Prevention and Adaptation

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“We have to adapt to that which we can’t prevent, and prevent that to which we can’t adapt.”  — Bill McKibben

For years, our efforts as cleantech and sustainability champions have focused on the latter half of this statement—preventing that to which we cannot adapt. But now—in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and countless other natural disasters of shocking magnitude, in the face of increasingly alarming trends in global temperature data, and having witnessed the melting narrative revealed by “Chasing Ice”—we realize we must turn our attention to the first half of the statement: We’ve got to adapt to that we can’t prevent. While we have it in our power to limit global warming, it’s too late to prevent it. So we’d better figure out how to live with it. Literally. Adaptation is the new imperative.

As Ron Pernick puts it in “Clean Tech and the Big Turnaround,” this is the year extreme weather will make “adaptation” and “resilience” household words.

Adaptation and resilience, once the domain of public policy and infrastructure wonks, will become increasingly mainstream and drive a whole new industry (with standards, best practices, and business contracts) centered on preparedness for major natural disasters and climate disruptions. Think microgrids – distributed power systems that can work both hand-in-hand with the larger grid and in isolation – and highly efficient water and food supplies centered close to urban areas.

It’s as if, failing to reduce, reuse and recycle in order to prevent a climate change calamity, Earth has presented us with a climate change calamity that will now force us to reduce, reuse and recycle. Of course, nature always wins. The sooner we realize you can’t beat the laws of nature, and learn to apply them brilliantly rather than fight them hopelessly, the better off we’ll be—materially, financially, physically and socially.

Anybody need help explaining and promoting an innovation designed to foster adaptation and resilience through a more efficient use of resources? Operators are standing by.

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