It has now been almost universally accepted that Global Warming is a thing. Not just a small thing, but perhaps the biggest challenge in the history of our species. The dispute now is about how to stop it, if we can at all.
It strikes me that the Sun is a source of (relatively) inexhaustible energy that constantly bathes our planet in it’s goodness. Yet now, well in to the 21st century, and with ample available technology, we still aren’t harnessing the full potential of our star.
Solar panels have been with us for years, in fact now you can even get windows which will produce electricity from the Sun’s rays. So why hasn’t this technology filtered down in to everyday use?
I’m sure this is true of every generation, but I consider myself to be amongst the ‘Early Adopters’ of cutting edge technology. Whether it be shiny new hardware or a disruptive new social network, I belong to the generation that places an immutable faith in progress. For me progress is adapting to your environment, it is the continuation of billions of years of evolution driven by the need to survive. Thanks to technology (whether it be agriculture or personal computing) we are no longer just surviving, we are thriving.
I recently discovered Boyan Slat, a 22 year old Dutch inventor and entrepreneur who has decided to try and do something to save the environment. He is focusing on the oceans, in particular the five trillion or more tonnes of plastic currently floating in our oceans and seas. For more information on Boyan take a look at The Ocean Cleanup.
What about the rest of us early adopters? For every Boyan Slat there are hundreds of millions of us who can’t make an impact individually. That being said, en masse we could really make a difference. From my experience solar panels are currently being installed on to a small proportion of houses across the UK, which raises two questions. Should all new builds (particularly big developments) be required to install solar panels, geothermal heating and wind turbines? When new houses are built they have to meet certain energy efficiency requirements, but why not take this further? The government could put in place planning restrictions that new builds have to be carbon neutral within ten years of being built (for example).
The second, and perhaps more interesting question is how this generation of early adopters can fit in. As I mentioned in my previous article “Generation Y“, we are a generation of renters and for the foreseeable future will not have own the properties where we can install our own solar panels. This technology needs to become more affordable, more portable and practical. I genuinely believe that we are the generation who can make a difference, as we are the generation most likely to pull together across international borders without the help of governments.
According to a recent report by the United Nations within a human lifespan the global population will rise to Eleven Billion. With our current life styles and demands on natural resources, we cannot continue as we are. Yes businesses, Governments and NGOs need to change their ways and lead the change, but we cannot rely on the human race producing more Boyan Slats and Elon Musks.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Mahatma Gandhi
From a purely moral standpoint, we are also a generation of materialistic, consumerism driven gadget lovers. It is our duty and our legacy to continue with this technological progress without turning our backs on the problems it causes.