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tree of life

Around the world, scientists are frustrated by what they call the “business as usual” politics in the face of climate change. By this they mean that we have a lot of talk about the problem of climate change, but the dramatic actions required are not yet being taken. Politicians may be behind the times, but the tech isn’t.

I can’t imagine what the world would be like if tomorrow we woke up and all the incredible technology that has thus far been conceived were suddenly in widespread use, and the obsolete technology of yesteryear was magically phased out.

How clean would the air be then? How much less demand would we place on nature?

A change is gonna come

Just this week, San Francisco became the first city in North America to ban single-use plastic water bottles. This is a huge first step when you think of what Norm Schriever wrote in the Huffington Post: “There are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the US (which means we consume roughly 60% of the world’s water bottles, even though we’re about 4.5% of the world population).”

Oil is used in making plastic, which I think is a fundamental fact that escapes a lot of people. It’s not just cars fueling our need for OPEC and the destructive tar sands oils, it’s our demand for plastic, so San Francisco has done us all a favor by taking this first step.

Another environmental news story just recently that has cause for optimism is the study that shows we can use wind farms offshore not only to reduce our energy consumption needs, but to help stave off the ever-increasing number of hurricanes hitting land, or at least helping to reduce their impact.

But wait! There’s more!

We have many more tools in our toolbox, things that are not getting put into play because there’s too little pressure on industry to adopt new technologies when they build. There’s fear, perhaps, that consumers won’t want to pick up the tabs for a higher purchase price when factoring in new tech, but they said that about hybrid and electric cars, too.

Hybrids are getting ever more popular, despite gas subsidies and government involvement keeping USA gas prices artificially low. Don’t tell your average American they’re “low,” but t’s the truth, though. According to data from the World Bank, as recently as 2013, the USA’s pump prices are 56% lower than the UK’s, and even 27% lower than what Canada, the world’s 4th largest oil producer, pays. If that artificially low price vanishes, the hybrid market would explode in popularity.

electric car

Just as the environment is meeting a tipping point, so too is public consciousness. As we see months of flooding in England, record cold temperatures across our continent, shorelines changing, and more, we’re accepting that things are changing, and I think a lot of us still have hope that it’s not too late to change things. If government puts incentives and surcharges in place to curb environmental practices, it’s amazing how fast that consciousness expands, because the dollar walks and talks, my friends.

Just imagine…

What if, tomorrow, we demanded all public buildings collect and recycle rainwater for non-potable use?

What all new businesses and multi-family dwellings had green roofs to help clean the urban air and reduce atmospheric warming? What if every large public building was a solar power hub with panels mounted anywhere they’d work?

What if malls and sporting arenas, and even main corridors in our homes, all had piezoelectric flooring so every step we took was putting electricity back into the grid? Could you imagine these floors in dance clubs? The troublesome youth of today saving the world of tomorrow with one dirty grinding beat at a time? MIT can.

What if every home had a wind turbine, some solar panels, and geothermal heating?

What if we simply said: “It’s 2014. It’s time to build like it’s the future… because it is the future”?

Time to rip off the band-aid

It won’t be easy, it’ll be expensive for the start, but as the years pass, we’ll see savings in every way, from our health and financial outlook, through to the planet’s health.

If you’re building or renovating a home, you owe it to yourself and the planet to get ahead of the ever-worsening energy crisis. Play a part of the solution and find a way to pursue carbon neutrality, or even feed energy back into the grid.

Explore solar power. The prices have plummeted while their efficiency has skyrocketed. Read about the incredible impact solar has had on energy use in Germany. According to FuelFix.com, “[Europe’s] fivefold increase in solar and wind power in the past decade flooded electricity grids with power, displacing fossil fuels so fast that coal- and gas-dependent utility RWE AG lost money last year for the first time since 1949. Earnings at European coal-fired plants fell 23 percent last year, the biggest drop since 2010. Margins may vanish in the next two years, according to Kepler Cheuvreux SA, a Paris-based broker.”

Photo: cod_gabriel

Photo: cod_gabriel

Investigate wind power. It’s a long way from the windmills of Holland and the tales of Hans Christian Andersen as engineers continue to rethink the modern turbine. Today’s windmills convert more power than ever before, and the future looks brisk in this ThinkProgress report.

Look into green roofs, geothermal heat, rainwater collection, and other ways to use Mother Nature for comfortable living without taxing her resources, or even better yet, helping her recover from all the years we haven’t lived that way.

We have the tech, but not the commitment

Yes, things are changing, and yes, there’s cause to be alarmed, but the problem we have isn’t that we don’t have the technology or knowledge to get past these adversities. The problem is that the building industry isn’t imposing the technology on the end-buyer, and the government isn’t legislating that they must use these innovations.

But the tide is turning, one forward-thinking person at a time, as homeowners and savvy business people bring these technologies onboard. Soon, perhaps it will be “business unusual” as we see these advances popping up all around us.

We don’t need to wait until the law of the land imposes these responsible behaviors upon us. We can be the change we want to see in the world, and day after day, more of us are being exactly that.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.