Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hope and Lovins

Yesterday evening, The Rocky Mountain Institute emailed out a fundraising letter from Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist Amory Lovins. It's all about applied hope, the force with which Dr. Lovins and his colleagues are trying to save the world.

Here are my favorite snippets...

On Applied Hope and Optimism:

Applied hope is not mere optimism. The optimist treats the future as fate, not choice, and thus fails to take responsibility for making the world we want. Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. The optimist, says RMI Trustee David Orr, has his feet up on the desk and a satisfied smirk knowing the deck is stacked. The person living in hope has her sleeves rolled up and is fighting hard to change or beat the odds. Optimism can easily mask cowardice. Hope requires fearlessness.

On Applied Hope and Fear:

Fear of specific and avoidable dangers has evolutionary value. Nobody has ancestors who weren’t mindful of saber-toothed tigers. But pervasive dread, currently in fashion and sometimes purposely promoted, is numbing and demotivating. When I give a talk, sometimes a questioner details the many bad things happening in the world and asks how dare I propose solutions: isn’t resistance futile? The only response I’ve found is to ask, as gently as I can, “Does feeling that way make you more effective?”

On Applied Hope and Transformation:

At RMI we’re practitioners, not theorists. We do solutions, not problems. We do transformation, not incrementalism. In a world short of both hope and time, we seek to practice Raymond Williams’s truth that “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.” Hope becomes possible, practical—even profitable—when advanced resource efficiency turns scarcity into abundance. The glass, then, is neither half empty nor half full; rather, it has a 100 percent design margin, expandable by efficiency.

I think his definition of optimism is pause-givingly harsh. I think his counter to despair is brilliantly simple. And I think the half glass metaphor adjustment is beautifully geeky.

I didn't reprint the whole letter because I feel kind of weird doing that without Dr. Lovins's permission, but, if you want to read those paragraphs in context, the letter is the first section of RMI's annual report. Download the .pdf, or download Vuzit, and ctrl + click on the .pdf link and open the in a new browser tab.

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