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Opinion: Sooner or later, a new economy

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2016-01-31

Over the past year, as the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council (of which I was a member), listened to the collective wisdom of the state’s communities, entrepreneurs and policy leaders, one thing became very clear: Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Someone, somewhere, is going to break new ground in the production, conservation or distribution of clean, renewable energy.

Someone, somewhere, is going to reinvent how we move around — how we transport ourselves and the material we use — in revolutionary ways that save energy, space and time.

Someone, somewhere, is going to reach and uncover disruptive new technologies that change the way we build, rebuild, heat, cool and live in our homes and businesses while consuming as little of the earth’s resources as possible.

Someone, somewhere, is going to reimagine what — or if — we throw away, and what we renew or recycle.

So if this creativity and innovation are going to happen somewhere, why not in Vermont? Why shouldn’t Vermont make itself a spectacularly attractive place to start and run businesses that solve these problems?

It — the “climate change economy” — is going to happen. Worldwide and close to home, people and businesses are going to take advantage of the immense problem-solving opportunities and rewards around global resource limits and climate change.

Setting aside the many different perspectives around climate change, there is a cascade of genuine economic and business development opportunities that will flow from approaching climate change, resource limits, and related challenges with creativity, innovation and thoughtfulness.

Vermont could, and should, benefit from deliberately leading in an emerging marketplace where the world will reward those who break new ground in the conservation, renewal and creation of resources, particularly those resources that have an impact on our climate.

There’s a real economy here. Approached sensibly and creatively, we can leverage this opportunity to create and ignite prosperity in Vermont, rather than weaken it.

And while a year of the Climate Economy Council’s work and exploration arrived at a very clear insight — “the climate economy is going to happen” — there emerged a numerous and diverse catalog of ideas about how to make it happen.

Some of these ideas are new approaches, and some are traditional.

Some you may agree with, and some you may not.

Some are charmingly optimistic, and some are relentlessly realistic.

These ideas are not perfect. They are presented, in my opinion, as provocative, debatable, malleable and incomplete. You may find yourself tempted to put them into buckets of “right” or “wrong.” But that’s not the point.

Whatever these ideas for building a climate economy, or from whatever perspective they spring, all of them have one thing in common — they ought to be talked about, and tempered through conversation and examination.

On Feb. 22, you can be part of this conversation. The Vermont Council on Rural Development and the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council will host “Vermont Climate Economy Summit: Ideas Into Action” at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. Join more than 400 participants in considering how these ideas connect to a number of implementation arenas, from city government to business leadership, and then identify strategies to make Vermont a national leader in achieving climate economy business development, innovation and job creation for the future.

Register for the summit — sooner, rather than later — at vtrural.org.

 

Joe Fusco is a vice president of Casella Waste Systems Inc. He served as a member of the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council and is co-chairman of the Advisory Board for the University of Vermont’s MBA program in Sustainable Entrepreneurship.