October 13, 2010

Will Google Save The World?

So I’m reading the Wall Street Journal headlines today, and two juxtaposing stories popped up that made me both laugh and cry at the same time. Headline #1 reads: “Gulf Drilling Ban is Lifted.”  Headline #2 reads: “Google To Fund (Offshore) Power Project”.  For me, this further illuminated the stark, albeit oceanic-based, comparisons of government power vs. corporate power.

Here at the FearLess Cottage we have many think-tank-ey discussions on why corporations are in a hugely powerful position to positively change, and advocate for, people and planet. We also talk about the fact that government is becoming more and more powerless to do the same. And if the Tea Party has it their way, the U.S. government would become all but crippled in the face of the private sector. But I digress.

The point is that we just experienced an unprecedented environmental disaster, and within a few months, the administration has already caved to special interest groups and lifted a crucial offshore drilling ban. With all due respect to our brothers and sisters in the gulf states who are suffering through the double whammy of an economic recession, and now, an oil-spill induced magnification of that recession, the facts and figures for the number of oil rig-related jobs affected by the ban appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

To be precise, lobbyists presented a figure of 27,000 job losses due to the ban, whereas other research is showing that only 2,000 jobs have been affected. In other words, to get those unstable and potentially unsafe rigs back up and running, the data appears to have been exaggerated by roughly 1,000%.  Even if the numbers were brought closer together, it still illustrates how significant decisions that affect the planet can be piloted any which way powerful corporate interest groups want.

Let’s look at the other side of the equation….big, bad Google. People hate to love them. Their ubiquity and size alone makes corporate conspiracy theorists scream “there must be something wrong here!” And being said realist, of course there are some things wrong with them. Yet despite my own companies dependencies on Google Docs, Google Earth, Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Google Phone…and more, I somehow find reasons to like them.

In essence, they have become a modern day inescapable (digital) utility platform. These kind of handcuff arrangements with corporations typically make me crazy, however this is one I’m learning to endure. Why? Because the Google brand is doing some amazing things.

Google has good corporate governance. Management badly wants to help solve global problems. And for that matter, Google’s ability (and money) to make alternative energy investments is a pretty hard thing to find fault with. In this case, the payoff would be powering 1.9 Million homes off the East Coast leveraging wind power. Wind power in the Atlantic Ocean has been mired in regulatory and financial roadblocks, and hopefully this will help get the logjam opened up. And yes, conspiracists, I’m fully aware that Google’s server farms require significant energy, in and of themselves.

Bottom line, I ask in my own little voice, for corporations to think ponder this: I’ve got this kid who’s most likely got at least another 70+ years on this planet. Many of you are in the same situation. His future is part in his own hands, and partly in yours. If you can’t think seven generations out, how about just one or two?

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Rob Schuham  |  Contribution: 700