Innovation or government emergency: how to tackle the climate crisis

“In the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It’s too little, too late.”

“An invention needs to become ‘sufficiently practical, affordable, reliable and ubiquitous to be worth using.”

“No champion of radical emissions cuts has ever asked people to submit to something as unpleasant as a lockdown.”

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Today’s big read in the Guardian looks at the difficult questions around new technologies and finite resources:

The curse of ‘white oil’: electric vehicles’ dirty secret | News | The Guardian

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These news pages have looked at how potentially ‘dirty’ batteries are:

Cobalt in your car battery: the ethics of mining minerals – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Even if the sources are relatively local:

West Country lithium – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Earlier in the year, Michael Moore caused controversy with his latest documentary questioning ‘alternative technologies’:

This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It’s too little, too late.”

‘Planet of the Humans’: a new documentary – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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We are facing a conundrum, then:

Do we tackle a growing environmental catastrophe with ‘techno-fixes’ or do we look to more fundamental changes?

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The Futures Forum blog has looked at these issues over the years:

On the one hand, the techno-fix:

Futures Forum: The techno-fix … Can we engineer our way out of environmental catastrophe? Or … Can we ‘design for the real world’?

[And with a comment posted only today here:] Futures Forum: Techno-promises unfulfilled >>> Where did the future go?

Futures Forum: Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom. And technology won’t save us.

Futures Forum: Climate change: Are proposals to repair the climate offering “scalable technological fixes” or “climate despair”?

On the other, fixing the system:

Futures Forum: Climate change… and the possibility – or not – of “decoupling” economic growth from environmental impacts

Futures Forum: Climate change… “Clean growth is a safe bet in the climate casino”

Futures Forum: Climate Change: and growth on Radio 4

Futures Forum: Climate change >>> This Changes Everything >>> 

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The real question, though, is whether free-market innovation or the government is going to provide the solutions:

Center for a Stateless Society » Reclaiming the Public

Conservatives don’t hate climate science. They hate the left’s climate solutions – The Washington Post

Futures Forum: Climate change: “Conservatives don’t hate climate science. They hate the left’s climate solutions”

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There are two new books for your Christmas stocking which address these questions.

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Firstly, there is the contention that free societies produce innovation – from Matt Ridley, aka Viscount Ridley, disrupter, former chair of Northern Rock, and a ‘master raconteur’:

Innovation, he argues, is not mere invention: to take off, an invention needs to become ‘sufficiently practical, affordable, reliable and ubiquitous to be worth using’.

Frances Cairncross – Secrets of the Wheelie Suitcase | Literary Review | Issue 487

Asks RIchard Dawkins:

Why should fiction be more gripping than books about what really happened? I don’t know, but Matt Ridley certainly bucks the trend. “How Innovation Works” (Fourth Estate) warms to the “bottom-up” theme of his earlier “The Evolution of Everything”, moving on to the history of human inventions. No, not inventions, evolutions. Forget the “lone genius” theory. The steam engine, television, the light bulb, even the water closet – innovation after innovation evolved many times independently around the world. Fascinating stories by a master raconteur.

Books of the year | newstatesman.com

With further enthusiasm for his analysis:

How Innovation Works by Matt Ridley review — forget lightbulb moments | Saturday Review | The Times [paywall]

How Innovation Works by Matt Ridley review: the real mother of invention? It’s not necessity | telegraph.co.uk [paywall]

Saying yes slowly is what’s hampering progress today | The Spectator

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On the other hand, another book fresh off the press pushes for the same sort of interventions we have seen over the current health crisis:

In “Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency”, Andreas Malm begins by asking why capitalist governments have seemingly been willing to pitch the world into recession to fight Covid, while they have been so resistant to calls to cut carbon pollution sharply. After all, Malm muses, “no champion of radical emissions cuts has ever asked people to submit to something as unpleasant as a lockdown.”

Book Review: Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency | Climate & Capitalism

This is by Swedish academic and activist Andreas Malm:

Andreas Malm | jacobinmag.com

Andreas Malm | The Department of Human Geography | keg.lu.se

And there have been several reviews of his latest work:

Malm mines the initial states of emergency imposed by governments in 2020 responding to Covid-19 for insights and lessons in contrast with the very different responses to the more serious climate emergency.

Capitalism can’t be curbed with carrots – Tempest

Global fever | theecologist.org

   
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