Citizen Ocean Crusader James Ross on the ‘breakthrough’ marine energy field

During his recent visit to Washington, Ocean advocate and Florida native James Ross spoke to civic leaders, policy makers, and local partners about the importance of innovative approaches to ocean resilience, particularly as it relates to a green energy economy.

Ross is considered a pioneer in pioneering a green energy business in America’s ocean, but it wasn’t always easy. Ross was ousted as CEO of Hawaiian Electric Company in 2013 after starting an effort to track carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opposed Ross’s plan, and some credit him for successfully lobbying against coal-fueled utility expansion.

“This industry has to be inclusive so people understand what this business is going to do, what it will support, how you get that transition,” said Ross in his TEDx Manoa talk. “The gap in understanding needs to narrow. We just can’t go faster than we can understand in this sector.”

Ross believes that our economy has to work in harmony with nature, a theme he explored in his speech at TEDx Manoa. It’s the same concept he discusses in the video below:

Ross focused on ocean risk reduction strategies for building less impactful infrastructure and protecting jobs in what could be a dry economy in the near future. An innovative pair of theories he championed included “environmental levees” to guard the environment and incentivize the participation of private industry to transform along with the ecosystem.

Innovative policies and resource allocation can counteract the deep problems with coastal planning due to relentless sea level rise. While it is tempting to see the potential consequences of the changes in sea level rise, Ross doesn’t want people to lose the possibility of a future.

“Let’s first look at ‘what is sea level rise good for’ and not ‘what are we doing about it,’” said Ross in his TEDx Manoa talk. “It’s part of the ethical perspective we need to carry in the public realm. There are reasons the path has been as difficult as it has been to keep Americans and the world safe from hurricanes, wildfires, and tsunamis.”

Ross understands that the risk of extreme weather conditions is a reality that we have to face, and not the end of the world. However, he understands that while there will be plenty of options for innovating our way out of a future of expensive coastal and inland infrastructure, making sure we have a transition plan is absolutely crucial to mitigating those risks and the resulting impacts.

“I see the transformation as a life condition,” said Ross. “That means we have to think about it holistically. It’s not a matter of how you jump off the top of the cliff. It’s making sure you get the beach to the beach and the lake to the lake.”

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