A really long-term vision that includes what to do with the products we create integrates more of what it means to be human.
By Gail Flower
On November 30, 2011, The Omaha World-Herald Co. announced that Warren Buffett said he would buy the newspaper from his home town for $200 million because well-run newspapers have a future and Omaha is a vibrant community that he wanted to support. Many newspapers are struggling in a changing and monetarily stretched time in history. Is digital the answer? Who knows, but independent thought, even coverage, and an informed community are vital to a democracy—and this is one example of supporting such thought in the future.
About the same time, The Washington Post reviewed Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett’s debate about tax fairness. When Buffett said that his secretary paid a higher tax rate than he does, everyone started thinking about it. Now President Obama has weighed in with what he calls the Buffett Rule, proposing a minimum effective tax rate on all income, irrespective of its source. Why not take from the rich to support the poor by taxing them evenly? This is as old fashioned as Robin Hood. Some people, it appears, have too much money and openly admit it. Couldn’t some of that money support the development of solar power as a boost to the economy?
As a matter of fact, in December 2011, Buffett’s wind-energy company jumped into supporting solar energy, agreeing to purchase the Topaz Solar Farm project in Central California for more than $2 billion. Forbes reported that MidAmerican Energy Holdings, owned by Berkshire Hathaway and other investors, agreed to acquire the 550-megawatt plant on the Carrizo Plain one of California’s remaining large prairies.
The agreements seem to be in place. First Solar will construct and operate the Topaz project. Construction began in November 2011 and will continue to be complete by 2015, providing lots of new jobs in a state that could use this type of investment. Pacific Gas and Electric has signed a 25-year agreement to purchase electricity from Topaz. California’s mandate to generate 33% of its power from renewable sources is closer to being met.
So what’s the problem? There are the wildflowers, the reintroduced pronghorn antelope, the antelope squirrel, and other species to look out for because they live on the Carrizo Plain. There’s also the problem of eventual e-waste, and California is a state known for forward thinking when it comes to electronics.
In 2008, Samsung launched a recycling program for all Samsung product lines. Beginning that year, consumers could drop off their Samsung-branded consumer electronics sold in the U.S. at collection sites in each state in a take-back program. Nokia expanded its take-back program to make recycling easier for any mobile phone, mobile-phone battery, or mobile-phone accessory.
However, for the acres and acres of PV cells, what’s the plan for taking care of the end-of-lifecycle products? Fortunately, there are some sustainable-technology communities, such as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), that have a vision of electronic products that result in sustainable communities and worksites, wherever the high-tech industry happens to exist (www.etoxics.org).Sustainable energy is vital, especially clean energy, for lots of reasons. But a really long-term vision that includes what to do with the products we create integrates more of what it means to be human.
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