Jonathan J. Halperin
Jonathan J. Halperin
Designing Research, Communications
and Strategies for Sustainability

Time and Money

I have spent a significant portion of my career managing research projects, publishing materials, devising marketing and communications strategies and consulting to bring needed information and perspectives to corporate and nonprofit decision-makers. So I would never argue against communications and education as indispensable tools in the battle to address pressing global challenges.

But as I articulated the dilemma at the session "Population Challenge" led by Dennis Dimick and Helen Gayle at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, I don’t think the fundamental obstacle to devising solutions to climate change, for example, is a lack of knowledge. We don’t know everything; but we know enough to act. Rather, the core obstacle is our inability to effectively debate and make policy decisions around money (video below).

Unlike the search for the cure for cancer, we actually know what is needed to slow the inexorable path toward climatic catastrophe. We need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. And that will result in a profound shift in our energy and economic world.

While there is money to be made in new energy sectors, so too are there vast trillions to be lost in embedded infrastructure and traditional business models if we mismanage the transition.

The other fundamental impediment to embarking aggressively on this transition is that we don’t have the mental perspective or institutional tools to readily grasp the time scale of what is involved in this effort. Even as we search for new technology for carbon sequestration, we are releasing greenhouse gases in mere years and decades that have been naturally sequestered over hundreds of millions of years through photosynthesis. How do we get our heads around a time scale that spans not just a human life, not even just the existence of our species for 250,000 years but the creating of fossil fuels over hundreds of millions of years?

When I began to unhook from SustainAbility in 2008, after 20+ years, to co-found Volans, Jonathan was working with the US end of SustainAbility — and sent the London end of the Volans team a large cardboard box of multi-colored felt rocks, which initially I couldn't make head nor tail of. I thought he was mad, or overly American.

But I have to say that, over time, those felt rocks have become a central feature of the Volans culture, thrown by team members at other team members (or guests) on the slightest provocation. That aside, he's a consummate professional, creative collaborator, skilled communicator, and keen intellect—and I am delighted both to have had Jonathan as a colleague and to now count him as a friend.

more testimonials >

Tweets from Jonathan J. Halperin

Feb 4

 Jonathan J. Halperin Retweeted Civil Eats
Jonathan J. Halperin added,
Pay attention. Pay very close attention. This is just the beginning.
Civil Eats
Verified account @CivilEats
USDA removes animal welfare reports from its website
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Established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution, The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common, fostering responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.