Alex Steffen, executive editor and cofounder of Worldchanging.com, is a big, green idea guy.
Steffen tracks what’s going on in green innovations and writes essays on the possibilities for the future. The popular book he edited, “Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century,” is a 600-page tome of writings from more than 60 leaders around the world.
Tall, dressed in jeans and a dark blazer with his white shirt untucked, he addressed his audience at the Seattle Green Festival and flung ideas out at them – one after the other.
Steffen sees the possibility of the world becoming choked with people, with the demographic tilting to the old and young.
Four billion people in poverty have seen the American lifestyle on television, and they want to climb up into the middle class. The most watched TV program in the world is “Bay Watch,” and the world’s poor are saying, “I’ll take my version of that.”
Educational opportunities need to be extended to women throughout the world, he said, because when women have choices they have fewer children. If education is provided to every woman, population could see peak this century.
While the poor are “getting rich,” our job is to reinvent what “rich” means, Steffen said. Americans need to consume less of the world’s resources, reduce their impact on the earth, and develop a restorative economy.
“We can do that,” he said, adding “It’s not going to be easy.”
Changes are needed in how:
- Infrastructure is constructed.
- Transportation is provided.
- Minerals are used.
- Waste is handled.
- People live in cities.
Some things that are working:
- Mountain Dwellings near Copenhagen, where livable, suburban apartments are stepping up the “mountain” above the car parking space.
- Huge flowerboxes added to buildings that provide shade and food to eat.
- Yard sharing where people garden in your yard and share the produce with you.
- Street lights that turn off when moonlight reaches a certain intensity.
- Meters in the home so people reduce usage when they see the dial spinning fast.
- Car sharing.
- Bicycle sharing programs such as Bicing in Barcelona.
- Tool sharing through tool banks where you can checkout tools.
- High-end purses and jewelry rentals, such as Seattle’s Bag, Borrow, and Steal.
Things that are operational but need to be improved:
- Google walking maps.
- An iPhone program that will tell you when the next bus is coming.
Ideas for the future:
- A smart grid that can take inputs from electric car batteries and other sources which have extra energy.
- An iPhone readout of how much energy and materials are imbedded in a product you can receive after taking a picture of the product.
- Cell phones that pop into components when heated so all the parts can be recycled.
Steffen said the economy of the future is a high quality of life at a low ecological impact.
“We can do it,” he said, adding a better place can be created than what’s happening now with the destruction of the planet.
“We’re all in this together,” Steffen said. People in balance with the planet will make a life everyone can enjoy.