EHS PRO our future hero’s…

Posted on June 12, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Futurist Jeremy Rifkin’s keynote speech to the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo, told EHS pros he foresees a global revolution that will force industry EHS professionals to solve fundamental, incremental and unpredictable problems…
 “99 percent of the sustainable development commercials you see on TV is spin, PR,”
“You folks are on the front lines, you know the real story. I feel for you,” Rifkin told EHS pros. “You know what needs to be done, but you spend your time putting fires out after the fact. It must be incredibly frustrating,” he said.
“But you are not in your profession for the money. You have a sense of mission.” Rifkin urged his audience to use that passion to help save the biosphere in the “very short window of opportunity” existing in the next 10-15 years.
Four actions need to occur in that time frame, he said: 
A massive shift to distributed energies (wind, sun, water, geothermal) and away from centralized “elite energy” controlled by corporate hierarchies and governments.  
Reinventing building design and construction so in 20 years offices, factories, homes – all will collect, generate, store and distribute energy. Building structures in effect become their own power plants. 
Third, renewable sources of energy – hydro, solar cells, wind and geothermal – represent “intermittent energies.” It’s not always sunny or windy; water is not flowing when there’s a drought. The challenge is to store this free energy once collected…
The challenge: reducing the current high costs of harnessing renewable energy…, which Rifkin wrote will be achieved through technological breakthroughs and economies of scale.
Fourth, communications of converging with the distributed energy revolution…to become the command and control mechanism for organizing the second industrial revolution. The future power grid based on renewable and freely shared energy will be opened up via new smarter grids…already being tested in cities such as Houston and Boulder, Colorado, said Rifkin. “Call it the Wikipedia model of how to store and share renewable energy.”
Where EHS professionals have a real role to play is in the construction of energy-generating buildings, said Rifkin. “Buildings are the solution to being able to go off the grid. Building can collect and distribute energy. This will be a building redesign revolution, with diagonal roofs, wind mills, solar panels” and the information technical to monitor consumption, save energy, and share it. 
In the follow-up Q&A, Rifkin pointed to two other roles for EHS professionals. One, help make sustainable development a central part of a company’s business plan. “They should bring you experts in to help model a sustainable development plan in the beginning,” he said. Right now, “99 percent of the sustainable development commercials you see on TV is spin, PR,” Rifkin said. “We’re not as far along as those TV commercials suggest.”
Second, EHS pros, by the nature of their mission, tend to be empathetic. And they can use that to influence what Rifkin said is a necessary change in our cultural thinking. “Empathy gives us the glue to survive, to keep us together. We’ve got to extend our empathy worldwide. We can no longer squabble and squabble and squabble. We need a change in perspective. We need to be more mindful” of the big picture, he said. 

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