What could be more important than sustaining habitable living conditions on Earth? Climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental problems demand changes on an order of magnitude well beyond the trajectory of business-as-usual. And yet, despite accumulative social and technological innovation, environmental problems are accelerating far more quickly than sustainable solutions.
The design industry is one of many industries mobilising to address environmental imperatives. While sustainability-oriented designers are working towards change from many angles, addressing climate change and other environmental problems on this scale demands much more dramatic transformations in economic ideas, structures and systems that enable – or disable – sustainable design.
Put simply, designers cannot design sustainable future ways of living on scale without a shift in economic priorities. Human impacts on planetary processes in the Anthropocene require new types of ecologically engaged design and economics if the necessary technological, social and political transitions are to take place.
World making design
Design is crucial to this debate because it is key to the creation of future ways of living. Designers make new ideas, products, services and spaces desirable to future users. With the shape of a font, a brand, the styling of a product, the look and feel of a service, the touch of a garment, the sensation of being in a particular building, designers serve the interests of customers (generally, those with disposal income). They do so according the logic and modes of governance generated by what is valued by economic structures. Design is the practice that makes capitalism so appealing.
Designers make new products, services and spaces that shape future ways of living – and can use their skills to create sustainable options. But there is a dilemma here. The market rarely prioritises interests that do not pay the bills or otherwise bring capital to the table.
Design sits at the intersection of economic value and social values. Design transforms what economic systems value into new ways of living – which in turn produce certain types of social values. This work is generated by priorities in the design industry, driven by economic imperatives.
Blind spots in conventional economics
Traditional neoclassical economics was developed in an era when all knowledge systems essentially ignored ecological concerns. In conventional economics, value – which is created by generating profit and accumulating capital for owners and investors – is systematically extracted from the systems in which economic systems are embedded: the social and the ecological systems.
Contemporary economic systems reproduce this tradition by rewarding individuals and companies for using (and often exploiting) resources to generate profit, regardless of the ecological or social consequences. The extractive and exploitative dynamics of capitalist economics generate economies locked into accelerating climate change, species extinction and other severe environmental and social problems. This economic system continues to produce ever greater degrees of crises as planetary boundaries are breached in ever more extreme ways.
But there are economic alternatives. Heterodox economic theory (such as ecological, feminist and Marxist economics) challenges the assumptions of mainstream economics. It has shown how neoclassical and neoliberal economics produce unsustainable economies that consistently devalue the natural world, women’s work and the labour of other groups historically denied equal access to capital.
For example, the Iceberg Model depicts a feminist economic framework where non-market activities, including the unpaid labour that buttresses capitalist economics, are made explicit.
The challenges of the Anthropocene demand that we overcome the exploitative and anti-ecological biases in neoclassical and neoliberal economics. One popular alternative is Kate Raworth’s Donut Economics. This would prioritise both social justice and environmental sustainability to create a safe operating space for humanity. Unlike conventional economics, heterodox economics takes the ecological context and planetary boundaries into account – while also addressing the interests of historically disadvantaged populations.
Ecological economics and design
The design industry, like most industries, is governed by economic ideas, structures and systems. Economic systems determine priorities in design studios and design education – including whether or not designers can focus on sustainable solutions.
And so economic factors govern whether designers can direct their energies towards making sustainable ways of living possible – or not. Few of us are employed to do tasks that make it possible to respond responsibly to environmental circumstances because the current political economy is not oriented towards prioritising the preservation of life on this planet.
When the priorities of an individual designer who is oriented towards sustainability conflict with those of the design industry, which is often governed by an economic system oriented towards profit, the designer finds it hard to make a living. If sustainable solutions will not generate profits, they will not succeed in this economic system (without either government intervention or charitable support). The design industry does not systemically prioritise the needs of the environment within this economic system because the way value is generated in contemporary economics depends on the systemic dismissal of ecological priorities.
New design economies
Addressing this dilemma is a severe challenge. It is now evident that the economic system must be designed to reflect priorities and values associated with preserving habitable conditions on the planet. Climate change and other severe environmental threats require dramatic shifts in economic priorities. The fields of economics and design must be redirected so that economic services, structures and systems will support socially distributive and environmentally regenerative design.
Humankind already has the knowledge to make sustainable and socially just ways of living on this planet possible. What we do not yet have is the ability to make these transitions possible in the current political context. New types of design and economics could be a basis for systemic transitions.
Key to this transition is ecologically literate education in both design and economics. Both fields must be radically transformed to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene. With critical, ecologically-engaged design and economic education, new redirected design economies could facilitate sustainable transitions and make another world not only possible – but desirable.
We take it for granted, but concrete is the foundation (no pun intended) of countless buildings, homes, bridges, skyscrapers, millions of miles of highways, and some of the most impressive feats of civil engineering the world has ever known. It’s the most widely-used human-made substance on the planet.
It also happens to be incredibly bad for the climate. Portland cement, the most commonly used base (the goop that gets mixed with sand and gravel, or aggregate, to form concrete), is made with limestone that is quarried and then heated to staggeringly high temperatures — releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the process. Add to that all the fuel burned to mine and crush the aggregate, and you’ve got a climate disaster.
By some accounts, concrete alone is responsible for 4-8 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. And it’s only getting worse. Between 2011 and 2013, China used more cement than the United States used in all of the 20th century — about enough to pave paradise and put up a parking lot the size of Hawaii’s Big Island. Cement production worldwide could grow another 23 percent by 2050.
It’s no secret that we have already blown past the levels of climate-altering pollution that scientists warn could have catastrophic effects on life as we know it. We set a new CO2 record just last month, notching 411.66 parts per million of CO2 in the air in Mauna Loa, Hawaii — far higher than the 300 parts per million that is the highest humans have ever survived long-term.
But a solution on the horizon could switch up the math completely. A new method of creating concrete actually pulls C02 out of the air, or directly out of industrial exhaust pipes, and turns it into synthetic limestone. The technique, which has already been demonstrated in California, is part of a growing effort to not just slow the advance of climate change, but to reverse it, restoring a safe and healthy climate for ourselves and future generations.
It’s a massive undertaking, but if we change how we think about concrete, capturing a trillion tons of CO2 may not be so pie-in-the-sky after all.
Enter Brent Constantz, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and marine geologist, who once treated cardiovascular calcification and created bone cements (used in operating rooms to mend broken limbs) by mimicking the process that corals and shellfish use to create their own shells. His patents and products are used by doctors around the world.
Developing and testing new medical procedures was perilous work, Constantz said, although the drive to cure terminal illnesses outweighed many of the risks involved. That passion lead Constantz to launch a company in 2012 called Blue Planet, based in Los Gatos, California. Its goal is “economically sustainable carbon capture.”
The company’s technology, like his previous work, builds on the power of corals. Corals turn millions of teeny polyps into stunning, full-grown reefs through a process known as biomineralization, Constantz explained. Inspired by this phenomenon, he developed a similar “low-energy mineralization” technique that turns captured CO2 into the same bony stuff that corals secrete: calcium carbonate.
Blue Planet’s process starts with collecting CO2 and dissolving it in a solution. In the process, the company creates carbonate that reacts with calcium from waste materials or rock to create calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate happens to be the main ingredient in limestone. But rather than superheating it to create cement (which would release all that CO2 right back into the atmosphere), Constantz and his team turn the resulting stone into pebbles that serve as aggregate.
This is easiest to do where there’s lots of CO2 — smokestacks at factories, refineries and power plants, for example — but it can also come from “direct air capture,” using less concentrated air anywhere, a technology whose costs are rapidly declining.
Do this on a large scale, Constantz said, and you could help satiate the growing global demand for rock and sand, and make a massive dent in the climate crisis at the same time: Every ton of Blue Planet’s synthetic limestone contains 440 kilograms of CO2. While it still needs to be mixed with cement (the goopy stuff) to make concrete, using this in place of gravel or stone that needs to be quarried and crushed creates a finished product that is carbon neutral, if not carbon-negative, according to the company.
The annual use of aggregate is over 50 billion tons and growing fast. Making it from synthetic limestone instead of quarried rock could sequester 25 billion tons a year — meaning that, in 40 years, this solution alone could remove a trillion tons of CO2 from the air, enough to restore pre-industrial levels.
And while most other methods of sequestering carbon are good for only a short time, limestone is completely stable, Constantz said. “If we look at the Earth, there’s limestone that is millions of years old, like the White cliffs of Dover.”
Blue Planet’s limestone, created using emissions collected from the Moss Landing Power Plant on Monterey Bay and other sources, has already been added to concrete in areas of San Francisco International Airport. Constantz expects to open its first commercial production facility in the Bay Area within the year, producing a little over 300,000 tons of rock annually with C02 captured from an adjacent power plant’s exhaust stack.
Constantz dreams of having thousands of plants up and running by 2050, with most of the resulting rock being used by government agencies to construct roads and buildings. “Even the poorest countries in the world are still mining rock in open pit mines, and that’s an important aspect to what we’re doing,” he said. “There is already funding out there that is paying for rock. I’m not talking about increasing government spending a bit.”
The Foundation for Climate Restoration estimates that getting 30,000 Blue Planet plants running by 2030 would create enough CO2 removal capacity to remove all the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
The Foundation is part of a growing movement for climate restoration, whose goal is to restore a climate with a CO2 concentration below 300 ppm, and rebuild the Arctic ice. Those actions, its leaders say, will get us back to a climate more like the one our grandparents or great-grandparents lived in.
The bottom line? We’re inching closer toward an uninhabitable planet of our own making — even faster than once thought. To get ourselves back on track, we need to continue curbing our emissions to avoid making the problem worse. At the same time, we’ll need to remove a trillion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, says Peter Fiekowsky, Founder of the Foundation for Climate Restoration.
“We all want to restore a safe and healthy climate for ourselves and future generations,” Fiekowsky says. “Mobilizing commitments from diverse stakeholders is required for success in any global endeavor, especially one as important as climate restoration. The explicit goal is what makes restoration possible now when it seemed impossible before.”
This article is sponsored by the Foundation for Climate Restoration, a nonprofit partnering with local governments, NGOs and communities around the world to launch ecosystem restoration projects at restoration scale. Its Healthy Climate Alliance is an education, networking, and advocacy program to advance these goals.
Much of the focus on climate change mitigation, or pollution in general, tends to focus on energy production. However, in truth this is merely one of several sources of carbon emissions. Agriculture and land use changes tends to be the next biggest headline at about a quarter of emissions (which is actually arguably larger than it looks given the amounts of fossil fuels used in agriculture both by farm machinery and the production of fertilisers).
After that its the acquisition of raw materials (mining, refining and processing of base metals and minerals). And concrete, as one of the mostly widely used materials in the world, tends to figure quite highly in this category. And at almost every step in its life cycle concrete has an environmental impact.
As I discussed in a prior post, the world is running out of sand for concrete production. Hence, there’s now a whole series of “sand Mafia’s” emerging in the developing world to steal sand, so the issues with concrete goes way beyond just climate change. Then you have to transport all these ingredients long distances, which consumes a lot of energy (cos they are kind of heavy!).
And, at the end of the building’s life, when its demolished, you’ve got numerous environmental problems. Notably the disposal of masses of concrete rubble (at one point back during the boom in Ireland they did a survey and found that 4/5’s of all the material entering Irish landfills was builders rubble).
Of course, as an engineer I’d have to point out that there are good reasons why we use concrete. Its cheap, it can be moulded into complex shapes, its durable, easy to maintain and fire proof. Basically you can do your worst to a concrete building and it will still stay standing. Hell, there was even a concrete building close to ground zero at Hiroshima that took the full force of a nuclear blast and survived. And keep in mind, we’ve been using concrete since ancient times. So we need to move beyond the simple “concrete bad” narrative, same way plastics is a bit more of a complex issue than it seems at first glance.
While concrete can be recycled, its more a form of downcycling. That is too say, you’ll get a lower quality of concrete afterwards, so you can use it for say roads or backfill, but not build a new skyscraper from the stuff. Another alternative is to change the composition of the concrete, using other materials such as fly ash, shredded rubber, waste glass, etc. into the mix. The downside is that this is again downcycling, not recycling and its generally not going to have the same structural properties.
Hence why other more radial measures are being proposed, for example a concrete tax. I’d point out that perhaps the problem here is the short life cycle of many modern buildings. I’ve seen concrete buildings that are maybe only 20 years old getting demolished. Sticking a carbon tax on, with the condition that some significant portion is refunded if the building stays in use for some extended period (e.g. at least a hundred years), or that its design life allows it to last that long, would create an incentive to only use concrete where necessary and make sure those buildings are built to last (as well as a financial incentive to refurbish rather than demolish).
There’s also alternatives to concrete. Wood as a construction material is something I’ve previously discussed. And while there are structural limits and issues with fire safety that need to be addressed (as well as where you source the wood from of course), these aren’t insurmountable. And there’s also the option of steel framed buildings. Now while yes steel, like most metals, is very energy intensive to manufacture, it has one unique advantage over concrete (or wood for that matter) – it can be recycled with 100% material efficiency (i.e. virtually no waste). So encouraging steel framed construction would offer several advantages.
But as so often is the case with climate change we are confronted with a problem whose dimensions aren’t immediately apparent. And where there is no nice and neat one size fits all solution, just lots of hard choices.
Nearly 1.5m students around the world walked out of school on March 15 2019 to protest about the failure of the world’s governments to tackle climate change. The young climate strikers are forcing climate change onto the news agenda but researchers have warned that without a way to mobilise their passion in the long-term, the momentum they’ve generated for climate action could be lost.
In this first issue of Imagine, we asked academics how the strikes can translate into long-term impact. One researcher proposes directly channelling the energy of young people into climate action with a national service for the environment. Others tell us how youth enthusiasm can play an integral part in changing climate policy around the world – and what it all means for tackling this huge issue.
What is Imagine?
Imagine is a newsletter from The Conversation that presents a vision of a world acting on climate change. Drawing on the collective wisdom of academics in fields from anthropology and zoology to technology and psychology, it investigates the many ways life on Earth could be made fairer and more fulfilling by taking radical action on climate change.
You are currently reading the web version of the first issue. Here’s how this issue appears when sent to your inbox. To get new issues delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe now.
Climate change and the state of the planet in three graphs
Michelle Bloor, Principal Lecturer and Environmental Programme Manager at University of Portsmouth, argues that a volunteer force of conservationists could offer experience and training to young people and ensure there are eager applicants for the vital work of helping the world’s species and habitats most threatened by climate change.
Bloor groups the work a national service for the environment could cover into four categories:
Data collection – by surveying wildlife abundance or measuring water quality in lakes and rivers, volunteers could help scientists understand how ecosystems are changing.
Green construction – restoring wooded habitat could absorb carbon and create corridors which connect pockets of wildlife in fragmented habitats. Large-scale construction projects could involve volunteers working on habitat highways – green corridors which help wildlife cross road networks.
Species reintroduction – helping ecosystem engineers, such as beavers, return could help the process of expanding natural habitats. These animal recruits could create new dams and lakes, which provide new opportunities for more species to thrive.
Reforestation – humans have cut down three trillion trees since the dawn of agriculture – around half the trees on Earth. A mass reforestation effort would need plenty of volunteers worldwide, something a youth volunteer force could supply. In the UK, increasing total forest cover to 18% could soak up one third of the required carbon emission cuts needed by 2050, according to the 2008 Climate Change Act.
A conservation army of millions was active in 1930s America
The idea of enlisting millions of young people in conservation work is not new. It has origins in a public work relief programme from the 1930s. During the depths of the Great Depression and while the Dust Bowl ravaged rural America, US president Franklin Roosevelt implemented a series of reforms as part of the New Deal to implement a more sustainable land policy and revive economic growth. One of those reforms was the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It enlisted 3m young men who planted over two billion trees on more than 40m acres of land between 1933 and 1942. Their aim was to repair ecosystems throughout the US with hundreds of projects in forestry and conservation.
A national service for the environment would see individuals taking a direct role in mitigating climate change, but there is also an emerging political project aiming to capitalise on public support for action.
Radical climate action is now a feature of mainstream politics
The Green New Deal is a proposed series of reforms with three broad aims:
To eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from energy, transport, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy within ten years.
To create full employment in the manufacture of clean energy infrastructure and other essential work.
To redistribute wealth and tackle social and economic inequality.
Rebecca Willis, Researcher in Environmental Policy and Politics at Lancaster University says:
Alongside an aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable energy, the Green New Deal demands job creation in manufacturing, economic justice for the poor and minorities, and even universal healthcare through a ten-year “national mobilisation”, which echoes president Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.
The carbon price has to be incredibly high and cover a broad swathe of the economy to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Governments haven’t shown a willingness to do this and recent research suggests that even steep prices will not produce the deep emissions reductions required to limit global warming to under 2°C.
Job losses in sectors such as coal mining and manufacturing could erode popular support for a Green New Deal and harm the plan’s commitment to a just transition, he argues. A just transition is a commitment to ensure the costs of a transition from fossil fuels – such as tax rises and redundancies – aren’t forced on working people.
A universal basic income might offer citizens time to engage in fulfilling community-based work that doesn’t generate profit but which has social value. Taking them out of their cars in long lines of commuter traffic and putting them in allotments growing food or in parks enjoying nature could help usher a whole new way of life.
This is arguably the question most often asked of the Green New Deal. Edward Barbier, Professor of Economics at Colorado State University, says it does and has some suggestions:
Pass a carbon tax which will help raise money to pay for a transition to a green economy and also help spur that very change.
Passing a carbon tax is one of the best ways to go. A US$20 tax per metric ton of carbon that climbs over time at a pace slightly higher than inflation would raise around US$96 billion in revenue each year – covering just under half the estimated cost. At the same time, it would reduce carbon emissions by 11.1 billion metric tons through 2030.
But climate justice is still a grey area with the Green New Deal
While one of the central aims of the Green New Deal is to redistribute wealth and tackle social and economic inequality in the US, its impact on poorer parts of the world has perhaps been less discussed.
Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, says that climate justice must not end at the borders of a country implementing a Green New Deal. Otherwise, he states, the Green New Deal may become “the next chapter in a long history of US industrial policies that have oppressed people”.
Táíwò believes there is a risk that a Green New Deal could spark a race for vast territory on which to build solar farms or grow biofuel crops. In the process, historic injustices could be perpetuated through “climate colonialism”. He says:
A research institute reported in 2014 that Norwegian companies’ quest to buy and conserve forest land in East Africa to use as carbon offsets came at the cost of forced evictions and food scarcity for thousands of Ugandans, Mozambicans and Tanzanians. The Green New Deal could encourage exactly this kind of political trade-off.
Many of the measures proposed – such as investing in infrastructure and spreading wealth more evenly – will intrinsically work in tension with efforts to decarbonise the economy. They create dynamics that increase energy use at the same time as other parts of the Green New Deal are trying to reduce it. For example, building infrastructure such as new road networks will both create demand for carbon-intensive cement manufacture and opportunities for more people to travel by car.
The Green New Deal is already succeeding in putting climate action where it belongs, as the defining political issue of our time. How strange that we have the current US political environment to thank for this huge step forward.
Michelle Bloor believes that including her vision of a national service for fighting climate change within the aims of a Green New Deal could help galvanise support for the latter, by providing an outlet for some of the enthusiasm of young people who have taken part in the climate strikes. Building a coalition for radical climate action under the Green New Deal is likely to lead the ongoing strategy of the project. Bloor believes that mobilising the growing youth movement is a good place to start.
Gulf Times of Qatar in this ViewPoint dated February 26, 2019, elaborates on Climate Change, a clear risk and danger for investments that are not only increasingly apparent to all but very obvious especially where it hurts the most.
events are the most threatening global risks this year, the World Economic
Forum warned last month.
The financial sector has for long worried that a crisis could shape up from
growing climate risks. And insurers are increasingly concerned that rising
temperatures will lead to a slump in property values that could spark broader
In a report published last week, ClimateWise,
a group run out of the University of Cambridge including some of the world’s
biggest insurers, said increasing catastrophes linked to climate change could
triple losses on property investments over the next 30 years.
The warning adds to concerns raised by Munich Re last
month, which said a string of floods, fires and violent storms had doubled the
normal amount of insurable losses. Munich Re said global climate-related losses
may have topped a record $140bn last year, adding investors should look again
at whether they’ve properly accounted for rising damages from weather catastrophes.
The German insurer reported $160bn of losses from natural catastrophes last
year, some $20bn above inflation-adjusted averages in the previous three
Wildfires in California have just caused a corporate casualty of climate change
with utility PG&E Corp collapsing due to liability from two years of
When PG&E filed for Chapter 11 on January 29, it marked not just one of the
largest utility bankruptcies in history; it’s also one of the first tied to
PG&E, owner of California’s largest electric utility, made the move after
estimating that it faced a $30bn liability from wildfires whose intensity has
been blamed by state officials on worsening droughts linked to global
There are growing signs that global warming is causing noticeable dents in some
of the world’s largest and most sophisticated economies.
A protracted drought in Germany that made crucial waterways impassable to ships
shaved around 2 percentage points off growth in Europe’s largest economy in the
fourth quarter of 2018.
The US Defence Department last month warned climate change could compromise US
security, with rising seas increasing flood risk to military bases and
drought-fuelled wildfires endangering those inland.
In December, the Bank of England said it would force banks to make better
preparations for climate change after finding only a few had done so.
Make no mistake, the overheating planet is bad for the economy.
Rising temperatures could curtail the pace of US economic growth by as much as
one-third by 2100, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of
Richmond in mid-2018.
The climate impact could be disproportionately damaging to developing
The world’s 100 poorest countries could be 5% worse off by the end of the
century with climate change – wiping trillions of dollars from the global
economy every year – according to research findings by the University of Sussex and La Sapienza
economists in early 2018.
For sure, a collective global effort to enact stricter carbon emissions
policies is a must to deal with global warming concerns. For the financial
sector, not only should investors price in climate risks; but they need to
incorporate scientists’ climate projections into their own catastrophe models.
No matter what your beliefs, views, morals, ethics, economic principles, etc. are we all share in the desire to sustain life because we too are life. If you break down the word sustainability into its roots you are left with the words sustain and ability. So sustainability literally means the ability to sustain.
It does not mean electric vehicles, it does not mean wind power nor does sustainability mean banning plastic straws.
So if sustainability means the
ability to sustain then that poses a question, what are we trying to sustain?
Sustainability is solely about
The next question you may ask is “What
life are we looking to sustain?”
All life. From amoeba to fungi to
parrots to whales to squirrels to human life and more. When the goal of
sustainability is to sustain life then it becomes clear why ending our reliance
on fossil fuel matters, why electric vehicles make sense, why wind and solar
power makes sense, why banning plastic straws and all of the other things that
the proponents of sustainable movements are promoting matter.
Let’s look at a few examples of why a
number of the issues that the proponents of sustainability push back on
starting with the burning of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons,
primarily coal, fuel oil or natural gas, formed from the remains of dead plants
and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy
oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth’s crust over hundreds of
millions of years. In common dialogue, the term fossil fuel also includes
hydrocarbon-containing natural resources that are not derived from animal or
plant sources. The burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source of
emissions of carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases that allows
radiative forcing and contributes to global warming. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/fossil_fuel.htm)
As you can see burning fossil fuels
are not sustainable because they produce large amounts of carbon dioxide and
carbon dioxide is one of the main causes of climate change. If climate change
happens at the extent that scientists product that it will, life as we know it
will forever be altered. This also speaks to why electric vehicles are so
important. Fossil fuels also comes from sources that are not renewable such as
coal, natural gas and oil.
Electric vehicles rely solely on electricity,
while it is true that some of the electricity that is produced by electric
vehicles comes from coal-fired power plants, electric vehicles also don’t have
a tailpipe hence they don’t produce emissions and electric vehicles can
generate power when the driver applies the brakes.
Solar and wind power on the other
hand are completely renewable, free resources that are available to everyone.
Wind power makes complete sense to everyone as wind blows, a wind turbine
(think the blades on a windmill) captures the wind energy, then the power
generator inside the turbine spins and converts the wind that was captured into
usable electricity without burning any source of fuel or emitting any gas noe
harmful chemicals. Wind power is one of the simplest and most sensical sources
Solar on the other hand can be a bit
trickier to understand and is also an extremely effective energy source that is
free and limitless. Solar power gets generated due to sunlight hitting the
solar panel, the solar panel has a converter within it that is able to convert
the heat that the sun’s rays produce into energy. The energy that the converter
produces gets stored in a battery and the battery releases the energy to power
the home, vehicle, equipment, appliance or anything else that is attached to
the battery. Solar power eliminates the need for fossil fuels and yes while
there is an upfront cost in utilizing solar power the upfront cost often get
offset as many solar power systems generate more electricity than what is needed
to power the device, vehicle, appliance, equipment or anything else that is
connected to the battery and the excess power can be sent back to the power
grid. Power companies will often pay you for generating the excess power so
solar typically ends up being cost-neutral, profitable or close to it for the
person, entity, business or organization that produces it.
Banning plastic straws are an
interesting movement within the realm of sustainability. We all assume that
plastic straws are recyclable when in fact most cities, towns, municipalities
and recyclers cannot recycle plastic straws. Plastics as a whole are tricky to
recycle as only harder, non-stretchy plastics can be recycled by most recycling
facilities. Plastic milk containers, hard plastic water bottles (aquafina,
dasani, fiji), laundry detergent containers (when fully rinsed out), plastic
strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry boxes can be recycled by most
municipalities and over 90% of plastic items including crinkly plastic water
bottles (poland springs) and plastic straws cannot be recycled by most
China used to be a huge buyer of
plastics and even the plastics that municipalities often could not recycle from
many countries in the world including the U.S. were being sent to China.
Billions of pounds of plastic were shipped to China only two years ago, China
would then sell the plastics to companies that made recycled plastic products
and this was an extremely viable solution for the worlds plastics. Then China
stopped buying plastic from the rest of the world two years ago and the bad
news of this is that most of the plastics that cannot be recycled are now
getting dumped in the ocean. This is why you are hearing about the massive
efforts to clean up the plastics in the ocean as the gigantic volumes of
plastic in the ocean are literally killing fish, turtles, sharks, lobsters,
shrimp, whales and other marine life.
Plastic straws clearly do not sustain life, nor does fossil fuel, nor does conventional farming (I will get into more detail on this area in a later piece). No matter what your beliefs, views, morals, ethics, economic principles, etc. are we all share in the desire to sustain life because we too are life. If our air is too dirty to breathe and our water is too polluted to drink and there are no more fish in the oceans then we all suffer. So please take sustainability seriously because without it there is no life.