Friday, May 18, 2012

The future , the environment and decentralisation of production...

 (author's note. This one kinda became stream of consciousness; so bare with it...)

I am an odd sort of person when it comes to environmental topics; I think it's the fact that I tend to not seperate humanity and the environment along the lines that have been popular since the 19th centuary. Personally I see humans as a species like any other, just a very dominant and beligerant one. An interesting example I often use of species that act like us are Carp; Carp are animals that are environmental engineers. So much so that Carp are considered a nuisance by humans as they often destroy lakes and streams. Carp are very simalier to us in the way they often use their environment; the Common Carp is a bottom feeder that sifts through mud and sediment for food and is able to survive in extreamly muddy and turbid waters. So what does the Common Carp do? They mess up their environment to make it more difficult for other fish who would compete for food, this is especially a problem in places where they have been introduced as the local fish populations may have much less of a capacity to deal with extremly turbid waters.
Sounds a little familar...
So it is in my opinion the natural path of a dominant spieces to dominate their environment if possible, it's not something particular to humans. If Lions developed to a point where they could import food from elseware you would find their numbers increasing as the normal relationship between predator and prey changes. So basically humans act with their environment they way that any animal would, it's just that we have greater means to exploit said environment.
So for me environmentalism isn't about civilsation's encrochment on the natutral, it is something more practical and pragmatic than that.
It is honestly more about us as a species taking that next step, in some cases for the preservation of us and our civilisation. While our base desire is to expand and pass our genes on, we must recognise the fact that by doing so beyond a certain point will at the very least alter the way we operate on this planet, and at worst lead to extinction. The environment will live on in our ruins, just as after other major extinction events.
So that's that out of the way.
So the one thing that deniers of anthroprogenic climate change can't tell me is why making our civilisation more efficent is a bad thing? Isn't that the point? Don't we want to make the leap from an Industrial economy to whatever comes next. (and before anybody calls us a post Industrial economy, we arn't as we just outsource our industry now. We still dig stuff/grow stuff and get it made into other stuff; and we still get the poor people to do it. Those poor people just live in China or India now)
I think that the resistance to the decentralisation that the Internet represents is a good example of the same phenomin that says that any future economy has to be based around big company A digging stuff out of the ground, while Big company B (and oft C D and E) fabricates it into good that big company F can sell you. The amount of infomation that the Intertubes can fling about endangers not only the Hollywood/record company model of entertainment but the Govenment's hold on infomation as well. By revolutionising the way we communicate, the internet changed the way that ideas and infomation is used, moved and abused. It decentralised it, and I do feel that is the logical way to move the rest of society in future...
Energy is a great example, why do we have electricity produced by massive powerstations often very far away? Well because noone wants to live near a coalfire powerplant, so it became more practical to make them very big and very far away. (Economy of scale also plays a part here) But... We now have the technology to put solar panels on every roof, heck we could even coat roofing tiles with a cheap photo voltaic material to produce power. Thats a fair bit of surface area for power collection. For areas where solar is impractical, Hitachi and a few other companies produce small scale inert isotope reactor for medical research that could theoretically be used to power buildings and houses in a decentralised manner. (But that tech is still a little way off.) The same goes with ideas for urban Agroculture and the move (for environmental reasons) towards locally supplied food.

Now what am I ranting about, this was going to be a brief idea but kinda got out of hand hm.. Well all inspired by an alternet article about 3D printing, I've been on that bandwagon awhile now seeing it as a way to remove several steps in the supply chain. The possibility of being able to buy plans off the internet and fabricate your own Ipad or other item using a 3D printer would be one that would change the way we live as much as the internet itself. Sure we'd still have to fabricate the raw materials, but even that could be focused more on recycling existing materials. (Star Trek style replicators would be the Utopian ideal)
But really, wouldn't it be better if we used all that Petrolium we suck up and instead of burning it turned it into plastics? Plastics that can be reycled on and on? That will be the great shame of our culture, how much we wasted...