The Non CO2 Case for Sustainability, Part II: Excitement Matters

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I've been thinking some more about my post on the pros and cons of the non-CO2 case for sustainability. While I would stand by my assertion that we need to keep addressing climate change as a matter of urgency, I realized another key reason as to why CO2 cuts can't be our only goal. They aren't very exciting.OK - I may be being a little unfair here. Given the fact that the vast weight of scientific opinion asserts that climate change is real, I for one do actually find new innovations that cut carbon emissions quite exciting. (I kind of like a stable climate.)

But whether we are talking about massive kites propelling freight ships; high density vertical gardens; or solar power on a monumental scale—CO2 cuts are only a tiny part of what makes new environmental technologies and ideas so exciting. When compared to the rather brutish technologies of the fossil fuel era—which were in their own time both exciting and important—these examples, and countless others like them, offer a glimpse at a more elegant, nuanced and intelligent approach to technological innovation.

An intelligent, complex smart grid is inherently more interesting than its antiquated, linear, coal-fired predecessor. A house that generates its own electricity is more exciting than one that doesn't. A electric car that learns from its surroundings is much more desirable than one that is engineered as a "one size fits all" solution. An edible schoolyard full of delicious fruit is a way more nurturing environment than a concrete playground. (Or a cafeteria serving up fried crap, for that matter.) The list goes on and on.

We are living in an age of extreme challenges and opportunities. Just as generations before us created vast electrical grids, built entire industries from scratch, or got a man on the moon. So too, we now have an opportunity to shine. Sadly, there will inevitably be some folks who dismiss anything green as socialism.

But meanwhile there are thousands upon thousands of individuals, businesses (both big and small), co-operatives, non-profit groups and government agencies that are embracing the opportunity to move beyond the inevitably limited 20th Century paradigm of fossil fuel-based development and extractive industries to pursue truly innovative solutions for the new Millennium.

CO2 reduction is a hugely important part of the puzzle, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Limiting our emissions should not mean we should limit our imagination or our enthusiasm. In fact, it requires that we don't.

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