Counteracting stress on the environment

Science has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the human species has caused the environment to change.

Science has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the human species has caused the environment to change.

If you have been near a large urban centre enduring a thermal inversion, you’ve seen the off-putting effects of a large population and a visible and scalable example of environmental stress. Multiply by all the cities, factories, coal-fired electrical plants, and millions of vehicles and you get an inkling of the forces at work affecting the environment and climate.

On the brighter side, science and technology have come up with a profusion of devices and processes for counteracting the deleterious effects of the human populations’ energy requirements.

We have been talking about off-grid homes and grid-tied installations for the past while, but in all honesty is any one of the these technologies the sole answer to all of the problems our children now face?

The short answer is no.

However, that being said, a collective response is provided by the continued development and increasing use of all the available and nascent technologies.

There is one large caveat to all saviour sciences: dollars!

If the vast majority of the population cannot afford the small solutions, are we totally dependent on industry and government to provide larger answers?

Most of the countries of the world, and some Canadian provinces, that do not have hydrocarbon resources are aggressively pursuing the alternatives. Ontario is providing one avenue for the general population by providing a green power incentive.

Don’t get me wrong — as long as humans need plastics, lubricants, coolants, Gore-Tex jackets, to identify some of many, oil is here to stay. We simply cannot have any semblance of a modern society without it.

Unfortunately, everything comes at a cost or, to make a medical analogy, includes possible side effects. Regrettably, with massive and growing use of oil and coal, we are just fouling our own nest.

The impressive thing about our future is the alternative technologies. Humanity as a whole has seen the need and we are starting to get our butts off the couch, inventing and installing all sorts of unique and inventive ways to remedy the situation while maintaining our capacity for travel, home comfort and relatively inexpensive food.

Alberta has the distinctive status of immense resource wealth and an indomitable pioneering spirit.

Although we do not need to actively pursue alternatives to conventional energy use because of this wealth, we are still developing and using wind and, to a minimal scale, solar.

An omission would be geothermal plants for the generating of electricity. In fact, Canada is the only country on the Pacific Rim not pursuing this technology. To get any bureaucracy to advance any strategy, as the saying goes, is like breeding elephants: it involves a lot of noise and posturing and takes years to get results.

But is important to keep working towards a sustainable future. If we fail, Mother Nature will simply carry on without us.

Lorne Oja is an energy consultant, power engineer and a partner in a company that installs solar panels, wind turbines and energy control products in Central Alberta. He built his first off-grid home in 2003 and is in the planning stage for his second. His column appears every second Friday in the Advocate. Contact him at: lorne@solartechnical.ca