On sustainable abundance
July 24, 2005
“Music by Amory Lovins,” said the program, which I assumed was a misprint. Surely Amory Lovins, wunderkind of Rocky Mountain Institute, is not also a musician.On cue, Amory moved from the perfectly landscaped grounds of a sumptuous Aspen home into a grandiloquent living room whose centerpiece was a Steinway grand. Modestly, he sat at the keyboard and began an emotive performance of a Beethoven sonata.”Is there nothing this man can’t do?” whispered an admirer. “I don’t know,” I responded, “can he change the world?” The admirer smiled and nodded.Amory Lovins performed at a salon last week sponsored by RMI’s National Solutions Council. The setting was spectacular if you like Aspen-style opulence: cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and gorgeous mountain vistas within earshot of the Roaring Fork River. Lovins lent an air of sophistication, if not a little irony, to the event. An efficiency expert playing a Steinway in the lap of luxury could prove dissonant with a conservation ethic if not for Lovins’ belief that the efficient use of natural resources in no way impinges on material abundance.Lovins stridently defines efficiency in nonSpartan terms, explaining how it can “make the world secure, just, prosperous, and life-sustaining. We do this,” he explains on RMI’s website, “by inspiring business, civil society, and government to design integrative solutions that create true wealth.”As an impassioned environmentalist (I still cop to the label, no matter how derisive), I view resource issues with a Puritan morality that sometimes gets in the way of effective communication. It’s a fault of mine that Amory points out, not by words, but by behavior.Lovins has achieved an effective evangelical air without being dogmatic. His logical, factual mind disdains preachy rhetoric and instead lays out programs so sensible that only indolent fools fail to appreciate them (There I go again!).”Our work is independent, nonadversarial and transideological, with a strong emphasis on market-based solutions,” states the RMI website, which is a fount of information that should be required reading for the moronic imbeciles setting resource policies in the White House (Oops!).Amory, with rapid-fire bullet points, lays out a plan for weaning America off OPEC, reducing the pathology of terrorist hatred and still maintaining a high quality of life. He appeals to his audience with the same delivery he employs with Beethoven – good timing, studied acuity and natural grace.At the Ideas Festival, Amory described how resource efficiency and national security are closely linked. He pointed out the absurdity of American soldiers driving 0.5-mile-per-gallon-tanks in Iraq trailed by a pair of unarmored fuel tankers. “Guess which ones the bad guys shoot at?” he asked.The ultimate absurdity, he implies, is that we’re warring in the Middle East at all. “Did we put our kids in 0.5-mpg tanks and 17-feet-per-gallon aircraft carriers because we failed to put them in 33-mpg cars?”Lovins maintains that by raising fuel efficiency standards for the U.S. household vehicle fleet, we could eliminate our addiction for Persian Gulf oil. By doing so we could save billions of dollars a year and markedly improve our national security – all at a profit.Amory makes these promises with absolute assurance because he understands the technology and he’s done the math. Instead of railing on fossil fools, conspicuous consumption, and feckless greed, the way I do, Lovins smiles the knowing smile. No condemnations, no upbraiding, no I-told-you-so’s. Just the facts.I’m not alone in regarding Lovins as a national treasure. His intellect is eclipsed only by his unflagging perseverance and optimism. The fact that he plays Beethoven is yet another testimony to his abundant, sustainable and restorative genius.Paul Andersen is inspired to soften his approach and learn The Pathetique. His column appears on Mondays.
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