How do we maintain the clean tech industry so it thrives now, when we need it the most? By looking at who is doing well or failing; how they are different from us; how we can learn from them so we can take control of our own economic and environmental destinies.
Let’s compare America, China and Germany. Who is doing best? Some would say China because their GNP has been expanding astronomically and experiencing very little of the global economic impact that befell western countries after the 2008 economic collapse; while America and Europe have been suffering in multiple sectors-one of the worst being hit: the construction industry, which has a significant impacted on the green tech industry. So how is China doing it?
China’s government is focusing on one economic infrastructure: manufacturing; and they seem to have no rules, values or morals when it comes to what they produce and how they distribute it in a global trade regulated world: even going as far as under-cutting their own people’s compensation and health to make a profit for their top party elite. Marx would be turning in his grave. They don’t hesitate to steal other countries ideas because they have little internal innovation going on themselves. What they do have is an extremely large population needing to survive anyway they can. Compare them to Germany which is a much smaller country. Germany’s GNP is lower but more valuable and stable because their economic infrastructure is based on an educated, well compensated and healthy workforce who enjoy their productive, comfortable lifestyles at work and at home. As a well paid and stress free workforce, Germany is able to produces much higher quality products which is envied all over the world; and in turn brings in a higher price from those who appreciate a higher standard of quality. Unlike China: with their unbalanced income levels, Germany’s profits are shared equally with its workforce. In America we’re somewhere between China and Germany and getting much closer to China everyday in that both in America and China, a few at the top have a hold of all the power and insist in keeping the income for themselves and expecting the workers to be happy with minimum survival crumbs. Believe anything else then your not paying attention.
Germany’s economic structure maybe much smaller in stature but it’s much healthier and stabler than either America’s or China’s and its green technology industry could easily outlast both. How did Germany do it? By investing in its workforce from cradle to grave. It invested in educating its young people, (German high school grads leave school with educations equal to or better than American college grads); They invested in their workforce by not destroying unions, (They have 40% unions while American is somewhere around 6%); They supported their technology industries, (Their sustainability industry have been government subsidized from the beginning and are now strong enough to survive on their own, where as America is still fighting over whether climate change exists and complaining when President Obama sees the need to rescue our automobile industry from complete collapse). In the same amount of time it took Germany to take control of the sustainability industry in Europe, China has gone from an agrarian society to a factory manufacturing one by cutting off countryside jobs and forcing simple farmers into inner city factory jobs. Most are uneducated; They work long arduous hours for tiny wages; They don’t get time off or enough money to feed their families a healthy diet even if healthy natural food was available to them; Most live in small city apartments with large extended families while the rich party officials and business directors at the top make multimillion dollar incomes that allows them to live luxurious lifestyles. Who does this sound like? Germans are happy to go to their productive jobs and make a good living and view the natural environment with open eyes. Chinese, are miserable, barely surviving, have no control over their lives and their health is failing fast as they destroy the environment in order to make a profit selling cheap substandard green technology to Americans who believe in Walmart and Home Depot pricing over their own countries economic survival. Oh, and more about Americans: we are also over worked and under paid while a small few capitalist elite at the top get richer; the quality of our educations have plummeted; our health has deteriorated while access to healthcare has been reduced; we have less satisfaction in our work lives, (if we’re lucky enough to have a job); we said goodby to collective bargaining a long time ago, leaving us with less control over our lives; and if any of our taxes are going to subsidize energy, its going to cheap fossil fuels that damage the environment, before clean healthy technology will be publicly supported. The Chinese have no choice about what their government does but in America we have the freedom to stand up and change the system; so why don’t we?
If America wants to survive as a global nation we have to embrace green technology and our workforces in the way Germany has. We need to stand up against the powerful fossil fuel establishment and demand that our government shift direction and subsidies to the development of carbon neutralizing renewable solar power and electric cars rather than fossil fuels and gas car makers whose time has come to an end. Okay, we have fracking, but rather than it being our future savior, it should be how we reduce gasoline costs while we rapidly transition into a sustainable energy infrastructure by 2030, not 2050. We need to encourage government incentives towards capital financing for early-stage clean renewable energy technologies that support the long haul. We need to start the conversations and planning with public utilities about rethinking our systems to change accordingly, rather than wait until another catastrophe forces us to make bad decision in a panic. And if private companies won’t play ball than we need to go towards supporting local public utility systems even further. We need to reconsider our trade with China and let them know that we will be reducing the imports of all competitive industries such as: green technology, non-renewable construction materials and processed food and any other important life sustaining products that have to be healthy and well made or environmentally sustainable before we accept them into our market place over our own home produced products. (FYI, Solyndra failed, not because Obama was a liberal green crackpot and was always a bad idea, but because China drowned the American market place with cheap solar panels and we allowed corporate businesses to buy China cheap and kill our own growing government subsidized products like those of Solyndra. And we have since let these same corporate companies use the miss information to embarrass the President and the green tech industry, rather than stopping this from happening again.)
So back to the cradle to grave of a green economic infrastructure. We need to change our government perspective on its educational system, its manufacturing development focus and its human workforce support. We also need to fight the myth makers out there who have financial incentives to lie to us as a means to filling their pocket, and we need to get real about climate change, our energy use and the health of the environment in order to change the view of the industry by the public; and in turn, encourage capital investments now for the long haul. In our return to supporting innovation again, (That which made America great), we need to support new and innovative ideas for green tech financing such as: public crowd funding, private B Corp capital networking groups, industry technology connecting where sustainability sectors and technology developers can combine resources to get the sustainability industry up and moving and staying strong together: not as competitors but as partners. We need to compete as one American company to another through higher standards and quality production, not through things like marketing finger pointing and sabotaging each others developments. We’re all in the same economic climate change boat and there are lots of things that have to happen, but as long as we allow the few at the top to continue to sabotage productive change to pad their own pockets, the longer it will be before we can start to focus on finding solutions to our shared global, national and local problems.