People often ask me what must be done to tackle climate change, and why I seem more optimistic than many environmentalists. Basically the answer is that I see many possible solutions to humanities problems. That doesn’t mean the changes necessary for a better future will be easy, or that they will be made, but they are becoming increasingly clear. There is the power-up and power-down sides to this. Today I want to write about the power-down side; next time I’ll try and sum-up my ideas on power-up.
The power-down side is all about using energy and resources less wastefully, so that we in the rich world consume less energy. This falls basically into two areas; behavioural change and technological change. We need both, and yet often the promoters of one path seem to think theirs is the only way. Oliver Tickell in his excellent book Kyoto2 brilliantly shows the connection in the case for carbon taxes acting as a spur for both behavioural and technological change.
Perhaps the best web-site I know that promotes using less energy through technological innovation is the Rocky Mountain Institute. The RMI was founded by Amory & Hunter Lovins back in 1982. Since then they’ve been working with industrial partners to develop lots of exciting technological breakthroughs in three core areas: energy & resources, transport and buildings.
The Transition Towns movement seems typical of many worthy grassroots organisations in Britain who promote a predominantly behavioural change approach. Frustrated by governments inaction they see solutions coming mainly from the community. Transition_Handbook.pdf But while community engagement is excellent, it seldom seems to generate technologically well informed or grounded solutions.
Humanity needs both/and, not either/or: the behavioural and the technological, the community and the professional.