Sandy Carroll
Sandy Carroll

2008: Disruptive, innovative, green

It seems as if Earth orbits faster around the sun every year. There is this theory that it is the result of us all being connected 365-24-7 and having a lot less off-time. This made me think of the coming year and how to slow things down.

However, the activity bored me to tears within the space of seconds, so instead I thought it apt to generate a few predictions, or rather comment on some trends. There are six of them. Although they are not very quantitative, I trust they may invoke some thought.

  • 1. Earth is under a lot of pressure. Subterraneous activities related to plate tectonics with resulting earthquakes and volcanic activity will likely increase not only in number of occurrences, but also in magnitude of events. East Asia and the Asia Pacific, with their complicated patchwork of moving, subducting and colliding plates and constantly increasing pressure, will remain the focus of seismic activity. The threat of tsunamis following these events remains.
  • 2

  • . Global mean temperature curves continue a steeper diagonal climb on Al Gore’s and others’ charts. Associated incidents of flooding, droughts, disease, crop losses and fresh-water losses follow the temperature curve with some short delays. Globally, governments step up emissions and air-quality regulations, consider the implementation of strict emission-reduction targets and contemplate the viability of clean energy subsidies. The rift between fossil-fuel stalwarts and clean-energy advocates widens.
  • 3. Fossil fuels are extracted and exploited at an even greater pace wherever they occur, which is sometimes extremely remote and newly discovered. Associated transport distances of coal, oil and gas also increase, resulting in reduced energy efficiency practices globally. Increasing costs of mining, exploring, refining and transport leads to a harpooning oil price, increasing general cost of living, but also opening the window a little wider for renewable energies to be competitive. The geographic shift in “oil wealth”, however, increases global political tensions.
  • 4. Energy continues to fuel life and economies. While China scrambles to bring new coal-fired and nuclear power plants online, Europe actively takes steps towards reducing their fossil-fuel consumption. Some first-tier developing countries, such as Brazil and India, increase their investment into and adoption of clean energy alternatives, while others, such as South Africa and China, struggle to translate clean-energy policies into action. Energy supply shortfalls in Southern Africa negatively impact on economic development and prosperity of the region, but also create opportunity for evolution of the energy industry with more focus on distributed and individual power generation and alternative fuels.
  • 5. Businesses, academic and research institutes and relevant patrons offer subsidies, R&D funding, prizes, scholarships and other rewards for innovations, inventions and developments related to environmental and alternative-energy solutions and technologies. Planned future towns remind of the past, where communities are self-contained and sustainable. Breakthroughs in air-travel technologies hail a new era for international travel, where hydrogen-solar hybrids may just find their spot under the sun.
  • 6. Consumer demands in the developed world lean towards wanting to know a product’s carbon and ecological footprint during manufacture and transport to the shelf. Manufacturers, suppliers and distributors anticipate future legislation in support of transparent display of this information on labelling and start planning. Products from the developing world will be subject to the same regulations, and planning budgets acquire a new line item: environmental footprints. Simultaneously, financial reports start mentioning a similar item, where they don’t already.

I still haven’t solved the mystery of where time disappears to so fast every year, so will now retire and enjoy the last hours of 2007, without resolutions, but with plans to make it the best, albeit fastest, year I would have lived in another 367 days. Enjoy February 29.