Globe 2020, now in its 30th year, is a gathering of change-makers and thought leaders trying to create a sustainable future.
The Globe Series has always been edgy, willing to reevaluate its path based on perils facing the Earth’s climate. This year, I sensed more of an immediacy to the conference. Groups were formed ad hoc along with small kaffeeklatches built in different areas specifically to create conversation.
This new format was purposeful. The Conference leaders designed a schedule that was fluid rather than static in a format they called a “living document.” Whiteboards were spread out around the massive Vancouver Trade & Convention Centre inviting comments and questions from participants.
Amongst the crowd, a feeling pervaded that speakers and corporations were trying to redefine the parameters of success in a changing climate. When you spoke to attendees, many expressed the obvious. We need to address fossil fuels. Yet, they realized we need to create alternatives as world economies ween off these resources altogether.
This conference wasn’t merely about finding alternative energy sources. It was more about guiding people toward future possibilities with the technologies we already have in place, such as redirecting CO2 for energy, redefining nuclear power in the form of Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and biosystems that can change the way farmers work the land. These were all popular topics of discussion.
There was a large contingent of auto sector exhibitors. The Vancouver Electric Car Club took pride in pointing out the 42 different electric vehicles on the road in British Columbia in 2020. We’re all waiting for Rolls Royce to produce an electric model (don’t hold your breath), but we did see a fantastic all-electric Jaguar with a sticker price over $100k. It was weird to see a ‘frunk’ in the front. For a little more speed, ABB (the world leader in electric vehicle charging solutions) had its Formula-E race car on display. I figure with electric acceleration you could put it up against any gas-guzzling Formula car.
The Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Reagan, was on hand as was a surprising number of government research scientists, funders and National Research Council types who were quick to offer support of any kind to participating companies and to answer questions from attendees.
Globe 2020 offered a “demand-pull’ platform to support and accelerate clean innovation by connecting corporate leaders and investors for scale-up opportunities. The Innovation Challenge Program is a unique opportunity for growing cleantech innovators to secure exclusive access to some of Canada’s largest organizations.
Participants in this program included the City Government of Vancouver to energy giants like Enbridge. Vancouver is looking for help with rainwater and fluid dynamics, while Enbridge would love help with the methane problems emanating from its pipelines. Husky, a Canadian-based energy company with headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, is interested in exploring novel applications of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) within its enhanced oil recovery (EOR) business.
My opinion is still out on the efficacy of working with these oil and gas giants. The opportunity to pitch the company leaders’ ideas seemed very much timed to avoid real discussion— looking like a PR opportunity rather than a real concern.
A lot of the innovations were indeed new to their industries. Nova-BioRubber Green Technologies Inc. seeks to replace non-sustainable rubber trees with Russian dandelion production. Nova-BioRubber’s scientists took a relatively unknown study, by the US Army, of Russian efforts to create bio-rubber during the rubber shortage of the 1940s.
Portable Electric produces the Voltstack, battery-electric generator – no fumes, no noise and no excessive costs. The company started by replacing those noisy generators on movie sets and has now spread to events, construction sites, rentals and, recently, disaster relief. Voltstack CEO Mark Rabin says the company just keeps forging ahead. He told me the company is placing large amounts of these generators in areas prone to natural disasters for immediate deployment when needed. They come in 2, 5 and 20-kilowatt sizes.
I found several engineering consultants during the conference who, unknown to each other, were working with different indigenous First Nations from all over BC. It was exciting to see how the First Nations are taking expansive and costly moves to protect their part of the earth.
Speaking of Earth, we can’t leave out the oceans and the impact of climate change on them. Open Ocean Robotics took its concerns of pollution a step further than most. The company uses cleantech boats to do extraordinary work like collecting ocean data on at-risk whale species, enabling ships to voyage more fuel-efficient routes, and cracking down on illegal fishing. These wind and solar-powered autonomous boats capture information from anywhere on the ocean and enable instant access to it. These boats travel nonstop for months without producing any greenhouse gas emissions, noise pollution or risk of oil spills.
The Ocean Legacy Foundation was at the conference to remind us that we are stewards of the oceans as well as the earth and air. The Canadian-based, internationally recognized non-profit organization has developed a world-leading Plastic Pollution Emergency Response™ program called EPIC. This dynamic and integrative approach combines 4 main components: education, policy, infrastructure and cleanup.
Ocean Legacy, founded in 2013, with its volunteer base, has cleaned up 175,000 lbs. of waste, 3,000 liters of fuel from plastic and cleaned 125 kms of coastal shoreline. You can support them here!
My overall takeaway from the conference is that there exists a vibrant, engaging community raising public awareness, building innovative technologies and designing programs that make it easy for people to understand and get involved.
Gary Bizzo is CEO of Syphon Nanotech Inc., Bizzo Management Group Inc., and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Communications as well as Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus).
Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo
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