (CSI & Numb3rs for instance) we got no traction at the development offices of the big broadcasters. It was not a ‘procedure’ crime show like CSI, nor was it clear enough to development folks just “who dies this hour”. So at this stage we have taken up the more conventional approach and are pitching a documentary pilot. Even that has its frustrations as the mechanisms are not funnels attempting to gather all the ideas and filter for the most appropriate or marketable, or cost efficient to produce a net gain.
So the idea of alternative channels keeps popping up. Is IPTV going to be a breakthrough? I can’t say. But over the past weekend I saw one example of a creative inspiration applied to create a new alternative channel to the fine art audience.
“Ashes and Snow” is currently on display by the pier in Santa Monica, in what is a far more interesting an example of an artist developing an alternative channel than it is as either art or nature conservancy, which is the project’s stated purpose. The site of the project is more about experiencing the project than learning about it. Here is a better description of the artist and his background.
The most fascinating aspect I found was not the impressive photos of animals and people together, nor the very cool architecture ( shipping containers as walls, large paper columns supporting a fabric roof, plank floors and black river rocks for floors, the swag stor all out of large cardboard) but the fact that in a totally artist organized and defined place and space, people were going, at about $12 per average, to see this presentation. The artist not only concieved and created the conventional forms of photos and films that were the content, but the package, the marketing and every other aspect of delivery to the audience. Truly an alternative channel.

Closed business?

Friday, January 13th, 2006

Given the pervasiveness of broadcast and cable television entertainment- it is what passes for culture for the majority of the population of the industrialized and even developing world- and the incredible demand for distinct and unique programming to attract that audience, one might expect that the industry would have developed a very sophisticated funnel for attracting and filtering the raw material for this voracious beast called television.
Yes and no. It has developed a sophisticated apparatus, and it certainly does filter. It isn’t open though, especially when it comes to new ideas. While the majority of my experience has been in introducing new methods and technology, this exploration of the development side has confirmed and paralleled that previous experience.
The industry as currently configured is so risk averse, and so consumed and self referencing that it has a very difficult time accepting change.
This fits with the current wrestle with the big issues of the time- piracy, digital distribution, dealing with customers instead of consumers. In each area, the existing closed walls have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for there to be a vision of how the industry could work better.
In the case of this show, the funnel for finding new material appears inverted. In spite of many connections within the field, the openings for actually pitching our idea are few. The people gatekeeping are concerned with what has been a flood of projects, mostly about hurricanes, and are desparate to avoid political ramifications. The fact that our project offers a multitude of ways to explore the impacts of climate on the public in a familiar dramatic format, and that our principal sponsor is also interested in keeping political aspects out of the picture, there is a limited listening.
That said, the history, and method to the industry, is to keep knocking at the doors. Eventually, history says, someone will hear opportunity.

Far out climates

Friday, September 16th, 2005

For something totally out of this system, check out this photo of the results of a geomagnetic storm. The current set of events happening overhead is a result of a A coronal mass ejection (CME). As with most of the environments we have interest in, one can track this through the activities of NOAA on their Space Environment Center site.
Like many other services they provide, the NOAA brand is low key and not on the title.


Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Check out this pic

The question it begs is “How much uncertainty is allowably present when policy makers have to set priorities for public safety?”

This document,, was suggested as an example of predictive capacity that was known. Did it offer leadership an opportunity to avoid the current levels of distruction and death?

Is there adequate delivery of information to policy leadership?

Hurricanes are something we have records on to 1850s. Yet the relationships between water and air that are critical to their existance have only been getting serious study over the last forty or so years. What are the critical elements that will reduce uncertainty? What is missing that would make a difference in the next decade?

Should resources be reallocated within basic science to accelerate this progress?

Too Big?

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Was reading “Our Changing Planet”, the FY 1991 report by the Global Change Research Program. Even at that stage, the scope and complexity are huge. Is this problem too large for the average mind? Are the time frames beyond most people’s experience? What are the best stories to bring these elements into human scale?
These are the questions we need to get a grip on as we form the structure of this program.