October 14, 2015

The Good News Effect

This is the start of a new series within the CBI Blog that highlights positive events around the world and discusses their significance in relation to global sustainability. In this series I hope to write pleasant and informative posts that are designed to offer perspective, refresh awareness, and leave you in a more positive place.

Today I want to discuss the real impact Good News can have on our lives, and then follow up with some recent developments in Renewable Energy that illustrate the measurable progress we’ve made and continue to make toward a better world.

As End or Means, or Both

People often think of Good News as a rare extravagance, or even worse, they consider it less relevant to us than the problems of the day, a kind of nice-to-have. I’d like to suggest that it’s more than that: Good News isn’t just something to make us feel better, but a means to shaping our future.

That admittedly is a lofty claim, but it has a logical basis. In the next couple of sections I’ll explain why I think so, and then on to the Good News.

From Humanity to the Individual

These days there are big changes happening in our world: globalization, cultural and social issues, new technologies, and all the resulting environmental impacts. People struggle with change, especially when they have a stake in it, and yet it’s exactly when we have a stake in it that our response matters most.

If you think about it, humanity’s solutions all arise from our responses to the issues. Our best responses have sometimes come from a new idea or the actions of courageous individuals; and these in turn have led to brand new technologies, grass-roots movements, changes in corporate or government policy, or an overall change in the perspective of a nation. It is because our reactions and interactions are so integral to our societal behavior that they have such power to move us either forward or backward.

But world-changing ideas and great courage have historically appeared when opportunity has called for them. Can we really just decide to have more breakthroughs without the impetus of impending crisis? There had better be a way or we’re in for an even more dramatic future.

A Taoist saying advises, “Do the great while it is still small”; after all, it’s not efficient to respond only after an emergency has set in – that makes for heroes, but also for a great deal of loss. Still, what is meant by “the great” if not the issues of the day, and how can anyone say they are “still small”?

In order to get to the root of a situation we must first understand what builds up to it. First of all, there is a difference between dealing with problematic change, and struggling with our response to it. For example, it’s not the glaring headline, but our negative reaction to it that wears us out. And taking it a step further, even the glaring headline is a not-so-great reaction to the actual issue it describes. So we need to recognize and understand the issues of the day, but we must also learn how not to impede, but rather to encourage in ourselves, that which moves us to address them effectively.

So how can humanity respond effectively to global issues? Or more to the point, how can one’s own decisions reach that scale?

I like an old Chinese saying that goes:

“If you want to change the world, first change your nation. If you want to change your nation, first change your hometown. If you want to change your hometown, first change your family. If you want to change your family, first change yourself… and if you want to change yourself, first straighten your mind.”

The Impact of Changing One’s Outlook

It is important to recognize that there is also a lot of good going on in the world: we’ve made a lot of progress on the big issues, even since 1990, and if you don’t believe me look at these charts.

If you even glanced over the charts linked to above, you may notice that your perspective on humanity has improved in just those few minutes. When I first viewed them, I was amazed at the disparity of what we hear every day and what they report. Then I felt encouraged that so much has been accomplished with people across the world in closer communication (i.e. via travel, media, the internet, etc.) It all leads me to ask: what else might be possible if creative minds around the world continue to exchange ideas, share perspectives, and foster connection?

That’s really something to ponder, and in light of it, I also encourage you to consider these takeaways:

Though often criticized as naïve, it is very influential when rooted and used strategically. A positive outlook is a ground from which new ideas naturally take form, as well as a basis for constructive influence on one’s family, colleagues and acquaintances. It is one way to “straighten one’s mind”, a small effort with potentially great effect.

It partners well with Science – inspired scientific inquiry could be described as curiosity enhanced by the hope of possibility, while a credible optimistic perspective has its basis in the reliable conclusions that come out of good science. Without credibility optimism is vain, and without real hope, science despairs.

We each have a part to play, and it all starts from where we stand… where else?

Good News in Renewable Energy

Now to put all this theory into practice: let’s talk about some recent efforts to shift toward renewables that have produced new technologies, creative implementations, and even results!

For starters, the facts now show that renewable energy is both economical and effective. You often hear that renewable energy doesn’t scale, either economically or demand-wise – this first article describes how the reverse is true:

But that article relates more than just facts: it also suggests a shift in perspective that could change what we think of as possible… and this next article backs it up with more supporting statistics from the UK.

Here are some of the highlights to help set the record straight:

…so, not only need we not BELIEVE the impracticality-of-renewables hype, we also need not FEAR it.

And it’s not just in Europe that we see progress. In the United States it is reported that wind energy will be able to account for a third of our energy demand by 2050.

…and this article references a study that proves it is feasible to convert the US to renewables by 2050.

Another thing you hear going around is that whatever progress the US and Europe make, China’s effect will be hard to mitigate, but according to this report even China has identified wind power as the most practical form of energy for its people.

And finally, some good news from abroad: island nations around the world are turning to wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower because fossil fuels are less practical, given their inherent cost and risk.

So there’s a lot to be watching for in coming years, especially as worldwide attention is drawn to our need for sustainable energy sources, and an increasing amount of progress, advocacy and research is dedicated to the cause.

With so many intelligent minds working on it, a solution is inevitable; and the more progress we make, the more our perspectives and outlooks are improved as we work toward “attaining the great”.

And that’s the Good News Effect.

About the author:
Dani Harvey
Senior Software Engineer
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