Opinion: Future planet: It isn’t all doom and gloom… Why green technology gives me hope


By Marine Wallace

Do you wince when you hear that the sea will hold more plastic than fish in 30 years? That our demand for energy, food and materials is more than what the planet can offer? Or that our industries destroy nature, cause the extinction of species – just for profits?

Me too.

Actually, I wince a lot. Because most of the conversations around climate change depict our future as a one way street to eco-collapse.

But today I have a reason to smile. I attended Web Summit, where a special forum was dedicated to the environment. Called Planet Tech, it was dubbed “a place for the people tackling today’s threats with today’s tech.”

I’m not contesting the alarmist call outs (obviously!) but I want to take a minute to look at the glass half full. There are many innovative projects and tools that enable positive change and drive growth.

Here is a quick list of what gave me hope at Planet Tech:

  • Several cases showed how web-based technologies speed up social change. In Germany, digital activism blocked deforestation and digital crowdsourcing raised one million euros to save the Hambach Forest.
  • Fighting deforestation while searching the internet is what Ecosia offers. This alternative to Google uses profits from ads to plant trees. On stage, CEO Christian Kroll pledged to plant one tree for every WebSummit attendee: 70 000 trees.
  • Greenpeace explained how real-time imaging from drones and satellite has changed the way they combat against deforestation.
  • “These expensive technologies should be available to those working for the future of our planet,” Lucas Joppa said while presenting the Microsoft ‘AI for Earth’ program which offers free AI technology and cloud software to NGOs and activists who solve global climate issues.0 (1)

“As humans, we are lazy: we leave the lights on when we walk out. We need sensors to be more efficient” Christiana Figueres, architect of the Paris 2015 Agreement.

  • When it comes to driving positive behaviours, sensors and IoTs (Internet of Things) can compensate human laziness. Take for example smart thermostats that lower the temperature when we’re not home to reduce energy consumption. But more than that, IoTs are crucial in circular economy models to track materials that are put onto the market, to monitor maintenance and give products a second life or more.
  • Gaming is also key to drive positive behaviours: AR (augmented reality) and Pokemon GO were used to boost clean up actions and fundraising organised via Playmob.
  • In fact, gaming was often mentioned as THE key driver to democratise Blockchain. A broad consumer adoption of Blockchain being estimated in 5 to 10 years depending on the speakers.
  • Let’s hope it’s soon because Blockchain appears as a key pillar of the circular economy since it enables the valorisation of materials and pay per use models.
  • On the CO2 front, there was much debate around what BP’s Stephen Cook called ‘the dual challenge’: the massive urbanisation leading to higher energy demands versus the need to reduce CO2 emission and remove CO2 from the air. One noticeable contribution was Patagonia’s Vice President of Environmental Affairs presenting their regenerative organic agriculture, a process that rebuilds soil and pulls CO2 out of the environment.
  • The removal of CO2 goes hand in hand with the transition to a new plastics economy, where plastic it replaced by innovative biodegradable plastic like those used at Ecoplaza supermarket. From a marketing point of view, I found it interesting to hear from Tipa CEO Daphna Nissenbaum, that companies using their bioplastic as packaging demand to put the Tipa brand on their products as a mark of goodwill #cobranding.

WebSummit’s gave me the feeling that a lot of what is necessary to fight climate change is taking place in innovative tech projects around us. This brings a great narrative, focusing on innovation and economic development rather than the doom and gloom.

Marine Wallace is a Senior Marketing Communications Consultant at Flying Bridge.

First published on LinkedIn.

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