Innovation to the rescue

Here are a couple inconvenient truths for you: anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) climate change is a fact, and we’re now way past the tipping point where behavior changes can avert disaster. So what is left to us?

Glad you asked.

Though the notion might be controversial to some (those with reasonable concerns about Pandora and her boxy precedent), it seems to me that innovation—science and technology—are the only viable solutions. Sure, they’re what spawned this catastrophe—in a less enlightened time we embraced the all-encompassing use of non-renewable energy without consideration of side effects. Aside from the willfully ignorant, we now know better. We’re now capable, I think (I hope), of leveraging technology to fix the mess we’ve created.

Cast your eyes toward Goodyear, venerable tire maker, corporate anchor of my hometown. They’ve recently introduced the Oxygene, a concept automotive tire based on current, available technologies that would reduce waste, promote sustainability, and actively reduce atmospheric carbon.

The Oxygene’s superstructure is semi-rigid, non-pneumatic, 3D-printed from powderized rubber waste. It houses a living sidewall, a colony of moss growing inside the tire, that’s watered by moisture picked up from the road, actively scrubbing carbon dioxide and releasing pure oxygen. And more: the photosynthesis actually creates energy—enough to power lights, road sensors, and LiFi connectivity.

If that all sounds too good to be true, well, this is where we remind ourselves this is a “concept” tire. Whether or not the Oxygene ever goes to production remains to be seen. Fingers crossed.

The point is valid, though, and it’s worth emphasizing: engineers and designers are working this problem. They’re grappling with the realities of climate change, and they’re creating viable solutions. The Oxygene tire might seem far out, in every sense of the term, but it harnesses proven, existing technologies. There’s no reason it, or something like it, can’t start converting carbon today.

Goodyear isn’t alone here. Dozens of companies are designing all manner of active carbon scrubbers. Other would-be Captain Planets are building ocean skimmers to remove the floating trash that pollute our seas, and genetically engineered organisms that can consume discarded plastic and spilled oil.

It’s lateral thinking. It’s a new, innovative approach. And it just might save the planet.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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