If three years ago you told me that I would be getting letters from strangers thanking me for my work, I might have laughed. Three years ago, I doubt I would have thought it possible to have reached so many people directly. The truth is, three years ago I was a typical clean tech businessman, traveling by air to faraway places several times per year. I would blow through a typical person’s annual carbon budget in the first few months, all under the assumption that the results of my work would offset the carbon created by traveling. Rationalization at its finest.
Three years later, I now get these letters on a weekly basis. Sometimes they are just a quick note to say hi, other times they ask about my thoughts on a story that was posted, and then there are the ones that really, really move me. These are the ones where I am reminded that this project, the Happy Eco News, is probably the biggest gift I have ever been given. These are the people so overwhelmed by the situation in the world right now that they have all but given up. The ones who struggle to find meaning while grey old men actively look for ways to continue to get rich, their actions destroying the planet we all share. The fears are not unfounded; if you look around, the situation can seem awfully dire. The eco-anxiety is real. These are letters from people who tell me that they struggle and find fear everywhere they look, some even unable to look at the beauty of nature because it reminds them of what we may lose. The fear and anxiety are ever-present, except when they get the Happy Eco News. Some have said it is only when reading the Top 5 Newsletter that they get a reprieve.
I think probably everyone reading these words feels varying amounts of this fear, and my hope is that maybe together we can find comfort. Maybe for a few minutes a week, I can help lift some of that weight and I am honoured to do it.
So, I have to say thank you for the letters and messages, please keep them coming. They are the fuel that keeps me going. The people I meet are the best part of this project.
I am typing this from a small farm near Hollyhock Retreat on Cortes Island. Cortes is located at the entrance to Desolation Sound on the BC coast, but the area is anything but desolate. When I come here, I see a rich and diverse landscape of mature trees, verdant rainforests filled with native ferns, sandy beaches, and of course the ocean. Cortes is off the beaten path; it takes three ferries and some determination to get here from my home (especially while driving an EV). It is the perfect place to unwind and heal, soothe, relax, and dissipate my own eco-anxiety. The people who live here are fiercely protective of their way of life and I am lucky to have family among them. Cortes is a paradise, and it is a place I hope to continue to visit for many years in the future.
But it really wasn’t that long ago when there were dark times for the environment even here in this paradise. Not just here of course, but in the entire area. In the early part of the last century, the loggers found this island, and others like it. In the mindset prevalent at the time, the island was just one of many that had standing timber. This timber resource was harvested, and the island almost completely denuded of all standing trees. Photos of the area at that time show an island naked except for a few shacks, some small, low-value trees and the stumps of others many feet in diameter; trees that were several hundred years old when they were fallen. Their stumps are still visible in the second-growth forests even today. Whales are seen regularly here, but in the 1800s these magnificent creatures were hunted almost to extinction. A local harbour is called Whaletown in reference to this history.
But nature heals. 80 years later the trees are back and the forests are again healthy. While the trees are not a big as they once were, the island is again rich with diverse wildlife, including deer, bears, wolves, cougars, and dozens of species of birds. The oceans today are teeming with sea mammals; seals, sea lions, humpback whales, grey whales, orcas, porpoises, and dolphins are commonly seen in these waters, often curiously interacting with the boats that work and play in the area.
If nature can heal itself, then so too can we humans heal ourselves. In this week’s top post, Moving Forward from Eco-Anxiety, writer Maggie B explains how she managed to cope with eco-anxiety and provides 6 tips on how you might also make a few small changes that can have big rewards. I am a strong proponent of taking action and this is a solid plan that may help you to stop feeling helpless and start feeling like you are making a positive impact. Small positive changes can add up to huge gains in a very short period of time, but it all starts with taking one positive action. A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution?
It is generally accepted that there have been three industrial revolutions in human history: the first was mechanical production; printing presses replacing books and steam engines replacing farm animals are examples. The second was science and mass production; advances in medicine and Ford’s mass production of the Model T automobile would typify this period. Third was digital; the transition from pages printed on paper to computers and instant global communication via the internet meant the deaths of hundreds of industries, while creating hundreds of new ones. In the fourth industrial revolution, we are seeing changes across the board. The idea of traveling to and from a work office may seem quaint and antiquated in just a few years, so too will the notion of actually owning a transportation device other than as a luxury or recreational item. The young people of today are increasingly not even getting a driver’s license. Why would they? Owning a car is seen as an expensive extravagance and is completely impractical when compared to Uber or Lyft or any number of car-sharing options. The end of car culture has been gaining speed with city kids for some time, but the pandemic has hastened the rate and made other demographics join them. The office for many workers has been replaced by online conferencing, despite many sales managers insisting that their representatives meet customers face to face, the pandemic has forced sales teams into virtual meetings and somehow business still continues. All these factors are part of the fourth industrial revolution and unfortunately for the car companies, The Death Of The $2 Trillion Auto Industry Will Come Sooner Than Expected.
Renewables Can’t Be Stopped
In 2020, despite being the strangest year in recent memory, there seems to be one really good thing that keeps showing up in the news: The Rise of Renewables. The continued decline in the cost of renewable energy production is driving an unprecedented shift in how energy is generated in the world. Already at a lower cost than coal, wind and solar are expected to continue to benefit from investment in the sector. This investment will naturally encourage innovation and efficiency, driving costs even lower. Analysts expect that the trend will soon outpace natural gas and bump the last low-cost fossil fuel generation product from most new power generation projects.
England’s beavers are back, and they mean business! England has been doing a lot to proactively help nature heal itself. The rise of rewilding in areas damaged by human activity is welcome and many native species quickly return to their historic ranges. Unfortunately, many of the larger animals have been extirpated completely and cannot return unless they are reintroduced from elsewhere. In the 17th century, English beavers were wiped out due to commercial trapping. Known as a keystone species, the beaver is a small animal with a big impact. Their natural instinct to dam streams create large wetlands and lakes, providing habitat for them and a myriad of other wild creatures. Everything from fish to turtles, insects, and birds, benefit from increased wild wetlands.
But it’s not just the animals that benefit from beaver activity. Humans benefit too; the dams created by beavers slow floodwaters by up to 30% compared to the areas that do not have them. This slower runoff helps to prevent flood damage downstream. In 2008 beavers were observed in the English River Otter in the county of Devon after escaping from captivity. Nobody knows where exactly they escaped from, but they have now had a litter of kits and are happily living their beaver lives.
Commodification of Lithium
Lithium-ion batteries are now found in everything from e-bikes to mobile phones. The race to make them cheaper has now begun in earnest. Like solar, the industry is new and the economies of scale have not yet been realized. Recent awareness about the importance of this sector has spurred much investment in the companies that are bringing forward innovative technology. Some of the biggest gains will be made in optimizing manufacturing, where a large part of the cost of building lithium-ion cells is the multiple steps required in the manufacturing process. One such innovation comes from Tokyo-based APB Corp. The company says it has developed a process where they can create a cell using a single step. They say where current cell technology requires a process similar to building a device, their technology uses a single step that is more akin to making steel. The reduction in cost that would be achieved has not gone unnoticed by the investment community and the company has recently raised $77 million to build a factory and start production.
I hope this week’s Top 5 Happy Eco News stories newsletter will help you all find a bright spot in your day. These are tough times no doubt, and 2020 has tested us all. Please remember that there are things you can do to find hope. Take action; write your representative, plant a tree, or my favourite, find a place in nature to spend some time, and enjoy the chance to recharge your batteries.
Happy Eco News, August 3, 2020
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