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Insider Voices: Human Dimensions of Low Carbon Technology
Alex Steffen, 3 Jul 09
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This is a really smart project discussing how cutting-edge climate-friendly business ventures have begun and succeeded or failed. Though it's not casual reading, it'll be fascinating to those wrestling with these questions, because it focuses on the element most often left out of innovative plans: people. "When people talk about reducing carbon emissions," the report's authors say, "they usually talk about technologies or economics. But the five year Lowcarbonworks research project reveals that’s not enough. Unless we understand the wider systemic context of low carbon initiatives and the human relationships required to drive innovation forward, we will not achieve a low carbon future."

To illustrate how the human factor is critical to success, they explore a range of examples -- including an anaerobic digester company, a compressed air utility; an integrated heating and cooling system; a low-carbon factory producing lingerie for Marks and Spencer; a district energy plan using a geothermal combined heat and power system -- showing where each met resistance, how each found allies and adoption, where each ran afoul of the current system, and how each dealt with the problems of entrenched interests, silo-ed knowlege and hostile experts:

"One of the features of the realms of technology, climate change, carbon reduction, innovation and so on, is that they are dominated by a particular configuration of expert knowledge, which is highly professionalised. Members of these communities have spent their whole professional lives acquiring, refining and developing their knowledge, usually with great dedication. This militates against translation from one community to another, and against conversation between ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’. It is deeply disempowering to ‘non experts’ who wish to engage in debate and/or action. It reduces those who are not experts to the relatively passive roles of ‘consumers’ and ‘users’. "

You won't be taking this to the beach, but if you're looking for some real case studies in the difficulties of bright green business and how they can be overcome, this report's for you.

Click here to visit the site where you can download a free copy.

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