Archive for June, 2008

Roller Coasters

Monday, June 16th, 2008

The last three weeks have been a very dense version of the unique mix of science, politics and production challenge that this particular production offers.
Three weeks ago I was at George Gilder’s Telecosm, a unique conference blending science, technology and economics that reflects the vision of Gilder. The opening evening talk was by the author of “The Deniers” Lawrence Solomon. I recommend Solomon’s book, as he carefully delineates the actual work of each of the scientists he profiles, and the fact that none identify themselves as deniers of climate change. He also candidly admits in his wrap up chapter that none of his sources convinced him that climate change isn’t happening or human caused.
What is most relevant about their stories is the personal and professional costs suffered by those who are so labeled- something that should be of great concern to all committed to the pursuit of knowledge, to say nothing of freedom of thought and speech.
In a subject as global as climate, and complicated, we should be expecting there to be thousands of conflicting data points, and indeed there are. We should also be committed to exploring as deeply as possible to further refine our understanding of the subject, and the interactions of life forms with it.
While Gilder himself is a contrarian ( and on more subjects than climate change) the conference featured and encouraged argument and independent thinking. Bob Metcalf, best known as co-inventor of Ethernet, who spoke on energy. Among his key insights- energy does not equal the environment. As he points out, solving either one does not solve the other. Citing Santayana on learning from history, he point by point applied the oft cited Internet phenomena being precedent for a clean energy revolution. My favorite was his point that conservation is never as successful as generating abundance. The internet had several episodes of limits constraining capacity, but each time some unexpected breakthrough proved the limit false. So he calls for people to start making “silver bullets” in spite of the common wisdom that there are no silver bullets. He also points both the need and danger of bubbles. You can see a similar presentation and get a great sense of Metcalf by watching this presentation he gave at Always On Venture Summit East.
My favorite quote of the conference was from co-sponsor and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, “Economics is turning scarcity into abundances.”
The following week, I had the good fortune to be invited to Sustainable Brands 08 where I was able to show about eight minutes of the project, and talk for about the same. As great as it was to get some audience response, and specific feedback, the information presented at this conference confirmed a number of ‘guesses’ made about the public state of mind on the issue of climate, who is buying ‘green’ and what it is they are buying. Like Telecosm, the tone was business terms, and the clear take away was that businesses based upon ethical and authentic efforts to be conscious in their commerce are already winning every bit of the market they enter.
So high off of these two weeks, returning to the production was a realization that no real progress had been made in the production. So this week has been dominated by getting that situation turned around.
The production has high goals, and at best independent cinema funding. The issue is huge, complex, and tainted by years of idealogical positioning and framing. There is also the problem of the subject being a moving target- each day brings news that impacts the overall story.
So all together, the story selection, the tone and approach, the guesses about the public discourse and attitudes, the production team’s choices are adding up to a relevant and timely piece with a ton of information that people welcome, as well as confident voices about how to respond to that information. It is exciting to not just be able to work with some of the world’s leaders in science and business, but to feel that in telling their stories, we are able to do justice to their excellence, leadership and wisdom.