One prediction for 2009 that I'm sure will be true is it will be a very interesting year. We have a new president taking office amid a perfect storm of foreign and domestic problems of epic magnitude on our hot, flat and crowded world. Add several hundred billion in new federal funding and tax breaks to attempt to stem the most pressing of those problems and you have a recipe for even more historic excitement than we had in 2008.
We will need some more miracles like the Miracle on the Hudson, where outliers with 19,000 hours of experience use all their training and skills to calmly produce excellent outcomes while facing grave consequences. Perhaps we will find a way to a soft landing on smooth water. Fasten your seat belts! It may be a wild ride.
Locally, it is also shaping up as an interesting year as the Indiana legislature considers how to build a balanced budget around dwindling tax revenue as the farm ponds aren't the only things freezing up and the temperature gauges aren't the only things going down.
In the realm of moving from brown to green, this would seem to be an unlikely time for progress for sustainability, but there may be an opening in the form of all that cash that Congress may be about to print to fund the economic stimulus bill. Among the programs that would be funded, if Congress acts in accord with the new administration, are incentives to encourage renewable energy, green buildings, green job training, building energy retrofits, electrical transmission grid upgrades, mass transit infrastructure, and basic research, to name a few. Add to that mix proposed legislation for a national renewable energy portfolio, minimum national energy code standards, more stringent enforcement of air pollution rules, and a carbon cap and trade system and you have stimulus for unprecedented change in a state that is 96% dependent on coal for electric power and where our energy code is the most outdated in the nation.
Three events coming to Indianapolis in the next few months will attempt to make some sense of these dynamic challenges and opportunities and they all have a decidedly green tint. First up is the Indianapolis Business Journal's Power Breakfast Series: Going Green event on February 13 at the Weston Downtown, Indianapolis. This popular series is always well attended but this year should sell out early due to the mix of environmental and business expertise focused on questions like, "What are the main elements of Barack Obama's environmental agenda and what are the chances they will become law? What have we learned about Green buildings and LEED-certified projects? What are the implications for business of CO2 restrictions?"
Next up is the popular IU Kelly School of Business Annual Business Conference on March 11 at the Indiana Convention Center featuring energy guru Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and climate change activist, author, professor Bill McKibben, and editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, Susan Dentzer, moderated by New York Times columnist and author David Brooks. The theme is the storm of change facing health care, energy and the environment in 2009. After the three subject matter experts speak, chief executive officers of three major corporations that are known for their responsible approaches to energy use, the environment and employee health care will talk about how their companies are addressing these issues.
Later that week, on March 12 and 13th the third annual Indiana Building Green Symposium will take place at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with the theme: Think Green. Headlining this event is architect Ed Mazria who wrote "the bible of passive solar design" but is best known today as the creator of the 2030 Challenge, which calls for signatories to design only carbon neutral buildings by 2030. Those signatories include the American Institute of Architects, the U. S. Green Building Council, the U. S. Conference of Mayors, and the State of Illinois among many others. Leith Sharp, the sustainability director at Harvard University from 2000 to 2008 will tell how she built the nation's premier campus sustainability program from scratch and how Indiana's colleges and universities can follow her lead, saving millions of pounds of carbon and millions of dollars along the way.
Not a bad lineup for the first quarter. Fasten your seat belts! We may be in for a wild ride.