"Technology Won't Save Us!"

It’s true – technology alone won’t get us far. AND YET without it, we’re hooped. 

"Technology Won't Save Us!"
Photo by Alex Knight / Unsplash

Over the past year, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time reading and posting articles about the different types of “green” technologies that are currently being developed to help combat climate change and facilitate our transition to a clean-energy, sustainable future. 

A common response I sometimes see in the comments to such articles is the frustrated complaint by environmentally minded folk that “technology won’t save us” – and that trusting in science and industry and the invisible hand of capitalism to rescue us from the existential danger we pose to ourselves and the planet is fatally stupid. 

And the people who say that are right! 

Technology alone will never save us. 

AND YET without technology, we’re hooped. 

There’s simply no way for us humans to decarbonize society and forestall the worst impacts of climate change without rapidly developing and deploying new technologies across all aspects of our lives. 

We can’t just give up our modern toys and conveniences and go back to the “good old days” 😬 of pre-industrial society. (Unless you’re cool with billions of people dying.) 

The way we build our infrastructure has to change

The way we get from place to place must evolve. 

The way we power our homes, tools, and vehicles must change. Same goes for the materials we use to make stuff and the nature and composition of the tools and devices we use in our daily lives. 

It’s not a matter of doing without. It’s a matter of doing things SMARTER. 

It’s societies recognizing the massive amounts of waste (both in terms of materials and energy) we throw away as the often valuable resources they are – and creating systems that allow us to easily reclaim and reuse what we already have. 

It’s companies figuring out how to make fully recyclable products... industries shifting to embrace waste-free production paradigms... and economies evolving to make circularity a profitable model for companies to follow. 

It’s cities figuring out how build infrastructure that better serves the needs of their residents – and consumers buying fewer, better products and minimizing their impact on the environment as possible (and industries making it financially feasible for consumers to make such high-value, low-impact purchases).

So yeah. It’s a lot. 

And making all of these shifts happen in a just a few short decades is going to require a ridiculous amount of technological innovation and evolution.  

The good news is, so much of that technological innovation is already happening. 

Experts believe we already have much of the technology we need to fully decarbonize the world by 2050

All we need is the public pressure and political willpower to make it happen. 

THAT is why technology alone won’t save us. 

We need massive amounts of people power, too. 

Because it’s clear we can’t rely on politicians and people in positions of power to do what’s best for the rest of society purely out of the goodness of their hearts. Not when they’re just as prone to human frailties such as greed and selfishness and egotistical self-delusion as anyone else. 

We have to compel them to do it. We have to help them see how their actions will benefit THEM as well as everyone else, even when their fears and worst instincts are telling them otherwise. And the only way we can do that is through very loud and sustained public pressure

We, the people (yes, I know, cringey but true) have to pressure governments to create legislation that requires businesses and industries to do what’s best for humanity and the planet, not just for their shareholders. We are the ones who must pay attention and ensure that the government actually enforces those laws and regulations – and that those who break them are held to serious account.  

And for us to be willing to make the effort and exert that sustained pressure and oversight, we must have hope that our efforts will pay off. 

But if you follow the news these days, hope can be hard to find. 

There’s so much focus on the problems and dire predictions associated with climate change – and rightfully so, given how significant they are. 

However, it often seems like there’s not nearly as much of a focus on the solutions. 

Because there ARE solutions. So many of them! 

There is a TON of progress that’s being made in different industries and societies all over the world to combat the effects of climate change and transition to a green-energy economy. 

If you see what’s been happening in the development of renewable energy and green concrete and green steel and plastic alternatives and more efficient batteries and energy storage systems – not to mention the massive adoption of EV use in recent years or the legislation being enacted by governments around the world to incentivize green tech development and wean companies off their unhealthy fossil fuel habits – there’s SO MUCH to be hopeful about. 

Of course, saying “yay technology!” isn’t enough to effect lasting change. 

Especially when we're still in the hazy grey area of progress where even though the adoption of renewables and other sustainable technologies is growing faster than many experts anticipated, the use of fossil fuels and amount of greenhouse gases being released into the environment are still increasing as well.

The slow pace of change can make even the most determined optimist despair at times. But that's the thing about systemic change – it proceeds in fits and starts and takes place across a vast network of participants and locations, so it can be difficult to see as it's happening.

During those uncertain times where it seems like nothing is changing or that we've been moving consistently backward, the thing that will keep us putting one foot ahead of the other is hope.

That's why it's so important to remember that real progress is actually happening – and so much more is possible – across so many sectors of society.

Because when people believe that something is worth fighting for and actually doable, they will be far more likely to DO IT. 🤘

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