This article focuses on how to integrate technology and sustainability at the local level, grounding systems in human health and well being – a key primer for the age of social innovation.
The 3 keys at the cross section of technology and sustainability include:
- Transport systems
- Information technology
Sustainable transport systems (STS)
Technological advances speed up the process towards autonomous STS. Self-driving cars are part of our future. Electric vehicles (EVs) will replace unsustainable transportation systems reliant on fossil fuels. Autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) operating as fleets will result in fewer cars. This, in turn, will free up space in urban environments for regeneration. Such projects could include urban food gardens or food forests.
Shifting from car ownership to membership of ride-sharing platforms with AEVs, will transform urban spaces into functioning and connected ecosystems. By redesigning urban spaces to function as ecosystems, we can reclaim our health and well being.
It is also essential to electrify public transport systems like trains and buses. The switch to electric buses and trains powered by renewable energy would ease urban congestion. A combination of AEVs, electric buses and trains would be the basis for sustainable transport systems.
Similarly, by implementing designated bike lanes and incentives for people to ride their bikes, cities could reduce the amount of air pollution while increasing human well being.
Sustainability and the internet of things (IoT)
The internet of things (IoT) brings to life a zero marginal cost society. Technological innovation and interconnection frees humanity from centralised mechanisms of control, such as debt-based money systems or standardized education. Hierarchical systems prevent sustainable systems from materializing. Hierarchical systems are too slow and cumbersome for sustainable innovation. We need start-ups and platforms that innovate and scale locally.
Living in an interconnected world means that we are at the point where there are 4 interconnected devices per person. The internet of things (IoT) is a decentralised network where devices can communicate openly between each other.
A system of open communication enables software updates, monitoring of energy usage and savings, and supply chain management. Blockchain tracks and traces ethical and sustainable products from their source to an end-consumer.
Society can also use technology in urban farming. For example, open source technology in the form of software and hardware can be used to monitor crops and bees while supporting humans to create local and sustainable food systems.
Energy and sustainability
How does technology support sustainability when it comes to energy? We need smart systems to monitor renewable energy usage on microgrids, to provide real-time feedback on energy usage, storage, and savings. We can use technology to track time, energy and money through true-cost accounting principles, providing advanced data for the management of ecosystems.
Similarly, energy can be bought or sold, accounted for and managed, all on the blockchain. Software that shows you where to save energy or cut wastage is the interface where technology meets sustainability. As a result, open source technology revolutionizes local businesses, thereby helping communities and cities free themselves from centralised mechanisms of control in the form of utilities powered by dirty fossil fuels.
The interconnected nature of sustainability
Humanity needs distributed, decentralised, interconnected and technologically advanced energy systems powered by the sun, wind and wave, hydro-electric or biomass. There is huge scope for technological innovation in the transition to sustainable energy systems that serve the needs of local communities.
Energy systems need to function well at the local level to be sustainable over the long term. Consequently, we need a new model of economic development that focuses on health and well being and personal development.
In conclusion, technological innovation should serve human well being and support sustainable outcomes. Our vision must embody a rapid transition to a zero-carbon future. To fulfill this vision we need collaboration, adaptive design, and open source learning. The scale of transition that lies ahead is immense. Therefore, we need to work together to design a more sustainable future.
If you would like to increase your knowledge in these fields of learning, then join the movement for a sustainable future with our FREE online course, grounded in systems thinking and permaculture.