In the past, and indeed in the present, many environmentalists and economists have blamed population growth—predicted to reach 9 billion people by 2050—for the Earth’s eventual doom. Ramez Naam, author and co-chair of Environment and Energy at Singularity University, argues that they often overlook the power of ideas and Earth’s greatest resource: human innovation.
Sharing insights at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference, Naam explained that we currently live in both the best and worst of times. While ice caps are melting and droughts are prevalent, fewer people are in poverty and agriculture has become increasingly efficient at feeding a growing population. Things might get worse before they get better in terms of these global crises, but he has faith in the power of ideas to make positive change.
“I’m an optimist like Alltech is, and I believe we can innovate our way out of this problem,” said Naam.
What innovations are going to help us survive and thrive?
The human innovations that Naam believes will most impact the world include:
- Solar energy, as the cost of both its energy capture and storage is steadily decreasing, allowing it to become the cheapest source of energy in many parts of the world.
- Wind power, which has grown by 1,000 percent in the last decade due to policy and innovation.
- Desalination of water that is drinkable and usable for crops.
- Electric vehicles, which Naam believes will soon be cheaper than the cheapest cars being sold today.
Working smarter, not harder, for the future
According to Naam, our current pace of innovation is “blistering.” He explained that the cost of making these changes is always cheaper than initially projected because of innovation, and when policy, technology and business come together, “that is when you get these breakthrough moments when new markets can emerge.”
Naam stressed that leadership is often what it takes to kick-start one of these moments. By leveraging our ideas, we can ensure a future on a planet that is clean, thriving and encouraging of innovative thinking. We might have one finite planet, but it contains endless possibilities.
“Ideas never get chipped, or dented, or worn down or broken,” said Naam. “Ideas are the only natural resource that we have more of over time.”
Naam was a presenter at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference. Audio recordings of most talks from ONE will be made available on the Alltech Idea Lab by mid-June 2016. For access, click on the button below.