Friday, June 26, 2009

Save the Planet the Human Way: Forward

Lots of the more vocal Cassandras insist we must dramatically impair our standards of living so as to Save the Planet. (The Guardian, predictably, is a hotbed of these folks). True, human nature being what it is, this is both impossible and vicious. Impossible because it contradicts human nature - never an obstacle to the millenarians, but still true. Vicious because even if it were somehow to happen, most of the suffering would inevitably be bourn by the poor; the poor in the developed world, and the poor in the rest of the world. Not a problem, say the Cassandras: we'll have to force the rich to ante up.

Which is why it will never happen, of course. Even if it would save the planet, which is debatable.

The traditionally human way of doing this is by moving forward, into technologies that impact the world less while offering more.

Building a smart electric grid, for example, which will probably reduce the use of electricity by 10% while bringing vast benefits.

Once these issues are ironed out, though, the smart grid could provide the platform for a huge range of innovation and applications in energy, just as the internet did in computing. “I think that an open, standards-based network could give birth to a thousand new companies,” says Eric Dresselhuys of Silver Spring Networks, a firm based in California that works with utilities to implement smart-grid networks. A smarter grid will not only help people save energy or use it more efficiently, but will also promote the adoption of all kinds of green technologies, including wind, solar and plug-in vehicles. “It’s the platform that allows for the transformation of one of the largest and most important industries in the world to take place,” says Mr Dresselhuys.


rashkov said...

Your mention of "millenarians" reminded me of Professor Richard Landes' work on monitoring the mainstream media's coverage of Israel and radical Islam. If you haven't seen it yet, you must. His blog is called "The Augean Stables", that "takes its name from the Fifth Labor of Herakles, to clean the stables of Augeas, where thousands of cattle had left so much un-cleaned dung that the whole Peloponnesus smelled of it."

rashkov said...

oh, his research had a lot to do with millenarians, hence the reference.

Anonymous said...

I do not quite buy this argument smarter technology is going to fix it all -
one story I find kind of convincing is that some dietary rules were introduced initially because otherwise resources would have been used in an unsustainable way. If that is true then not eating pigs as a mandate has been quite successful -
this leads to the question what could be equally successful as to energy saving?