Rewired Thinking: Innovation is key to the survival of our society, Pt. 14

Keeping in mind the previous sections to this work, I feel that there is certainly room to improve. I also feel that the best likely way to secure future high grade energy is through generation III and IV reactors. For more on them, visit Barry’s BraveNewClimate. What I disagree with, however, is that we have a good track record with cheap and abundant energy. Regardless of how much potential energy we have in the palm of our hand, consideration must be maintained for efficiency or else we will run the risk of complacency.

A hypothetical situation would be if we developed a method of replacing the atmospheric conditioning done by photosynthetic species; that, let’s say, a unit the size of a typical 10 storey office building can replace 20 hectares of forest atmospheric conditioning, but at an exuberant energy cost. It’s easy to see how we could be so foolish to make such a transition for the simple reason to have more room for entertainment. Do enough of this (and also replace a number of other ecological services with “cheap” alternatives) and we’ve dramatically increased our energy consumption. If we can build more reactors to keep up, it’ll be fine… how far does it go until we’re on the downward slope of peak radioactive material? With all resources it should not be so much a question of how much we use, rather how well we use it. Use landscape more efficiently, for instance, we would not need to much landscape use change. (There will always be upper limits to energy consumptions for one reason or another – I just feel it’s irresponsible to hit that mark at a reduction of ecological services provided)

If we exploit ecological services to their fullest; if we endeavour to ever increase our efficient use of energy; if we maintain innovative thinking, we’ll certainly extend the lifespan of nuclear energy, reduce waste and do doubt have a compatibly lower energy budget (for services used) once that finite resource is also exploited as well as developed an increase understanding and integration with natural systems.

Go hard or go smart

What often is thrown in my face (recently from a HNC as well) is that for major change, governments would need an impractical iron fist. I certainly disagree, as like I disagree with many schemes to limit emissions. People resist when you try to tell them what not to do. What works better is incentive to change. I can almost hear the reader roll their eyes, however, hear me out. I’m not talking about some form of gold star sticker; I’m talking about a shift to more practical infrastructural spending.

There’s an obvious hive of activity associated with sprawl; whether it’s in building, providing new service points, increased spending of fuel etc. On the outset, it obviously makes sense to invest in providing new patches for ever increasing sprawling populations as it, apparently, fuels economies. However there is another way to invest that could potentially increase spending, population size and value both of natural environments and urban areas.

D.C, public space

Rather than focusing investments on new infrastructure, why not improve public transport, water and energy to key suburbs and cities? Capital cities in Australia are wonderful places to walk around. I personally enjoy Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne as wonderful places to explore on foot. Increasing such infrastructure will give greater incentive to live closer to work areas and reduce reliance on personal transport. As populations increase over the coming decades (as well as the potential for abundant nuclear energy) it seems unlikely that open space appreciation can exist with ever increasing sprawl. Incentives in; quick and cheap rail among (and loop services within) these key suburbs and city centres; a reduction in low density living in these areas (ie. infrastructural and financial support to encourage people to be inclined to move into town houses or apartments); a reduction of personal traffic in these key areas (ie. close roads to all but commercial traffic, pedestrians and bicycles); a correction of council rates in low density areas to suit congestion, environmental impacts and maintenance cost…etc…

I know I’ve only covered it briefly and there are certainly many issues not addressed. However, clean, efficient and quick public transports as well as comfortable higher density options, cleaner streets, a reduction in vehicle related noise and chemical pollution would increase the comfort and practicality of such areas. Providing cheaper hire use of vehicles also provides communal car use for part time users living in mixed use, higher density areas. Provided that a reduction in sprawl is properly encouraged, this newly freed land will also provide useful land for local farming (cheap local fresh produce), rehabilitation of local fauna and flora (local access to open spaces and natural environments and an increase in ecological services, such as water treatments, storm protection soil improvement and sustainable harvest) and of course stylised parks and entertainment areas (local access to open spaces aesthetically appealing and various physical and mental health applications related to entertainment).

Mixed-use development in Geneva

The only governance changes that I would suggest would be a correction in council rates and altered infrastructural investments, as previously mentioned, and possibly an obligation to provide native corridors for species movement and a return to productive gardens (which can be partially funded by governmental incentives See Link1). Otherwise, it’s investing in making CBD’s and key suburbs more liveable and worth a reduction of personal outdoor space when compared to easy of access to services, public open spaces, reliable and efficient public transport and comfortable higher-density living.

Locally, there is a lot of reshuffling at the moment and certainly potential to make such investments. As population increases and oil price increases, sprawl will become increasingly inefficient and costly. Investing ahead in practical and enjoyable upward living will provide room to dramatically alter and improve standard of living, provided that it is done innovatively.

References
The bulk of this piece is inspired by;
[2] Opportunities beyond carbon: looking forward to a sustainable world. Editor O’Brien J. (2009)
Link1) Although I’m not entirely behind this piece, there are some excellent points made by David Holmgren
The following is an excellent piece on exploring increasing density and mixed service suburb huds
Filion, P. (2001) Suburban mixed-use centres and urban dispersion: what difference do they make? Environment and Planning. 33:141-160. doi:10.1068/a3375

* Please note; This is speculation and idea creation. It’s by no mean solely my own work (I’m interested by the occasional media report that discusses directing infrastructure to key nodal areas of greater productivity rather than wide dispersal between population and services as well as being inspired by much of the discussion in [2]) and in keeping the style of this series, it is not complete (ie. there are a number of logistical issues etc). However, this is brain storming and something that I feel is key to developing a more practical social model (ie. Innovation is key). That said, I am certainly open to constructive criticism and feedback. This is certainly the most rewarding aspect of facing the future innovatively. What won’t be tolerated are ad hominem and irrelevant attacks. What is needed is open-mindedness and discussion, not do-nothing close mindedness.

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