[unrev-II] comments on session 2

From: wlsn@well.com
Date: Tue Jan 18 2000 - 18:11:21 PST

From: wlsn@well.com

Doug is right to use energy as an example of a "complex and important" issue needing greater collective intelligence to solve. But I was disappointed by the discussion at the second session, in part because the energy issues were mischaracterized, but more because the session did not model the kind of dialogue we need to raise collective intelligence.

In my view the energy issue is not "we are running out of energy," because we're not--what will happen is that as oil and gas supplies are depleted they will become more expensive, and as that happens alternative technologies (which Paul nicely summarized in his earlier email comment) will be commercialized. The problem is that oil and gas prices are low and they're going to stay low for the relevant future, while at the same time the environmental consequences of using fossil energy are becoming increasingly unacceptable, especially in terms of climate change. So the complex and important problem is: how can we develop the collective understanding of the environmental consequences of using fossil energy, and make the commitment to pursue a non-fossil future? (BTW I've worked at the California Energy Commission for 20+ years, so I've watched this debate for many years).

But what bothered me about the discussion at the seminar was that while the speakers gave a nice overview of energy issues, there was no opportunity for dialogue around the technical and political barriers and how they might be overcome. My impression was the discussion was like a lot of public debates--sound bites from experts who dispute views of others--rather than seeking greater understanding, including other views, and looking for agreement. The polarization and paralysis that exists in Washington on the Kyoto agreement demonstrates that energy is a complex problem--what tools and practices can we identify to help the politicians "bootstrap" their dialogue!

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