The Truth About Green Politics

Hello from The Atlantic's Green Intelligence Forum. I've been interviewing and moderating, so I haven't had a chance to write much about the proceedings. Stay tuned for a couple of quick posts.

During Megan MacArdle's "What Green Means to Industry" panel, Harvard Business School professor Forest Reinhardt said something very smart about the nature of green politics.

There is this infatuation with win-win solutions. If we think we're going to get where we want to go through a series of win-wins, we're kidding ourselves.

And he's right on both counts. Because support for green positions has always been broad but shallow, there has been a tendency to look for areas that were perceived to be easy wins, like, say energy efficient refrigerators. But what we're talking about when we're talking about "green" is the reinvention of an energy system that's been in existence for over a hundred years. The real solutions are going to be of a different type, not just a different scale.

Think of the dislocations and creativity in the media industry over the last 20 years in response to the rise of "new media" (among other things). It seems likely to me that if we're going to really change the energy system, we can expect to see at least that amount of confusion and innovation.

It's not going to be easy -- and some companies will be negatively affected. That doesn't mean that there aren't great or greater gains to be made in new industries, businesses, and products, but some entrenched interests will have to lose something.

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