Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters

09 Sep 13 11:18

It is axiomatic that when 50 people get together to talk about something, sparks are likely to fly -- our sustainable energy fishbowl proved the point. At the Zürich 150 event, we were invited to pretend that a sustainable energy future was ours in 2050 and talk about how that happened. One senior Corporate Solutions executive opened by commenting that such an outcome should provide us the same level of creature comforts -- warm place to have the event, plenty of light, convenient transportation -- as we enjoy now. That was accepted, but how to get there was less than unanimous. Two schools of thought quickly gelled. One held that technology would rescue us and that we can invent our way to using more, but sustainable, energy. Another felt that by definition, sustainable meant less consumption, so prices of energy really had to rise to induce a change in behavior. Some even felt that changes in lifestyle, not just in energy use, held the key.

So around the "how to get there" questions -- along either the produce-more or consume-less path -- debate bounced all over the place. A number of participants felt it a question of education. We'd consume less if we understood more how much energy our flat screen TVs are actually using. The education system could be managed to raise a generation of more energy-conscious youth.

And yes, there was a climate change denier or two who were very skeptical about the whole project, arguing that the newest evidence was showing that we could continue to pour carbon into the atmosphere as we liked. All of which, when the affiliations of the various speakers were taken into account, proved nothing better than the old adage: where you stand depends on where you sit.

Category: Climate/natural disasters, Sustainable energy

1 Comment

Alicia Montoya - 9 Sep 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Interesting! I was in another energy 'fishbowl' (dialogue circle for the uninitiated). One expert cited that the the UN expects 68% of the world’s population to be living in urban areas by 2050. That's a whole 6.3 billion of us at current rates!

So while we didn't really figure out how we'd reach resilience (we discussed the need for transparency too, for more consumer choice, for fully accounted for externalities reflected in modular pricing schemes…), we did all agree that how we build the cities of the future will play a key role in achieving sustainability.

I was just discussing with my brother (an architect, based in Barcelona) who tells me architecture is getting really technical, and it's the most interesting moment it's had in decades. From new materials, through the urban integration of buildings, green space and public transport, to the full lifecycle of urban needs (including energy, of course, but also urban agriculture, waste..), architecture can no longer operate in a vacuum. I think in future, every new building will need to be judged by its sustainability and contribution to the local community, not by its own form or function alone.

So maybe that's the key. Instead of focusing on the macro issues, colossal interdependencies and constant failures at reaching consensus on things a global price on carbon or on emissions levels, perhaps we should focus on local, urban solutions and let each community figure it out for itself.

And yes, I think those solutions will need to include both: They'll need to be way more efficient (via efficient/passive housing, clean urban transport..) AND we'll need to find ways to complement our power generation with more sustainable energy production. Oh and for that we need to invest on the grid. Cough cough. Never got over that financial hurdle in our session either.

Or maybe Elon Musk has another disruptive technology trick up his sleeve for that too? Here's to innovation!

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