Sunday, April 24, 2011

Elevator Speech #7--inventing a sustainable future

Invention is hard.  That great inventor Thomas Edison is supposed to have said "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" and he may have been off by several orders of magnitude.  

When it comes to inventing a sustainable future, the inspiration part is pretty easy.  It is clear we must figure out a way to power our societies with the energy we can capture from the sun and live our lives so we produce no waste--toxic or otherwise.  So while the inspiration for building a green future falls into the "well, DUH!" category, actually pulling this off is so insanely difficult, we have mostly put off even thinking about it here in USA for the last 35 years.

Contrary to the picture of some lone genius achieving a spectacular breakthrough while armed with nothing but pure motives, green technology can only evolve out of the best methods already in existence.  Sustainable technology is by its very definition, a superior technology to what we already have.  Those working at technology's leading edge have a HUGE advantage in producing the next generation of improvements.

There are no primitive solutions to the technological problems that already exist.  There are no back-to-nature solutions—do you think our forebears worried about their waste products? or using up all the premium resources? or?  Well we have to worry about these things and romantic dreaming will never produce more than 1% of a solution for living gracefully in our crowded biosphere.  The rest is just organized hard work.

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