Sunday, November 6, 2011

The solution to pollution is elimination

“The solution to pollution is dilution”

This is the dictum that has governed the modern world since the mid 18th century and the beginning of the first industrial revolution. The dictum describes an approach to toxic management whereby sufficiently diluted pollution is acceptable and of no harm ( look at the picture.) Every factory, every discharger, every government, is controlled by this dictum.

Think of a “straight” 2 oz. shot of whiskey, versus a “mixed drink” consisting of the same 2oz. of whiskey in a 5 gallon pail of water, the latter makes it impossible to get drunk.

“The solution to pollution is dilution” governs every aspect of environmental law and is the backbone of the worlds Cap and Trade, Climate Action Plans and Kyoto protocol.

Fine and dandy in an agrarian world.

The world is changing rapidly and dramatically. For the first time in our history, more of earth’s residents, greater than 50%, are living in densely packed cities. The trend lines are that up to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by the turn of the next century.

Back to whiskey, now think of 1000 people, each pouring 2 oz of whiskey in that same 5 gallon pail ( look at the picture.)

Today in a world where most of the population is living in mega cities, the dictum, like any good virus, has morphed into a new form more resistant to mans calculations and “antibiotics.” That morphed dictum and its relation to the mega city world of today is:

“The dilution of pollution when concentrated is a disaster”

One example of why I think it’s a disaster. A few months ago as an invited guest of the German Consulate, I participated in a high level exchange of information with 20 other world leaders, activist, corporations, scientists, academics and pioneers. I was seated in the Bradley Tower, on the very top of Los Angeles City Hall. Next to me on my left was a Global Vice President from Siemens, on my right was Mary Nichols from the California Air Resources Board. Speaking was Joschka Fischer, former Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany.

Vice Chancellor Fisher looked out the windows of the Bradley Tower room, over a 360 degree view of smog polluted Los Angeles, and said “Look what we have done! 15 million people live with ever increasing health issues and social degradation, with this air that we have polluted and that they breathe with every breath.” As a native So-Cal resident, I was struck like never before by that comment.

The new dictum in our ever increasing concentration of population centers must be:

“The solution to pollution is elimination”

Elimination of fossil fuels and elimination of combustion, as Amory Lovins would say, we need to Reinvent Fire. For the first time in our history it is possible and economical to live in mega cities powered by earth wind and fire. Geothermal energy, Hydro, wind, and solar.

We can today live in home powered by, drive a car powered by, and work in a building powered by geothermal, hydro, wind and solar.

This solution is not a pipe dream nor is it an academic exercise, it is the very description of my life living in a solar powered home, driving an electric car powered by solar energy and working in a city hall that is powered by solar energy. This transition for a nation and world will not be easy and it will be incremental, however the new dictum for our future and our mega cities must be,

“The solution to pollution is elimination” we should strive for that as leaders and as individuals in every decision we make.

I am happy to be affiliated, as a Mini-E field trial driver with a company like BMW that is leading the way in reinventing mobility for our mega cities.

We need to think differently about pollution.

Mini-E 3 183, 34,000 susnshine powered miles

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