Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Michelle and I were driving home the other day and we were listening to an oldies station, which I guess is what we are now, oldies. The song “Daytime, Nighttime” by Keith Hampshire came on. I loved that song and I was determined to figure out who the artist was. For 15 minutes I racked my brain but alas, we didn’t figure it out until Michelle looked it up online.
I have always had a poor aptitude for math and my writing would be unintelligible if Michelle didn’t clean it up, but I am exceptional at music trivia. My cousin Dave and I pride ourselves on our extensive knowledge of popular music. And really, in the greater scheme of things, compared to finding a cure for cancer or finding a way to regulate derivatives in order to avoid another financial collapse, music trivia ranks way up there in importance.
I started thinking about the list of “one hit wonders” like “My Sharona” by the Knack, and “Take On Me” by Aha, and I realized that the number of one hit wonders is pretty big. Then I realized, I should be careful because I think I am one.
In 2009 I was asked to do the keynote address at the Quinte Sustainability Symposium. This is an event at which 350 people paid to attend the day’s offerings of workshops, etc. so I was pretty pumped about being invited to do the keynote. My talk was entitled “The Payback on Renewable Energy” and I was pretty excited to be providing it.
At the beginning of my presentation, I used a promo from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Eleventh Hour”
which spells out the horrific environmental problems we face but also suggests that we have the solutions. The promo uses a great song called “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park in it. There’s also a great quote -
“With existing technologies we could literally reduce human’s footprint on the planet by 90%.”
So that was my starting point.
This keynote took place just after the economic collapse in 2008. So I talked about how many North Americans had just lost about 50% of their investment portfolio value in the stock market. I also reminded my audience that anyone with money in the stock market during the collapse of 1929 had to wait until 1956 for their stocks to return to their previous values. House prices were falling precipitously in the U.S. and banks were paying minimal interest rates on savings accounts.
So what should you do with your money? You invest in renewables. The return on investment of a compact fluorescent light bulb is about 8 weeks, or a 100% ROI, versus the negative 50% your investment advisor got you in 2008. Payback on a solar domestic hot water heater is about 5 years or a 20% return on investment. Pretty exceptional. On photovolatics, depending on where you live, the ROI is about 10%, much better in Ontario right now with our Green Energy Act. But as I stress in my book “Thriving During Challenging Times” when you invest in renewables you end up with a hard asset that will keep the lights on and your fridge running during a power outage. You can’t say that about stocks or bonds. Why not invest in green energy now?
In my keynote address I really hammered away at it, and even had some examples of people who had been laid off from the auto industry who are now employed making the Enerworks solar domestic hot water heater (which just happens to be the solar thermal unit that I own). Is there a downside to having the sun heat my hot water? I made the point that it’s not enough to just attend a “green” “enviro” event as if somehow you’ve done your part for the planet. There’s been enough “talk” and I suggested to the audience members that they needed to start using these technologies to really, dramatically reduce their carbon footprints. There are simply no excuses anymore.
After my keynote I spent the rest of the day wandering around the trade fair and talking to both dealers and attendees. I was really pleased to see that a lot of people were really getting around and talking to the dealers there selling these products. I could tell people were finally getting serious about this stuff.
A few months later we were having dinner with some new friends, John and Denice. (I’ve previously blogged about their exceptional U-pick blueberry farm here.) As I was talking to John he was telling me that they’d just installed a solar domestic hot water heater. I was impressed. And then he told me that he was looking at installing some PV. I was impressed that he was integrating renewables in the correct order (solar thermal first and then photovoltaics) and he really seemed to have a plan. So as we were talking he mentioned how he’d been to the Quinte Sustainably Symposium and that’s how he come up with his plan. I kept asking him more about the symposium and he told me that the keynote speaker had convinced him that he should do this.
So I asked him if he knew who the keynote speaker was. He didn’t. I said “Any guesses?” and he apologized and said that he and Denice had been sitting at the back of the auditorium and couldn’t really see the keynote speaker but luckily they’d been able to hear him and see his PowerPoint presentation.
Then it hit me. I was Tommy Tutone and this was my "867-5309/Jenny" moment. People had forgotten my name already. Forgotten? Apparently they didn’t even know it to begin with. How devastating. It’s all down hill from here. It’s just brutal when you get to the point where you realize you’ve penned your one-hit wonder and now you’re the guy who’s name people just can’t remember.
Oh well. The good news is that apparently some people were now investing in renewable energy and reducing their carbon footprint and it was because of my talk. I felt pretty good about that. I think next time I agree to do a keynote I’ll make it part of my contract that there needs to be a jumbo-tron so that my face and name can be seen at the back. Maybe even with a Jumbotron our information-overloaded brains won’t be able to remember anyway. Maybe I should use just one name… like Bono or Madonna. That’s it. That’s what I’m going to work on next. Enviro. Solaro. Fabio … nope that one’s taken.
I guess it’s time to do the Casino circuit like other “B List” entertainers. Who’s playing at the Holiday Inn Lounge tonight? Some guy doing a PowerPoint about how to save money and the planet using renewables. Now that will bring the crowds in!
Photos by Michelle Mather.