Green Technologies - A New Future Dawns

IT'S A revolution. It's going to take over your life: home, work, community. It's going to be the new way to live, to think and to act. Welcome to the days of going green.

Just like the agricultural revolution of the 18th century that spurred the industrial revolution into the 19th century, the green revolution has the pace and intensity to touch and change every aspect of living. In a nutshell it is a paradigm shift that scientist and environmental specialists say will save the planet and assure the continuation of the species and the survival of the planet.

This green revolution, spreading like wildfire, will create a green economy through the use of green technology, green thinking and green living. Yes, it is going to be a whole lot of green.

Governments, policymakers and think tanks worldwide assure us this is the future and that anyone not on the bandwagon is surely to lose out, not only on the advantages of the emerald wave, but also because unsustainable choices will lead to the inability to sustain livelihood or existence.

What is interesting to note is that much of the need to go green now is firmly based on the fact that we have made bad decisions in the past. Which, in itself is not bad; it is the only way to learn. But therein lies the problem. Have we really learnt? One of the biggest issues in the last couple of decades, before climate change was the buzz word, greenhouse gases, specifically, was our mortal enemy. Schools started teaching the science behind how they were formed and why they were problematic, universities and independent research houses were throwing money at the problem trying to find us the solutions we so desperately needed.

And though there were big and multi-scale projects launched to deal with the problem of greenhouse gas emissions using carbon analysis indicators, changes in protocols and data collection, even competitions for atmospheric scrubber inventions, it was the smaller mitigating measures that stuck to minds and made a difference: making the choice to not use aerosol sprays, introducing carpooling, even eliminating open burning.

From greenhouse gases and global warming, we now face, consequently, the threat of climate change. It now rains when it isn't supposed to, it can get really hot, and in the back of our minds we know that a polar bear is stranded on a melting iceberg somewhere in the Arctic.

Sound familiar? Well then, isn't it time we learnt? The answer, if there is one answer, is again to encourage the simple things: reducing waste, buying only necessities, planning tasks to reduce trips to the store, walking whenever we can and making a commitment to think about more than just ourselves. Remember, it's okay to start small.

Yes, it's idealistic, but the reason is compelling. There are roughly 6.7 billion people in the world so even a small step is a 6 billion-force step. It's an important fact for governments and policymakers to remember when embracing the green revolution: people equal effectiveness.

Technology can play a major role in green efforts. Technology has the ability to reverse some of the mistakes we've made in the past, it has solutions that can work in the here and now, and it has the ability to give us better options to incorporate in the future.

One very interesting example is the change that is coming over building design. Pipes carrying chilled water are being used to reduce the heat trapped; building orientation and function is a major concern; and recycling of construction material on site is being encouraged. A big jump in green technology efforts can be seen in the transportation industry with electric trains and jumbo jets running on hybrid fuel. Similarly, technology has made great strides in harvesting energy from the sun, wind and water.

As important as technology is in the campaign for efficiency and sustainability, it still has to make economic sense. Expensive technology will only find a place, at most, in one third of the world, making it only a third effective; green technology has to be both affordable and effectual.

Low-cost green technology can change the world and not just save it. According to a UN report, roughly 1.5 billion people, a quarter of the world's population live without electricity; 80 per cent of rural Africa has no access to electricity. In the villages of this continent, the cradle of civilisation, those that can afford power spend a large portion of their income on kerosene lamps or charge their batteries by travelling to bigger towns.

But with the introduction of solar cells, or as they are known these days, photo voltaic cells, to villages in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tanzania and other neighbouring nations, light is now accessible, enabling kids to study into the night with 10-20 times brighter light and less indoor pollution of the kerosene lamps.

More importantly, the solar panels are saving lives: kerosene lamp fires kill roughly 1.6 million people a year, especially women and are responsible for burns and disabilities of countless others. But still many of these projects to introduce solar panels to rural settlements are sponsored by private organisations or government funding. The true affect of solar panel technology will be felt once it can be purchased reasonably.

Efficiency and sustainability are the mainstays of going green. These characteristics are to be imbedded in the technology we develop, in how we use the technology and the decisions we make for our own lives. This is the essence of living in the 21st Century: live responsibly.

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