What about the environment? What’s out there to help us save the planet, with us seemingly on the razor’s edge? Have we gone past the tipping point?
The first thing we have to realise is that as humans we are now in charge of the planet. We’re beginning to realise we can’t treat it like we’re tenants with a distant rich landlord. We are the landlord. We didn’t really realise this before, we thought it was a playground or a bountiful resource. Now we are coming to the idea we are, by default, its stewards. That means using all our faculties to engage with our new responsibility – and we’re beginning to do that. But the solutions to a more sustainable energy economy and well managed environment will come not from governments but from the network.
One of the things that struck me in writing this book is how when we consider change we tend to consider what would happen if one thing changes and how that would affect the world. You see this in a lot of science fiction. They have laser weapons and spacecraft but medicine looks the same, as does the economy. Faster than light travel is common, nanotechnology isn’t. I mention this because a lot of change trends are going to combine to help us deal with and accept our stewardship of the planet, whilst raising living standards. We’re not doing to have one change, we’re going to have many colliding and interacting.
Just one example is how solar power and synthetic biology can combine to take carbon dioxide out of the sky and then turn it into gasoline. That’s not science fiction, the technology exists today – although it’ll take a couple of technology generations to iron out the proposition and make it cheaper than fossil fuels – but that will come. It’s no co-incidence that the savvier oil companies are funding synthetic fuel projects coming out of Harvard, to quote one example – or investing in organic (carbon rather than silicon) thin film solar technologies to quote another.
So, if your asking the question, what’s your own answer? Are you helping? That’s the real question. You’re a steward of the planet and part of the network now.