Published on September 30th, 2018 |
by Chanan Bos
September 30th, 2018 by Chanan Bos
When people think about cleantech, one of the first questions is, “How does it apply to me?” A lot of the news and opinion pieces talk about today and the general future. What most editorials don’t include is the point of view of the younger generation that stands to lose the most due to climate change, and stands most to gain from clean technology actively being developed today.
Climate Change & Carrying Capacity
At present, the earth’s carrying capacity — a complex term best described as the maximum number of people the earth could sustain at one time — is around 10 billion people. Scientists often argue that this could be expanded to 12 billion or more. This has become a very flexible number because certain technologies like genetically modified foods, aeroponics and hydroponics, amongst other inventions, allow a large piece of farmland to become 3 dimensional (like Elon’s tunnel system he mentioned recently in a podcast). Thus, the same amount of land can suddenly produce up to 10 times or more food than it could at first. Costs for this are coming down but still can’t beat the more time-tested, traditional crop-in-soil plantations, yet. These technologies could potentially increase the earth’s carrying capacity by a lot.
One of the biggest issues — climate change — can, on the other hand, be detrimental to the earth’s carrying capacity. Today, we are already seeing that in the past two years, farms have become up to 25% less productive due to droughts.
The Paris climate accords aim to limit the rise in overall global temperature to less than +2° Celsius. While +2° Celsius in itself could already do almost irreparable damage to all of our ecosystems, +2° C is commonly considered a turning point where the increase will strongly accelerate — due to multiple reasons, such as CO2 and methane being released from permafrost, shallow ocean methane deposits, and more. At this time, it is unknown whether the world climate can safely be parked at +2° Celsius above normal, but we shouldn’t bet on it, because we can’t afford to.
Climate change could actually make farming outside completely impossible, which would lower earth’s carrying capacity to just one billion or less. In Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War (spoilers alert), the evil Villain Thanos makes half of all life in the universe disappear with the snap of a finger. That is 50%. In this case, that’s nothing. By the time this catastrophe happens, 30 years from now, we might have around 10 billion people. Reducing that to just 1 billion means that’s 1 in 10! That’s a 90% human population wipeout!
Climate change might be a villain more evil than Thanos, since all the famine and wars over food are much less pleasant than the snap of a finger and will kill a lot more. This forced transition to 3D hydroponic/aeroponic farming — like what Kimbal Musk is doing with his company Square Roots — would eventually save humanity, but in the transition, a lot of people could die.
Good Old Times
When we hear our parents, grandparents, and the older generations talk about their youth with nostalgia, they mention simpler times. They remember how life was going at a slow, enjoyable pace. As kids, they went to play outside, they read books and socialized “the old way.”
At the dangerous pace climate change is progressing right now, it’s not unreasonable to fathom that if the worst-case scenario comes to pass, the difference between our youth and our future will be much more significant. In this hypothetical future when we will be old looking back at our past nostalgically, we might remember times when parks were not under glass domes, when we didn’t need that nuisance of a breathing apparatus just to go outside. We will remember that unlike now, we stayed inside behind a computer by choice and not to preserve our health (this might also be your future if you don’t want to live in on a world without Elon Musk and follow him to Mars).
Going on a trip to show your kids where you grew up would also be quite different. It will quite likely require a scuba diving trip since chances are it is currently under sea level (which rose by many meters over your lifetime). Furthermore, there might be places where it is actually too hot to step outside unprotected.
But, all of this is true only if you are 1 of those 10 still left standing.
We Are Not Doomed Yet
Now that all the doom and gloom is over, let’s look at the side of the hill where the grass is greener. We have 30 years to get things under control and I choose to believe that we can and will. Even if every single person has to get solar panels on their roof while the governments around the world continue playing politics, we will.
Due to deliberate misinformation, climate change has long been a topic people found foolish to discuss. That has slowly and painstakingly changed now that we are seeing overwhelming evidence in our daily lives in the forms of droughts, hurricanes that cause more flooding, and a more unstable climate. Now we see it in action and we can see that it is standing outside our door ready to knock just once before knocking down the door.
A Guide To A More Sustainable Future For The Younger Generation
If you are still young and are wondering what you could possibly do to help out, this bit is for you. Your parents and grandparents, everyone currently in power in the government, and the corporate world will either not have to deal with climate change or will have to only for a short while. You will have to bear the brunt of it, which is why you, more than any other generation, should want a clean world the most. Here is what you can do:
Recycling and making better use of paper
Climate change is not only clean energy. Part of climate change is that we are killing the planet that sustains us and filters the CO2 in our atmosphere. We are cutting down trees and using them as furniture and toilet paper. By recycling and encouraging recycling, we can help cut down (pun not intended) our consumption and ensure trees get cut down less. In fact, in the EU, the production of recycled paper produces 82% less CO2 than regular paper and prevents more trees from being cut down.
Furthermore, when drying your hands, a lot of people grab 4 or 5 paper towels. Did you know that if used correctly, just one is enough to completely dry your hands? There is a special technique — take a look at this inspiring TED talk and you will know how. A few years ago, there was the cold bucket summer challenge where you would throw cold water on yourself, film it, and post it online. How about starting the 1 paper towel challenge?
Buying a house & solar panels
At some point, most people will start looking into getting a loan and buying a house. When asked what the main consideration is, most people think of size, location, how it looks, and how much it costs.
What you should be looking at first of all is the roof, it’s surface area, it angles and orientation. This will one day be key. The larger the surface area of your roof, the more solar panels you can put on it. The best orientation is for the roof to face south (an azimuth of 180 degrees), and it should not be in shadows. Other orientations also work, but are not as ideal. Furthermore, to maximize output, the solar panels should be installed at a 30° angle.
Not only will this help you cover all your electricity expenses. It will pay for itself, and relying on where you live might even earn you money.
Knowing who to vote for
This is a very difficult topic to discuss because politics are treacherous wherever you go, and sometimes the most logical thing to do isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. There are often political parties whose main goals are to stop climate change, to help transition towards a sustainable future, and to reduce CO2. Sounds great, right? Well, also make sure that their plan doesn’t end up derailing the economy, because that could create a lot more significant problems later. A strong economy gives a country the ability to do things and to do them effectively, to innovate and improve.
Buying an EV
For the readers of this website, this is probably one of the most obvious things I could possibly say. Buy an electric vehicle! Not only does it not produce CO2, but in the case of Tesla and some others: it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s extremely safe, and it’s completely environmentally friendly (Tesla is going to recycle its batteries in house and build new cars using renewable energy).
Supporting Elon Musk and his ventures — bring it up in conversations
This is something that might be more crucial than any of the above things that I mentioned. I really hate to sound like a fanboy, but the fact remains that his accomplishments made electric cars cool and desirable, and thus made solar roofs and energy storage cool to many people as well, including influential people. He dramatically grew demand for EVs and made the near-term future of solar more promising. What is also a fact is that this man tends to inspire people (and do stupid things every now and then, which causes drama but in turn also educates and inspires people). Any difficult change starts with embracing an idea, and an idea is also the hardest thing to kill.
Talk about an inspirational future, talk about your doom if you don’t realize that future, vote smarter, and buy cool clean tech. Our generation will make the difference. We can do this!
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