28th Annual SRI Conference

28th Annual SRI Conference

The 28th Annual SRI Conference in San Diego was amazing. Search  on Twitter to see prior posts. Mark your calendar for November 1-3, 2018. The SRI Conference returns to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Get on the mailing list.

28th Annual SRI Conference: Viva the Revolution! What Women and Millennials Want

This panel sounded very interesting. I’d love to hear about it from anyone who attended. From the program:

Over 70% of women and a stunning 85% of millennials are firing their wealth advisors once they come into decision-making authority. Women and millennials are the fastest rising groups of impact investors, and are poised to inherit nearly $60 trillion in the next three decades – with some $30 trillion changing hands as soon as 2020.

See guest post from As You Sow, Millennials: Sustainability 401k Plans. Please share your experience and thoughts.

I ended up having breakfast instead with a fellow who was at the SRI Conference during the 911 attacks. All flights were canceled, so he and a group of 30-40 hired a bus to take them back to New York and many stops along the way. Two drivers took turns but at least one rotating passenger kept a conversation going with the drivers to ensure they kept awake. It was tragedy followed by days of close bonding with compassionate people. That’s better than what I was doing at that time… trying to comfort staff working in one of Sacramento’s only tall buildings. I soon told them to go home to be with their families.

28th Annual SRI Conference: Engaging Conservatives on Climate: Completing the Puzzle for Climate Activism

This session gathered leaders who are collaborating in an unusual right / left alliance to address climate change. This was one of the best sessions at the 28th Annual SRI Conference. So many of us are just talking at each other. For example, last year I kept telling my brother to stop posting obviously fake news about Hilary Clinton. Jill Stein was not going to win and, as a Canadian, he should just stay out of it. Now I regret not having more substantive conversations.

We all know public discourse has been hollowed out. Most political discussions are either too technocratic or are essentially partisan shouting matches. Big moral questions like a just society, equality, what do we owe one another as citizens are rarely mentioned. Fear of conflict or believing we should not impose our values on others has left ordinary people feeling disempowered. How can we communicate with someone we have labeled as ‘other’ or just plain crazy? We got a good look at the 28th Annual SRI Conference.

Debbie Dooley was one of the founders of the Tea Party. She rails against big government and writes occasionally for Breitbart, not one of my go to sources for news. She also helped found the Green Tea Coalition to campaign against the maintenance fees utility companies charge solar customers. If she were not on the agenda I would know nothing about her. Yet, I discovered we have much in common. 

Like lefty members of Occupy Wall Street, Dooley was against the bailouts. She too thinks corporate donors and lobbyists are corrupting government. Her solutions are mostly based on the “free market,” whereas I think our free market economy is turning us into a free market society… and there is no free market.

When discussing the advantages of solar, she never mentions climate change. Instead, she talks about energy choice, energy freedom, independence, being good stewards of God’s creation. Don’t make those connected to fossil fuel the bad guys. Form coalitions. Talk about being stewards of the environment. Talk clean air and clean water by appealing to the sportsman. Choice and individual liberty can be keystones. Decentralized energy is good for our independence and for national defense. It is all about communicating with your audience in their language.

Special interests and their big money has too much influence. Everyone seems to agree with that. She was successful in getting Georgia to pass a bill requiring utilities to buy rooftop surplus.  Free market, choice, competition and individual liberty. Keep those phrases coming.

Bill Shireman, of Future 500, was the moderator. I’ve heard Shireman and others at his organization before. They do good work. He emphasized the need to get away from demonizing others. Dividing us will only keep the status quo because we can’t get a majority to move. Conservative half (folks on right) bring a different view than “coastal” liberals. Conservatives believe people are selfish. Liberals think they are selfless. We need to get them working in tandem.

Jerry Taylor was the one in the stage I could most easily relate to. I spent most of my career in Sacramento trying to protect the environment through legislative and regulatory measures. I could easily imagine him sitting around a table with lobbyists from Chevron, Western States Petroleum, Dow and the rest. Taylor was at the Cato Institute for years offering up climate denying arguments — shaping laws and regulations through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Near the end of his career with Cato, he could not find an economist who didn’t embrace addressing climate change. Taylor slowly discovered that his “scientific” arguments against climate change were wrong. Then he moved to create the Niskanen Center. Taylor believes in protecting property rights. “Party A is polluting party B, destroying the value of their property. We can’t ignore the distribution of risk.” He moved away from defending people like Trump to arguing for climate action.

Taylor told 28th Annual SRI Conference attendees, “If you want to talk to conservatives you have to speak their language, Russian.” Yes, he’s got a sense of humor… something that is obviously helpful when talking with people who may hold views outside your comfort zone.

When did it become conservative to play dice with the planet? 40-60 Republicans in the House are uncomfortable with climate denial. They are looking for windows of opportunity but it helps to approach them knowing that being hostile to “climate change” is part of a cultural identity. Let’s split the difference by finding common ground “consistent with our priors.

“Transpartisan alliances;” that was a new one for me. On the Republican side of the aisle, individual liberty and freedom are more important than addressing inequality. Most people look at politics like they look at European soccer, Taylor concluded. The vast majority know only a little and almost couldn’t care less. It is a small minority of well-organized groups that push the agenda. Being able to communicate with others would be a good place to start.

  

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