March 9, 2012
By Matt Palmer
I’m posting two interesting TED talks today from this years conference. They are both about the future, and how we get there. I happen to be optimistic about the future and our ability to solve complex problems once they are identified. Identifying future problems is often the biggest challenge. Instead of working from 20/20 hindsight we need to develop greater foresight. We need to close the gap between our capacity to do things, and our ability to anticipate and predict outcomes. If we don’t we may repeat mistakes of the past.
The global community faces daunting challenges when it comes to critical issues of the water, food, and energy nexus. Imagine what possibilities open if we shift our approach to problems from one of scarcity and fear to abundance and hope? Scientists know that at the quantum level we have an infinite supply of energy. We just don’t know how to access it yet. Quantum physicists can also demonstrate that fear, without a healthy way to process it, can create disease.
The beauty of approaching issues from a mindset of abundance is that it diffuses the fear around complex issues like water, food, and energy, in a healthy way
Certainly, cost of solar is dropping rapidly. Yet, there are many potential impacts from installing solar in mass quantities globally that are unknown. In California, environmental groups have been fighting huge solar installations planned in the desert because of the impacts to the local ecosystems. Solar energy is land hungry, and deserts are not benign tracts of land. They serve a purpose. There is a great need for scientific studies looking at shifts in local temperature change, or hydrological change from reflecting heat back into the atmosphere. E-waste poses other issues, including expensive and complex recycling processes. The health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology have yet to be studied in great detail.
Hopefully, creative thinking will solve many of these issues, along with the battery challenges, and once they have been tackled, solar can be a great energy equalizer, particularly in places where decentralized energy systems make sense.
Approaching problems with an attitude open to abundance stimulates creative thinking. Abundance reveals possibilities, scarcity closes options. As problems are solved, new trade offs will be discovered, and the system will continue on in a state of dynamic tension.
In this next TED talk the speaker Paul Gilding, approaches the issue from what he believes is the reality of scarcity. He talk is powerful and compelling in its own way, and he does comes around to a hopeful vision at the end. The two talks are interesting in their contrasts.