With Earth Day celebrations scheduled for later this month (April 22) it seems like an appropriate time to check on the sustainability/green movement and see what kind of shape it’s in. Here’s how I’m seeing it:
The developed countries are realizing that the rest of the world wants the economic lifestyle that we enjoy. And these countries – lead by China, India and Brazil – are also experiencing huge population growth. By mid-century our 7 billion people will have 2 billion more people to feed, clothe and shelter. Oh, and provide automobiles, consumer electronics, appliances...plus food and water.
If you think gas prices are volatile now, my guess is “we ain’t seen nothing yet” when it comes to energy of all kinds. Let’s not kid ourselves. The era of inexpensive carbon-based energy is over.
All the oil, natural gas and coal that is easy to extract is just about gone. That leaves us with deep-water drilling, tar sands extraction, fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for natural gas; and of course drilling in politically unstable and environmentally fragile parts of the world (Nigeria, Venezuela, Siberia, ANWAR, etc.). Add middle-east politics and the picture gets even uglier.
After the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami damaged several nuclear reactors, Germany took the bold step to phase out all of their nuclear power plants. Great news.
Closer to home, there is good news. As a society, even though half of Americans don’t believe in global warming, we are making real progress by developing hybrid and extreme fuel-efficient vehicles…a long way to go, but huge advances in the right direction.
Our homes are getting more energy efficient. So are our office buildings. Still lots of room for improvement, but the results are heartening and headed in the right direction. Let’s just speed things up a bit, though.
We have stalled a bit on solar and wind applications on individual buildings, but are managing to develop some pretty impressive large utility-grade wind and solar farms. Let’s keep it up. Hey, if the UK and Germany can make solar photovoltaic panels work in these traditionally cloudy countries, why can’t we get it together?
On the bad news side, the country’s water system is falling apart. It is estimated that old, broken and inefficient water systems waste enough every year to meet the needs of 60 million Americans. Ouch. My guess is that water will be the “oil crisis” of the second half of the 21st century.
In summary, my feeling is the green/sustainability movement isn’t running out of steam, but it sometimes feels like a game of “Whack-a-Mole.” Every time you feel you’ve made a little progress another nasty, moley problem pops up. But we’ll keep whacking, ‘em. Happy Earth Day.
Posted: 4/3/2012 11:44:42 PM by
Heather Wallace | with 0 comments