Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Global warming", "green", and me.

Somehow "green" is the new thing these days, all the companies want to be more green. (Here's the site that got me started on this...) A noble cause, who doesn't like greenery?

The Pacific Ocean has a garbage patch twice the size of Texas, China and Russia are a pollution mess, and we're pulling up every hydrocarbon we can find, representing (supposedly) millions of years of the sun's energy, and burning it as fast as we can.* This doesn't sound like we're being very good stewards of our planet.


... I always get nervous when environmentalist causes -- which seem to appeal disproportionately to the otherwise imbalanced folks out there -- line up with corporate initiatives.

Corporate America loves to find, or create, new "needs" that they can fill. Being "green" means that we need sensors to turn on and off lights when people come and go, better insulation in buildings, and energy-efficient computers. Hmm, sounds like a lot of things we need to buy -- check out all the business ads on this page.

In fact, on 3/23/08, Fake Steve Jobs (a famous not-Steve-Jobs blogger who has a remarkable perspective on CEO life) wrote a tremendous (though rather profane) article on this very point (quoted and cleaned up for my audience):
Truth is, Goldilocks does not really believe the world is about to burst into flames. What he does believe is that the global warming "crisis" is the next big way to make money off hype and fear. It's the Y2K scam all over again. Truth is, .... a bunch of lucky rich [guys are] scheming to get even more rich. I'm telling you this because I've talked to these guys. I've been invited to invest in these funds. And I've done it. Why not? If the ducks are quacking, as they say.

Every VC in the Valley [likes] greentech because it's the first market they've ever seen where they can mitigate their risk by laying it off onto governments (ie taxpayers). The trick is to spread lots of hype and put pressure on governments (hence Kleiner hires Al Gore) so that governments will provide subsidies to keep these venture-funded startups alive until they can be flogged off onto the public markets. They'll sell these stocks to dentists and they'll use the same pitch that Toyota uses on the Prius -- sure it's overpriced, but think how good you'll feel. These will be IPOs as a form of therapy, and the Birkenstock-wearing suckers will sing Kumbaya and talk about how capitalism is saving the world.

The great thing about this approach is not simply that it will let obscenely rich scammers get even more obscenely rich off the backs of taxpayers and suckers in the public markets, but that it also will enable these rich [jerks] to feel really good about themselves while they're doing it. They can run around feeling sanctimonious about doing something meaningful with their lives. They also can feel a little less weird and guilty about having so much money.

As they say, "follow the money".

As for me, am I really going to save the planet by buying those little "compact fluorescent lamps"?** I certainly won't intentionally pollute my space, but I'm fairly confident that I'm not in the world's top 10 polluters or wasters -- let's go after them first.
* Should it surprise us that the Earth appears to be warming up a little?

** Nevermind that almost a third of the Earth's carbon emissions are coming from forests burning in South America.

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