Party Like it's 2099 by Gia Machlin, February 03 2011, 1 Comment

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with gadgets. I remember going to the Science Museum in Boston and playing with a really cool calculator that made clicky noises when you pressed the buttons - my parents had to tear me away from it. I even made a hand held "communicator" out of a juice box and tin foil that had an antenna, buttons, and was capable of transmitting secret messages to other kid spies all over the world. In my wildest fantasy I could not have imagined that something as cool as an iPhone would exist in my lifetime. I grew up before personal computers, cell phones, MP3 players, Windows and the internet existed. Then I think about my ninety year old dad, whose childhood pre-dates even television, and I am blown away by the technological progress we have made in the last century. OK, so we don't yet have the flying cars pictured in the futuristic 1970s Woody Allen comedy "Sleeper" - but we're pretty damn close.

So when I look at my son with his android phone that does just about everything but brush his teeth for him, and my daughter watching videos on her iPod I think - where do we go from here? Clean energy, that's where. I know, the pundits have been saying that President Obama's focus on " clean energy" in his State of the Union address was just lip service because he knows he has given up on trying to enact any kind of meaningful climate legislation (not to mention the fact that he included COAL, NUCLEAR and NATURAL GAS in his definition of clean energy - Pheh!). Yet I'd like to take the optimistic road (for a change) and point out that anything's possible. I realize that without the same subsidies that are enjoyed by the oil companies, clean energy companies will have a hard time competing. I also understand that big oil is powerful, nasty and desperate to keep its reign. But the times they are a changin'. At least I hope so:

1) The BP Oil Spill -While it was not the huge catalyst for change that it could have been, this disaster had an effect on people's attitudes towards the need for clean energy. Graphic images and pleas for help spread over social media like wildfire. These images will remain embedded in our minds for a long time.

2) Crazy Storms - The effects of climate change will become increasingly obvious and the general public will no longer be able to ignore them. While those who believe that "God has our back" will never be convinced, the majority of people out there who are currently too busy and wrapped up in their daily struggles to be concerned will be jolted into paying attention as their cities start to sink under water.

3) Growing Eco-Aware Consumers - a few years ago, terms like "urban farming," "collaborative consumerism" and "group buying" were virtually unheard of - now they are mainstream. Consumers are getting smarter about their purchases and are finally starting to revolt against planned obsolescence and inferior goods.

4) Education - more and more schools are incorporating environmental education into their curricula. As an example, my son is doing a science project on the effects of BPA. (No - not at my urging - I had no idea he was doing this until I stumbled upon some of his discarded notes.)

All of these things will lead to a greater demand for clean energy. While putting a price on carbon and methane emissions would certainly speed things along, I believe we are on the right path. I can only hope that my kids will one day say "I remember when I was a kid we still depended on fossil fuels for energy."