As population increases, more homes need to be built. As population and consumption increase, so will our piles of garbage. So, it’s safe to say that in the future we need to build more homes and efficiently dispose of more garbage. How can we build more homes while putting less garbage into landfills? If you skeptically answered “build homes with garbage?” you are correct. The eco-brick is Susanne Heisse’s brilliant answer to alternative trash management. As founder of Pura Vida, Heisse designed the eco-brick out of a plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash that, when sufficiently stuffed, can be used as a building block for homes and schools. As of today eco-bricks have been used to build more than 200 schools and several homes throughout Central America. Watch this video and learn more about the super simple, super effective eco-brick.
Archive: Environment & Energy
Last week the Ten Conference drew quite the multidisciplinary crowd to the beautiful Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth. Given the innovative and futuristic nature of Ten, all types of people attend- from artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs to publicly traded people.
That’s right, Mike Merrill is the world’s only publicly traded person. From profession to obsession, you can skillfully orchestrate almost every part of this man’s life by purchasing stock in him here. Peter McGraw runs HURL, the Humor Research Lab that focuses on what makes things funny. Beth Kolko uses her company Shift Labs to design innovative health technologies for low resource communities. Shift Labs opts for a more forward-thinking approach to research, encouraging anyone with any background to send in their inventive ideas and solutions to fuel the search for solutions to global issues.
In fact, this cross-discipline collaboration mentality is a major theme throughout TEN. New York’s renowned DIY bio lab, Gen Space, is dedicated to promoting citizen science and access to biotechnology. Anyone with an interest in biotech can show up to learn and play. Actually the entire conference is separated into 10 categories with engaging titles like Hackademia and Makerspace that playfully urge you to have fun with science and technology. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the One to the World broadcast of TEN (coming soon) and be sure to show up next year!
Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute founder and author of “Reinventing Fire” is the first to give a presentation at this year’s Beyond Oil Conference, one of the first events to kick off Seattle’s Next Fifty month of commerce.
Lovins opens his presentation, aptly named Reinventing Fire, by asking us a question: “What if we had energy do our work without working our undoing?” According to Lovins, today 90% of America’s energy comes from non-renewable sources. Oil is risky. Prices yo-yo for both user and buyer, and at this point it’s costing the U.S. $6B per day. Add that to the environmental impacts and the fact that petroleum products are a finite resource and we have a problem. What’s the first step to fix the problem? Make automobiles oil-free. Technology makes electrification accessible. Lovins gives an example of an electric car that has only 14 parts, meaning 99% less tooling, 2/3 smaller powertrain, less time spent and eventually, less cost. In the end, Lovins asserts that first we need to get efficient and then we need to switch fuels, keeping in mind that electricity is key to the new energy era.
After other speakers remind us of electric trolley cars and the Bonneville Power Administration, John Boesel, CEO of CALSTART gives his presentation, entitled Multi-Fuel & Tech Future=Choice & Optimization. Boesel’s main objective is to explain and promote the EV Employer Initiative. This initiative encourages companies to offer their employees on-site electric vehicle charging stations. Google has some of their 300 parking spaces equipped with solar canopies and EV chargers. Not only does this make long commutes possible for electric vehicle drivers, but the charging stations also serve as workplace showrooms, inspiring conversations and informing more people about the benefits of electric vehicles.
Bob Lutz of GM talks about his love of electric vehicles, especially the Chevy Volt, and warns that as long as gas cars are cheaper to buy and run, driving electric will be a hard sell to consumers. In the end, Lutz affirms that accessible and affordable petroleum in its various forms will be around a long time before the long-term solution ultimately becomes electric cars.
Hosted by Event Chair Steve Marshall, Beyond Oil offers us a diverse array of professionals with interesting perspectives on the roles oil and renewable energies will play in the future. It’s safe to say this conference gives audience members plenty of valuable insight into the numerous possibilities that we face as we think about moving from oil to renewable energies like wind and solar power. I want to know how we can get Lovins’ presentation shown to all U.S. auto manufacturers and policy makers. And how do we provide irresistible incentives for companies to utilize the EV Employer Initiative? If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to share!
When we look to the future in the rest of this century among the trends that seem likely to be sustained are these two: people are moving to cities, and cities are the engines of economic prosperity. These two trends put increasing pressure on cities to become sustainable in every way – environmentally, economically, and as a human habitat. This year Canadian futurist and writer Dennis Walsh and I began a conversation about a book on the future of cities. As the conversation continued the concept moved toward a discussion of cities but more so of the personal choices we face if we are to make cities and by extension the planet a sustainable place to live. These choices loom large for young people as they shape their own lives, and, we hope, save the future. Now we are writing, and have decided to release the first draft of the book as a blog serial. Today we launch the first blog, chapter 1 part 1. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.
Right now we are debating about the eventual title. We have two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form.
CHAPTER ONE – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra
Is “making do” the best we can expect in our future? Is the future simply making the best of a bad situation? Will the way forward be reduced to finding a way out?
Caught in a gridlock of ideas, unable to turn back the clock and loathe to go forward, we stand at a crossroads between what is and what may still come. The boom times of the 20th Century and even the early 21st Century are over and the fantastic sci-fi future of our dreams is unlikely unless some one can come up with trillions of new disposable dollars.
What is at risk? Our theory in this book is that American cities and the people who may live in them are at a cross-roads of what could be life and death conflict over what the future city will look like. And there are questions of consequence.
Will society continue to emphasize exclusion or embrace inclusion? Will we pursue the positive and affirmative issues that unite us, or will we hang on to the fear and hate-based issues that divide us? Will we be a society in which corporations serve the interests of the people and local communities, rather than people serving and being subservient to their interests? Will we ever rise above the dead-end politics of us vs. them, and learn to embrace the politics of creating a greater us? Will the economic system carry on catering to the rich? Or will we come to respect environmental realities and honor the rights and welfare of ordinary people?
This book recognizes that a society, economy or country is neither great nor successful simply because it amasses the most wealth conceivable. The evidence is growing. No matter how high the GDP, a system that serves the interests of a scarce few at the expense of the many is a failure. A society that exploits unborn generations and the natural world on behalf of the 1%, is profoundly immoral. The future – if we are to have one worth living – belongs to you, the younger generation. The tide of history is changing. It is time to get ready; time to make choices. The most critical of these choices include, “how am I going to spend the rest of my life”, “where will I live”, “which career will I chose at this moment.”
Chances are you have already thought some or most of this through. You may have already processed much of the information we will discuss in this book. You have identified some of the problems. And that is good. But we will take you deeper, much deeper than you have gone before.
Some cities are considering whether or not to change course. For some it is too late. But the future is not all doom and gloom. There is hope. There are some obvious solutions for those cities willing to adapt and compete for people and for jobs. The new competitiveness that will take us into the future means that cities must learn to be great. That kind of greatness will take resilience and sustainability. It will mean being different, very different; distinctive in fact. To be distinctive, cities will become innovative and super connected. And that is where you come in. It is your time to shine. You are the wildcard.
To be truly great cities will need money and talent. Talent acquisition leads to investment that creates jobs. Companies locate where the talent is. It all comes around full circle. More people and jobs create wealthy cities. No wonder cities are trying to make themselves attractive to you, highly talented and skilled youth – a generation that does not buy into the status quo.
The system is failing (some might say has failed). You know it, and you have no interest in propping it up. Your future is a different world. The cities in which you will work and play “get it”; these cities will be cool. And those cities could be anywhere in the world. The cities that “get it” have already begun the cultural and economic changes that will redefine them in the competitive new world to come.
Your assignment – should you choose to take it – is to read this book and use it as a guide to help chart your future. This book will give you a better understanding of what the future holds; the cities (and careers) to avoid and which ones to explore so that you too can shine. Whether you are a college or university student, a 20-something just entering the workforce, or a young leader on your way up, we hope to tell you what we’ve learned through experiences that leave us dreaming of a better future that the one we are facing, and that lead us to hope that you do better. We believe that you will.
[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]
In his current novel, 2312, the writer Kim Stanley Robinson imagines a world 300 years from now in which the Earth has been significantly damaged by environmental and political disaster, so much so that many, many animals have gone extinct. We humans are still here, squabbling away. However, out in the rest of the solar system there now lives a diaspora of humans on the other planets and moons and in hollowed-out asteroids, all terraformed so that humans, and animals, can live there. Among the major projects of 300 years from now is to recreate lost species of Earth animals. Late in the book, humans of the solar system decide its time to do some terraforming on Earth, and so they dispatch tens of thousands of animals back to re-populate the Earth — wolves and reindeer, moose and whales, species after species being returned to see if they can make it now. Is this our future?
We are constantly inundated with information about the impact of humans on our planet’s environment and the future. But what impact will animals have on our future? For example, Americans consume almost 200 pounds of meat per person per year. Animals produce food for humans directly and indirectly, and with an ever increasing global population, we’re going to need more and more food. Can that be done with animals?
Not only do we eat animals, but they are important in other aspects of collecting non-animal food. Some of the smaller animals and insects naturally maintain other crops that we use for food. A frequently discussed example is the observation that bees are disappearing in various regions, probably due to a disease being spread among the bees. Why are bees important? “The bees (Aphis mellifera) are responsible for more than 75% of the World pollination and thanks to them we can provide about 35% of our diet.”
What about the way humans are farming and using animals as technology advances? The way we raise livestock is polluting the environment, producing a surprising percentage of greenhouse gases. “The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) served 51 pork production facilities throughout Iowa, North Carolina and Oklahoma with notice of intent to sue…[because] all of the facilities release more than 100 pounds and sometimes up to 10,000 pounds of ammonia into surrounding communities and the environment on a daily basis.”
Human use of animals may harm our environment, but its also affecting our economy. We spend a lot of money testing animals for research. According to PETA, “More than $16 billion in taxpayer money wasted annually on animal testing.” Some research is quite valuable to humans, helping us cure diseases and make other advances in medicine, but “The statistics show that last year, 35% of animal experiments were for fundamental biological research – much of it curiosity-driven, only 13% directly for human medicine or dentistry, and 43% of animal research was the breeding of animals with a Harmful Mutation or Genetic Modification (GM).”
Just looking at your dinner plate (yes, even you, vegans) it is obvious that animals large and small are going to be an important part of our future. We want to preserve the natural relationships of plants, animals, and humans, the entire ecosystem really. We should be trying to preserve the vast diversity of wildlife on the planet because they, too, are a part of the cycle of life on Earth. They need things from us (that Pomeranian won’t make it out in the wild without your help) and we need things from them (information, pollination, food). We should be striving to find a harmonious balance in our relationship with and use of animals so that we can imagine a positive future for people and for animals.