In predicting changes we hope to see in the world, people sometimes tend to over-estimate the potential for change in the short-term, and under-estimate its impact in the long-term. We as well as our media also tend to overlook the small events and bright spots that indicate a broader trend is underway.
Recently two under-reported events demonstrated that some of the changes we seek are gaining momentum:
Often when we think of the Industrial Revolution, we think of England burning coal and events like the The Great Smog of 1952, which for five days created the worst air-pollution in the history of the UK. Researchers now believe that as many as 12,000 people died as a result of the Great Smog, and 100,000 were made ill. Yet during the day of April 21 of this year in England, no coal-fired electricity entered the country’s grid for the first time since the dawn of the industrial age. The average mix of power sources that day was 50% natural gas, 20% nuclear, and 30% renewable energy. While coal was completely off the grid for only a day, the progress represented by that event for a future of clean energy, clean air, and better health is a marker of our progress.
Texas is another place we generally associate with fossil fuel production. But for a short period this spring, Texas energy prices on the state electricity grid went negative; essentially, low cost renewables-based generation overwhelmed higher cost fossil fuel-based generation in the energy mix. It’s an indication that the huge investment in renewable energy production there is having a positive effect, and validates predictions of a cleaner, healthier future.
These stories didn't exactly make a big splash this spring, but they suggest a couple of important conclusions. One is that there are many more success stories out there, and they will gain visibility and help to generate more momentum as we move forward. Another is that our campaign to push us toward a world of 100% clean energy will have enormous benefits, will show signs of success earlier than we expect, and is indeed possible.
Small signs of hope and change in a challenging time that also challenge our assumptions about the world. Keep the faith!