We repost Warren's August 15th article from WorldChanging this week. -Editor
One of the world's leading energy and environment think (and do) tanks celebrated its 25th anniversary in characteristic style this past week. With numerous references to the looming risks of global climate change, peak oil and energy disruption, combined with developing nation social-political and national security challenges, the event took on the air of urgent practicality.
Besides the Rocky Mountain Institute's stellar staff and its fearless founder/leader, Amory Lovins, the Aspen-based event attracted a jaw-dropping line-up. On stage were former President Bill Clinton, past CIA director R. James Woolsey, former New York Governor George Pataki, Sustainable South Bronx's Majora Carter, Wal-Mart Chairman Rob Walton, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, technology luminary Bill Joy, Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard, and British Sky Broadcasting CEO James Murdoch.
Off stage things were no less dull, with a brain-pummeling cast of physicists, business leaders, authors and technologists mixing it up in perpetual reminiscing, scheming and celebrating. "You can bet I will be so on your ass," said a longtime corporate dematerialization expert to a clean tech incubation strategist he had just met, after they plotted how the United States can capture various sectors of global innovation markets.
What was extraordinary at the two-day session of panels and parties was how much RMI's iconic founder has altered the consciousness of those present. It was as if little bits of his brain were implanted into the words, plans and outlook of those at the dias and congregating in the beaux arts hallways of the venerable Hotel Jerome.
Lovins has developed many world-changing concepts over his 35-year career including "negawatts"--reducing the need to produce energy through conservation--and its economic cousin, "the soft path." An Oxford-educated physicist, Lovins uses hard data as the basis for making the world's economy radically more energy efficient through better planning, design and day-to-day use in both buildings and industry. More recently RMI has presented ideas on leapfrogging comatose American automotive innovation with superlight materials and hyper-efficient engine and drive train functionality.
"The demand side of energy efficiency is not as sexy as solar or wind energy, but it is much more effective," said Joy. Working with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Joy is working on "looking for something in green technology advances to make a factor-twenty change on a long-term basis."