For this theoretical physicist here it seemed actually very simple. It’s a conservation law. If you take carbon out of the ground and you put it into the system it will stay there unless you take it back out. From a societal perspective, this is much much more complicated because as we fix it there will be winners and losers.
We’re in an era of overlapping crises, and I think that’s what makes it sort of unique. We’re aware of the financial aspect, which is sort of exponential increase in debt. We’re also aware that energy, the cost is going up because we’re reaching to deeper and more expensive reserves of energy, at least fossil fuels. So that’s another if not crisis then um… Well, actually it is a crisis, because the world we’ve constructed is based on cheap fossil fuels.
Machines generate waste heat when they do work for us. And this year, seven billion of us will use twenty-five trillion kilowatt hours of electricity. An awful lot of that will end up as waste heat. So, we treat waste heat as a problem. We see it as a challenge to design how we can manage it. We don’t think of it as a resource. If we thought of it as a resource, that would be results we are just throwing away.
You’re dealing with timescales that are beyond humans’ interest. I mean, it’s sorta like global warming. The heat that we have now built up, that carbon was burned thirty years ago. It’s going to take a while for the correction process. So, if you have the elements of the phosphorus, the potassium, the manganese, and so on, it can be built back pretty fast. But a shorthand way of putting it is that soil is as much of a non-renewable resource as oil. And, more important than oil. I mean, we’re talking about stuff we’re made of. So that’s why I’ve said that the plowshare has destroyed more options for future generations than the sword.
I see a set of constraints facing us in the future, and they’re all going to be very expensive. First is funding retirements for the Baby Boom generation. Second is continuing increases in the costs of healthcare. The third is replacing decaying infrastructure. The fourth is adapting to climate change and repairing environmental damage. The fifth is developing new sources of energy. The sixth is what I see as in all likelihood continuing high military costs. The seventh is the costs of innovation.
Work on what you love. This is such an easy thing to say, and it seems so obvious. What else should we work on? What else could we work on? And yet the problem of aligning our passion and our production, our love and our work, remains one of the great life challenges that we face as artists, as designers, and as citizens.