|Photo credit: The HUB Eco Series|
By Friederike Hanisch
Tuesday last week I had the opportunity to listen to Jonathon Porritt and Ali Freeman, talking about the thoughts and research that went into Jonathon’s new book “The World We Made”. It was a great launch event, hosted by the fantastic HUB Eco Series.
The book is written from the perspective of Alex McKay, who’s looking back at “The World We Made”. It’s 2050 and the world is still not perfect (mmph) but it’s a much more sustainable place to be. Alex tells the sustainability story of the past 35 years, which include key events and importantly key technological breakthroughs such as – as I haven’t read the book yet I’m in no risk of giving away too much – artificial photosynthesis and great new ways of capturing and storing renewable energy. The best thing is that in “The World We Made” technology is not just enhancing rich people’s lives but importantly that it serves all, thinking of a solar energy revolution in Africa for example and other widely spread community-owned renewable energy generation.
The aim of the book is to inspire a new environmental vision. To leave behind the doom and gloom and techno-scepticism, and get people excited about creating a world we do want to live in. As it becomes clear, Jonathon sees a key role for technology to achieve this. He particularly points to the “Makers Revolution” – as Chris Anderson calls a new movement of small-scale inventors and entrepreneurs – which may help overcome our “failure of imagination” of how things could work differently. Working at Project Dirt I couldn’t agree more, as the network is all about making sustainability empowering, positive, tangible, exciting and finding new ways of doing things.
A real barrier for making technology work for all and in sustainable ways is incumbency in Jonathon’s view. His suggestion to the younger generation is to protest. Being one of the younger generation I am not sure I am completely satisfied with that proposal. Protesting is immensely important, I completely agree. But turning to the younger generation and asking them to demand change – is this approach letting those ones that have accumulated too much wealth and bad practice over many decades off the hook too easily? Surely the “polluter pays” principle should apply, letting those creating the harm also pay for it and take the lead in doing do. (As most of them don’t appear to do so Jonathon is possibly right… protesting is one of our best bets in trying to influence them). My other concern is that many of the younger ones still directly benefit from incumbency of their families and circles and simply sit too comfortably to seek to challenge the system.
One of the key points Jonathon makes is that empathy and solidarity is needed in order to make technological innovation work for fair and sustainable change. The pessimist in me says, never mind all these technological fantasies, universal empathy is the real (unrealistic) utopia. But then I look around and see thousands of projects (many great ones on Project Dirt!) in the UK and beyond, which do work incredibly hard to re-engage people with their local communities and natural environment.*** And I am more hopeful again. Many of these initiatives work with children, as well as with many other community members, and they do make a real contribution towards turning us into more sensitive and empathetic beings.
If you are intrigued, you can find out more about the book here.
HUB Eco Series regularly hold fascinating talks on an array of sustainability topics. You can join their project page here (http://www.projectdirt.com/project/10155/) to not miss the next one.
***Read up on the “Trout in the Classroom” project by the Wandle Trust for example, or Project Wild Thing, 10:10’s Solar Schools, Empty Classroom Day by the London Sustainable Schools Forum… To name just a few inspiring projects.
Friederike is a Projects Manager at Project Dirt.
The HUB Eco Series – The World We Made: Visions of a Sustainable Future