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RE: Idle musings: Has the P2 community missed the bandwagon? Or get run over by it?



Title: Idle musings: Has the P2 community missed the bandwagon? Or get run over by it?

Scott I agree; in my view P2 thinking and methods should be integral to the issue of climate change, since as we all know, air issues are not just limited to global warming, but are also more immediate in terms of smog or toxics. We are really talking about what appears on the death certificate as cause of death, and our job is to eliminate the underlying causes not just developing piecemeal solutions.

 

When dealing with municipalities or regions rather than industrial establishments, we are just moving the boundary further out, and looking at the use of additional tools in the tool kit (transit policy, building permits, planning, settlement limits, etc) than the traditional P2 ones.

 

It isn’t a question of being irrelevant, it is a matter of allowing ourselves to be marginalized. One off solutions don’t work, never have, never will. Now more than ever we need the questioning, non-linear thinking of P2 practitioners.

 

We need to put ourselves back into the equation, to be at the centre of the cyclone, instead of being blown away.

 

Because at the end of the day, the issue driven mindset will not solve the problem. And we must solve it.

 

Fred Granek
Vice President Toronto Region Sustainability Program
Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement (OCETA)
2070 Hadwen Road, Unit 201A
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5K 2C9
T: (905) 822-4133 Ext 224; Cell: (416) 723- 4873; F: (905) 822-3558; fgranek@oceta.on.ca

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

 

 


From: owner-p2tech@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-p2tech@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Butner, R Scott
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2007 6:39 PM
To: p2tech@great-lakes.net
Cc: lbarnes@wmrc.uiuc.edu
Subject: Idle musings: Has the P2 community missed the bandwagon? Or get run over by it?

 

P2TECH-ies --

Some random musings to ponder over the upcoming Thanksgiving break.  If the tryptophan doesn't put you to sleep, you can always resort to this.

As it happens, I had the opportunity to attend the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) meeting two weeks ago in Salt Lake City.  This was the first full AIChE meeting I'd attended in several years -- probably since I stepped down as chairman of their Environmental Division in 2000.

Now, if you've never been to an AIChE meeting, imagine some 3,000 chemical engineering graduate students, their professors, and another 1,000 or so industry people all converging on one place for a week. 

Sounds like a riotous affair, doesn't it?  Mix in Salt Lake City as a meeting venue, and you've got a sure-fire recipe for excitement.

And in fact, it was quite a good meeting.  Turns out that Salt Lake has some outstanding restaraunts, nearby outdoor attractions, and even a bit of a local music scene (anyone else ever see the movie "SLC Punk"?).

Not that I had time, of course -- the conference boasted some 660 technical sessions, approximately 3,000 or so presented papers, distributed across the 18 technical divisions and forums of AIChE, including 16 topical subconferences on topics including:

- New Frontiers in Energy Research
- 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Electrophoresis Society (AES)
- Sustainable Biorefineries
- Nanomaterials for Energy Applications
- Pharmaceutical Engineering for the 21st Century

Incidentally, the whole technical agenda -- which includes a lot of sessions of interest to P2 people -- can be found here: http://www.aiche.org/Conferences/Past/Annual07CompleteProgram.aspx

What's this got to do with P2TECH? 

Wait a minute.  I'll get there -- I'm just taking the scenic route*

So, anyway, a few days after returning to the office, I got a call from my good friend Jean Waters (of P2Rx fame).  Jean was, as is her habit, driving at high speeds across the wide-open Nebraska plains, passing plowed-up corn fields, bioethanol plants, and irrigation circles.   She must have been travelling west-bound (towards me), because her voice was Doppler shifted upscale half an octave.

An exact transcript follows.  Well, OK, "exact" may be a tiny bit of an overstatement -- just as "complete fabrication" isn't entirely accurate either --  but I think I captured the essence of it.

"Butner!  Why didn't you TELL me you were in Salt Lake City last week?"

"um.....because you didn't ask?"

(for the record, I rarely coordinate my travel schedule with Jean anymore)

"doesn't matter.  I was there too.  We should have gotten together for lunch.  We need to talk."

And so we did.  We talked briefly about business (kinda slow), our kids (it's generally accepted -- by us -- that both of us have exceptionally clever kids), and the state of P2 (the term "moribund" may have been tossed about -- but I won't tell you which of us suggested it). 

I don't think we ever got around to discussing the meaning of life, but that's just as well, as you hate to introduce that topic to someone stuck in a car doing 80 mph through the Nebraska corn fields.  It can provoke an existential crisis, and then where would you be?

Or NOT be, as it happens.

Anyway, somewhere in this discussion, I mentioned that I was encouraged by the presence of literally hundreds of shiny new graduate students -- all there in their spiffy interview suits, young and bright and full of enthusiasm -- who had come to the conference to talk about subjects that were near and dear to all of us:  Environmental lifecycle analysis.  Green chemistry.  Selective solvents.  Environmental applications of nanotechnology.  Sustainable biorefineries.  Climate Change.  Sustainable Water Management.

All of this is stuff that built upon the intellectual and technical foundation laid by P2.  Yet it all seems to be moving ahead without the P2 community in some ways.

Now I chalk some of this up to creative repackaging -- tack the word "sustainable" on to a session title, and you can continue to talk about the same old....  er, stuff -- that you've always talked about, and yet still seem contemporary. 

It's a fact. 

But a lot of what was being presented would have been right at home at an NPPR meeting (remember those?) ten years ago.  Or more.

I mentioned this to Jean.   She started to respond, then abruptly blurted out "wait just a sec...."

In the background, I heard tires screeching as she swerved to avoid hitting a pig that had walked onto the freeway -- an event so commonplace in Nebraska that native Nebraskans will mock you if you slow down even a bit.  Instead, the accepted practice is to swerve out into the cornfield (because the laws of probability state with near certainty that if you're driving across Nebraska, you'll be adjacent to a corn field), dodge the center pivot sprinkler, then swerve back out onto the highway, spraying gravel from the wheels of your pickup as you hit the pavement.  On those rare occasions when the road actually IS paved, that is.

"Try that again and you're going home as bacon!" I heard her say, away from the phone. 

I was pretty sure she was talking to the pig, not to me.

"OK, now where were we?" she asked rhetorically.  "Oh yeah -- all these upstarts coming into P2."

"The problem, as I see it," she began, " is that we were successful beyond our wildest dreams.  The environment is becoming mainstream, just like we wanted"

I sensed a "but...." about to intrude into the conversation.  "But-ing in," if you will.

"But, the thing is -- will the bandwagon stop to pick us up, or will it roll us over?"

Good question, Jean.  They grow up smart out there in the midwest. 

Smart, and tough.   

And smelling faintly of cows.

Anyway.  Let's take stock for a moment:

- Everyone and their brother (unless the brother is named "Jeb") seems to be interested in the environment these days.  

- Companies are increasingly touting "green" products, and people are, in increasing numbers, buying those green products

-  Al Gore won the freakin' Nobel Peace prize, for insistently and persistently stating the obvious. 

Heck, there's even a movie that hit the theatres this weekend, called -- what else? -- "P2"

Without wanting to be a spoiler, here's a hint:  it's not what you might hope. Seems that "P2" can mean things OTHER than "pollution prevention" -- whodathunkit?

But that one exception notwithstanding, it seems like the P2 community -- which after all, has been ahead of this curve for years, right? -- should be at it's peak of influence.

Sitting in the catbird seat.

Calling the shots.

Leader of the pack.

Driving the bandwagon.

(coming up with better cliches)

But I don’t get the sense that we are.  

Has the P2 community moved on?  Tired out?  Outlived it's usefulness?  Accomplished it's goals?  Morphed into these other things?

Does it matter?

I don't know the answers to these questions.  Just musing out loud at the provocation of a good friend.

Anyone else wondering along these lines recently?

Regards,

Scott

-----------------
* speaking of scenic routes -- and this has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this e-mail (as if the rest of the message did?)  -- if you enjoy pictures of fish, fishermen and fisherwomen, western landscapes, or booming Mormon metropoli, you are invited to look at the highlight photos from my road trip to/from Salt Lake.  In a decidedly Unsustainable fashion, I elected to drive the 700 miles of high desert that lies between me and Salt Lake City in my trusty 1999 Mazda Protege, rather than avail myself of Delta's sardine-can-with-wings. 

I could provide you with some b.s. rationale, but mostly it was an excuse to spend 17 hours each way with no company other than myself and the extensive collection of Elvis Costello songs I have loaded onto my iPod. 

The fact that I think that is something to look forward to explains quite a bit, actually.

In any event, my pictures of the road trip can be found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/rs_butner/sets/72157603110709460/show/

As you'll see, I managed to make some stops along the way to stand in a river or two. 

As is my habit.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.  Be sure to find SOMETHING to be thankful for.
=================================================
Scott Butner
Senior Research Scientist, Knowledge Systems Group
Pacific NW National Laboratory
MS K7-28
3350 Q Ave
Richland, WA 99354
Voice: (509)-372-4946/Fax: (509) 375-2443
E-mail: scott.butner@pnl.gov
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