Opportunity Green is
underway now over, and I'm glad I got a chance to play a role. The event struck me as a case study of the cultural transition underway in the center of gravity of the green movement, from activism to business. This is not a painless change, but arguably a necessary one. If environmentalism is to have a persistent mainstream presence, it has to make the leap from imperative to normative -- that is, from environmentally beneficial action being something driven by guilt or morality to being something commonplace and assumed. The question, for me, is how to navigate that transition without losing the elements of the activist culture that bring energy, enthusiasm, and -- most importantly -- a long-term perspective to the party.
The lesson I took from the Opportunity Green event is that activist passion doesn't necessarily translate well into business passion. This is less a result of the transformation from "green movement" to "green markets" than a dilemma inherent in a change in the dominant participats: the most successful voices of the movement are often not as successful as market advocates, and (at the same time) the most effective salespeople are often not as deeply immersed in the underlying science and the complex tapestry of the broader issues. As a result, there's a noticeable tension between these different perspectives.
As a result of this conference, I'm increasingly convinced that the core dilemma of sustainability today is how to make environmental responsibility mainstream and normative while responding effectively and quickly to an accelerating crisis. To paraphrase the old tech joke, our situation appears to be: "Rapid response, broad adoption, affordability -- choose two."
[Edited significantly at 10:35 pm PST.]