Technology and Politics

"Recycle or die" bleated the garbage can robots.

Continuing our discussions about technology and politics, I thought I would mention this report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK that was released at the beginning of January. It is the first report by engineers to tackle sustainability. They focused on population growth (estimated to be 9.5 billion by 2100) and the corresponding effects on food, water, urbanisation and energy. Although very engineer-y, it also clearly points to political solutions. Indeed, they make the political side very clear in their new engineering developing goals:

The Institution's Five Engineering Developing Goals are: "Energy: Use existing sustainable energy technologies and reduce energy waste.  Don't wait for new technologies to be developed. Water: Replenish groundwater sources, improve storage of excess water and increase energy efficiencies of desalination. Food: Reduce food waste and resolve the politics of hunger. Urbanisation: Meet the challenge of slums and defending against sea-level rises. Finance: Empower communities and enable implementation."

All things we can do now and really all do-able with political will. As the New Scientist magazine summed up the report in their editorial of Jan 12, "There are "no insurmountable technical issues in meeting the needs of 9 billion people... sustainable engineering solutions largely exist", the engineers write in Population: One Planet, Too Many People? Switching the world to low-carbon energy, for instance, does not require more research breakthroughs. We need instead to fix "market failures" that prevent widespread adoption of extant technologies, like concentrated solar energy and nuclear power." This seems to me to be what Julie was suggesting about regulations in Denmark preventing the widespread use of domestic windmills. It also echoes Will's comments about the larger political machinations that are at work. So, let's get on it before those garbage can robots get built ;)



Elizabeth said...

You're absolutely right. The solution isn't a technical one. For me the largest part of the solution is a mindshift that needs to be made. As soon as the large part of the population of a country has shifted, the politicians will follow because than they feel it will pay off.

rayfamily said...

I agree with Elizabeth. There are plenty of obstacles to be overcome, but the largest are the shifts in thought, openness of perspective, and creating good new habits. Once people get behind something, there are ways to address all of the individual concerns and come up with creative solutions.

julochka said...

the beauty of living in democratic societies is that we have a say with our votes - we can demand the change we seek, but we have to do it and it helps if we live it to the extent that's possible.

as much as i love technology, i'm not ready for the garbage can robots.

Elizabeth said...

yes, we do have our votes and that is a powerful tool. unfortunately politicians are also human beings that change their minds. therefore a big social mindshift combined with our money is likely to have a bigger impact.