Technological Optimism

16.8.2020

Technological optimism is a contested issue is the sustainability arena. While wonderful solutions exist, from the very simple ones like painting the blades of wind turbine black to reduce 70% of bird deaths, to Changing the catalysis of aluminum production – a process that hasn’t changed since the 19th century, to emit O2 instead of CO2, making aluminum production – carbon neutral.But in the issue of plastic waste if we were hopeful that cleanup efforts can help the ocean plastic waste problem, a new study shows that only minute amounts of this waste is on the ocean surface level and can be efficiently picked up. If we cannot find ways to change the economic system so that loops get closed – we will have to reduce consumption.

This is from after a flood in Lagos, this August. Do we really believe technology can fix that?

If not technology – perhaps policy measures? California is considering a 1 cent tax on non-recyclable/non compostable plastic packaging. Plastic industry is saying (of course) that the tax could switch brands to other types of packaging, that are heavier to transport and will increase hauling fuel consumption. And this is where it gets interesting - we must ask ourselves, what are we worried about more – our ability to fix plastic flowing into the ocean (no solutions in sights) or our ability to switch to clean fleets. If it's the first, perhaps the risk of ditching plastic in favor of heavier alternatives is not so big.

More on non-real fears: Store owners often resist to their streets turning into pedestrian streets, fearing that they would lose customers who come shopping by cars. ULB students tested this fear and found that in two Brussels districts where two redevelopment projects took place,65% of the merchants believed that their customers come mainly by car. But when customers were asked, only 19% said they have arrived in the neighborhood by car.

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