It’s a fantastic piece, really capturing Lovins’ entrepreneurial drive not just to do research and develop strategies but to evangelize for his perspective. He’s tireless trying to get his stuff into the right hands.
I suspect most everybody in the green world has mixed feelings about Lovins, and the piece captures that as well. On one hand, reading Lovins for the first time can be a life-changing experience, one of those moments when your entire perception of the world shifts and you see everything in a new light. Kolbert writes:
To spend time with Lovins is to see the world as one long string of bad decisions. Waste and profligacy are everywhere: in inefficient lights, heat-leaking windows, gas-guzzling trucks, poorly designed eateries. It’s not that people are stupid, exactly. It’s that their intelligence is limited. When they make decisions, they tend to worry only about their own self-interest, which they see in such narrow terms that they miss the larger opportunities all around.
Lovins’s world is filled with perverse incentives. To get the change we want, we don’t have to strain and push. We just have to remove the barriers that are holding it back. Revelatory news!
But then, there’s the nagging thought. Lovins can always talk and explain and persuade better than we can — he’s a friggin’ genius — but the intuitive question keeps returning: if there were so many errors, and so much benefit to be gained by correcting them, and it’s all so easy … why isn’t it happening? Something doesn’t fit. Kolbert writes:
Lovins’s promise that apparently intractable problems — oil dependence, global warming, nuclear proliferation — can be profitably resolved is both the great appeal of his approach and its biggest liability. Much of what he recommends sounds just too good to be true, the econometric version of “Shed pounds by eating chocolate!”
I can’t resolve that tension, but I can recommend Kolbert’s piece.