Updated: May 31, 2018
It’s the year two-thousand and eighteen. There are no (real) hover-boards, flying cars are still a ways off, commercial space travel is still a long way away, we don’t have a spaceport on the moon, and we haven’t landed on Mars (yet). However, we do all walk around with a video phone/supercomputer all rolled into one. Even though none of us use video calls as much as we thought we would when we watched the Jetsons on Saturday mornings it still pretty amazing tech considering how far fetched it seems when I was in elementary school.
The risk of dying from a large number of diseases and illnesses has been drastically reduced. I can shop for everything from tools to grocery's from my phone and have it delivered to my home in 2 days or less. When Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone we officially entered into the future. Yet with all of that progress, we can’t seem to enact a plan to stop rising tides, save our coral reefs, get off of fossil fuels, or stop climate change. Even the lesser problems seem to stick around and remind us of our unwillingness to change our habits and convenience based decisions. Styrofoam cups, single use plastic, stopping the public from actively littering, and using harmful chemical products (to yourself and environment) in our homes. We live in the future but we can’t stop the proliferation of simple environmental problems.
I love technology, gadgets and gizmos 3D printers, AI, IoT applications, and software really get my psyched up! Paradoxically, the one thing I can say that I’m even more into than tech is nature. The polar opposite to the silicon, metal, and plastic filled futuristic devices would have to be the tree lined trails, rushing water, the cool breeze, and the sound rustling leaves. These two contrasting ideological systems got me to thinking about those Saturday mornings in front of our massive 24”x24”x24” television box watching the Jetsons as a kid. And not just the Jetsons, most of the science fiction futuristic stories I loved. Then I asked myself the question “Where are all the trees?”. Most futuristic stories we are told revolve around how technology shaped the world. It’s almost assumed that along the way to our technological greatness that the environment was merely an expendable casualty to the greater good and the advancement of mankind. So many stories show humans venturing off planet because Earth is no longer as habitable as it once was. To save our species we turn to technology and decide that preservation of ourselves is in no way related to the preservation of our planet. We leave, we abandon ship, we wait too long to act, we find another place to call home and hope we don’t do the same to this new paradise that we’ve found. There’s no real reason to believe that we’ve changed, if anything we have proven to our future selves that there's no problem that we can’t tech ourselves out of. Even when the best path forward is to desert the planet that is just too hard to save.
But like I said, I love tech and I love nature. Personally I believe that there is a path forward with technology could lead us closer to nature and empower us to better care for the planet. Arguably the greatest technological advance in human history is the internet. That amazing network of inputs and outputs connected across a vast distance is what Earth has been doing for billions of years. A giant network of self analyzing and regulating inputs and outputs that spread information across the globe, regulate systems and behaviors, and adapt. We don’t have a clear picture of what this combination of Environment and Technology looks like, maybe because this is the first point in history where we can see both the past and the future with a fair degree of understanding. Take smart homes for example, as a home becomes more intelligent, that intelligence is derived from the data collected.That data is then used to regulate the home and its occupants in the most efficient way possible. What if our smart homes could analyze the data on air quality and not just decided to turn on or off the air conditioner, but analyze the health of the home and occupants and make recommendations about spending more time outside, energy loss solutions, to eat a more balanced diet, or to buy an indoor plant (or better yet order the plant for you). As a home becomes smarter it has no choice but to become more efficient, sustainable, and in turn more environmentally friendly (if we choose to program the code that way). If you venture further out of the home, the future should be filled with shared neighborhood gardens and parks, cleaner commuting options need to arise, and our communities will need to become communities once again. Cities need massive amounts of green space, roofs covered in solar panels, automobiles need to take a back seat to pedestrians and bicyclists. Air quality should be monitored and maintained for healthy living. This green techno-topia is attainable if we choose to deem it important enough. Nature and technology could be the perfect odd couple marriage that can not only save our environment but save us from ourselves. We need to reestablish our connection to nature before future generations forget our link to the green and its importance to our species.
The theory or ideology of 'envirofuturism' is founded on the belief that technological advancement and preservation and proliferation of our natural environments don’t have to be rivals. A model can exist where technology and nature embrace one another and form a mutually beneficial relationship.
Imagine…The future doesn’t have to be cold and bleak, it can be merged with the warmth of mother nature. We can establish a technological and environmental future based on sound principles for preservation of our natural world and technological principles where humans, artificial intelligence, and gizmos and gadgets work on the same team. One that preserves human’s link to the Earth and our desire to advance and create. At the Environmental League, our youth-oriented goals center around re-establishing a strong natural connection with today’s youth, and helping them use that connection to pursue careers into STEM fields for the evolution of technology that is people AND nature-centric. We know that with the guidance of the Environmental League, today's youth can grow to become our planet's future protectors and innovators ushering in a wave of ‘Enviro-Futurism’.