Circle of people with hands joinedPhoto: Edu Van GelderI met Focus the Nation‘s Garett Brennan at an event in Seattle a few months back and was favorably impressed, so it was nice to see Andy Revkin give him some space. FtN is trying to help people find their place in the clean energy revolution. They’ve divided their training program according to four roles: Innovators, Technicians, Storytellers, and Politicos. They train young people in whichever role they’re best suited to, while helping them draw on the skills of others. Here’s how Brennan describes it:

Self-identified Innovators and Technicians are not going to march in the streets. But their sense of the world and their interest in clean energy solutions is just as critical as the Politico who does want to organize and agitate, or who has thought about running for office (which I’d rather see).

The Innovators can learn a lot from the Storytellers about how to present discoveries in cool compelling ways that attract investors or partners or politicians to take them seriously. And the Politicos can learn a lot from the Technicians about, for instance, how the pads that the wind turbines sit on require a certain amount of load-bearing concrete that simply can’t be shipped along small county roads that lead to new wind farm locations … the nuts and bolts of a new energy economy that never make headlines.

I quite like this idea. I’ve always thought one problem with green activism is that the only way to support it is to be a green activist — gather signatures, protest, send letters to Congress, and so on. That’s all important work, but it’s not for everybody. It narrows the pipeline through which young people are absorbed into the clean energy economy, and narrows the demographic as well.

It’s nice to offer a wider range of roles, to better match people’s talents and proclivities to the needed work. I’m pretty much a geezer now and no spokesman for The Youth, but it seems to me that Millennials aren’t that interested in the countercultural model, protesting The Man, marching, shouting slogans, smoking doobies, screwing the other hippies (I kid because I love). Millennials, it seems to me, don’t see themselves as outsiders. They are accustomed to taking over and transforming institutions from the inside. They’re the first generation that’s never known a world without the internet. They’ve grown up culture jamming.

That’s what will be needed to transform the economy: hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of culture-jammers, with all sorts of diverse roles in business, government, media, and art, all pushing their corners of the world toward sustainability. “Activism” alone is never going to cut it. Brennan sums it up well:

I don’t have an answer on how American politics can get us from point A to point B on clean energy. The details are sticky, but what does make sense in that fog of uncertainty is aggressive investment in multiple solutions — with young people being one of them — centered on maximizing the chances for success. In a world without magic bullets, we have to invest in the skills that teach people basic social problem solving.

Remember basic social problem solving?