Scientist James Lovelock, proponent of the Gaia hypothesis, always says that in order to spare the planet of the worst effects of climate change, we need more technology, not less. He is probably right. With eagerness to solve the world’s most pressing problems, scientists sometimes get evangelical about the solutions they envision, until they come into the difficulties that inevitable rear their annoying faces when their systems are applied to real-life scenarios.
This has been the case with several cleantech technologies that cropped up in recent years. But it seems like a new wave of green tech has taken heed of past mistakes and is taking a more pragmatic approach to green technologies. A recent New York Times article provides an overview of several cleantech enterprises that attracted billions in investment and failed to deliver. But scientists are a persistent bunch and now new solutions are taking a less messianic route to deliver more niche solutions that can make a huge difference to the grand scheme of things.
One of the key ideas in the article is that the complexity of nature is what led the recent cleantech crop to stumble across some unforeseen difficulties and unmet outcomes. For instance, lab organisms have a knack for misbehaving once they are moved into other conditions and make companies lose millions of dollars. But that’s the nature of research and incubating new technologies.
In the last few years, new tools such as CRISPR-Cas 9, a genome editing tool that is cheaper, faster and more accurate than previous techniques of editing DNA, has opened up new possibilities of applications, including in the cleantech sector. And it is only one example of new tools that are taking computational biology to a new level of precision and application, the NYT says.
As we approach the new year, we look forward to a brave new world of disruptive technologies that perhaps will not promote a global shift but will solve specific problems very well, and take us to the sustainable future we envisage and need to build, one step at a time.
Happy New Year!
Image credit: Your Genome