July 14th, 2019
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." - Archimedes
Writing from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Welcome to the inaugural email of our weekly mailer and thank you for joining us on our journey.
In the coming years, our corporations and the communities from which they spring will either learn to prosper within planetary carbon limits or lose the very foundation on which our prosperity depends.
I’ve spent the past twenty years building risk models for financial institutions and my wife has spent her career in the public health field deploying tobacco control programs.
Throughout that time, we’ve slowly come to see our life’s work converge. The Carbon-emissions crisis (human-induced climate disruption) poses the greatest threat to public health and the greatest macroeconomic risk-factor facing global markets barring annihilation from nuclear war.
But what can we do to make a difference? Buy an electric vehicle? Reduce beef consumption? Target a zero waste lifestyle? All these actions swim against the strong rip-tide current of business-as-usual behavior making them difficult to adopt and spread. These actions also focus on individuals, already overburdened by the daily grind of earning an income, raising a family, and building a life. I believe the solution lies in finding powerful market-based levers of system change that can quickly reorient the economy to operate within safe planetary limits - changing the direction of the tide.
Against this backdrop, we decided to undertake a 7,000 mile road trip across the snow belt through North America in an electric vehicle powered only by its battery pack. We first visit cities symbolizing the 20th century industrial era in the United States: Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago. Then, we journey through the farm heartland of America towards the several of the greatest natural spaces on planet earth: Yellowstone, Glacier Park, Banff, and Jasper (the farthest point from our home in New York City).
We hope to engage our family, friends, and the people we encounter in discussion while searching for these latent but powerful levers of system change.
I’ve provided a summary below of the discussions and learnings so far.
The next post will come from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains - most likely Glacier National Park.
- Reinvigorated at the turn of the century by local efforts to invest in cultural and ecological projects, Pittsburgh became one of the most livable cities in the world.
- This city forged the steel and glass that formed the backbone of New York City’s iconic skyline such as the Empire State Building.
- The rise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) may also usher in the electrification of transport as fleets of AVs will also likely be fully electric.
- With the loss of manufacturing base to the Sun-Belt and East Asia, could there be an opportunity to develop a renewable energy-based economy centered in Michigan? What if we were to build a Tesla-like giga-factory in the rust-belt and produce the electric cars of the future here? I think Henry Ford and the industrialists of his era would support that idea.
- In the early 1900’s, Chicagoans reversed the flow of the Chicago River so that instead of draining into Michigan Lake, it drains into the Mississippi River.
- Perhaps we can engage the freshwater economics schools (e.g University of Chicago) to work to internalize market externalities such as anthropogenic climate disruption.
- Who will want to be the first to take the first step and pay for carbon-balancing?
- (Food Related) To best experience cheese curds, eat them when they are so fresh they squeak when chewed.
- (Food Related) Kringle, a sugar glazed pastry, introduced to Wisconsin by early danish settlers and evolved into a unique Wisconsin treat.
Minnesota (the land of 10,000 lakes)
- 20% of the energy comes from renewable sources
- Wind farms tracing the horizon offer a glimpse into what a renewable powered economy might look like.
This extended trip is made possible by my employer, Axioma, which offers employees on their 8th year anniversary a 6 week summer sabbatical.