- Nicola Smith
- Economics Technology Correspondent
5 hours ago
Residential neighborhoods surrounded by green spaces and rooftop gardens, floating villages, clean energy-fueled transportation, and hopeful science fiction tales. Imagine a world full of current technologies at the service of both people and the planet.
It’s “solar bank”, and the term, which came into existence in 2008, refers to an art movement that envisions what the future might look like if we lived in harmony with nature in a sustainable and egalitarian world.
“Solarbank is really the only solution to the man-made existential catastrophe of climate change,” says Michele Tolomelo, teacher of the art of Solarbank in New York State.
“If we want to survive and keep some of the things we care about on Earth with us, that implies a fundamental and necessary change in our worldview, meaning we have to fundamentally change our view from competitive to collaborative.”
But what is the impact of this burgeoning utopian movement on the tech industry? Is she an inspiration to her? Do those in charge of this industry listen to this movement?
Fern Global operates a data center services out of a university campus in Iceland, powered 100 percent by renewable energy.
Tate Cantrell, the company’s chief technology officer, says Iceland’s stunning landscapes fit perfectly with Solarbank.
“The core of Solarbank is technology that melts and fuses with the environment, technology powered by renewable energy is an actual part of the economy that depends on recycling, the economy that eliminates waste through the continuous use of resources. This synergy makes renewable energy a very real expression of the future of Solarbank “.
But not all companies working in the green economy are aware of this movement.
Daniel Egger is the commercial director of Claimworks, a Swiss company that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the air using machines powered by renewable energy or energy from waste.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques are seen by many as an important way to control carbon dioxide.
“Our goal is to inspire a billion people to remove carbon from the air,” he says. “It’s certainly not our goal to do this alone – we need to be part of a broader ecosystem.”
Although it aims to tackle climate change and stimulate the wider community, the company doesn’t know much about Solarbank. “It’s not that we don’t appreciate what other people think, but the intersections between our company and Solarbank are not that great,” says Egger.
Might the messy connotations of Solarbank turn off some?
Phoebe Tickell, systems scientist, designer, entrepreneur and co-founder of Moral Imaging, which works with organizations including universities, local councils and communities to encourage a reimagining of a better world. “Perhaps inviting people to embrace Solarbank’s thinking is much less appealing,” says Tickell. Encouraging them to unleash their imagination.
“We encourage imagination because every company and organization knows that in order to keep pace with the future and be resilient, they need creative employees who are imaginative, resilient and resilient in a volatile, complex and ambiguous world.”
“We hope they will continue to innovate and keep pace with Solarbank,” she adds.
The Canadian Corporation (CUT) is one organization that relies on Solarbank to communicate its vision. The company’s reactor technology allows the material to break down and absorb carbon dioxide, resulting in the production of improved concrete supports.
In 2020, the company launched a consumer brand, Expedition Air, which sells products such as panels and T-shirts made from “carbon capture” materials. It is a move rooted in Solarbank.
“Once we started working with artists to demonstrate how captured carbon could be incorporated into such a diverse range of products, we started receiving inquiries from major companies and brands wanting to incorporate our materials into their existing product lines,” says Madison Savelo, Project Leader, Expedition Air. “.
She adds that one of the main drivers of her art offerings and consumer products is to allow consumers to interact with carbon technology materials, envisioning a future in which products and art are carbon sinks.
“We’ve used art and consumer products to reduce the risks of exploiting these unfamiliar materials, and we’ve started conversations with companies that have the production capacity to change the landscape in terms of reducing carbon emissions.”
But using art and imagination to get big companies moving is not enough. So the Solarbank movement also advocates knowledge sharing and a focus on community – not hierarchy, profit and excessive minority wealth. It requires changing the entire prevailing system.
Michelle Tolomelo says she knows several Solarbank people who work in the technology sector.
“I think our views are gaining momentum there. It will be Solarbank that supports small, green, green start-ups and collaborative structures, those that embrace a worker-owned collaborative business model are more likely to stick to their principles and commitment to sustainability and carbon neutrality.”
The principle of open resources is at the heart of the approach of many of these companies. One example is US-based OpenSource Ecology, which has developed industrial machines, such as tractors, kilns or cement jigs, that can be manufactured at a fraction of commercial cost and share their designs online for free. Its goal is to create an open source economy.
Eli Day, a software engineer and enthusiast of the Solarbank movement, says the movement’s mind should go beyond profit.
“Sure, capitalism can contribute to technology, but the welfare of human beings should always precede profit. So if tech companies can help spread the idea of Solarbank by working with those already in the business space without changing what they mean, I am a big proponent of this. So”.
Although the Solarbank movement is at odds with many of the big tech companies, it remains a huge untapped opportunity for both inspiring innovation and the dissemination of innovative new ideas, its advocates argue.
“The tech industry, the social justice industry, and the environment sector often see them as completely separate and even at war with each other,” Tickell says.
She concludes, “Solarbank is a very distinctive and influential cultural achievement that can bring together efforts across these sectors in a coherent manner.”
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