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Wednesday
Apr162014

Years of Living Dangerously

Until I saw the Showtime documentary Years of Living Dangerously I never knew there had been a terrible drought in Syria for 4 years running up to the current brutal civil war.

No one suggests that this was the only reason for the unrest but only a fool would say it had no effect on the problems there.

I also realised a couple of things that relate to writing dystopian or utopian fiction, a thing I am battling with on a daily basis.

Making a documentary series about climate chaos and the socio-political upheaval that will follow, showing horrendous images of human stupidity and waste is easy.

I’m not saying the producers of this brilliant documentary series have done a poor job, far from it, it’s very well put together, the presenters are heartfelt and serious and what they are questioning and challenging is vitally important.

They confront public attitudes with a torrent of peer-reviewed information about the devastating effects of man-made climate change.

Even now the majority of people in the developed world don’t want to accept the screamingly bloody obvious, but ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ shows tiny rays of hope in this otherwise ‘up shit creek without a paddle in a barbed wire canoe’ scenario.

However the struggle I have fallen into is to try and throw light on the fact that there is already perfectly viable alternative technology being developed all over the world at such a heady pace it’s impossible for any one individual to keep up.

There is another story to be told here the picture above illustrates dramatically. This is the biggest solar and wind farm.... in the world. Where is it? Germany? California? Australia?

No, it's in China, and remember, all we hear from Daily Mail mor... sorry, readers is 'what's the point of us doing anything when China is building 3 new coal burning power stations a week!'

True, China is burning a shit ton of coal but they are also hell bent on doing something else, they have the largest and fastest growing wind and solar generation of any country and it's set to increase ever faster.

So yes, we are pumping ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, yes we are devastating what’s left of our rainforests, emptying our seas of life, melting our icecaps like it’s going out of fashion.

However we are entering a tremendously exciting, and yes terrifying period of transition, the next 40-50 years will transform our planet in ways none of us can imagine.

It could easily get much worse, it could also get much better.

I won’t live to see most of that but I am driven above all else to politely suggest that the sooner and the more profoundly we change some of our habits, the sooner we adopt new technologies, with all their drawbacks and early-adopter hazards, the better.

It’s not about guilt and redemption, it’s not about re-cycling plastic bottles, it’s actually about economic sense and sustainability.

Not using plastic bottles at all, not cutting down trees and burning them, not fracking for the last pathetic remnants of fossil fuel, not burning crude oil but using it to make useful things like pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, plastics we don’t throw away, harvesting energy as well as crops, using energy and raw materials sensibly and making that normal is the best hope we have.

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Reader Comments (4)

As long as we are $ £ driven expect no change!
As simple as that sounds that's the truth!

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPecospete

Thanks for making me aware of this series!

April 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSurya

China is also pushing forward on developing LFTR nuclear technology. Rather than endless debates on why one technology or another isn't going to be the "silver bullet" and solve all energy problems, they're building all of them. In the next decade or so, China is going to have real data on what electrical generation makes the most sense for a particular set of conditions.

The really scary thing to think about is when they have developed these technologies, such as LFTR, they are going to have a large portfolio of patents on the core engineering. While China often does not play fair when it comes to respecting patents, trademarks and copyrights, the rest of the developed world mostly does so we will all be having to pay royalties to China when they have sorted out how to generate electricity the most efficient and cleanest way.

The best long term investments governments can make is using national laboratories and grants to universities to do the basic R&D for new technologies. Not engineering finished products or sub-assemblies, but the fundamental science that corporations rarely invest in anymore. Basic research always pays off in the long run. The "business" people that run corporations have lost sight of long term viability. Pump up the stock price, exercise their stock options, cash out and move to the next company.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Ref: Syria. Resource scarcity is very often something that leads to war. Fossil fuels are often discussed on the front page, but fresh water is a real concern in many places worldwide. Even in the USA there are cities under going strict rationing due to water supplies dropping to a mere 45 days of reserve. The central valley of California, often called the breadbasket of the world, has seen water availability being cut year after year. Many fields go unplanted and farmers often complain that they are getting squeezed out of business. No water, no food. No surplus, no export. The US grain belt is also drawing down the underlying aquifers more rapidly than they can be replenished naturally. A few more years of lower than average rainfall and there may not be enough grain to export (or turn into ethanol).

It is easy to see how a multi year drought could cause or, at the very least, contribute to civil unrest in Syria.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

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