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My Turn: Investing in the power of change



For the Monitor
Friday, February 09, 2018

While the United States seems to be tending towards isolationism as a key to becoming great again, the real news is in – we are no longer even in the top 10 of most innovative countries in the world.

I see this more and more as I have to travel the world for my job as a professor to give talks on how we can actually quite simply use existing technology to quickly save the planet with no loss of quality of life. People all over the world are human and I also note that they will listen but often do not hear. How can we reconcile this?

Recently on a long run while reminiscing about my travels, what came to mind was one of my most stirring memories of 2013. After giving a talk on renewable energy and desalination, I was standing on the shoreline in Cape Town, South Africa, and gazing out in the direction of Robinson Island. The thought of Mr. Mandela being locked up there in solitary confinement for years and his resolve to make South Africa whole is an inspiration for the entire world. That was nearly three years ago and perhaps if folks had heard, Cape Town might not have the drastic water problem it is now faced with. To save our planet, I think we must all think about how Mr. Mandela’s policy of reconciliation earned him (and F.W. de Klerk) the Nobel Peace Prize, and we must listen and hear his wisdom as we gaze into a future possibly filled with CO2, drugs, and nuclear war. Indeed, the time is ripe to continually refresh ourselves with history of all sorts.

Fast forward to current U.S. history: The U.S. has lost the 40-plus year war on drugs, which it created starting in the days of secret drug-funded wars in Southeast Asia and Central America. Similarly we may not win a war on CO2 fast enough while there is still an abundance of cheap carbon-based fuels. Meanwhile we are preparing to spend $1 trillion to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal to protect us from other nuclear arsenals. If we believe the scientists who say the world will soon overheat and end, and they are the same scientists who say even a limited nuclear war will freeze the world and end, then all is probably lost either way.

What if we could actually learn from history (and Mr. Mandela) and reconcile these issues? People who crave power run cartels of evil and destruction: So let them stay powerful but with a focus on clean renewable power and good jobs: Powerful lords of evil (drugs, weapons, smuggling…), come forward, confess, stop doing bad things, and use ill-gotten gains, brilliant organizational skills, and vast networks of people to build renewable energy/water/agriculture empires to save the planet and gainfully and sustainably employ people. In return, the world forgives them of their past evil deeds, blesses them in their pursuit of creating peace and renewable hope throughout the lands, and buys power, food, and water from their new legal organizations.

Meanwhile the very small percentage of the population that seeks to fry their neurons on drugs can be dealt with in a rational and civil manner as many other advanced countries in the world have learned to do, but for a fraction of the cost currently spent trying to “save” them.

With less strife in the world, of the $1 trillion the U.S. is set to spend on an improved nuclear arsenal, 90 percent might instead be spent on renewable energy systems to within a generation create a mostly renewables based economy. The rest can come from matching private investment. The $100 billion left is more than enough for some really good weapons to quickly kill the entire planet just in case. Back to the happy path. If we also add the $1 trillion that the old status quo path would again spend on no-win drug wars and the many trillions in collateral damage… we could be on a path to 100 percent renewables with good jobs for all in a decade or so.

Where else might we apply studies of history and reconciliation to enable our government to be able to focus on the real issues we face and thus lead us to a truly innovative prosperous clean green future for us all? Romans 2:1 is most appropriate for the U.S., which at this time is perhaps comparable to the Roman Empire in its declining years. Our politicians are quick to condemn others so they can gain power to set things right… Bill did NOT have sex with Monica, and Donald did NOT collude with Vlad to save us from the worse evils of the Billary factor... But does any of this really matter if it means derailing our country? Donald, you have the power to pardon any and everybody – so please listen and hear the words and actions of Mr. Mandela, and just bring it all out in the open and everybody lets get on with working as Team USA to save ourselves and this most wonderful world with which we have been blessed.

All cultures have periods of immense greatness. If we build upon that common theme and work together, we need not build walls because we will be too busy building a bright future for our people and our planet. Instead of a massive worldwide Ouch we can have a massive worldwide Ahhhhhh: Yes we can Make All Great Again Magnanimously.

(Alexander Slocum lives in Bow.)