Dream

The fact that someone like me – an engineer working on high-tech solutions to our sustainability problems (CO2 capture processes) – is spending so much time advocating the low-tech solution of personal lifestyle change on this blog really says quite a lot. My experience has taught me that, even though it will play an important role, a predominantly high-tech solution to our sustainability crisis is (1) not practically possible and (2) not sustainable. 

Barring some truly miraculous technological breakthrough, I can say with 100% certainty that technology alone will not save us. And yes, even if, by some miracle, we manage to address the crisis through technology, our current cultural mindset of consumerism and entitlement will simply cause us to raise our levels of consumption to match this new maximum and create a new, even bigger crisis. A purely technological solution is therefore simply not a viable option.

As I see it, there is only one long-term solution to this crisis: millions of people taking personal responsibility and making personal lifestyle changes that result in happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable living. My dream is that this idea becomes widely accepted and commercialized in the real world so that we can ensure long and happy lives not only for ourselves, but for countless future generations of human beings. This might be a bit ambitious, but I truly believe that it is the one and only sustainable solution available to us today. 

Please take a few minutes to check out some brief descriptions of how I see this dream coming true:

8 thoughts on “Dream”

  1. Forgive me Schalk, if I have overlooked it previously but, I now note the self-disclosure of your involvement in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. Would you agree that, even if CCS will be necessary to treat the symptoms (but not the cause) of the problem, it should not be treated as an excuse for perpetuating the status quo? In the meantime, we are gambling the future habitability of planet Earth on making it work (despite the fact that CO2 has no half-life and therefore must never escape)…

    1. Sure, I definitely agree that CCS is only a temporary fix and is just as unsustainable as fossil fuels themselves. From my understanding, however, CCS is totally mandatory if we are to have any chance of keeping CO2 below the 450-500 ppm level needed to prevent possible runaway global warming while, at the same time, keeping energy prices low enough to prevent a global economic meltdown.

      It is an undeniable fact that fossil fuel power plants will be with us for many decades into the future. Aside from still being by far the cheapest option, the entire global power infrastructure is built for fossil fuel power plants. Despite the great potential of renewables, they will never offer the priceless control offered by fossil fuel power stations. The ability to set up a power station almost anywhere on the planet and, most importantly, the ability to produce power according to in-the-moment demand is priceless and can never be offered by renewables. Nuclear is the only clean option offering these advantages, but after Fukushima people are not so keen on nuclear anymore. And yes, if we are to get the majority of our energy from solar and wind, we will require tremendous advances in smart grids and long distance power transmission (not to mention the time and money required to revamp all of our infrastructure).

      Of course, it can help a great deal if every member of the billion targeted by this blog decides to put some solar panels on their roof and get a nice electric car charging from this renewable energy, but, despite our best efforts, the chances of this happening in time are unfortunately very low. I’ll still keep trying though ;-)

      Also, as I understand it, CO2 storage technology is well developed and the chances of stored CO2 escaping in quantities sufficiently large to cause trouble without people noticing and quickly plugging the hole are negligibly small. If we can therefore only get the carbon legislation required to make CCS economically viable, it has the potential to very quickly cut global carbon emissions. Currently, CCS will make electricity about 30% more expensive which still seems to be too much for our policymakers (that is while their idiotic policies have caused a 400% oil price increase over the past decade). But hey, that’s what we have so that’s what we have to work with…

      1. If one is going to do it, my dream is that burning fossil fuels is made illegal (like prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the early 20th Century). Even with CCS, if we just allow them to run out naturally over say the next 50 years, I think we are guaranteed a +6 Celsius world. This is because annual emissions are almost irrelevant now – it is the cumulative total that matters.

        Given this unfortunate reality, to get the Earth back to 350 ppm would require CCS to be rolled-out on an unimaginably large scale; and installing it and achieving that goal will take decades – if not centuries. Sadly, this is more time than we have to prevent irreversible (and/or runaway) greenhouse effect taking hold (if it has not already done so)…

        However, as I think you now appreciate, I agree that a great deal could be achieved if people could learn to minimise their energy consumption and/or take themselves off the grid altogether…

      2. Hehe… And I thought that my dream was ambitious ;-)

        However, I think that you might be surprised at the rate at which CCS could be rolled out within the necessary policy environment. The moment that industry links profit to CCS, it will be all systems go. All we need is that policy environment…

  2. Really like what your doing here – your vision aligns directly with mine! You have an extensive, commendable collection of organized resources.

    Ambitious, yes, but essential. Arnold Toynbee states it well: “It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.”

    1. Thanks, that’s very nice to hear :-)

      I’ve been over to your blog and it will be interesting to see where you go with it. Do you plan to include anything on sustainability? In my opinion, no personal development program can be complete without it. In our finite world, personal development is not only about creating more, but also about consuming less.

      1. Thanks for checking in and dropping a note at Liberated Living. That, however, is a side project I’ve recently created focused more directly on developing a new consciousness. It’s interesting my username links to that site (have to look into it) because it’s not my primary blog.

        I encourage you to check out SolsticeSon’s Celebrational Servings at http://solsticeson.wordpress.com , where personal development is infused with sustainable consciousness. You’ll find content mixed with insights into social institutions like media, education and the social paradigm of today’s status quo, believing that positive, automatic actions are directly related to one’s mindset and environment. I like how you emphasize this throughout your blog, incorporating the practical ‘micro-environment.’

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A DIY guide to saving our world while building a happy, healthy and wealthy life

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