It isn’t hard in these days of droughts, fires, floods, and hurricanes to gin up interest in climate change. But a little over a decade ago, energy industry leaders were slow to take a stand on it.
I remember Southern Company
Ratcliffe, who was also president and CEO, retired in 2009, and Southern Company is now openly pro-environment with a declared dedication and a robust climate change research portfolio.
Some at that time were drawn to a forum where senior executives and professionals could stay abreast of the current environmental, energy and public health issues and could learn from global experts on how to address them, or at least learn the latest research on status and solutions. Topics addressed the issues that were confronting the world and threatening its future and offered a medium for debate when needed.
That place, that inner sanctum of reason and deliberation, was then and is now very public. It is the Security and Sustainability Forum (SSF) which, since its founding in 2009, has been a consistent venue for debating, examining, and weighing the ideas that have propelled change in the energy industry and across the arc of producers and users and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Edward Saltzberg is the forum’s founder and president. He also hosts its free webinars with global experts, which he conducts on Zoom from his home in the Washington suburbs. Saltzberg works closely on SSF programming with leaders and experts from Arizona State and George Washington universities, and other leading institutions.
Assuring Systems’ Operation
Saltbzerg isn’t an environmentalist of the kind who wants to upend the economy or tear down the hydroelectric dams. He told me, “What I do has to do with assuring that systems will be operating going forward, adjusting to changing environmental and social conditions and benefiting from new technology, including food, energy, and other natural systems.”
He added, “Sometimes this gets political. In a webinar with the vice president of the European Commission, we talked about U.S.-EU relations, renewables, the Arctic, energy and energy storage, and immigration from Africa and Asia into the EU because of climate change.”
SSF videotapes two educational webinars a month and sometimes, depending on demand, more. There are more than 200 webinars which can be accessed for free from the SSF archives.
The kernel of success of SSF webinars is Saltzberg’s mailing list. It is huge but very selective. The result is great attendance in person – often 1,000 people tune in — and people who access the webinars in the forum’s video library.
Saltzberg is an economist and chemical engineer who had a successful career in several organizations, including Battelle and SAIC
But Saltzberg is delightfully self-deprecating about his training as an engineer. “You wouldn’t want to walk across a bridge I designed,” he said. Instead, he found his talent was as an energy and environment analyst for government regulatory programs and municipal economic development.
Now, at age 74, Saltzberg is a knowledgeable environmentalist. Putting together and hosting the forum’s webinars, he said, “has made me much more of an activist. I am more socially and politically radical than I used to be.”
Environmentalism is now his passion. A quiet, organized, studious passion, but nonetheless one that burns brightly twice or more a month.
Saltzberg also produces a live, online radio show, “Security and Sustainability Radio” in which he interviews global climate security experts and the audience can call in to speak with them. These interviews can also be accessed for free in the SSF archives.
In its mission statement, the SSF says it is “a public interest organization that produces learning events about climate security, which we define as threats to society from a changing climate and related disruptions to natural systems. Our main products are free webinars that convene global experts on food, water and energy security, public health, economic vitality, infrastructure, governance and other impacts that must be solved in meeting climate security challenges.”
But the Aug. 21 webinar’s title encapsulates the forum’s mission, “Better Food, Less Carbon in the New Digital Economy.”