Author touts small solutions to big environmental problems on Earth Day | Washington
(The Center Square) – In a world that constantly calls for big solutions to big problems – including environmental challenges – Todd Myers advocates thinking small when tackling things like climate change, endangered species and pollution.
In fact, it’s in the title of his forthcoming book, “Time to Think Small: How Nimble Environmental Technologies Can Solve the Planet’s Biggest Problems,” which champions low-key, pragmatic environmental solutions rather than broader political ones.
It’s sort of a follow-up to Myers’ first book, “Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment,” published in 2011.
“I started thinking about how to solve the problems I identified in my first book and started noticing that small tech allowed people to do amazing things,” said Myers, head of environmental policy at the Washington Policy Center, a free market think tank. . “It was exciting and the more I thought about it, the more I noticed these kinds of small but effective environmental approaches.”
He continued, “It’s important to note that what we’re seeing isn’t just the creation of cool gadgets. We have the opportunity for a fundamental change in the way we approach environmental issues, because small environmental approaches can solve problems that government is simply not good at solving.
Myers, who has been working on his most recent book for the past five years, presented several examples from around the world of the small-scale approach to environmentalism.
“There are smart thermostats that help you save energy through artificial intelligence,” he said. “There are gadgets that connect to your water and tell you how you are using water and how to reduce waste. There is an internet-connected water pump in Africa that not only reduces water waste by charging users , but also provides income for people to repair pumps when they break down. It used to take months to repair a government-provided pump, now it takes a day.”
Myers explained why bigger isn’t always better.
“The beauty of small environmental technologies is that they can be used in the United States, Ghana or Vietnam,” he said. “Some of the best uses for small tech are showing up in developing countries where government solutions aren’t an option, so people are getting creative. It’s really inspiring.
He highlighted carbon capture and storage technology as something that can be positively impacted by a more modest approach.
Carbon capture is the process of capturing carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that traps some of the heat the Earth would otherwise have radiated into space – before it enters the atmosphere, transports it and does not store it long term.
“There are some exciting technologies that have the potential to make a big difference in the future,” he said. “Carbon capture is one of them. I tell the story in my book of a guy who wanted to use captured carbon for a product. He used a crowdfunding site to sell products made from that carbon to to make carbon capture more economically attractive, so while people think of the big tech as carbon capture, the small tech is often there to make it viable.”
These technologies can have significant implications, Myers says, beyond reducing costs for businesses and governments.
“The simplest are technologies that help people reduce their electricity consumption, save money and reduce environmental impact,” he said. “It’s not just about saving money; this can help prevent breakdowns.
He referenced Texas suffering a major power crisis in February 2021 following three severe winter storms that swept across the country.
“Texas’ energy crisis happened because demand hit an all-time winter high,” he said. “If demand had been reduced by just 10%, the outage could have been averted and lives saved. There is technology that can help people reduce demand when prices are high, but too few people have it now. In the future, simple technologies like this can help prevent this kind of disaster.”
Myers’ penchant for small solutions doesn’t mean government has no role to play in addressing environmental challenges.
According to Myers, however, when it comes to government, “the Hippocratic oath is in order – first do no harm”.
“But there are many opportunities to improve our policies to make prices more transparent and create incentives to hold when prices are high,” he added.
“Time to Think Small” will be released on November 1.