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The Planet is Not Our Slave


Umair Haque says the Planet is not our Slave and that If We Don’t Change our Broken Relationship with Nature, Climate Change is Going to Destroy Us.

The image above is of Udaimonia and Co.


The Planet is Not Our Slave

Pandemic. Megafire. Megaflood. It’s becoming clearer by the day, sometimes by the hour, that we live in an age of apocalypse. Twenty million are dead of Covid, and counting. “Climate change” — I mean global warming — is already making parts of places like California uninhabitable.

Apocalypse, as religious scholars will tell you, means “an unveiling.” Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a religious post. But it is going to be one about what’s being unveiled, revealed, to us, by this age of apocalypse. That’s something elemental, profound, and worrying — about us. On the deepest level. Who are we? Who are we here to be? What is the point of us, the human species?

Something has gone badly wrong, after all. But what?

As I think about it, what this age of apocalypse is beginning to reveal is that our relationships are broken — the deepest kinds of ones. Our relationships with nature, and with each other.

The easiest broken relationship to see is the one we have with nature. We are the worst thing to happen to planet earth since the meteor which wiped out the dinosaurs. Our effect is exactly the same — mass extinction, huge climatic shifts — only slower.

Why is our relationship with nature so broken? How would you describe our relationship with nature? It’s a master-slave relationship. We exploit, dominate, abuse, and ruin. Meanwhile, nature has no rights, self-determination, or inherent worth. The problem, though, is that nature wasn’t meant to be our slave, and reducing it to a position of slavery is ushering in an age of climate apocalypse.We don’t really have one. Nature is something to exploit, abuse, and discard. It’s a resource for capitalism to plunder and despoil and for us, as individuals, to consume.

Think for a moment about how profoundly wrong that is. I have a dog, like you might have a dog. My dog is a character. He has a personality all his own. His emotional life is easily as complex as mine, if not more. He is a far better person than I am — more caring, intimate, less capable of deception and folly. He is innocent in ways I am not.

Nature is like that. It is, above all, innocent. It has done nothing to be annihilated by us. And yet we justify it with the way that we see nature. Have you ever watched the show “Naked and Afraid”? In it, people are sent into the jungle, or the desert, and they try to survive. Yet what’s remarkable about the show is that they never, ever comment on how beautiful the night sky is, or how present life seems to be, or how awareness seems to permeate all things. No — the show is an exercise in paranoia and violence, not peace and gratitude.

I don’t mean that in what you might call, derisively, as David Brooks would, a “hippy-dippy” way. It’s true that nature can be brutal. But nothing in nature is as brutal as us. By and large, nature takes what it needs to survive. A tree grows its roots into the soil, and takes what water it needs to reach towards the sky. The animals drink from the lake — but they don’t try to take the whole ocean.

Only we do that. We’re gaining some kind of small awareness, these days, of how wrong colonisation and slavery were. Whose land was it? It wasn’t ours. But the native peoples, most of them, would have told you, and would still tell you: it wasn’t theirs, either. It was for life. All life.

My dog, a city dog, finds himself in the suburbs. And he’s baffled by human property rights. Totally baffled. Dad, why is that the neighbour’s yard? Who made this arbitrary line? How come that tree “belongs” to us — and this one, to them? Who made these crazy rules?!

The answer is: we did. We carved the world up into property, and then kept on carving it. Empires became nations. Slaves became peasants. But who does the world really belong to?

Nobody and everybody is the answer. The world belongs to all of us, and all of us really means all of us. Not just human beings. And so when I say our relationship with nature is broken, I mean it in not just intellectual ways, but pragmatic ones, too.

Why can’t we save the world’s ecologies? Take the example of the Amazon. It’s a net carbon emitter now, having been clearcut into oblivion. That happened because it was privatised and sold off. Capitalism and human property rights again.

We have to really learn to coexistWe can’t do that under the black spell of capitalism and property rights. It begins with the assumption that everything “belongs” to us, the human species, and the only question is which human gets it. Bezos? Zuck? You? Me? Capitalism’s assumption is that everything in the world is a commodity which belongs to human beings, for them to consume.

But we can’t survive as a civilisation that way. We have already consumed too much — several planet’s worth. At this rate of consumption, global warming will proceed even more apocalyptically. This? Megafire and megaflood? California and Canada on fire? This is one degree of warming, barely that. At two degrees, entire regions of the planet become uninhabitable. At three, the water turns to poison and the soil to dust. You don’t want to know what happens at four, which is that it automatically hits five, thanks to self-reinforcing feedback — it’s enough to know that most life as we know it can’t survive.

And so our civilisation’s systems collapse, as they’ve already begun collapsing. Air, water, food, medicine — all these things are becoming harder and harder to get. Tried to buy furniture or electronics recently? Not easy, is it? But this is just the beginning. Collapse of an incredible kind — history’s worst — happens in mere decades on the course we’re on. By the end of the century — that’s one human lifetime from now — the planet is unlivable for most life as we know it.

Do we want to be that being? The walking apes who destroyed the planet? The ones who were as destructive as the giant meteor which wiped out the dinosaurs? In geological time, we’re the same thing. A meteor happened overnight — we’ve been around for 300,000 years. Big deal — same difference. The earth will survive us. But we will have been a stain, a black memory, a fatal mistake of evolution.

We need to rethink our relationship with nature. And it needs to happen nowLet me give you another example.

Ever since I got Snowy, I find it difficult to eat meat. I’m not a saint, and I was a rank ignoramus before. Now? I see a little creature just like Snowy, full of character, emotion, personality, life, when I eat meat. I still hunger for it, on some physical level. But morally, emotionally, mentally? I’m repulsed by this act of taking a life needlessly. I feel a terrible sense of shame and guilt.

Who’s innocent? If we think about it, the only forms of life on planet earth which are pure, in the sense that they are genuinely nonviolent, are plants and some forms of bacteria. Plants take in sunlight — something inert. Some bacteria can feed on minerals. These are the only two beings on planet earth who do not need to consume living things in order to survive.

The rest of us? We’re trapped in a kind of living nightmare. We have to kill in order to live. We have to literally take life in order to have it. We have to eat something, consume it in the most naked way, in order to breathe.

This is a horrific place to be, if you think about it. It’s no wonder that it’s easier for us to pretend that we’re not doing terrible violence as we walk the well-lit aisles of some cheery grocery store. And yet that cheery grocery store is full of a false happiness precisely because it is the front for a vast machinery of death. How many animals does it take to feed us? Trillions.

This relationship, too, has to change. We have to consume far, far less, if we want to go on surviving as a civilisation now. That change probably has to begin with what we literally eat. The way that we eat, too, is symbolic of how we consume in generalMindlessly. Thoughtlessly. Selfishly. Stupidly.

The ancients had a far, far more mature relationship with nature than we do. They consumed what they needed, and drew the line there. They used all of what they took, in gratitude. They had a profound sense of justice towards nature.

Why? Because they understood they were at nature’s mercy. We don’t. We think we’re above nature. Still think that way, though? Or has that conviction been shaken, by the last year or so, of mega fire and mega flood?

Nature’s trying to wipe us out. Wouldn’t you, if you were her? I would. We’re the worst thing to happen to the rest of life on this planet.

Why do we think we’re above nature — so far above it, that we can take as much as we want, exploit it, abuse it, kill it off?

This mistake goes back. Way back. To the Enlightenment, or monotheistic religion, or both, take your pick. I have religious cousins — very religious ones. Their entire lives are lived to please a deity, not to coexist with anyone or anything else. When they see Snowy, they have a strange reaction — they think he’s dirty and unclean. Not just physically, but existentially.

They don’t even care that this is offensive to me, because, well, I adore the little guy. For them, it’s salvation that matters. Why do they think Snowy’s existentially unclean? Because their monotheistic religion teaches them — as all of them do — that animals don’t have souls. So where do animals go, in this scheme of things? Well, either to hell, or nowhere, because they never existed at all.

It’s patently ridiculous to tell me that my best friend doesn’t exist. That he doesn’t have a soul. Of course he exists — he’s sitting right next to me. Of course he has a soul — it’s a bigger soul than most people I know, full of laughter and grace and courage. Think of how brave the little guy has to be to live with us. He’s ten inches tall.

Soul? I don’t know anyone braver — or more loving — than our dogs, my friends. And yet they tell me that the animals are going to hell.

Are you kidding me? How can you believe that? I’m sorry if you’re religious, but I have to draw a line somewhere. An ideology which says: “all the countless trillions of creatures on this planet except you are not really worthy” is basically fascism. I’m sorry, and there, I finally said it.

Monotheistic religion began this strange way of thinking. The ancients didn’t think this way. For them, not only did animals have souls, but all of nature did. Greeks were just of many ancient cultures to deify nature. The Egyptians did too. Most ancient cultures had such an intimate relationship with nature that “becoming” an animal, in a vision, with the help of a hallucinogen, was considered something divine, something elevated — not something subhuman and degraded, like we do. That’s telling. Of how broken our relationship with nature really is.

The Enlightenment continued the mistake monotheistic religion had made, of subjugating nature, of degrading it. The Enlightenment picked up where monotheistic religion had left off. Animals couldn’t “reason” and employ “logic.” And therefore they were inferior. Enlightenment thinkers loved to build hierarchies, and in them, human beings — “white” ones, because they’d just invented the idea of “race” — were on top, the most “rational” of all. Below them came other “races”, “yellow”, “red”, “black”, and so on.

But there are no yellow or red people, for Pete’s sake. Enlightenment thinkers at this point were literally making things up. What a stupid, stupid tragedy that we still believe them.

But their hierarchies didn’t stop there. Below the inferior “races” came the “animals.” In descending order of reason, too. And since then, that’s the way we’ve come to see the world.

The more “rational” a being is, the more they deserve dominion, power, and control.

Only now, that entire worldview is being revealed as a lie — in a kind of grand, morbid, ironic joke. What was “rationality,” to Enlightenment thinkers? It was self-advantage, basically. Being able to amass and acquire and outwit. It wasn’t just putting cause to effect, but the idea that all that could be employed in profit. Hence, capitalism was the great outcome of Enlightenment thinking.

But if rationality is the maximisation of one’s own advantage — then the ugly endgame is before us nowWhat kind of world does that form of “rationality” lead to? A world where Bezos or Zuck could vaccinate the entire planet — but don’tA world where billionaires own the entire American working and middle class, keeping them in perpetual debt. A world where the human “race” goes on consuming as much as it can, as fast it can — even if destroys its own civilization.

“Rationality” of this form — consumption maximization — turns out to be the most irrational thing of all. Short-sighted, narrow-minded, foolish. The ancients knew it. They weren’t dumb, they just weren’t interested in this way of thinking. They saw where it would lead, which is to human beings acting like locusts, like viruses, like dishonourable and mindless things. Even locusts and viruses have limits to their appetites. Do we? The ancients did not want to go down this road. They saw where it would lead. Nearly every ancient contains a stark prohibition against “rationality” as selfishness and consumption maximisation, as materialism and invididualism — most have complex norms against this mindset. Just think of complex forms of egalitarianism like gift economies or moral codes like Ubuntu.

We are at the end of this way of thinking. And that’s a good thing. Because the price has been steep. Regarding nature as something inferior, stupid, worthless — meat to be consumed — has had a terrible price for us, too. We’ve grown alienated from nature. Our own nature.

What are we? Above all, we’re social beings. We’re not the lone-wolf apex predators that American pseudo-science makes us out to be. We can try to be that, which is what American culture wants everyone to be, but we’re not happy that way. We’re not happy, fulfilled, or ennobled as idiots who carry guns to Starbucks and consume everything in sight with abandon. We just end up like Americans — lonely, dumb, angry, and self-destructive.

We need to become very different kinds of people now. Full of gratitude and love and respect for all of lifeAll of it. From the tiniest creature to the greatest. Rationality can’t be the measure of a creature, because it’s only made fools of us. It’s only led us to self-destruction and ruin, the idea that a person, a nation — or a species — should only be in it for themselves, their own gain, profit, advantage. We need to rethink our relationship with nature from that perspective. It needs to become one of investment, not consumption, which means giving back, nurturing, nourishing, protecting, guiding, coexisting — not abusing, violating, and dominating.

Can we be that thing, that being? I don’t know. Nobody knows. The ancients and the primitives wanted to be those beings. But modern societies came along — and killed them off. With efficiency, with productivity. By instilling this insatiable appetite for mindless consumption, TikTok style. Maybe, in the end, that’s what we’re destined to be, by our primate brains.

This century tests all that. Who we really are, can be, want to be, in this world. The truth and essence of us.

So far, though, I have to wonder — are we even trying to be any different from the violent, stupid, selfish, self-destructive, walking apes capitalism and patriarchy and empire, all those old systems of domination, violence, and violation, want us to be?

September 2021

“New Normal” brings Digital Transformation in the Built Environment


Construction Week of September 8, 2021, shows us how the “new normal” brings digital transformation in the built environment in an article by Mina Vucic. It is no more than a step however small but lucrative and most importantly in the right direction. Here is how it is.

How the “new normal” brings digital transformation in the built environmentan article

Asite speaks on changing the ways in which cities operate by “using technology to enhance collaboration through data sharing”.

Middle East cities have been leading the way in smart city development, acting as pioneers in implementing innovative, sustainable, and integrated solutions to become greener, more efficient, and better places to live. 

Disruption and innovation have changed the way specialists think and operate across sectors, particularly in the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed most industries out of their comfort zone and into digitally-enabled environments.

Nathan Doughty, CEO of Asite Solutions, commented on the topic at the BIM Middle East 2021 Conference & Expo, held on 6 and 7 September at the Crowne Plaza Dubai hotel.

Doughty said that in order to effectively drive the digital transformation of cities, the industry should focus on enhancing the precision of structural data.

He added: “The number one method we should be prioritising in order to achieve our goals at corporate, governmental, and global levels is using technology to enhance collaboration through data sharing.”

Some of the examples Doughty shared in the real world include COVID-19 track and trace systems, satellite-based navigation, social media in smart cities, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and most importantly off-site construction and BIM.

Placing his focus on the modern construction methods Doughty emphasised: “In order to retrofit and repurpose the assets we must focus on creating energy-efficient buildings, decarbonise the built environment, and improve digital infrastructure’s operational efficiency.”

According to Asite’s CEO, one of the key methods to achieve those goals is to drive the circular economy, designing out pollution, keeping materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Doughty added: “We must emphasise the use of digital technologies on smart buildings, embedding sensors, gathering data, and analysing the information received to make informed decisions.”

Although the pandemic has challenged the traditional methods of construction, many organisations are now adopting BIM in the industry, providing a platform of know-how that can be built on for future technologies and more sustainable cities.

The Economic Cost of Climate Change


The article on the Economic Cost of Climate Change being six times higher than previously thought, published by UCL though alarming cannot be closer to the drastic reality of today. Here it is.

Economic cost of climate change could be six times higher than previously thought

6 September 2021

​​​​​​​Economic models of climate change may have substantially underestimated the costs of continued warming, according to a new study involving UCL researchers.

Published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the international team of scientists found that the economic damage could be six times higher by the end of this century than previously estimated.

Projections like this help governments around the world calculate the relative costs and benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, prior analysis has shown that the models used may ignore important risks and therefore underestimate the costs.

Currently, most models focus on short-term damage, assuming that climate change has no lasting effect on economic growth, despite growing evidence to the contrary. Extreme events like droughts, fires, heatwaves and storms are likely to cause long-term economic harm because of their impact on health, savings and labour productivity.

The study authors first updated one of the three climate-economy models used to set the price of carbon for national policy decisions, then used it to explore the impact of year-to-year climate variations and the rates of economic recovery after climate events.

The study shows that by 2100, global GDP could be 37% lower than it would be without the impacts of warming, when taking the effects of climate change on economic growth into account. Without accounting for lasting damages – excluded from most estimates – GDP would be around 6% lower, meaning the impacts on growth may increase the economic costs of climate change by a factor of six.

Yet, there is still considerable uncertainty about how much climate damages continue to affect long-term growth and how far societies can adapt to reduce these damages; depending on how much growth is affected, the economic costs of warming this century could be up to 51% of global GDP.

Study co-author Dr Chris Brierley (UCL Geography) said: “We don’t yet know exactly how much effect climate change will have on long-term economic growth – but it’s unlikely to be zero, as most economic models have assumed.

“Climate change makes detrimental events like the recent heatwave in North America and the floods in Europe much more likely. If we stop assuming that economies recover from such events within months, the costs of warming look much higher than usually stated. We still need a better understanding of how climate alters economic growth, but even in the presence of small long-term effects, cutting emissions becomes much more urgent.”

The researchers also updated the model to take advances in climate science over the past decade into account, as well as the effect of climate change on the variability of annual average temperatures – both of which increased the projected cost of climate change.

The authors calculated the effect of these changes on the ‘social cost of carbon’ (SCCO2), a crucial indicator of the level of urgency for taking climate action that calculates the economic cost of greenhouse gas emissions to society. Expressed in US dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide, estimates currently vary greatly between $10 to $1,000. However, when taking more robust climate science and updated models into account, this new study suggests that the economic damage could in fact be over $3,000 per tonne of CO2.  

“Burning CO2 has a cost to society, even if it is not directly to our wallets. Each person’s emissions could quite well result in a cost to humanity of over $1,300 per year, rising to over $15,000 once the impacts of climate change on economic growth are included,” Dr Brierley said.

While the findings show large uncertainties, the central values were found to be much higher than policymakers currently assume; the US government, for example, currently uses a social cost of carbon of around $51 per tonne to judge the costs and benefits of projects linked with greenhouse gas emissions, whilst the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which covers power, manufacturing and aviation, recently exceeded €61 for the first time.

Study co-author Paul Waidelich (ETH Zürich) said: “The findings confirm that it is cheaper to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than it is to deal with climate change impacts, and the economic damages from continued warming would greatly outweigh most costs that could be involved in preventing emissions now. The risk of costs being even higher than previously assumed reaffirms the urgency for fast and strong mitigation. It shows that choosing to not reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an extremely risky economic strategy.”

Former UCL MSc student and study lead author, Jarmo Kikstra (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Imperial College London), said: “It is very difficult to calculate the overall costs of climate change, but increased scientific evidence has improved economic estimates. Climate science on this has improved a lot over the past decade, and the improvements we made with the science do not change the order of magnitude of cost-benefit estimates.

“However, we are much more uncertain when it comes to how the economy will respond to future climate impacts. We reveal that if we look more closely at the lasting impact the climate can have on economies, we find that the costs might increase many times, depending on how much climate action we take.”


Credit: iStock.com/claffra

How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?


This paper written by Rory Quick is the winning submission of Arab Reform Initiative 2021 Student Essay Contest. It is about how can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA.

The above picture is for illustration and is of the BBC.

How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?

Decarbonising the current energy system does not secure a sustainable future if challenges beyond carbon emission are ignored and the economic model which continues to exacerbate the challenges we face is not rectified. Genuine environmental reform requires an intersectional approach, one which does not just patch over problems but instigates reform. The socio-political and environmental crises we face are symptoms of the same problem and must be treated as such. In order to reach a sustainable future, policies should resolve current issues without creating or exacerbating existing challenges. If there is a reason for social movements to exist, it is to challenge dominant values as flexible and changeable and to offer alternative ways to live. Across the MENA region, there are growing calls – from experts and activists – for reform in the region to simultaneously deal with wider socio-political issues whilst decarbonizing energy systems.

In the MENA region, states are preoccupied with developing renewable energy (RE) at large scale. Examples include Morocco’s Ouarzazate Noor Solar Plant and Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. This is an extension of the existing energy model. Megaprojects are political as much as economic projects. They support exclusionary political regimes and enable states to strengthen existing socio-political systems, and thus further reduce the political autonomy of the individual. Energy megaprojects are projections of state centralization, as they require no input from the localities in which they are placed. They therefore actively reduce political freedom. An alternative model – the decentralised RE model – allows for ownership and operation of RE to remain in the communities where it operates. Solar and wind technology is scalable, whereas previous technology was not. This allows for the creation of an energy system that is not only sustainable but also democratically owned and designed, and socially just. A decentralised system, whereby individuals have a direct say in how their energy systems operate, is vital in ensuring energy justice is achieved alongside climate justice.

The structure of energy systems has wide-reaching cultural, socio-political, and economic impacts. MENA activists must understand energy as a critical tool for advancing environmental, political, and social justice causes. Since the energy technology installed today will operate for years to come, we face a once-in-a-century opportunity to build a fairer and greener system. Efforts should be focused on:

  • Increasing awareness and education on the improvements a decentralised energy system would bring to communities across MENA
  • Encouraging the introduction of regulation allowing for/encouraging the installation of RE at the community level.
  • Growth of locally led organisations supporting community ownership of RE assets, developing frameworks which can be implemented across the region.

The barriers to consumer ownership of RE are political, legal, administrative, economic, managerial, and cultural. Activists must recognise that developments are needed on a number of fronts simultaneously.

Centralised model of REDecentralised model of RE
Understanding of energyA commodity, the enabler of capital accumulation and economic expansion.A resource to be democratized and harnessed according to societies needs.
ObjectiveDe-carbonise the existing economy. Separate the climate crisis from the economy, implying that it can be resolved without addressing socio-economic problems, and vice versa.Transition to a de-carbonised representative economy which better serves the needs of all. Socio-political and climate issues are linked, highlighting the incompatibility of globalised capitalism with the Earth’s ecological limits.
SolutionSubstitute fossil fuels with RE to allow for de-carbonised capitalism.Reduce greenhouse gas emissions using market mechanisms and new technology, within the current structure of corporate economic and political power.Replace the globalised capitalist system with sustainable economic development to meet the needs of humanity rather than the needs of capital accumulation.  Create an alternative socio-economic order based on principles of individual/community autonomy, with an energy platform that displaces the corporate energy establishment.
 A table comparing the two prevailing views in RE transition theory. 

Jordan’s energy transition thus far is a strong example of a socially just energy transition. Regional activists should seek to replicate aspects of its regulatory and policy framework into other regional energy systems. In 2015, Jordan financed the installation of 400 household solar PV systems. Each system ranges from 1 to 4 KW in size. The government grants loans to homeowners in rural communities, who pay back the loan with the money they otherwise would have spent on their energy bill.  Once the loans are repaid, the ministry re-invests the money into other homes. This shows how decentralised RE systems are possible in the MENA as long as sound regulation, created in a supportive political environment, is in place.

However, most examples of MENA RE uptake instead show a reliance on highly-technologically developed systems without the development of any policies which allow for decentralisation. Attempts to deal with climate change independent of ethical, moral and political entailments, relying solely on technical adjustments, obfuscate the simple realization that not only the fuels used but also the very system in place are not sustainable. This mindset remains prevalent across MENA.

Decentralised RE would enable individuals to have a greater say in how their energy systems operate, bolstering socio-political autonomy which is currently lacking. Interacting with energy systems in this way will also teach the importance of individual/community responsibility for reducing energy consumption, a related environmental problem across MENA states. Greater awareness of how decentralised energy can support decentralised politics need to be established. Activists have a crucial role to play in educating and building a broad-based inclusive movement.

Just transition plans have been implemented in several localities and at the State level across the world. Support is growing for legislation which supports decentralised transitions in many countries. Activists should campaign for the inclusion of energy democracy theory into university curriculums, as well as featuring in the work of global RE institutions based in MENA countries such as the IRENA.

Given the existential threat we now face, largely due to burning fossil fuels, our relationship with energy systems must be reevaluated. Across the globe, community owned RE revolutions are underway and are possible where robust political and legal regulation is in place, combined with public support and the existence of local organisations committed to the development of such systems. The development of such frameworks is where not only environmental but social justice and political activists should focus their efforts, once awareness of the role that energy systems could have in empowering change has been established. Policy makers must be informed that publicly financed and owned RE are a win-win for individuals and for the climate. Concerned citizens must push for policy changes that allow for such a system to be developed.

Activists should also recognise the favourable conditions the region’s urban environments offer for building a publicly owned and managed decentralised energy system. Promoting energy democracy at the municipal level will create a base to drive change on a national scale.  Decentralised urban systems will also reduce the requirement for further energy megaprojects.

As in political activism, proponents of energy democracy must remember the importance of broadening the scope of democratisation rather than implementing democracy outright. Examples of structures conducive to greater participation in energy policy include individuals deciding on wind turbine locations or consumers deciding the prices of their municipal energy supplier. Reformation of energy systems takes time.

Activists must develop organisations which support community ownership of RE assets. These organisations should offer managerial and financial advice to individuals/communities based on sound understandings of regional and national regulations. Such organisations have a major role in catalysing a decentralised energy transition and will prove instrumental in determining the form of transition that takes place. With decentralised energy systems, each locality’s requirements will be unique. However, regional dialogue is imperative in terms of facilitating learning and development opportunities, as well as providing a support base and showcasing successes as they arise. Again, activist efforts are needed not only to set up such organisations but also to sustain and develop them as the transition progresses.

The transition away from fossil-fuels is an important component of the fight against climate change. Yet what is often overlooked is the centralised ownership and control of energy by corporate and state actors. This overwhelmingly favours electricity generation for the sake of profit, instead of human and ecological realities. Those who are most directly impacted are excluded from ownership and circles of decision-making. In order to create a more sustainable society, this needs to change.

The view of ‘energy as commodity’ is prevalent today even as the energy industry transitions to RE sources. Transition is inevitable, justice is not. Meaningful environmental reforms must recognise the intersectionality of the problems we face. A decentralised energy system will not only establish a sustainable energy system quickly and efficiently but will simultaneously alleviate socio-political grievances, symptoms of the same system causing the environmental degradation activists seek to solve. Proponents of decentralised energy must recognise the widespread benefits these systems offer and thus lobby the support of a wide network of individuals, activists, and communities across the MENA region.

Rory Quick is a Masters student, Economics and Policy of Energy and Environment, University College London

Rory is a recent graduate from the University of Exeter, where he read Arabic and Islamic Studies, and is currently studying for a masters in Economics and Policy of Energy and Environment at University College London. He enjoys all things MENA and seeks to combine this with a passion for renewable energy and sustainability.

Heimdal: Startup for the Environment


This article by Tech Times written by Isaiah Richard is about how Heimdal: a Startup for the Environment aiming at a high level of sustainability, is proposing to help in the carbon-free industrial materials like cement, concrete, limestone, and more. from extraction to production. Here it is.

(Photo: Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Steam and exhaust rise from the steel mill HKM Huettenwerke Krupp Mannesmann GmbH on a cold winter day on January 6, 2017 in Duisburg, Germany. According to a report released by the European Copernicus Climate Change Service, 2016 is likely to have been the hottest year since global temperatures were recorded in the 19th century.

Heimdal describes themselves as “decarbonizing industries and the world,” and the main goal of the company is to create materials that people can use without guilt or worries. Why is that? Because its industrial products would be carbon-negative or carbon-free.

This is something that has been achieved before, but what Heimdal aims to debut is the novel.

Heimdal’s focus is to extract different raw materials from the Earth using their renewable energy source and creating what people need without leaving any carbon footprint. Cement and concrete production are known to be major contributors of greenhouse gases in the world, something which startups try to change.

There is a lot of focus which the company aims to venture on, and according to Tech Crunch, it would potentially help in preserving the environment with its efforts. Heimdal demonstrates a high level of sustainability from its extraction to production, something which is not widely that practised in the industry. 

Heimdal Carbon-Free Industrial Materials

Erik Millar and Marcus Lima founded Heimdal, and this is something that the duo has brought with them upon completing their studies at Oxford University, United Kingdom. Heimdal aims to bring carbon-free industrial materials like cement, concrete, limestone, and more. 

Its main focus of using seawater and CO2 can help in bringing these said industrial materials, which aims to remove the dangerous greenhouse gas from the equation. The company engineers are working on ways to do this, particularly with a design from the founders to extract energy from seawater. 

Heimdal Renewable Energy

(Photo : Jason Weeks from Pixabay)

One of Heimdal’s main focuses as well is to extract energy from seawater, and it would alter the components to several stages such as making it alkalinized. After which, several gases are extracted, and here, they return seawater to its source.

From this process, Heimdal can collect the raw materials it needs to start on its limestone making while using clean and renewable sources of energy to do so. The venture of the company hits two birds with one stone, and can potentially reduce significant uses of raw materials in the environment. 

Related Article: ‘Green Steel,’ aka Carbon-Free Steel, Has Come Sooner than Expected

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