Rethinking Environmental Sustainability for the 21st Century: Technological Disruption at the Energy-Transportation-Food Nexus
The trajectory and magnitude of technological change is not adequately recognized across the environmental disciplines. As a result, environmental policy and planning for sustainability does not accurately reflect the plausible space of possible futures beyond 2030. Given that environmental issues and sustainability concerns inherently span long-term time horizons, and given that technological change has tended to accelerate over time, the technological myopia of the environmental disciplines has become increasingly problematic over the last several decades. Today this myopia is so acute that it threatens to undermine both the relevance and the legitimacy of environmentalism itself. In particular, compounding technological disruptions at the nexus of energy, transportation, and food that are poised to occur during the 2020s are so substantial that their implications invalidate most other conventional claims about the future of the environment and sustainability beyond 2030. Examples of disruptors include PV solar plus storage, electric autonomous vehicles, lab-produced clean meat, and widespread robotics applications of narrow artificial intelligence, among others.
This lecture has three primary aims: 1) to present an evidence-based prospectus of technological disruption at the energy-transportation-food nexus, 2) to explain the full extent of environmental implications of disruption by 2030; and 3) to challenge students and scholars – and by extension policymakers and practitioners – to rethink their assumptions about sustainability for the 21st Century given the profound technological transformation our world now faces.
Adam Dorr earned his PhD at UCLA where he worked on the future of energy technology in general, and the politics of fracking in California specifically. He is also a University of Michigan alumnus, having earned his Master of Science at the School of Natural Resources and Environment in 2010.