Today’s guest is Albert Wenger, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, a NY-based venture capital firm. In today's episode, we have a really dynamic discussion around the climate change problem, the roles of innovation, policy, collective action, etc in helping us solve it, what that means in terms of the roles of venture capital and USV specifically, and what Albert is doing personally in order to try to do his part. Enjoy the show!
Today’s guest is Albert Wenger, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, a NY-based venture capital firm.
Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor (Etsy, Tumblr). He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Albert graduated from Harvard College in economics and computer science and holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology from MIT.
In today’s episode, we cover:
Links to topics discussed in this episode:
World After Capital: http://worldaftercapital.org/
Greta Thunberg: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg
Extinction Rebellion: https://rebellion.earth/
John Maynard Keynes, Economics Policies for our Grandchildren: https://www.sloww.co/keynes-economic-possibilities/
Faye McNeill: https://cheme.columbia.edu/faculty/v-mcneill
Universal Basic Income: https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/universal-basic-income-UBI
How Much is Enough?: https://www.amazon.com/How-Much-Enough-Money-Good/dp/152267795X
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
Enjoy the show!
Jason Jacobs: Hello, everyone. This is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help. Today's guest is Albert Wenger, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures. Union Square Ventures is a thesis-driven venture capital firm based in New York City. Since 2003, they've invested in over 100 companies that use the power of the internet to reshape markets. USV is also one of the top early technology investors. They've got great people, an incredible track record, and I've always found them to be very thoughtful about markets.
Jason Jacobs: So when I saw that Albert had been blogging recently about climate change, how concerned he is, the need for adaptation, and his support for the Global Climate Strike, it got my attention. I hadn't seen much from USV regarding climate investment, at least in the traditional sense, so I wanted to find out from Albert how he's thinking about this problem and what their plans are in this area.
Jason Jacobs: This conversation does not disappoint. We cover a lot in this episode, including Albert's views on climate change and how those views developed and how he's thinking about the problem today. We talk about the best paths forwards and what the role is for innovation, policy, philanthropy, advocacy and other tools that are at our disposal. Then we come back around to talk about what that means for Albert and what that means for USV and why USV's approach, Albert believes, is one that can be quite impactful in the climate fight. I don't know that I fully agree with Albert's perspective, but I'm very appreciative of him coming on the show and sharing it. It's also given me a lot to think about as I evaluate how I can have my biggest impact in the climate fight.
Jason Jacobs: Albert, welcome to the show.
Albert Wenger: It's good to be here.
Jason Jacobs: Well, you're in your office, so of course it's good to be here.
Albert Wenger: It's great to be here, in fact. It's good to have you here.
Jason Jacobs: But thank you for having me, yes.
Albert Wenger: Well, I was speaking metaphorically about being on the show, so-
Jason Jacobs: So I met you many years ago when I was still a venture-backed software founder, and I've had great respect for USV over the many years that I've known of the firm. I've never worked with you guys, but hold you in the highest regard. Then some people that I have worked with closely, like [Bri-john 00:02:35], who I hold in extremely high regard, hold you guys in extremely high regard, which makes me hold you in even higher regard.
Albert Wenger: I'm thrilled to hear that, and I think it's mutual.
Jason Jacobs: Thank you. You may or may not know. I told you a little bit recently, but when I left RunKeeper, I was wanting to work on something purposeful. Climate was one of the things I was looking at, and it didn't feel like it was going to be fun. It didn't feel like there was any one silver bullet. If I'm looking to have the outsized impact with my VC-backed founder hat on, then it's like ... It's not that you can't do that in climate, but it's such a thorny, nuanced, systems problem that progress looks a little more like an inch at a time in a thousand different places. I just didn't know how fun it would be or how much my skills could help.
Jason Jacobs: So I tried to start another venture-backed software company at the intersection of media and consumer software. So it was take my old world, and then give me the Hollywood flare, and that'll be fun and leverage my skill set and give me something new to learn. I got a few months in, and I just felt like a total mercenary. Meanwhile, the IPCC report had come out. We unwound ourselves from Paris, and the scientific community was foaming at the mouth, and nobody was listening, and on and on and on, all the things you've been writing about.
Jason Jacobs: Finally, I was just like, I can't do this. I don't know how I can help, but I know that, because I'm fortunate to be in a position I have flexibility, I can work on anything I want, I just can't justify working on anything that's not climate change. Because different people get anxiety from different things. I heard my wife telling a story the other day. She's like, "Yeah, with me, it's like, have the kids eaten enough? Have they eaten too much? Are they going to miss the bus? Are they outgrowing their shoes?" With Jason, it's always been climate change, climate change, climate change. So that was my source of anxiety.
Albert Wenger: By the way, I have stopped saying climate change. I only use the words climate crisis.
Jason Jacobs: I’ve seen that writing, which is why I wanted to talk to you even more, because, for me, I was like, man, I don't know what I'm going to do, but I know it's going to be something in this. So I’ve spent the last 10 months essentially just digging into the problem to try to better understand it because it's complicated. So, meanwhile, I was doing this podcast and on my way, and then I start catching wind of some of your writing. I saw, well, first Fred did the post about adaptation, or maybe you had done some writing before that, but that was the first thing I'd seen for USV.
Albert Wenger: Yeah. I've made everybody read the deep adaptation paper [crosstalk 00:04:50]
Jason Jacobs: So he probably wrote that after reading the thing that you sent around, right? So then I started reading some of your writing. It was like, okay, Albert, so you believe that ... Deep adaptation is an even darker view than I've got. So if you're passing that one around, it's like you're pretty concerned.
Albert Wenger: Well, the first half of that paper, I think, does a really good job laying out why this crisis is more imminent and more severe than people think broadly. It's been such a long-running problem. I mean, people starting warning about this in the '70s, right? That I think a lot people are sort of like, yeah, whatever, you've been saying this. Yes, there's maybe a storm here more, maybe a drought here more, whatever, but there isn't this palpable sense yet that we really are heading into a doomsday scenario and that we're heading at it with speed and that it is really severe.
Albert Wenger: So I think a lot of the climate scientists, because they're scientists, they abhor using really strong language. Like most scientists, they're skeptics at heart. They're approaching everything with skepticism. They're approaching everything with fairly level language. I feel that this paper plus the paper that was published by the [Potsdam 00:06:00] people also last year, which talks about that we are in fact at the level of instability of the overall system ... I think those two papers, to me, are scientific papers that you can send to people that, if they actually take time to read them, will still leave them going, oh, my God, if they believe in God or whatever else.
Jason Jacobs: I checked the explicit box on this podcast, so you can say ... I mean, you don't have to say a swear, but you can if you want.
Albert Wenger: That's great to know, because I probably will.
Jason Jacobs: So you've grown pretty concerned.
Albert Wenger: Yeah. So I've come at this over some time period. I've been writing this book online. It's called World After Capital. The gist of the book is that the Industrial Age is past its expiration date, probably a decade or more past its expiration date, and that we really need to invent a new age. In the book I call it the Knowledge Age. The fundamental premise-
Jason Jacobs: Is this a published book?
Albert Wenger: It's a published book. It's online. I need to do a better job promoting it, yes. All right, note to self, do a better job at promoting book. You can download it in PDF [inaudible 00:07:02], so if you want to read it. It's called World After Capital because the central limiting factor of the Industrial Age was capital, and by that I mean physical capital. How quickly can you build plants and railroad and roads and cars and whatnot, right?
Albert Wenger: The point of the book is that is no longer our rate limiting factor. If you look at China, they can build an entire city in two months. Our rate limiting factor today is attention. What is it that we are paying attention to? That's a problem both at the individual level ... like not enough people pay attention to what is their purpose in life, which is why all these people are having these massive mid-life crises because they realize I don't actually know why I'm here or what I'm doing. At the collective level, we've just not been paying enough attention to this existential threat for humanity.
Albert Wenger: So I found myself making these talks and these arguments that were attention-constrained and that we're not paying enough attention to the climate change. Then earlier this year, I was like, and I am one of those people. I keep talking about it, but I'm not paying enough attention to it. So that was the big epiphany was earlier this year. Then when I started really digging in, that's when I kind of was like, oh, my God, it is just so much more dire than I thought and so much more imminent.
Jason Jacobs: Well, that's what's been happening to me is that I was always concerned about it, but then I was trying to kind of go on. I was building that fitness company, and I wanted to land the plane. Then we landed the plane. Then I took some time, and there's a lot more fun things that one could be doing than focused on climate change. But yet the more I looked into it, I kept hoping to find, oh, it's overblown, and it's under control. We've got this, and I can go back to fitness, which I love, or something else [crosstalk 00:08:39]
Albert Wenger: It's sort of the opposite. The more you dig, the more you go, what? That's not true and that's not true? Like renewables. I love renewables. I think solar is fantastic. I think wind is interesting. But they're not going to get us there, and not just get us there. They're not going to get us there by a wide mile. So suddenly you go, oh, all this solar is great, and we should definitely be doing more of it. If you live in Arizona where the sun shines a lot and you run an AC, you should probably be running that at the hottest hours of the way of solar. So there's a lot of things we can do, but it's not going to get us all the way there.
Albert Wenger: We have to get carbon back out of the atmosphere, and instead we're still net adding carbon to the atmosphere. So the scale of the problem ... And so one of the things I've started to do, because people have a hard time with scales, is sort of ask people this question. I say, okay, so you understand that greenhouse gases mean that we are trapping extra energy in the atmosphere and in the oceans. People go, yeah, I get that. I say, okay, I want you to guess how many Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs that is every day. People will say things like 10 or they'll say 100. I say, no, it's one Hiroshima-sized bomb every second, all day, every day. That's how much net extra energy we're adding to the system, energy above the level that we should be.
Albert Wenger: Now put this visual in your mind. Think of spaceships drifting above Earth, dropping bombs, one Hiroshima sized nuclear bomb a second. We would drop absolutely everything, and it's the only thing we would be working is figuring out how to get those spaceships out of the sky. But because we're sitting here and because it's not spaceships, it's just gas that you can't see, we're doing squat about it, I mean, squat relative to the size of the problem.
Jason Jacobs: So everything you just said is the conclusions that I've been coming to, so I'm there. But, for me, now that I know that, I can't unknow it, and now that I can't unknow it, I find that, if someone were to call tomorrow and say, hey, I have this fitness company, and it's amazing. You'd be the perfect founder or CEO or whatever [inaudible 00:10:47] board member, whatever. It's like, man, that sounds awesome. It's got all the ingredients, and I think that's going to be successful, and all the right people are involved, and I can't touch it because I know what's going on over here. There's no problem more important than that, and I can't justify working on anything that's not that. That's how I feel.
Albert Wenger: I totally get that, because that's sort of how I'm feeling as well. I think the big problem that we have is that the vast, vast, vast majority of the population feels completely differently, which is they're sort of like I don't even know whether there's a real problem, or, oh, seems like a really huge problem. I don't know what I can do. Split seconds later, they're back to doing whatever it is that they were doing before. So there isn't this sort of big, huge sea change in the population.
Albert Wenger: I grew up in Europe. I go back there a fair bit. My parents still live there. There's definitely a sense that there's much more awareness and more activism in Europe. Fridays for the Future, which got going with Greta Thunberg is very large in Europe. It's quite small and nascent here. Extinction Rebellion is very strong in Europe. It's growing here as well. But, overall, in the US ... For example, the big Global Climate Strike is coming up for September 20th. I ask people here all day every day, random people that I meet. I ask, "So you know about the Global Climate Strike?" People go, "What's that?" I say, "September 20th." They've never heard of it. So there's this massive awareness gap in the US, and I don't think we're going to make a ton of progress until we make real progress with that.
Jason Jacobs: But this is what I want to talk to you about, is that here you are. You've proven yourself 100 times over. You have the flexibility to do whatever you want. You've taken the ... I don't know. I get confused, the red pill, the blue pill, but whatever the pill is that says, oh, shit, I can't unknow all the things that I know, and we are in a major pickle. Then I saw the blog post from Fred talking about how we need to do adaptation. I see that you've been involved with the climate strike, which I think is great. I'm a fan of the climate strike. We should do more of that. Is that it?
Albert Wenger: No. So we made our first climate investment in 2008. It was a company called [Amy 00:12:54]. It was a system for tracking the total carbon in your supply chain. We did that, and, of course, everybody wanted to talk to the company, everybody who was in the corporate social responsibility ... It wasn't called that at the time ... department, but the department that companies have that's supposed to deal with their environmental footprint. So everybody would talk. At the end of the day, nobody wanted to really pay for it. So that was an interesting experience, because I think we haven't made a ton of progress since then.
Albert Wenger: So we are actively looking for investments in this space. Our firm is set up to do a certain type of investment, so we're not going to invest in nuclear fusion, for example. I might invest in that personally. I think there's an interesting opportunity in that, so I'm probably going to write a personal check. But we are not set up. Our fund invests in things that are more at the bits level than the atoms or the electrons level.
Albert Wenger: Now I do think there will be interesting opportunity at the bits level here. So, for example, there is a whole new generation of carbon offset companies coming. There is a blockchain protocol called Nori for trying to document actual carbon removal in a thorough, methodological way. But for those things to really matter, we are going to need collective action. We are going to need political change. So for something like Nori to become big and make a difference, which I believe it can, we are going to need a carbon tax. It can't be a piddly $25 a ton carbon tax. It needs to be something serious like $100 a ton.
Albert Wenger: That's why I do believe activism is incredibly important, because this is not a problem that can be solved by innovation alone. A lot of innovation will come once we have the political will to price carbon. So if you had $100 a ton carbon tax, you would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurial activity. I believe this is the kind of problem where collective action, meaning citizens coming together, influencing their governments, and saying we need the government to come in here and do something so that innovators can be active and successful, I think, is critical.
Jason Jacobs: I don't disagree. Maybe let's put you and I aside. So, I mean, I saw that you did a post about what to do about it. It was like we need many different things, and we need policy, and we need to price externality. We need collective action. So all that I agree with. If Union Square Ventures didn't exist. If someone said you're going to lead a long life but the only way you can do that is if Union Square Ventures disappears into the air, poof, and you need to then take a look in the mirror and say, based on where I am now, here's where I go forwards, I guess, one question for you is, is there a problem more important than this? Or is this your number one?
Albert Wenger: I do think, for me personally, it has become a singular problem. But that doesn't mean I won't continue to make other investments also, because I do believe that we will solve this problem. I mean, I'm an optimist at heart. I don't stick my head in the sand and go all is lost and so nothing matters. So I do believe we will solve this, and I believe ... That's the whole gist of my book. I believe that we can make it from the Industrial Age into the Knowledge Age. It turns out a lot of the investing that we've done at Union Square Ventures, I think, is all aimed at getting us into that Knowledge Age.
Albert Wenger: So if you look at our investment thesis 3.0, which says Union Square Ventures invests in companies and projects that broaden access to knowledge, capital and well-being by leveraging network protocols, there it really is about access to knowledge. So if you look at our learning portfolio, it's a lot of stuff like Quizlet and Duolingo and so forth. I think that's critically important. One of the things is, if we want to survive this, we're going to need solutions and educated people all around the world. So I feel a lot of what we've done and what we're focused on investing isn't necessarily directly at the heart of the problem, but it is broadly related to getting past the Industrial Age.
Albert Wenger: Here's some things. [Andrea Yang 00:17:03] said it very well yesterday in the climate town hall. We're still venerating GDP. That is just plain stupid. GDP was always a flawed measure. It was a flawed measure in the Industrial Age because it didn't consider negative externalities. So if I built a cigarette company and then I also charged you for your lung cancer treatments, I'm growing GDP. That's clearly not a particularly great measure. Externalities like the climate externality aren't in GDP either, so if I'm polluting the atmosphere and I'm growing GDP, that's not measured.
Albert Wenger: But it's an even worse measure when you're trying to get out of the Industrial Age into the Knowledge Age, because it doesn't correctly take positive externalities into account. So when you get more and more free learning, like Wikipedia, Duolingo, Quizlet, all those things, you are somehow thinking that you're not having growth. So this whole stagnation debate that's going on where people saying we're not having growth is because they're looking at the GDP number. In the meantime, I can go on the internet, YouTube too, I can learn pretty much anything for free. That is a massive consumer surplus that just doesn't show up in GDP.
Albert Wenger: So we've got to start measuring different things, and so a lot of the stuff that we're doing here at Union Square Ventures ... We're not an impact fund, per se, but a lot of it is aimed at this idea that, hey, this set of digital technologies that we now have, this set of capabilities, means we can get past the Industrial Age, into a new age. For me, the climate is the big threat that will prevent us from doing it, but we've still got to work on getting out of the Industrial Age.
Albert Wenger: I'll give you another example. I was at a mall the other day. I was walking through the mall, and I was looking around at the different stores. You realize, it's 99% things that people don't need. It's things that advertising tells them they need or ought to have, but it's 99% ... Literally, if you took 99% of the items out of that mall and focused and focused on the 1% of items that people actually need, people need shoes. They don't need 17 pairs of shoes, running shoes or sneakers or whatever. People need clothes. They don't need-
Jason Jacobs: Did my wife tell you to say that?
Albert Wenger: Yes, and I'll collect that check later. So one of the sections I have in my book is ... I have this section on we need to get back to admitting that there are needs and that there are wants. Your body needs liquids. You may want to be drinking expensive champagne. So there's some fundamental resets that have to happen, and the better we and the sooner we get those resets to happen, the better off we are. So coming back to the things we do here, the more people we can get better access to health care, where they're not worried about their health care, the more people we can get better access to capital where they're not worried about how they're going to make their next month's rent, the more people we can get access to knowledge where they understand everything that's happening in the world, the more of a chance we will have at fighting this existential threat, and also the more of a chance we will have of seizing many of the amazing opportunities that present themselves to humanity today.
Jason Jacobs: That all makes sense to me, that there's second order help to the cause in the work that you do during the day. I can't help but think that if you're only optimizing for the climate fight that you would choose a different set of activities with your professional pursuits. It's not a judgment by the way that you do not, but it's one of the things I'm trying to reconcile for myself.
Albert Wenger: I really think that this is ... And, by the way, this is one of the things. I don't agree with everything Extinction Rebellion say, but I do think we are not going to solve this problem if we treat it strictly as a problem of engineering. If we don't treat this as a problem of we are stuck in the Industrial Age, and if we're trying to fix this ... This has been the issue. When I say the Industrial Age had an expiration date, it was 20 years ago, this is how we wound up with Trump. This is how we wound up with Brexit. This is how we're winding up with the AFD in Germany and all these things.
Albert Wenger: It's because the politicians have tried to keep us in the Industrial Age. They're like, a little tweak of the interest rate, a little bit of quantitative easing, some job retraining programs, everything will be good. No, not everything will be good. People realize that not everything will be good. On top of it, we still have all these people running around who say we need more GDP growth, we need more GDP growth, et cetera. We need to change all of that, and that is inherently tied to the climate crisis. So it's the idea that you can somehow say we're going to separately fight the climate crisis here with a few engineering fixes while we are going to remain ourselves stuck in the Industrial Age. I think that's a completely nonstarter, and I think Extinction Rebellion is right when they say this is not just about the climate. This is about society at large. I think that is spot on.
Jason Jacobs: So have you followed any of the writing of say, Stewart Brand, for example, with the Long Now? One of the things that he talks about ... There's this whole Ecomodernist Manifesto where it's essentially ... There's one completely of thought that I've been reading about that talks about where it is about getting out of the growth, growth, growth, growth mindset. Economics needs to be rewired to not just measure progress by GDP growth. There's another school of thought that says, actually, we're like a motorcycle. If we're not accelerating, we're not doing what we were built to do, but we need to untether that from dependency on natural resource.
Albert Wenger: I want to provide a different view on that. I think growth has become a difficult word, because we are measuring the wrong thing. Progress, I absolutely believe in. We cannot stop progress. There's no path where we are somehow moving back into the forest. Well, that path may turn up because we don't get on top of it. So the way I think of it is that the biblical story of Adam of Even and of the fall from paradise, to me, I'm not religious, but there's a kernel of truth in the story as an image. Once you climb out of the trees and you start to have knowledge, which is what separates us from all other species ... We're the only species on this planet that has knowledge. We're the only species that writes books. I can read a book today that was written by another human 1,000 years ago on a different part of the world. The apple represents the forbidden fruit of knowledge. once you have knowledge, you're going to use that knowledge to make changes in the world. Those changes are going to have consequences, many of which you cannot foresee.
Albert Wenger: So we started digging up oil out of the ground, and we started building automobiles and so forth. Yes, there were people warning about climate change as far back as, actually, it turns out, the 1800s, which is kind of crazy. But as a broad reality, we made a lot of progress by having individual mobility and by being able to build new space cities. I believe in progress, so this is not about somehow trying to go back. I don't believe there's a way of going back.
Albert Wenger: But we are on a progress treadmill. That is, as we've grown, as we've grown from a few people on this planet to 7 billion, as we're headed for probably a peak population around 10 or 11 billion, depending on what happens next, we have bigger problems. So we now need to create enough knowledge to deal with those problems, and if we don't create enough knowledge, we will wind up failing on a very large scale.
Albert Wenger: So if you look at past histories of failure, so if you go to the Yucatan, for example, or if you go visit Petra or if you go visit [Caesarea 00:24:29] or if you go visit ruins anywhere else in the world where you had a civilization that got very far and then they kind of encountered a set of problems that they didn't know how to deal with, and they ... Easter Island, I mean, all around the world you can find evidence of that.
Albert Wenger: There's this interesting thing. What happens is these societies, they become quite advanced. Like in the Yucatan, they had the [inaudible 00:24:49]. They had commerce. They had cities of tens of thousands of people. But then they became distracted, and they started only caring about court ritual and intrigue and so forth. So when the climate changed, and not a lot, but the climate changed in the Yucatan, their cities fell apart because they didn't know how to feed people with that even relatively small climate change that occurred.
Albert Wenger: So we absolutely need to make progress. The only way we're going to solve the problem at this scale, without killing a billion people or 2 billion people, is by making progress. So there's no alternative to progress, but progress is different from growth, especially the way we're measuring growth today. So until we're prepared to really have this honest discussion about picking progress apart from growth, we're going to be talking past each other all the time, where one side will say we need growth, and the other will say we don't need growth. But what they really mean is we need different words. We need progress. We don't need growth in the way people are talking about growth today.
Jason Jacobs: What would be one or a handful of things that would be substantive changes from a world that measures success by progress versus a world that measures success by growth. Paint me the world view that you're envisioning.
Albert Wenger: Well, you start by saying GDP is not going to be our North Star. You start with that. It's a great starting point. We can talk about what you can substitute for GDP, and I think that's an interesting discussion to have. It's not obvious. But you start by stopping to pray at the altar of GDP, which is just a false god.
Jason Jacobs: Who stops praying to the altar of GDP? Is that a government change? Is that-
Albert Wenger: Well, it starts with the dismal science. It starts with economists. Some economists start to know better. Erik Brynjolfsson was MIT was my thesis advisor, has done a lot of work recently to measure consumer surplus, so that's an important step. It starts with politicians. But it's also all of us. There's a wonderful book called How Much is Enough? by Edward and Robert Skidelsky, father and son. The father is a John Maynard Keynes' biographer. That book does have a really good chapter about needs versus wants. I do think that's something that we also need to do as individuals.
Albert Wenger: Here's one of the fascinating things. We're living in an age where modern neuroscience is actually telling us in no uncertain terms why consumption is not a path to personal satisfaction, because we understand the hedonic treadmill. The Stoics and the Buddhists understood it 2,000 years ago without science, but we now have the literal science. We can literal look inside your brain and see how the hedonic treadmill works. You buy this new car. It makes you happy for a week. Then after a week you're back to normal because your brain has adjusted to it, and that's how your brain is built. We now know all of that.
Albert Wenger: So what I'm talking about in my book is to get out of the Industrial Age is as profound a change as getting into it in the first place. So when we went from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age, we changed everything about how humanity lives. Here's the interesting thing. We've changed everything twice already. We changed everything when we went from the Forager Age to the Agrarian Age, and that was only 10,000 years ago. For 250,000 years, homo sapiens was a forager. For millions of years our ancestors were foragers. When we made that change 10,000 years ago, we changed everything. We went from being nomadic to being sedentary. We went from living in flat tribes to living in [inaudible 00:28:10]. We went from being promiscuous to being monogamous-ish. We went from having animistic religions where every rock, every animal has a spirit in it, to theistic religions.
Albert Wenger: Two hundred years ago, we have the Enlightenment. We have science, and we go from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age. We change everything again. We go from living in the countryside to living in the city, from large extended family to nuclear family, no family, from lots of commons to private property, from theistic religions with a [inaudible 00:28:41] theology where the religion says, hey, you're a farmer. I'm going to tell you how to be a really good farmer, but you'll never be a noble person. We went from that to the Protestant work ethic, which is like, the harder you work, the better off you will be.
Albert Wenger: So we have literally changed everything twice already. Why did we change everything twice? Because the binding constraint on humanity changed. Why did it change? Because of technology. When we were foragers, the binding constraint was food. Your tribe either found enough food, or it starved or it had to migrate. When we invested agriculture, the binding constraint became land, arable land. You either had enough land on which you could grow food, in which case you could build a flourishing society, or you didn't, in which case you had to go to war or your society got scooped up.
Albert Wenger: Then it shifted from land to capital. You could either produce enough factories, enough buildings, enough to really make progress, or you couldn't. We tried two different systems, a market-based system and a plant system. It turns out, the markets were very good at allocating capital and turning financial capital into physical capital. Now that is no longer our constraint. Our constraint is simply attention. Here's the thing. In each of those prior big constraint shifts, we changed everything about how humanity lives.
Albert Wenger: The crazy idea is all the people who say, oh, there's nothing different about computers. Nothing has changed. It's just a little thing. It's just like other machines. They're completely misreading this. So as a result of this misreading, we wind up with all these incrementalist policies, and we're not going to defeat the climate crisis unless we make dramatic shifts in everything. That's education. Everybody's being educated right now with the idea that the purpose of the education is to get you a job. The purpose of a job is so you can earn money so you can buy stuff.
Albert Wenger: All of this are things that we need to leave behind to certain degrees. We need to get back to you want to learn things because learning is fun, and knowledge is powerful, and knowledge is powerful in the world in important ways that don't have to do with earning an income. I believe ... this is why I'm coming back to this question about shouldn't I be doing more and should I just be doing climate. No. Everything that I'm writing about, everything that I'm investing in, all of these things work in conjunction with each other. It's my contribution to trying to get us out of the Industrial Age, into the Knowledge Age. The only way to defeat the climate crisis is by making that transition.
Albert Wenger: Let me add one more thing, and I know I'm going on for a long time here. But John Maynard Keynes wrote this great essay, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. He gave it as a speech, and then he wrote an essay. He was talking about how we're not going to need to work very much, and we're going to be so productive. Well, the sad thing is he basically said this and wrote it at what turned out to be the start of the Great Depression. Obviously, many of us are working harder and so forth and everything else. But what he was saying about the potential for productivity was absolutely true.
Albert Wenger: Now I feel somewhat the same way with my book. I talk about how we can get to the Knowledge Age. I feel I'm writing it at the eve of the climate catastrophe. So just like he had this very optimistic vision of the future but it was the eve, at the beginning, of the Great Depression, I feel I have a very optimistic vision for the future, for the Knowledge Age. But I also feel I'm writing it just as we're slipping into this climate crisis. So all of these things are completely linked. They're not separate.
Jason Jacobs: So stepping outside of your Union Square hat or even stepping outside of yourself, I know you said you're not religious, so I'm not going to ask you to play God for a moment, but play puppeteer for a moment. If you could step outside of the Earth and look down and pull some strings to help accelerate this and get us out of the entrenched inertia that we've got that's holding us in one spot, where do you start? What can we do to try to loosen things up and make us more malleable for change?
Albert Wenger: Obviously, in my book, I proposed a number of different things, and I broadly put them in three groups. I call those economic freedom, informational freedom, and psychological freedom. The first two are things that require collective action. The last one is something that you can do individually, and sometimes people get this question, like, "What would you tell your 20-year-old self?" I would say the number-one thing I would tell my 20-year-old self is develop some kind of mindfulness practice, so whether that's yoga or breathing or meditation, whatever works for you. But figure out how to become mindful, mindful meaning figure out how to experience your emotions. It's not about becoming [inaudible 00:33:03], but experience your emotions. Then be able to question them, learn from them, understand them. Where are they coming from? Then continue to be able to access the rational parts of your brain. That I think is something that each and everyone who's not already doing it can start doing it tomorrow. That's the psychological freedom part.
Albert Wenger: The economic freedom part, for me, is we need to get to some kind of world of universal basic income. I've been saying that for a long time. I'm, as a result, a huge supporter of Andrew Yang's. That has to do with we have to get away from this idea that your purpose in life is your job and the purpose of your job is so you can feed yourself and feed your kids and house yourself and so, obviously, that you can partake in as much consumption as possible. We have to get away from that, and there's just a lot, a lot of evidence from all the basic income trials all around the world that have already taken place, is that, when you give people that complete safety that they are going to be okay tomorrow even if they don't have a job, they all of a sudden start developing all of these other interests that let them flourish as human beings. Oftentimes, these interests are related to the environment. Often, they are related to cleaning up the environment or to helping friends or to helping other people. So we have all of this intrinsic motivation that's currently not given a chance to flourish because we're driving everything by this extrinsic of you have to have a job and you have to get paid and so forth. That's the economic freedom part.
Albert Wenger: Then the informational freedom part, which we could have a whole other many hour long discussion on, is we're going down completely the wrong path in terms of who controls computation. We each walk around containing a super computer in our pockets that can talk to every other super computer in the world, and yet we are concentrating the power of who controls that computation in the hands of very few corporations. So those are all things that, if I had the superpower to go fix, I would kind of fix overnight. Then I think we'd have a pretty good shot at making it into the Knowledge Age.
Albert Wenger: If you think of a problem of the scale of the climate crisis, we need every brilliant brain in the world to work on it. There are brilliant brains in Africa, in India, in parts of the world that don't have a snowball's chance in Hell today to contribute to solving this problem. That's something we've got to fix. This is why this idea that somehow that present setup lends itself to actually overcoming this problem, I think it's a problem of a scale that requires us to change everything.
Jason Jacobs: So now that you've made the case that just solving climate from an engineering standpoint will be wholly insufficient and not sustainable, and the case that by Union Square tackling the problem in a more holistic way that might not look as directly tangible, but it sounds like the argument is more durable in the long run, can we talk a bit about how? So within that approach then, if it is more about proliferating knowledge and tethering us from reliance on GDP and democratizing opportunity and things like that, what does that actually look like in terms of a thesis in areas that are most interesting for investment?
Albert Wenger: A concrete example is, in access to capital, we invested in a company called Stash that's here in New York. They make it really easy for you to have an amazing bank and investment account at incredibly low fees, and the fees are completely transparent. It's like a subscription product. It's a subscription finance product where you're not somehow being hit with some overdraft fee every time and so forth. That's an example. I gave examples like Duolingo in learning, in health care an example like [Nurix 00:36:36], where it gives women access to birth control and other things in a way that simply wasn't available to them beforehand. So we're doing that, and we're doing it all day, every day.
Albert Wenger: I think the interesting question is what can we do in climate directly, right? I think there, there's a whole new way, for example, coming of companies that make it easy for people to purchase offsets. I think that's a really important thing. If we can get the demand for those things up, there will be reforestation. Reforestation's good and important. Those are interesting. They're not going to be all that successful until governments also say, oh, and, by the way, the price for carbon in the atmosphere needs to go way, way, way up.
Albert Wenger: So today you can buy offsets for starting as low as $10 per ton. Why is it so low? It's so low because there's a large supply of projects, and there's a small demand. If you put a $100 per ton carbon tax out there for new carbon in the atmosphere, you would shift the demand curve way out, and the price for offsets would spike, which would all of a sudden mean that net new additive reforestation would take off like crazy. It's just one of those problems where we are going to need both the power of entrepreneurship, which is extraordinary, but we're also going to need a certain amount of collective action in the form of the right set of policies.
Jason Jacobs: So where does that leave things like the engineering side of the equation, so long duration storage, for example, advanced nuclear, for example, grid efficiency, for example, demand response, for example?
Albert Wenger: All of it is excellent. We need all of it. I think some of it is more on the, hey, governments ought to be pouring way more money into fusion research, and they ought to be backing not just ITER, which is potentially a dead end. Obviously, we also have the National Ignition Facility and so forth. So we are trying a couple of different approaches, but we should be trying 20 different approaches. We should be pouring public money into that as well, not just private money. Some of that is very long-duration bets that are hard to finance with venture capital money. We should be doing that.
Albert Wenger: Utilities still have too much power. We only have a few market states in the US that have deregulated markets, so that's a barrier to innovation. Then, personally, I do believe we need to research geoengineering, and my wife and I have given money to Faye McNeill at Columbia University to work on testing certain types of aerosols in the lab, stratospheric aerosols. We need to do everything. I mean, the geoengineering example is a good one. I always compare it to chemotherapy. If you don't have cancer, you would never do chemotherapy. If you do have cancer and chemotherapy's your last option, you would much prefer that the chemotherapy was well-researched than trying to inject random chemicals into your body, right? So do I wish we won't need geoengineering? Absolutely. Do I think we better know what we're doing if we're going to do it? Absolutely.
Albert Wenger: The stratosphere is very complex. It's multi-faced chemistry. It contains the ozone layer. The last thing we want to do is put something up there to decrease the amount of solar radiation and find out that we've killed the ozone layer. That would be very bad. So I just think it's one of those problems where, as you said earlier in the interview, in the conversation, there is no silver bullet. As a result, we have to do a lot of things. Some of those things are pretty crazy, and some of those things are pretty long duration, and some of them are very short. We could be doing a ton in deforestation tomorrow. That takes no new technology. We know how to plant trees. There's a search engine in Europe called Ecosia, and every time you search on Ecosia, you help plant a tree. They've planted millions of trees. Again, if there was a tax on carbon, if atmospheric carbon was priced in a way where you could make money both from not new emitting and make money from removing carbon, all of a sudden, there would be a ton of entrepreneurial activity.
Albert Wenger: I think one thing that's really important, I think, for people to understand is, if you take a step back and you think about the highest level, at the highest level, what we've been doing for 100-plus years is we've been digging hydrocarbons out of the ground. Those hydrocarbons are the remains of past organic growth, many of them. The oil is organic growth from the past. But we've been digging hydrocarbons out of the ground, and we've been doing two things with them. We've been burning them and turning them into plastics. Now we have too much carbon in the atmosphere, primarily in the form of CO2 and some in the form of methane, both of which are carbon-based molecules.
Albert Wenger: Everything that we do now has to focus on reducing the amount of new carbon that we emit into atmosphere, but also on removing the carbon that's already there, because we're already at levels that we're going to continue heating up. We have to get back to lower levels. We know how to do that. It's not that we don't know how to do that. So direct air capture may be interesting, but we know direct air capture. It's called plants. We just have to plant a lot more plants. Of course, we're doing the opposite. We're burning the Amazon, but we know what to do.
Jason Jacobs: But do you think ... Those kinds of things that you're describing, those near-term things that we know what to do but we just haven't done, is your argument that the stuff that you guys are investing in, in your thesis more important than that in the climate fight?
Albert Wenger: I think the stuff we're investing in will help people live independent lives that let them realize that this is a problem that they need to be working on, yes, absolutely.
Jason Jacobs: That is the long-term sustainable thing, right?
Albert Wenger: Yeah. Then there's the activism side. The short-term is not investment, as I'm giving ... Susan and I have spent a fair bit of money recently just driving attention to the climate strike. So there's three prongs here. There is the investing prong. There's the activism prong. Then there is the philanthropy prong. All three ... It's not one or the other. This idea that you have to pick one of those three prongs makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to me that you're supposed to say, well, you're just an investor, so you should just invest. You can't be an activist, or you can't support activists. That makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to me for somebody to say, well, as an activist, you shouldn't be also investing in geoengineering because some activists think that geoengineering is the devil. No. If I have a personal conviction that this is one way to contribute to solving this problem, until we've solved this problem, we better go explore new things.
Jason Jacobs: You're doing way more than the average person, and none of the things that you're doing are things that you need to be doing. From my standpoint, the more the better. I'm not saying that at all. It's not at all a stay in your lane push. The push is more of, for the innovation bucket, if you're only looking at optimizing for the maximum role that innovation could have in the climate fight, I still feel like, even though the other stuff fits into the more holistic, long-term-
Albert Wenger: Activism is critical to innovation. Let me repeat this. Activism is critical to innovation.
Jason Jacobs: That I agree with, but there are things that the innovation bucket could be investing in that are more directly related to averting that near-term crisis.
Albert Wenger: The investment case for many of those things will only come when activism gets us to our carbon tax. What we've done with cap and trade in most places has been a complete joke, because the caps have been set so high that the trade prices are just ... They're an order of magnitude if not more off from where they need to be to make any difference. So, no, this idea that we can have innovation at the scale that we need it doesn't mean that we won't have ... There are people starting new nuclear companies. There are people starting new fusion companies. It's great. USV is not set up to invest in a nuclear fusion company. It's not our field of expertise. It's not what we've told our LPs we're investing in. We're not set up to do that, so you will not find us investing in a nuclear fusion company. Personally, I will probably invest in a nuclear fusion company.
Albert Wenger: Now does that mean we, over time, could potentially change the way we're set up and our knowledge base? Potentially, but you know venture capital. It's a very slow-moving boat in the sense that there are fund cycles. There's an LP base. It's not like you can sort of say, oh, see you, we told you we were going to do this, and we're off doing something completely different. So that's not going to happen. We wouldn't be any good at it either. I am thrilled that there are people like Lex Capital and [DCVC 00:45:13] and other people, [inaudible 00:45:14] that have brought people in who have that skill set.
Albert Wenger: I can evaluate, I think, very well something like a new way of getting people to buy clean energy, making it easy for them, routing it, building a network between buyers and suppliers and all the stuff where the predominant part of the business is bits. I think we understand that very well. We understand how to build consumer brands. We understand how to build trust. We understand how to [inaudible 00:45:40]. There's a lot of things that we understand, all of which can matter here. Let me give you an example. If somebody were to build an API layer, like a [plat 00:45:51] for utilities, that's something that we understand, and that could be the basis for a lot of innovation of the type of innovation that is needed. So there are things that we are going to be good at.
Albert Wenger: Then there's personal money, which I'm happy to take totally different risks with. I'm an investor in a synthetic meat company. I'm likely going to invest in a nuclear fusion company, et cetera. But I just don't think it's sensible, especially because the stuff we are investing in is fundamentally part and parcel of solving the same problem, just from a different angle. It doesn't make sense for us to say, oh, year 2019 is just going to be [inaudible 00:46:29] nuclear fusion and synthetic meats.
Jason Jacobs: So I've heard a few things though. One thing I've heard is that, until there's a price on carbon, a lot of that stuff isn't going to make business sense. That's one point. Another point is that you're glad that the DCVCs and Lexes and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, although you didn't say them, but Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and that class is there. Then a third is that that isn't necessarily where you have expertise. But putting aside expertise for a moment, if you're only optimizing for impact on the climate fight, if you have to choose between the Breakthrough Energy Venture stuff and the USV stuff-
Albert Wenger: I don't know how a sentence that starts with putting aside expertise could end well as a question. I believe in the importance of expertise in the world.
Jason Jacobs: [crosstalk 00:47:13] is that earlier in the discussion you were saying that the engineering alone is not going to get us out of this pickle in a sustainable way. However, engineering, I would argue, in the near term, like next decade, which is a critical decade, is our best bet.
Albert Wenger: Absolutely. So the people who know how to invest in engineering ought to be investing in engineering, absolutely. Absolutely, and more power to them, and I hope they can raise larger funds and more money fast and deploy it fast. Absolutely.
Jason Jacobs: Do you think until there's a price on carbon that the BEVs of the world are just pissing away money?
Albert Wenger: No, I don't think they are just pissing away money. I just think that the level of deployment of any of those things and the total amount of capital available to these funds and that can be deployed is an order of magnitude, if not two, too small, and that is not going to change until there's a carbon tax. If you look at the scale of the problem and you look at the money we're putting out today, it's an order of magnitude, maybe two orders of magnitude too small. Yet another fund starting is not going to solve that problem. The only thing that's going to solve that problem is if we make collective decisions. So it's like Silicon Valley has this belief in the individual action, and I love it. It's great. I love entrepreneurs. I love working with them. I love backing them.
Albert Wenger: There is also important room in the world for collective action. This is a problem that will not get solved by individual action and entrepreneurship and creativity and engineering alone. It does require collective action.
Jason Jacobs: So let's take that point, which I agree with, and let's bring that back to the current state of affairs in the US. So you're saying policy is very important. So that's one point. I agree with it. Now I'm going to make a point, and I want to know if you agree, which is, in order for durable policy to be enacted, it needs to have bipartisan support, agree or disagree?
Albert Wenger: There is also state level ballot initiatives. A lot of what we've accomplished in other areas, like if you think of gay marriage, for example, was accomplished by operating at the state level without bipartisan support, by simply going for ballot initiatives. I believe we should be going that route here as well, aggressively. It's not the only idea that you can get stuff done in D.C. In fact, the likelihood that you can get stuff done in D.C. is lower than the likelihood that you can get stuff done anywhere. When we withdrew from Paris, which was terrible, at least several of the states and some of the cities said we are going to stay committed to the Paris ... So I think the way to attack any political problem these days in the US is at the state level.
Jason Jacobs: One argument that I've heard ... In some of your writing, you use the World War II style mobilization, and certainly the Green New Deal is heading down that path. But I did an episode earlier with Ted Nordhaus from The Breakthrough Institute. He was actually saying that the big branded movement kind of thing actually makes it a lot harder to just make steady progress. What we should be doing is working quietly behind the scenes in a bipartisan way across the aisle, like one bill at a time, and just keeping the eye on the ball without getting caught up in the noise. If the noise actually causes allergic reactions, it makes it harder to get anything bipartisan done. So do you worry about that?
Albert Wenger: No.
Jason Jacobs: Why not?
Albert Wenger: Because I look at how we've gotten other things done recently, and they didn't get done that way. We made progress by gay marriage by people being out on the street and making a huge ruckus and then by having ballot initiatives and by making progress at the state level and then ultimately forcing the hand at the federal level. That's how we make progress, and I just think that's going to be the same here. I think this idea that we're going to slowly convert this and slow roll it, I mean, we've been trying that for a really long time. I just don't think it's led anywhere.
Jason Jacobs: So why is it that this movement that's been sweeping through places like Europe and other parts of the world has been wholly just nonexistent here in the United States at the individual level?
Albert Wenger: Well, I do think that we have always been ... I'm an immigrant, so I still have European roots, but I think the US has always been a special case on almost everything. There's a famous quote which is attribute to Churchill but probably not from Churchill, which is, "America can always be relied on to do the right thing after having tried everything else first." So I do think that we can be a leader on climate. I think we will be a leader on climate. We're going to have walked in the wilderness for a long time before we are. I also think that as long as Trump is in the White House, people are massively distracted from almost everything that matters.
Jason Jacobs: I guess, bringing that back around, so, I mean, the two obvious questions that come to mind from the point that you're making, which I don't disagree with, is, one, gosh, we need to get that guy out of the office. Then there's a whole discussion about how do we do that, and the stuff that's going to convert someone who's maybe on the fence, for example, is a different set of stuff than the stuff that's actually going to move the ball forward the most. Then there's a separate thing, which is, if we want to get price externality, how the heck do we do that? Is it top-down or bottom-up? I'm just scratching my head because it seems so obvious that it needs to get done, yet there seems to be such headwind still.
Albert Wenger: Obviously, we have an election coming up, so we'll see how that turns out. I think anybody's guess is as good as anybody else's. Obviously, if we wind up with one of the Democratic candidates, I do think we'll get to a carbon tax quite quickly. If we don't, then I think we need to pound away at the state level.
Jason Jacobs: I'm no expert when it comes to the inner workings of the Senate and House and things like that, although I'm learning a bunch because I'm realizing how important policy is in the climate fight. So it's like I'm taking a crash course on it. But other than the president, what else needs to happen in order for that statement you just said to be true? So let's so we do get a Democrat in the White House. Aren't there other chips that need to fall into place in the Senate, for example?
Albert Wenger: I don't think you can get a carbon tax by executive order, so, yes, you would need to have control of Congress to pass one. So it's possible that we get a Democratic president but not control of Congress, in which case you probably don't get a carbon tax at the federal level. So my point stands. We've got to make progress at the state level. If you look at the US, the population is quite concentrated. Pollution is quite concentrated in a few states, and we could make real progress there.
Albert Wenger: One thing we haven't talked about that I think is important to talk about is what about India, what about China.
Jason Jacobs: I was just going to bring that up, energy poverty. I'm glad you did.
Albert Wenger: So, of the two, I am less worried about China, more worried about India, which may sound wrong, because China is the one building a lot of coal-fired power plants still. But the Chinese government, I think, is a bunch of technocrats. They do realize that the climate crisis is real. They have a massive nuclear fusion research program. They are betting massively on EVs, and I am somewhat less worried about them not understanding that this is a real issue and not figuring out how to work it. They also have a lot of land where they could do carbon capture by planting the right things. So India, I think, is very different. It's a bit of a mess politically, and I don't think there's any interest in this. Although, who knows? That could change too. But India is probably the bigger issue here.
Albert Wenger: Having said all of that, I think the argument that people are making is it doesn't matter what we do here. It's just completely wrong, because it doesn't matter what we do in the US. People look to the US all over the world. I've traveled all over the world. I've grown up in Europe. People do look at the US, and what we do here matters a great, great deal.
Jason Jacobs: What about Big Oil, and what about the utilities? What's their role in this whole future that we've been talking about here?
Albert Wenger: Obviously, Big Oil is not dissimilar from Big Tobacco. Big Tobacco new about lung cancer for a long time and was hiding it. Big Oil has known about climate for a long time and has been actively hiding it. Much of the early research documenting how this was going to all play out was happening inside of oil companies. So I do think there is a legitimate point to try and go after them. There's a lot of power and wealth concentrated in those companies. So, again, I think it's collective action. I think it's judicial action. The state of Rhode Island, I believe, just successfully made some progress in suing one of the oil companies. So I do think, as long as we have incumbent players that have extraordinary economic interests in maintaining the current system, it's going to make it hard to build a new system.
Jason Jacobs: It's tough, because on the one hand they're culpable, but on the other, we need their help, right? Nobody understands carbon like the fossil fuel companies.
Albert Wenger: Yeah, but it brings me back to collective action. They want to make money when they know how to make money, and a carbon tax will fundamentally shift how to make money in this world. As you say, they have a lot of understanding. They have a lot of formidable resources that they could be deploying differently.
Jason Jacobs: So last couple of questions. One is just, if you had $100 billion and you could allocate it towards anything to maximize its impact on decarbonization, where would you put it? How would you allocate it?
Albert Wenger: I would probably do a lot of nuclear fusion, because I do believe a breakthrough in fusion would be the best thing that could happen.
Jason Jacobs: Why?
Albert Wenger: Well, because, as I said earlier, I believe in progress. I think, ultimately, progress will require ever more electricity. The best source that I can think of for electricity is going to be nuclear fusion, if we can make it work. So that feels super important to me. The other thing that feels super important to me is completely retooling agriculture. So in the US, we have a lot of area. A lot of it, we're planting things like soy and corn and so forth. We need to figure out what we're going to plant there. It could be potentially GM corn and GM soy that lets us then really make fuels very efficiently or lets us make materials very efficiently. So I would take this two-pronged approach. I would work on the long-term electricity source, and I would also work on the carbon capture side. I think those two ... And for carbon capture, I am very much somebody who believes in using plants for carbon capture, not using machines.
Jason Jacobs: Why?
Albert Wenger: Plants are a type of machine that evolution created for us to capture carbon. So why should we try and build complicated machines that need to be operated with power if we have these machines that literally take their power from the Sun directly and take carbon out of the atmosphere?
Jason Jacobs: Well, if could move faster and get the help far more efficiently, why [crosstalk 00:57:06]
Albert Wenger: Well, if you look at all the numbers today, the direct air capture machines are a tiny fraction of the efficiency of plants. At this point, we're talking three to five orders of magnitude difference.
Jason Jacobs: Last question is, a bunch of people listening to the podcast, myself included, are concerned about this problem and trying to find their own lane for impact, whether that means on a full-time basis or a portfolio or nights and weekends or whatever. So, I mean, speak to them for a minute, whatever else you have.
Albert Wenger: Well, I think the first thing everybody should do is buy offsets. Everybody should do it, and there are now new things like [Project Rin 00:57:41] and [Juro 00:57:43] that make it super easy. So you really don't have much of an excuse for not buying offsets. At the moment, you can buy offsets, as I said, for $15 or so a ton. So even if you live a fairly energy intensive lifestyle, you're not looking at a bill that's more than maybe a few hundred dollars a year at the current prices. I think those prices are wrong, and they're going to go up. But you should start doing that, because the more people do that, the prices are going to go up. So there's no excuse for not doing that.
Albert Wenger: Then I think the second thing is activism. I do think activism plays this incredibly important role. So you should show up for the climate strike on September 20th, September 27th, October 7th. Those are all dates. You should write to your congressperson, and you should write to your senator and you your representative [inaudible 00:58:28] Congress. Then I think you should really read the signs. It's not that hard to read. Then you should talk to everybody else. Be the vector of infection. Even if you just talk to two other people and those two other people talk to two other people, that's how we're going to make progress. I don't think everybody should quite their job and try and start a nuclear fusion company. The number of people in the world who are qualified to do that is quite small, and the more of those people we can create the faster and the more of them we can get to start those companies, the better. But for you and I, that's not what we should be doing.
Jason Jacobs: Great. And anything I didn't ask you or any additional parting words to listeners? Or should we end on that note?
Albert Wenger: Well, we should end on the note that the Industrial Age was great. It enabled amazing progress. Markets are a wonderful thing. They can solve many problems. They cannot solve the problem of at attention allocation. Allocating attention is not a market solvable problem. In order for us to survive the climate crisis, in order for us to thrive in the future, we need to get away from using markets to allocate attention, and we need to individually and collectively make better decisions about how we're allocating our attention.
Jason Jacobs: All right, well, Albert, this was a fascinating discussion, and very different from any that I’ve had thus far on the podcast. So I'm very glad that you took the time. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
Albert Wenger: Same here, I had a blast.
Jason Jacobs: Hey, everyone, Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at MyClimateJourney.co. Note, that is .co, not .com. Someday we'll get the .com, but right now .co. You can also find me on Twitter at @JJacobs22, where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. Before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.