Since its inception as the Camden Technology Conference, I have attended PopTech annually.  PopTech is a collection of innovative people of action who assemble in Camden, Maine, in October to hear of things others are doing and to spend plenty of time talking with the presenters and each other.  In truth, the event is the annual convention of a loose network of creative, innovative people.

The title of this year’s PopTech session was  “Brilliant Accidents, Necessary Failures, and Improbable Breakthroughs.”  As always, the scope of the presentations was broad ranging from distributing sensors around the world’s ocean to gain more thorough understanding of the Earth’s hydrosphere to making biodegradable plastics from sewerage (Micromidas) to reports about the successes of an open source software package that allows for tracking of information provided by “the crowd” through text messaging or computer communication (Ushahidi).

I was taken by Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong. The big idea that Maine Energy Systems represents is one widely held in Western Europe and quite foreign to thinking in the U.S.  Fossil fuels are too precious and too scarce to be reasonable heating fuels.  We must adopt alternatives quickly before we face a catastrophic loss due to our dependency on a depleting resource.

Kathryn pointed out how frequently we’re wrong and never know it.  She went on to use the old cartoon sequence in which Wiley Coyote recognizes that he’s in mid-air having chased the roadrunner over a cliff as a metaphor for the moment when we realize our “wrongness.”

For those of us in the northeastern U.S. where 84% of the Nation’s #2 heating oil is consumed annually, the roadrunner (fossil fuel) has become airborne over the deep canyon, and we (homeowners) are running full tilt toward to the edge of the cliff.  It is my fond hope that we will recognize our “wrongness” before we, too, are hanging precariously in mid-air with our heating fuel unavailable for either cost or scarcity reasons and insufficient time to adjust our habits to match the new reality.

Dutch Dresser, Managing Director, Maine Energy Systems