2019 Symposium: Aspiration vs. Pragmatism
Time: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Our 2019 Symposium is in the books! We encourage you to watch our reel, read our recap, check out the photos, dive deeper into some of the topics, and stay engaged with us.
Are you pragmatic or aspirational? George Sparks, president and CEO of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and founder of The Institute for Science & Policy, shared how we need to be a bit of both. We need a world of aspirational engineers and pragmatic poets to solve this great challenge of climate change and work towards a beneficent energy transition – beneficent to the environment, to the economy, and to people.
“Facts don’t persuade people, people persuade people. Be persuadable,” advised Tamar Haspel, columnist for the Washington Post. She reminded us that it’s difficult to change our own minds, so we should hold commensurable expectations about changing other people’s minds. Research shows that we find ways to reject facts that we don’t agree with and seek out information to support our position.
A panel on technology revealed how localities and states are currently driving the energy landscape, whether that be through land use, health and environment concerns, or economics. To build utility-scale renewable energy, we need to solve challenges with our transmission system, according to Susan Sloan of the American Wind Energy Association. An energy transition doesn't get off the ground unless it's economically feasible. Financial and policy incentives could help, including spurring new innovation.
“We need an electrification of the world program,” according to Lee McIntire, formerly of CH2M and TerraPower. It’s about scale, it's about behavior, and it's about technology. Whether it’s advancements in battery storage or carbon capture technologies, the future will require putting all of the pieces together to drastically reduce our carbon footprint.
Humans are naturally aspirational – they must be in order to solve climate change – but they need to embody pragmatic steps to get there. Common ground on climate policy is possible if we exercise our atrophied bipartisan muscles, according to Bob Perciasepe of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. We can do this by starting with areas of agreement and meeting people where they are, whether that be physically, mentally, or emotionally. Climate policy is not only going to be just about science, but also economics and equality. There are positive discussions happening at all levels of government, but leadership is needed most.
It’s all about having a seat at the table and letting people speak for themselves, said high school senior Zail Acosta. Coalitions can help address serious divides in our country, such as indigenous rights, disproportionately impacted communities, and urban versus rural areas. They can bring together and elevate voices that are underrepresented, which can be an important tool when building teams across political identities.
We also need to do a better job of engaging with and listening to each other, especially those with different viewpoints. Figuring out the values and interests of others will change the conversation, said Max Boykoff of the University of Colorado Boulder. Facts and data don’t convince people, nor does a doom and gloom outlook. Some of the most effective methods of authentic communication come through good storytelling, with facts nested within.
Being more inclusive is essential if we want to make progress on climate change. This means not just having a seat at the table, but having a bigger tent with more tables, said Tisha Shuller of Adamantine Energy. Climate change requires a collective action strategy if we are to solve it.
And finally, John Hayes of Ball Corporation left us with this wisdom: “Every big problem isn’t a big problem, it’s a series of little problems. And if you break it down this way, then it’s digestible.”