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Nature Tech: a nascent ecosystem

Nature Tech Map

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When people talk about climate tech, they tend to mean carbon tech. It’s all carbon tunnel vision: Carbon footprint, carbon equivalent, carbon credit, carbon compensation, carbon emission reductions, carbon offsets, decarbonization and so on. By extension, the entire debate about energy transition, energy transformation, clean power and green energy is similarly a debate that is largely held within the carbon tunnel.

Make no mistake about it. These are important topics to address. The energy transition will not only prevent catastrophic climate change but have massive benefits for human health by tackling fossil-fuel induced air pollution at the source.

As the above highlights, there is more at play than justified concerns and alarm bells about the atmospheric carbon concentration. The reason we care about the climate is not necessarily because we have an inherent affection to the climate as it is. It is because we enjoy the benefits a stable and temperate climate gives us. It’s not about increasing carbon in the atmosphere (what is 417ppm anyway?), it’s not even about a heating planet, it’s about what such a hotter planet will do to life as we know it. Not only for us humans, but for many of our constructions, as well as all fauna and flora.

If we see climate change as the one problem that change makers need to solve, we are not going to succeed.

Climate change is only a symptom. It is the symptom of a much bigger problem: the predatory relationship of the global economy with nature as a whole.

The current economic system is extractive and destructive. We use chemistry at 1,000 degrees Celsius where nature uses biology. We deploy most of the chemical elements in Mendeleev’s table to achieve functionalities that nature achieves using only seven elements. Since the industrial revolution, we have believed that we can dominate and subjugate nature without stewarding it, but as nature collapses (biodiversity) and fights back (tsunamis, droughts, storms, cyclones), more and more people and companies are realizing that that belief is false.

To turn an extractive system into a regenerative one, we will need radical transformations. The comforts we have all grown used to and depend on in the affluent West will not easily be given up and the reality is that more and more people in the Global South want to and should obtain the same standards of living. However, that need not mean environmental destruction. We genuinely believe there is room for good growth. The question is simply, what do we want to grow?

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