To be honest, when I was first asked to write something up on why I feel optimistic about 2010, it took me a little while to figure out what to write about. It's hard in the green game to stay optimistic all the time — our field is littered with reasons to get downright depressed; from melting glaciers (poisonous ones at that!) to mountaintop removal mining and from corporate control of water to the soon to be extinct tiger, it's easy to get eco-bummed from time to time.
But for every lost tiger and blasted mountain, there's a breakthrough in solar technology or a newly discovered way of turning CO2 into energy. We're a pretty technically adept people, and some of the best and brightest minds around are working on cleaner ways to generate power, process waste, and manufacture and transport the things that make our lives work. We face big problem but there's a lot of smart people working to solve them.
Technology gets me excited because of its potential for BIG changes. We're just a discovery or three away and a decade or so of rollout time from being able to generate solar power cheap enough to permanently knock coal off the grid entirely. A few more advancements in engine and battery design could see the world finally start to wean itself from burning oil to get around. And with a little more study and experimentation in the field of aquaculture and a dose of good luck and brilliance, we could being to solve the problem of how to sustainably feed ourselves and the newly born billions the world will be faced with in the coming years.
The fact that there's potential profit involved in nearly all of this makes me doubly hopeful. If there is one thing we've proven good at it's exploiting profitable ventures (and I mean expoloiting in the good way here). The world won't be saved unless someone can get really rich doing it. Luckily, we seem to be there.
I have a harder time getting excited about the environment's political prospects in 2010. The Republican/Big Industry attack machine is alive and well and they've proven to be very, very good at spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about things way less complicated than climate change. I could be wrong; President Obama and the Democrats could find a backbone (and 60 votes) and pass something with some guts, but I'm not holding my breath. However it all works out, 2010 will be, at the very least, an interesting year.
May we live in interesting times indeed.
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