Green this, green that, sustainable this, renewable that. What does it all mean? Who am I? What decade is it?
I’m not going to pry into the last two questions because the explanation may get a bit muddled, but the first one should be tackled. Everyone is talking about the coming green revolution but it seems that everyone has a different idea about what it means. For some I think it’s just fun and trendy to find some kind of way to participate, even superficially. As Paris Hilton would say, “that’s hot.”
It’s true that we all live in our own reality tunnels so it’s only natural that each and everyone of us would have our own interpretation of what “green” means. And maybe that’s the point. We each have our own, personal thing to contribute to the revolution, however small. Rooted in this abstract word is a foundation of a new way of looking at things – a reorientation if you will. The idea, I believe echoes sentiments of the ancients, the mystics and the natives. Things like, “the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth”, quoted by chief Seattle or “Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children”, an ancient Native American proverb. For some, these kinds of sayings may sound like some hokey bullshit, but I think they are pretty relevant.
We are beginning to see the limitations of our current expansionist economic model. The U.S. has long had a system based on infinite economic growth – the problem of course are the limitations of certain natural resources. The pressure lately has been mounting up. As the population continues to grow and overtax water, energy and food resources the limitations are becoming apparent.
No need to panic though. Of course there are skeptics out there. Hell, some of my engineering friends think it’s too late already. They think the damage done is too great and irreversible and it’s best to accept it. I don’t like that attitude. If someone really believes that then why not just become a hedonist or a nihilist? That seems like an appropriate solution to a such a conviction, (it’s also strange to me that they are engineers). For my part, I like to view things in terms of probabilities. Yes, there is a chance that we are all ‘effed’ and it’s too late – cue dark music, fire and brimstone, Apocalypse, Armageddon etc. I think the probability for that kind of scenario is pretty small.
On the flip side, the chance of thwarting some of the negative developments is good. How about another saying? Necessity is the mother of invention. I like that one. Under the right conditions change accelerates. I think they call that a revolution. Which brings me back to the point. What does a green revolution entail?
It’s impossible so say exactly how it will all pan out. But it is the idea of cradle to cradle life cycles for everything. It means living within our life time scales. Burning energy sources like fossil fuels that took millions of years to form cannot possibly replenish within our life spans. Our world is built on depleting energy sources. Thus, we need to utilize sources that we can replenish on a human life scale. Solar, wind and likely geothermal energy are perfect examples. The production of solar modules and wind turbines currently use a lot of non-renewable energy, but this is the first great stepping stone into a cradle to cradle life cycle for energy. Wind turbines and solar modules pay back the initial production energy in a few years and then begin to offer essentially free energy, albeit a little maintenance energy. Once a large enough foundation is laid, excess free energy from these sources can be used for the development of new energy sources. The ultimate goal of course is zero net carbon. Creating a complete infrastructure that does not release global warming gases is fundamental.
An energy cradle to cradle cycle is the only choice. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of time. So how does each one of us, living in our own reality tunnel, become of a part of this energy paradigm shift? Being a part can be as simple as using public transportation more, buying locally or voting for the right candidates. There are other routes too: engineering, law, businesses or volunteer work in other countries to help develop simple renewable energy solutions. In other words it’s easy – just put on your own green bandanna and start freestylin’ to the beat of the next movement.