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"Rosie the Riveter" using hand drill

Library of Congress public domain archive

Last week I attended Next Agenda – the event hosted an all-star attendee list in a un-conference format. The gathering brought together people uniquely positioned to take action as well as get the message out: co-founder of MoveOn.org Wes Boyd, founder of 1Sky Gillian Caldwell and Lead Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission Dian Grueneich, to name just a few.

I had heard much of the information that was presented before, but in this format, with people actively questioning and engaging with the material, it struck me differently, and made me feel hopeful.

Founder of Squid Labs and MacArthur genius grant winner, Saul Griffith was the keynote speaker. Saul explained that he takes an engineer’s approach to climate change, “tell me what you want, and I’ll show you how to get there.”

Working backwards from 350 (the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in “Parts Per Million” in our atmosphere), Saul detailed exactly what is needed to change the direction we’re headed – how many wind turbines, how many solar panels, etc are need to be built and installed. During Saul’s presentation, I felt optimistic as he laid out a clear, if ambitious, plan of action in concrete terms.

During the break-out sessions, I learned from scientists and technologists that perhaps the greatest challenge to addressing climate change is social innovation. My enthusiasm for Green21 was validated and renewed. An effort analogous the U.S. mobilization in World War II—but on a global scale, and against a much more abstract “enemy”—is needed to get us back to 350.

I had a vision of a “green” Rosie the Riveter. The question is: will the “Yes We Can” spirit live up to the “We Can Do It!” generation? I realized we need an icon and single strategy to unite people. And now, we have social media. For me, it raised the question: can social media accelerate social change? I believe the answer is, yes. The question is how.

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