If the vertiginious dive of the Dow Jones has left you feeling gloomy this week, your biggest problem might be that you’re paying too careful watch over the erratic EKG of a dying system, the one the International Energy Agency described a few years ago as “patently unsustainable.” Look intead at the numbers that matter to a truly sustainable system, and the future looks bright even after this wild week.

Herewith, a rosy forecast from the MNN weather desk and a bullish report on the green economy. Let’s call it the MNN Innovation Index.


This is the amount of energy a Nissan Leaf’s battery can store, enough to power the average Japanese home for two days, IT World reports. This is also the dawning of a promised smart-grid revolution in which EV owners power up on the cheap overnight and then sell power back to the grid when demand peaks during the day — about as win-win as a scenario can get.

50,000 MW:
The estimated amount of solar energy Germany will add to its grid in the time it would take to build a single proposed transmission line to bring 4,000 megawatts of Iowa’s wind power to markets further east, according to John Farrell of the New Rules Project. And it points to the real motive power of renewable energy — its ability to decentralize the grid, to turn energy consumers into energy producers, to usher in what the late, great Hermann Scheer, father of the most important piece of energy legislation written so far this century, liked to call “the Second Industrial Revolution.”

35 to 49 minutes:

The average amount more exercise people get each week when they live in walkable neighborhoods, according to a report in the Tampa Tribune. (The story’s otherwise a pretty gloomy picture of the rural obesity epidemic in America.) Sustainability doesn’t just make a healthier planet; it makes healthier people.

10,000 sq. ft.:

The size of a Walmart Express opened last week in Chicago, Chicago Business reports. This is less than a 10th the size of the typical Walmart Supercenter and indicates that even the world’s largest retailer now sees the wisdom of human-scale urban development. Let’s get crazily optimistic and call the store — the first of five planned for Chicago, part of a larger Walmart sustainability push that continues to surprise skeptics — the place where the big box era was finally declared over.


An even half-dozen — this was the number of lessons to be learned from the ongoing economic chaos unfolding this past week and the past three years, according to Harvard Business Review’s Umair Haque. Haque’s Twitter feed is a staggeringly prolific series of mini-essays on building the next economy, and his six lessons are worth repeating in full:

The first lesson is: when you don't reinvent institutions at a time of systemic failure, the problem doesn't just magically disappear.

The second lesson is: when you prop up the institutions causing the crisis, instead of reinventing them, the crisis will deepen.

The third lesson is: when dysfunctional institutions prop one another up, prosperity's a house of cards. Crisis becomes stagnation.

The fourth lesson is: when propping up failed institutions has drained your resources, you've turned a crisis into a catastrophe.


The fifth lesson is: the longer it takes you to see a crisis for what it truly is, the disproportionately worse it's likely to get.


The sixth lesson is: when people who are prisoners of the paradigm that caused the crisis are in charge of fixing it, bet on...more crisis.

And that, folks, is the week that was — at least if you were watching it all through green-tinted glasses.

To keep track of the MNN Innovation Index 140 characters at a time, follow me on Twitter: @theturner.

Forget the Dow, here are the numbers that mattered this week
Follow the Dow, and the economic forecast looks pretty black right about now. But in the midst of the old economy's failure, a new one continues to shine bright