This morning I read an article about the melting of the permafrost in the arctic. The vast decomposed ancient forests of the arctic tundra are awakening as the ice that kept them inert is melting at an exponential rate. The butterfly effect of this melting is that all of the trapped carbon dioxide is now being released into the air. And accelerating the heating. Which in turn is accelerating the melt.
Why? Because for last 100 years our economy has become addicted to fossil fuels. Not only as an energy source, but also as a material we use to cultivate our crops, store our goods, transport us from A to B, sit on and clothe us.
I live at the other end of the planet where climate change has just sent us two cyclones in the past month. We never get cyclones this far south. We are now discussing what to do with all those cute seaside communities that will soon be underwater. Like everyone on this planet (unless they have their head down a hole – in which case they may get drowned by a flood or roasted by a drought) I am acutely aware that my home environment is changing and this is happening now, not in 50 years. This is the home I want to be able to sustain my kids, my grandkids and my friends’ grandkids.
There are no options. There is no debate. We have to sever our addiction to fossil fuels in all its forms and transition to a new economic model based on renewable energy and materials (check out Jeremy Rifkin’s documentary The Third Industrial Revolution). This transition will happen (actually it’s already underway) and will bring with it new jobs, new opportunities and our natural inclination for innovation will be nourished.
Why are we focusing on natural fibre composites? It’s not to bring you a bunch of beautiful images from our end of the planet, or wow you with our designs. It’s because we feel that this is the future of technical materials. Developing materials that stock some of that CO2 rather than releasing it. That uses none of the precious water resources, apart from rain, needed for plant and animal life to exist. That takes 50 times less energy to produce than its fossil fuel equivalent. Because we have no alternative.
For investors, businesses and consumers focused on ephemeral tech, IOT, or digital gadgets that are going to break in two years – get your noses out of your bellybuttons and focus your energy on the real world and solving real problems. This is not the Digital Age. New communication forms are just the toolbox to speed up the transition to what will be known as the Green Revolution. Let’s start creating an economy that will sustain us for the next 500 years and beyond. Focus on what we can do to accelerate this transition, rather than sit around talking about the latest environmental disaster to hit our shores. While one person alone has a tiny impact on the planet (think butterfly), collectively we can change anything we put our minds to (who would have thought 100 years ago we could have changed the climate?) We have at our fingertips (literally) the power to transcend borders and get our message out. So let’s use it for good. Get the message out. Transition now.
Permafrost, exposed and thawing near Longyearbyen, Norway. – John Shaw photography.