Ecology and Technology

This article is based on my ideas about the Great Turning Movement. If you aren’t familiar with them, click here. It is linked to from my article Visions of a Regenerative Society. It describes how ecology and technology might look in a transformed society.

In the modern era, our technological power has grown enormously. Even though this has helped some of us to live longer, healthier lives with less drudgery, we are now changing our climate in highly destructive ways, using up our water reserves, depleting our topsoil, driving many species to extinction, introducing dangerous genetically modified organisms into our food supply, and so on.

In a regenerative society, we will align our technology, manufacturing, and resource extraction with natural processes. Technology will be decentralized and as small scale as possible. It will minimize waste. In fact, products and machines will be designed from the outset so that when they have reached the end of their lifetimes, they can be broken down into their component parts and reused in other processes. In other words, each product’s wastes will be used as resources for other products. This is called cradle-to-cradle manufacturing.

Technology will mostly follow biological principles, using biomimicry, which is the design of industrial processes to mimic what works in the natural world.

Resources will be extracted only in a renewable fashion, especially energy resources. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy will be phased out in favor of wind, solar, and other renewables. These new energy sources will be decentralized, which means that energy will be produced at the location where it is used, rather than having enormous oil rigs, nuclear plants, coal plants, or even solar arrays that supply large regions. Though wind and solar could be done in a centralized way, we will avoid that in the new transformed society. This will enable businesses to be small, reduce costs, provide more jobs, and be less susceptible to terrorism. Furthermore, other technologies will be decentralized whenever possible, for the same reasons.

Agriculture, fishing, and forestry will be done in a regenerative fashion, eliminating clear cutting and over-fishing and instead husbanding existing resources in a sustainable way. Farming will be regenerative and biodiverse, benefiting the soil, the water cycle, and the lives of farmers. Many will use permaculture principles. This includes the use of sophisticated natural processes to control pests instead of damaging pesticides.

Many exciting ecological innocations are popping up, for example, Green Wave, developed by Bren Smith, which is a new method of ocean farming designed to restore ocean ecosystems, mitigate climate change, and create blue-green jobs for fishermen—while providing healthy, local food for communities.

City design and planning and architecture will be based on ecological principles. For example, buildings will be designed so that they use the sun for heating whenever possible. This will make our living spaces not only healthier for people and but also better for the environment.

There will be democratic governmental guardianship over the introduction new technology, based on sophisticated studies of its potential dangers and impact on society. Just because we can create something doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.