The ‘green-tech’ future is a flawed vision of sustainability

Original article by The Conversation August 28, 2015.

What does your vision of a sustainable future look like? Some people imagine a scenario whereby technology solves the world’s most pressing environmental problems.

In this world we all drive electric cars and have solar panels on our roofs that power our air conditioners and flat-screen televisions. We purchase “eco” products that provide all the convenience and comfort but without degrading the planet. We continue consuming and growing our economies, yet Mother Nature wins too.

But I and my colleague Josh (who co-wrote this article) would argue that this vision of sustainability is flawed, and will in fact drive greater damage to the world, its ecosystems, and us. So how has this vision come to dominate?

Why is ‘green tech’ so popular?

There seem to be three main reasons why the “green-tech” conception of sustainability is dominant.

First, it is good for business. Sustainability is presented as something we can either purchase as consumers or sell as green entrepreneurs. There is no conflict here between consumer capitalism and sustainability, so the powers that be need not feel threatened. As the sustainable design website Inhabitat declares: “Design will save the world”.

Second, the green-tech future is politically palatable. Politicians can defend their “green” credentials without questioning the affluence that consumerist cultures seem to expect and demand. From this perspective, sustainability is a great opportunity for green growth of the economy, which means that politicians do not have argue that we need to consume less.

Third, the green-tech future is less challenging for those of us who enjoy the affluent lifestyles that make such tremendous demands on natural resources. Fortunately, for all those cultures that emulate the American way of life, the dominant faith in a green-tech future means that we can enjoy consumer affluence in good conscience, knowing that it is consistent with the transition to a just and sustainable world.

To read the full article on The Conversation please click here.

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