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Greta Thunberg is 2019’s Person of the Year and That’s Good For Innovation


Find the heroes that inspire your own success

Time Magazine recently made Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist, their 2019 person of the year. I couldn’t be more delighted. The sixteen-year old Swedish school girl is a huge hero in my eyes. We all need heroes. We need them for our community. We need them for our home. We need them for our neighborhoods. We need them at work.

Wait. What?

New energy is important

New energy and new urgency are necessary for every tiny bit of success. For my success, and for your success, a whole host of little revolutions have to emerge over time. New technology, new opportunity, new political will, and most of all enthusiastic and emergent social pillars for justice, equality, stewardship, and united will have to be erected.

When the time is right, a new hero emerges to ignite possibility. This year, that hero is Greta Thunberg. Just as most business will fail without a vision that creates the motor to drive motivation, world success does not happen without a similar vision. That is why we need heroes.

A short re-visiting of people who drove change is necessary here.

Decades past display what we need for the future

For years, many people have gone public with the news that we have to be wisely gentle with the planet that supports us. In the 1960’s Rachel Carson proclaimed the dangers of using toxic chemicals. The eventual result was billions in organic foods and retailers gaining billions in market share, and a surging agricultural home farm movement.

In the 1970’s Greenpeace arose, a new push for safe nuclear was sought, as well as the first inkling of renewables of every kind. Richard Nixon founded programs for clean air and water, and Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the Whitehouse. Nonetheless, even as the whole Earth catalog grew in popularity in California, so did some small startups like Apple, Intel, and telecommunications companies. The result would save some trees, commute time (more carbon) and energy by spurring efficiency through things like email, digital cameras, telecommuting, and innovation in public transport and better gas mileage.

In the 1980’s James Hansen of NASA testified to congress that the threat of climate change is very real. It was not the will of the people that we did not choose cleaner habits, but rather an entrenched investment in bad habits that prevailed. Nonetheless, the movement toward efficiency had already been birthed. The idea of climate justice emerged with such work as Bullard’s Invisible Houston. Entire industries that reported on toxic waste clean-up, contaminated water and ever more technology companies to address these concerns were born. At the same time, technology for video recording allowed people to stay home rather than drive, bio-genetic tinkering began, and people began to compete to have the most energy efficient machines from cars to homes, even while powerful politicos were urging consumerism.

Bill McKibben arose to prominence with his book The End of Nature, it addressed climate change directly. Al Gore also became a voice for reason. In the 1990’s, concerns over clean food, air, and water led to the creation of recycling and waste disposal industries (that are still in need of innovation). Nonetheless, efficiency drove more and more innovation to help people shop from home: E-bay and Amazon, for example. We can also navigate trips with more efficiency with MapQuest and other tools, provide medical knowledge to cut down on doctor visits, play interactive games, and even date at home with online dating sites, many of which continue to thrive today.

Even while pre-environmentalists like Arnold Schwarzenegger were still hulking around in Hummers, enough people began to become concerned so that electric cars and continuing efficiency in technology drove entrepreneurs to innovate. Hollywood gave us Leo DiCaprio who went from anti-iceberg to all about saving the arctic. Then there is Marion Cotillard, Mark Ruffalo, and Daryl Hannah, among others, who inspire the entertainment industry to step up.

A new millennium saw things heat up

By the 2,000’s we had these heroes and many more who spurred slow movements in living, lifestyle, food, and more. We had tech leaders introducing the I-phone and I-pod, Blue Ray, and You Tube. These inventions continued to keep people connecting in the virtual world. The Kindle helped people to read without killing as many trees, while You Tube and Twitter allowed them to write and speak without paper. Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth, and TED talks got people TED talking about every imaginable innovation to address our modern times, including sexism, racism, education reform, climate, as well as STEM and technological advances to help.

We arrive at the Twenty Tens with hosts of heroes. From New Zealand algae fuel and windfarm advocate Vicki Buck, to super entrepreneur Elon Musk’s ongoing determination for better battery storage and efficient vehicles. There is also Angela Merkel and Manual Macron, among other world leaders who understand the need for global climate accord.

We have whole nations striving to become carbon neutral following the example of New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica and Norway. As great as this trend is, it’s happening too slowly and we would do well to push for technology and societal advancements to help nations compete with shing Bhutan which is the first, and only, carbon negative (creating more carbon storage than waste) nation.

I think that becoming more responsible and respected in the world requires we seek out just such possible opportunities to challenge all of us. Then we cogitate, communicate, and innovate. When people say “Well that’s just impossible, it will tank our economy,” I think, Yes, our jobs should be to make the once impossible happen — like moon landings and electronic ones and zeros that connect a whole world.

At last, we come to the student activists and youth. This is majorly important as these are the innovators of a better future. Time Magazine identified Greta Thunberg. Thunberg is not the first to try to give Earth a voice, but given her timing, her under-dog image, her incredible ability to stay on task, and her inspirational drive, she most definitely is getting the attention our challenges need. We all want a better world

In the era of Trump, whatever you may think of him, there is no other figure that stands up to a domination ideology better than a little girl who just wants a future. I know of people who downplay the climate crisis, but I have never met anyone who downplays the need to drive progress, technology, efficiency, business innovation, and unity for meeting all these goals.

When people say “Well that’s just impossible, it will tank our economy,” I think, Yes, our jobs should be to make the once impossible happen — like moon landings; and electronic ones and zeros that connect a whole world.

Having Greta Thunberg as an inspiration speaks to youth, energy and innovation, a long awaited time for more female participation, and an end to the age of oil. We can, and will, make a cleaner world because we are just the people to make impossible things possible at last.


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