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No Bad Weather – Just Bad Clothes

These past few months have been a real emotional climate rollercoaster. The latest round of scientific research reports that glaciers are disappearing at even more alarming rates, and that previous projections on the rate of global warming were sorely underestimated, etc. Then adding insult to injury, reactionary politicians seemed to be gaining ground in their attempts to sabotage success in Copenhagen by deliberately lowering expectations for a legally binding treaty. Think Lars Rasmussen, Denmark’s Prime Minister or EU President Fredrik Reinfeldt or … the list goes on and on. 

Thankfully there have also been some really bright spots as well. Such as a recent meeting with Huang Ming, founder and CEO of Himin Solar Energy Group, the world’s largest solar thermal company based in Dezhou, China.

Huang Ming was an engineer in the petroleum industry when he read a book on solar energy in 1987. He then experimented with his first model, which was enthusiastically received as a gift to a relative. Huang continued his solar energy research, and finally quit his job in the petroleum business in 1995, after a large order from a state-owned factory. The company he created became the market leader in three years, and now employees over 5,000 people. The company is behind the creation of China Solar City with over 5 million inhabitants, where 95% of the water is solar heated and where solar accounts for 60% of heating and cooling.

Huang Ming’s vision is that 90% of the world’s electricity will come from solar energy by 2050. And after having spent a few days together, I have no doubt that Huang will see that his vision becomes a reality. When asked about what he thought the outcome of the upcoming meeting in Copenhagen might be, he looked a bit bewildered. Eventually he answered, “I hope for an outcome that will lead the world to a sustainable path. But really, I don’t trouble myself too much with politics. Politicians usually just want to avoid responsibility. I want responsibility because it means opportunity.”

When we asked Huang what he’d especially like to do or see while visiting Stockholm, he said “football.” So we politely explained that unfortunately the football season had already ended and there were no longer any matches to see. “No, no. I want to play football!” was the unexpected response. Now if you’ve ever been to Sweden in November, I’m pretty sure that football wasn’t the first thing that sprang to your mind. And if it did, you’d probably realize pretty quickly that it’s virtually impossible to play at this time of year. You’d either need steel crampons under your cleats or rubber galoshes, depending on the weather.

But of course none of this occurred to Huang. Nor did it matter that he only had dress shoes with him on the visit, “No problem, I can borrow. My regular shoe size is 43, but I’ll wear any size you can find me.” Nor could he imagine that it might be a challenge to find enough people at such short notice who would be willing to get up early on a Sunday to play football on a dreary November morning. And as it turns out, Huang had no reason to doubt. 12 climate heroes showed up tired but happy the next morning, and played an awesome game of football. It was a bit chilly and it did rain now and then during the match, but we hardly noticed. Huang’s energy and spirit shed plenty of warmth and light on us all.