Challenge to the Status Quo

Our transition to renewable energy is one of the biggest changes in the history of mankind (see the 5th energy revolution). So why are most of the authoritative models so tame?

Transition theory and innovation science hint at the answer. A transition is by definition a radical departure for the status quo, so a realistic model of a transition is by definition a challenge to the status quo and if succesfull it will enlicit resistance.

The phenomena of transitions and the reaction of the status quo is probably best researched in business where researchers found a remarkable trend: transitions are never instigated by the incumbents. Not even when the incumbents where best positioned to make use of the transition and later had to embrace the transition or be wiped away. The most famous example might be Kodak that practically owned the photography market. When digital photography appeared on the horizon Kodak invested billions in it and owned thousands of patents. But even though they where ideally primed to become the market leader in this new market the company resisted embracing a transition that threatened its current market and it was wiped out.

Based on observed evidence, oil companies and other fossil energy based incumbents currently calling the shots in the energy market and its think tanks will not be leading the way to a sustainable tomorrow.

Governments are traditionally vehicles for safeguarding existing power structures. They are also risk averse. These characteristics ensure stability and security but also make publicly funded organisations even more resistant to transitions than companies.

Finally scientists increasingly rely on earmarked funding from companies and governments for their research while the traditionalizing influence of powerful professors leads to the quip that “science often progresses funeral by funeral”. Science is not averse to transitions per se but slow to adopt them.

So without wanting to sound melodramatic one should be mindful of the examples of Socrates, Galileo, Spinoza and Darwin and understand that transition science almost by definition meets resistance.

Which I think is one more reason to proceed with fresh bottom-up approaches like SparkCity.

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