TIME Innovation

Are We Breaking Up With Saudi Arabia?

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Is the special Saudi-U.S. relationship on the rocks?

By Ray Takeyh at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Two-year degrees can really pay off.

By Liz Weston at Reuters

3. A self-contained urban farm, delivered in a box, could slash water use by 90 percent.

By Danny Crichton in TechCrunch

4. How a lake full of methane could power Rwanda and DR Congo.

By Jonathan W. Rosen in MIT Technology Review

5. Nope, we’re not going to live on crickets in the near-future.

By Brooke Borel in Popular Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

How Earth Day Began: With Somber Reflection, and a Few Dump-Ins

Save Your Earth
Lambert / Getty Images An Earth day button, circa 1970

April 22, 1970: The first Earth Day is observed

Born from what TIME described in 1970 as a casual suggestion by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was meant as neither protest nor celebration, but rather as “a day for serious discussion of environmental problems.”

What surprised Nelson — and others — was how much enthusiasm the idea engendered. On this day, April 22, 45 years ago, nearly 20 million Americans took Nelson up on his suggestion and turned out for the inaugural Earth Day events. These cropped up all over the country, on college campuses and in public places — including Central Park and New York’s Fifth Avenue, which was closed to traffic for two hours while 100,000 people staged a quiet, contemplative parade.

A dissonant combination of festivity and somber reflection pervaded the holiday. Environmentalists found themselves transformed into celebrities for a day, suddenly overrun with invitations to share their grim prognoses for the planet. As TIME wrote in 1970:

Ecologist Barry Commoner’s schedule was the busiest, calling for him to rush from Harvard and M.I.T. to Rhode Island College and finally to Brown University. Population Biologist Paul Ehrlich was lined up for speeches at Iowa State, Biologist René Dubos at U.C.L.A., Ralph Nader at State University of New York in Buffalo. In addition, such heroes of the young as Dr. Benjamin Spock, Poet Allen Ginsberg and various rock stars planned to have their say, if not precisely about ecology, then about the joys of the natural life.

Along with educational lectures and nature walks, however, there were livelier, more dramatic demonstrations meant to draw attention to the need for environmental reform. According to the New York Times, some activists held “mock funerals of ‘polluting’ objects, from automobiles to toilets.” Per TIME, students at several schools collected piles of litter and then staged “dump-ins” on the steps of city halls and manufacturing facilities.

At San Fernando State College, a group of students offered rice and tea to passersby as a sample of the “hunger diet” they could expect in the future, when overpopulation led to worldwide famine.

Meanwhile, at Florida Technological University, some students held a mock trial for a Chevrolet charged with poisoning the air. Finding it guilty, they set about executing it with a sledgehammer — but according to TIME, “the car resisted so sturdily that the students finally shrugged and offered it to an art class for a sculpture project.”

Despite — or perhaps because of — their heavy-handed theatrics, these grassroots protests paid off. By the end of the year, Congress had authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

By the following year, Earth Day had grown into Earth Week, and this time it was officially sanctioned by President Nixon. But the festivities were “cooler and saner” the second year, per TIME, which noted, “Instead of noisy confrontations, the 1971 ‘week’ that ended April 25 ran to practical matters, like arranging bottle pickups.”

Read more about the importance of the environment in 1970, here in the TIME Vault: Issue of the Year

TIME Environment

Obama’s Florida Visit Takes Climate Change Fight to the Front Lines on Earth Day

President Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2015.
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images President Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2015.

"It’s about protecting our God-given natural wonders, and the good jobs that rely on them"

President Obama traveled to Florida on Wednesday to highlight the impact of climate change on the American economy. The choice of Florida, where sea levels are rising rapidly and state officials aren’t allowed to discuss climate change, brings Obama to the front lines of the debate over how to address the changing environment.

Obama’s Earth Day speech at Everglades National Park portrayed climate change as an issue with real-world effects that are relevant beyond the community of environmental activists. The site is a key source of drinking water for more than a third of Florida’s nearly 20 million people and tourism at the park provides a significant boost to the local economy, Obama said in his speech.

“This is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore,” Obama said. “This is a problem now. It has serious implications for the way we live right now. Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons.”

The visit comes one day after the White House announced measures to support national parks and prepare communities across the country for storms caused by climate change.

Obama’s decision to make his speech in Florida brings him to the nexus of the fight against climate change in the U.S. While the state’s natural treasures and densely populated communities face the pressure of rising sea levels, many in the state do not believe in climate change. State employees have been banned from even using the term “climate change” while working in their official capacities. (Obama seemed to take the Florida state government to task directly for its policy prohibiting discussion of climate change, saying “climate change can’t be omitted from the conversation.”)

“Southeast Florida is really ground zero on climate change and sea level rise in particular,” said Christina DeConcini, director of government affairs at the World Resources Institute. “There’s a disconnect there. It seems if you were an elected official in the state of Florida, it would be incumbent on you to protect your constituents.”

To be sure, there’s a lot to protect. The southern Florida region, most threatened by rising sea levels, is home to real estate valued at more than $130 billion, as well as two nuclear power plants, 74 airports and hundreds of public schools, according to a government report. And then there’s the threat to the Everglades, which helps support the state’s $80 billion tourism industry.

In Miami and the surrounding area, much of the preparation for rising sea levels and other climate change effects has fallen into the hands of local initiatives, at least in part because the state government has been largely unresponsive. The Southeast Florida Regional Compact, a partnership between four counties in the Miami area, has developed tactics to manage streets that regularly flood with water, identify vulnerable transportation systems and prepare to relocate communities that may be especially affected by climate-related disasters.

“These four counties said, ‘you know what sea level rise and the consequences need to be dealt with together. The water doesn’t respect county boundaries,” said Colin Polsky, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies. “I can’t say there’s zero collaboration with the state, but it’s kind of chilling if state officials feel like they can’t even use the words climate change.”

Obama’s speech on Wednesday seemed to be an implicit challenge to presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. The two Florida Republicans, a Senator and former Governor, respectively, have expressed doubt about man-made climate change, despite the clear evidence of climate change in their own backyards.

Aside from challenging Republicans on climate change, Obama touted his plan to reduce America’s carbon emissions by at least 26% by 2025. The commitment has been portrayed as key to fostering an international agreement on this issue at this December’s U.N. climate talks in Paris.

But even a landmark carbon emissions agreement won’t be enough to stop sea levels around Florida from rising in the short term, Polsky said.

“There’s already enough warming that we committed to our atmosphere based on the past couple hundred years of emissions,” he said. “We could stop emissions tomorrow and the ice would continue to melt.”

TIME Environment

Meet the Organizers of the Very First Earth Day

How a troupe of twenty-somethings mobilized millions of Americans to speak out on the environment

“It sounds as if the land has gone mad, and in a way some of it has—mad at man’s treatment of his environment.” When LIFE Magazine reported on the first Earth Day, which took place on April 22, 1970, it captured the burgeoning energy of a nascent environmental movement and the young men and women driving toward change.

The magazine’s focus was less on the pollution that threatened the planet than on the faces of the movement determined to curtail it. Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, had conceived of an environmental campaign that employed tactics, like the teach-in, of the anti-war movement. But he needed a group of budding young activists to organize it from the ground up.

Nelson enlisted Harvard graduate student Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes brought on classmates Andrew Garling, who would coordinate the Northeast, and Stephen Cotton, who would manage the media campaign. Arturo Sandoval, a Chicano activist, joined the team to manage the Western effort, along with Bryce Hamilton to organize high school students and Barbara Reid to coordinate the Midwest.

The paths they took to their cramped Washington, D.C., headquarters varied widely. Reid, who had worked on Robert Kennedy’s campaign and then for the Conservation Foundation, was the only one with solid credentials in the movement. Hayes, who would go on to be a pioneering influence in solar power, grew up in the forests and streams of southwest Washington but focused his prior activism on the Vietnam War, as did Garling. Cotton came up as a student journalist during the civil rights movement, and Sandoval had organized Chicano students and laborers to fight against discrimination.

From a dingy office above a Chinese restaurant, the team orchestrated a history-making event. When the day they’d been working toward finally came, 20 million Americans took to the streets to rally for a more earth-conscious society, and the modern environmental movement was born. As dire as the problems that faced the environment were, Hayes maintained an optimistic outlook. As he told LIFE, “There’s no survival potential in pessimism.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Read next: This Is the App You Need to Download for Earth Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Celebrates Earth Day 2015

Google The Earth Day 2015 Google Doodle.

It comes with a nifty little quiz

In 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to spread the message of environmental awareness, and in the process created the first ever Earth Day. To honor what has become a global observance, a new Google Doodle has been created for Earth Day 2015.

The brainchild of the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day 1970 garnered bipartisan support and is widely considered to be the beginning of the environmental movement. The campaign led to remarkable change — generating momentum for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

In 1990 another big campaign was organized to honor the 20th anniversary of Earth Day and an estimated 200 million people worldwide participated in the celebrations. Afterward, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor a U.S. civilian can receive.

Earth Day 2015 includes a cleanup of the Great Wall of China, beach-litter removal in Lebanon and an attempt to protect 25,000 acres of rain forest in Indonesia.

The doodle features a spinning globe with various animal animations inside the Google letters. With a click, the animation links to a fun quiz where people can find out “which animal are you?”

Read next: This Is the App You Need to Download for Earth Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY sustainability

10 Super Easy Practices That Are Good for the Earth—and Your Budget

In honor of Earth Day, here are 10 incredibly easy things we should all be doing: They're good for the environment and save money at the same time.

Taking major steps like installing rooftop solar panels or buying an electric car are hardly the only ways to go green. It’s very possible to practice an earth-friendly lifestyle without incurring a major cost outlay. In fact, tons of tiny, easy tweaks to what you do and what you buy day in, day out can not only help the environment, they’ll save you money as a bonus. Here are 10 green cost-saving practices for Earth Day—and every day.

  • Walk or Bike

    Capital Bikeshare, Washington, D.C.
    James A. Parcell—The Washington Post via Getty Images Capital Bikeshare, Washington, D.C.

    Cities and even many small towns are increasingly focused on becoming more walkable and bike-friendly. So why not take advantage? Obviously, neither of these modes of transportation requires the use of fossil fuels or electricity. They’re also free or nearly so. Depending on where you live, you might not even have to buy a bike: The bike share program in Washington, D.C., for instance, costs $75 per year and rides are free if they last 30 minutes or less. (Check out MONEY’s ranking of the Best Places to Walk or Bike.)

  • Group Errands Together

    150420_EM_EarthDay_GroupErrands
    Getty Images—Getty Images

    You could take separate car trips to go grocery shopping, get the oil changed in the car, and visit the doctor for an annual checkup. Or you could combine them into one outing, in a process some call “trip chaining,” which is as simple—or challenging, for some—as being a little more organized and efficient. By planning ahead and grouping errands, you save time and gas money and reduce congestion on the roads.

  • Use Public Transportation

    150420_EM_EarthDay_MassTransit
    Craig Warga—Bloomberg via Getty Images New York subway

    Some parts of the country have better public transit than others, and surveys indicate that people—millennials especially—place a high priority on living in cities with good options for getting around. This makes sense for a number of reasons. According to a study on commuter satisfaction, people who get to work on foot, bike, or via train are happiest. These options are not only more affordable compared with driving, the time of one’s commute is more consistent and therefore less stressful. Check out the tools at PublicTransportation.org to scope out transit options and see how much money and carbon emissions you could save by using public transportation in your neck of the woods.

  • Drink Tap Water

    150420_EM_EarthDay_WaterBottle2
    Alamy

    Americans spent roughly $13 billion on bottled water last year, up 6% from 2013. We’re drinking roughly 34 gallons of bottled water annually per capita, up from just 1.6 gallons in 1976. Granted, this is a much healthier option than sugary beverages, but is bottled water any better for us than tap water? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, tap water is completely safe; many bottled waters are just tap water that’s sometimes (but not always) filtered. And bottled water easily costs 100 times or perhaps even 1,000 times more than tap water. Only an estimated 23% of disposable plastic water bottles are recycled, by the way.

  • Shop with Reusable Bags

    canvas bag
    Getty Images

    The environmental benefits of shopping with a reusable bag like these recommended by Real Simple are pretty obvious: They eliminate the need for plastic bags that tend to wind up in landfills. Shopping with a reusable bag may also save you money, because stores in places like Dallas and Encinitas, Calif., charge customers 5¢ or 10¢ apiece for non-reusable bags.

  • Don’t Overdo It on Groceries

    shopping list
    Getty Images

    Somewhere between 25% and 40% of the food we buy in the U.S. is thrown away. What this shows is that too many of us buy too much at supermarkets and warehouse bulk-supply retailers, and/or that we’re not particularly good at strategically freezing or concocting leftover dishes. To waste less, shop smarter and be creative with foods that might otherwise be dumped in the trash. And to avoid going overboard with impulse purchases at the grocery store, always make a shopping list in advance, and stick to it.

  • Heat and Cool Your Home Wisely

    Insulation
    Jonathan Maddock—Getty Images

    Among the many straightforward and fairly simple steps you can take to trim back household costs and conserve resources: Turn the heat down in winter (you’ll shave 1% off your heating bill for every 1 degree lower); use fans rather than nonstop A/C in the summer; insulate around doors and windows to protect from drafts; and put heating and cooling systems on a timer so that they’re only in use when needed.

  • Use Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs, Appliances

    150420_EM_EarthDay_Lightbulb
    Alamy

    They tend to cost more upfront than less efficient models. But they’ll save you money in the long run because they eat up less electricity when being used, and, at least in terms of lightbulbs, they have longer lifespans so therefore have to be replaced less frequently. As for appliances, look for the Energy Star label as a sign of a product’s efficiency—and its potential to shave dollars off your utility bills.

  • Be Practical About Landscaping

    cactuses outside home
    Trinette Reed—Getty Images

    It’s not wise to battle against Mother Nature by trying to force flowers, plants, and grasses to grow in areas where they’re simply not suited. A low-cost, low-maintenance yard is one that incorporates native plants and greenery that flourish in your zone, without requiring extensive watering, fertilizer, and attention—nor a big budget. Check out classic tips from This Old House and Better Homes & Gardens for landscaping that’s gorgeous, affordable, and earth-friendly. Don’t fixate on having a prototypical grassy front lawn, which may look good but often requires loads of time, energy, money, water, and chemicals to maintain.

  • Compost

    Dumping compost
    Jill Ferry Photography—Getty Images

    Many towns give residents free or deeply subsidized composters, and using one is generally as simple as dumping vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, grass clippings, and such into the bin. The resulting material can be help your garden and new plants grow, and eliminate much of the need to water and buy fertilizers and pesticides. Composting reduces the amount of waste in landfills as well, of course. (Even apartment dwellers can get in on the act with vermicomposting, or composting with worms.)

TIME Environment

Questions Remain Over U.S. Preparedness for the Next Oil Spill

Eleven People Missing After Explosion At Offshore Drilling Rig
U.S. Coast Guard Fire boats battle a fire at the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon.

Despite more frequent drilling, environmental activists say not enough has changed in the way the government oversees deepwater drilling.

In the midst of 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, President Barack Obama’s administration declared a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. The spill was one of the country’s most devastating environmental disasters, and the freeze was intended to give the federal government time to assess what safety measures it had in place. But the moratorium passed, and drilling quickly resumed.

Now, five years later, offshore oil drilling is more frequent and is done to even greater depth. Since the BP spill, the federal government has approved more than 20 ultra-deepwater drilling expeditions, according to the Associated Press. Environmental activists say not enough has changed in the way the federal government oversees the deepwater drilling.

“The BP spill happened five years ago, but the next offshore oil disaster is still just one mistake away because the oil companies have fought putting the strongest possible protections on the books,” said Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, in a statement.

Since 2010, the federal government has addressed the causes of the spill by heightening standards for the design and casing of deep-sea oil wells and nearly doubling the number of inspectors. Earlier this month, the Obama administration proposed increasing regulation of the blowout preventer, the last line of defense in preventing a spill. The blowout preventer failed in the Deepwater Horizon accident, one of the many factors

“A lot has occurred to make offshore drilling safer,” said Eileen P. Angelico, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), an agency created to monitor offshore drilling after the BP spill. “Government oversight of drilling has been strengthened…and there has been a significant increase in the number of offshore inspectors and technical experts.”

But environmental activists say the changes aren’t enough. The number of offshore incidents including fires, oil spills and explosions, among other things, has remained high over the past five years, according to data from the BSEE. There were nearly 2,800 incidents and 11 deaths between 2011 and 2014. There were 3,200 incidents and 32 deaths in the previous four-year period. More importantly, environmental activists say, many spills go unreported.

“The industry has destroyed hundreds of square miles of sensitive wetlands, while daily, and often unreported, leaks and spills pose serious threats to our fisheries, wildlife and natural habitat,” said Jonathan Henderson, who monitors field operations at Gulf Restoration Network, in a statement.

At the same time, oil companies have launched operations drilling at depths far greater than the 13,000 feet below sea level where the 2010 spill occurred, according to the Associated Press. Stopping a spill in the deeper and more complex wells would be far more difficult than it was to stop the BP spill—which eventually spewed an estimated 176 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

But even if tougher regulations were able to prevent all potential oil spills, many environmental activists—and some officials in the federal government—argue that offshore drilling still needs to end. Drilling only deepens reliance on the fossil fuels that cause climate change, experts say. Indeed, Obama used the Deepwater Horizon debacle in 2010 as an opportunity to advocate for the “transition to clean energy.”

“There are costs associated with this transition,” said Obama at the time. “We can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy—because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.”

Despite the environmentally friendly gesture, environmental activists say the president’s energy policy leaves much to be desired. The White House is pushing to open new areas to offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Atlantic and Arctic waters need to be taken completely off the table to oil and gas drilling,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner in a statement at the time. “All offshore drilling is risky, but the worst thing we could do right now is open up new, never-spoiled, or long-closed areas to the risks this industry poses.”

TIME animals

Humpback Whales May No Longer Be Endangered

Whale Breaching
Michael Penn—AP In this July 9, 2014 photo, an adult humpback whale breaches in Lynn Canal near Juneau, Alaska.

Two populations of the whales would still be considered endangered

Most humpback whales may no longer be endangered.

On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed removing more than two-thirds of the world’s humpback whale population from the endangered species list.

Humpback whales were first classified as in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1970. The NOAA’s proposal would remove 10 of the 14 recognized whale populations from the endangered species list, while two would be listed as endangered and the remaining two would be classified as threatened.

“The return of the iconic humpback whale is an ESA success story,” Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, said in the NOAA release. “As we learn more about the species—and realize the populations are largely independent of each other—managing them separately allows us to focus protection on the animals that need it the most.”

The last time NOAA removed a species from the endangered list due its recovery was in 1994, when it took off a population of gray whales, the Associated Press reports. Once removed from the list, all the humpback whales would still be protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

TIME Environment

5 Million Iowa Hens to Be Euthanized After Bird Flu Found

It's the second recent outbreak in the state

An Iowa egg-laying facility found to have chickens infected with bird flu will see all 5.3 million of its hens euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease, agriculture officials said Monday, following an initial avian influenza outbreak discovered elsewhere in the state last week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the outbreak, which officials believe is being spread by migratory birds, the Des Moines Register reports. Just last week, an Iowa turkey farm had to kill 27,000 birds after the virus was detected.

While health officials say H5N2 presents a low risk to humans, the epidemic could be a big problem for Iowa farmers, as their nearly 50 million hens provide one out of five eggs consumed in America.

[Des Moines Register]

TIME Environment

Stop Counting on Individuals To Solve California’s Water Crisis

A sprinkler waters a lawn on April 7, 2015 in Walnut Creek, California.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A sprinkler waters a lawn on April 7, 2015 in Walnut Creek, California.

Janet Vertesi is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.

"Even if 50,000 people shorten their showers, this is a drop in the proverbial bucket"

The drought in California has revealed more than just dry lake beds. As NASA issues dire warnings about the prospects for water in the state, Californians are cutting down on their showers, draining their swimming pools, and berating their neighbors for their neatly manicured lawns. Most distressing about the current crisis, though, is what it has revealed about the assumptions that underlie our environmental policies and technologies. Many believe that saving water starts at home, but in this case it’s not residential consumers but large agricultural customers who use most of the water provided by state utilities.

We like to think of individual consumers as rational economic actors, whose choices to consume (or not) affect the pricing and availability of a product through market forces like supply and demand. So deeply ingrained in us is this notion that it appears to be common sense for Governor Jerry Brown to impose restrictions on residential water customers. We are therefore currently witnessing an unprecedented interest in water and the idea that individuals matter. Remember when we used to count our carbon footprint? Now Californians count gallons of water. They’re actively discussing the benefits and drawbacks of “water-hungry” legumes, meats and vegetables online. It is already a faux-pas to serve almonds at parties.

Our environmental technologies also reflect this simplistic individualist ideal about conservation. The Nest thermostat not only manages your home heating and cooling systems, it also tells you how much energy you’ve saved and encourages you to save more. Airlines offer online carbon counters so you can offset your upcoming flight, while new cars such as Prius or Leaf allow you to drive with lower contributions to the CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s probably not long until we’ll see apps that can show you exactly how much water you are consuming.

The idea that individual consumption choices can make a difference is nice in theory. But individual efforts to “go green” pale in comparison to the effects of large-scale systems on our air quality, our water availability, or our climate. The enormous agricultural systems in California require so much water because they are busy feeding the rest of the United States and exporting food to other parts of the world. Even if 50,000 people shorten their showers, this is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Like any infrastructural change, it is expensive to require individual citizens to opt out. It can take years for the added cost of a hybrid vehicle to make the reduced cost of a tank of gas worthwhile. Further, because companies negotiate discounted costs for their access and use, their choices to consume are sheltered from mainstream market pricing. Even when supply is limited, demand can remain high due to this price-fixing. So a market-based approach aimed just at individual consumers is doomed to failure.

To be sure, existing theories of “efficiency generation” suggest that individual consumers do matter. If thousands of customers install energy-efficient light bulbs, environmental economists equate this power savings to the investment of bringing new facilities online. Although the cost of utilities is established differently for residential consumers versus industrial ones, individual habits can and do add up.

But only if we start thinking on a larger scale. That means thinking about how existing systems influence or curtail our actions and possibilities, rethinking how our current large-scale systems intersect with people, companies, and regulatory agencies, and considering new technologies, policies, and pricing structures that can produce system-wide change.

It also means opening new technological opportunities. What if my thermostat didn’t just tell me what I am saving but also what my neighbors are saving, helping me to support and reinforce their choices? What if we expanded the “carbon offset” idea to water-needy companies to help them consume what they needed while giving back elsewhere? What if several different companies that wish to manage certain resources could band together, across distances, accessing and visualizing the data they need to evaluate their changes?

Fortunately, many of our best and brightest are already on location in California. Silicon Valley has long professed its desire to “disrupt” the system and “change the world.” Here is their chance.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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