David Mitchell is brilliant. He’s a very clever chap, eminently likeable & damn entertaining too, which is a great thing in every way – particularly from the perspective of being a great communicator. So when he released a new Soap Box recently likening the future of our planet to compulsory tidying up, I couldn’t decide if I thought it was profoundly brilliant or a complete, soul-crushing undermining of my very being. See for yourself:
And yes, honestly, given the choice, I’d rather go driving to the North pole drinking Gin than go on a Bat Survey tonight – though I do still quite enjoy cutting about in the wilderness chasing bats. But the future isn’t as David says – or as he says environmentalists say; it’s not a case of “tidying up” or trying to make that fun.
What we’ve come across is a necessary leap in our industrial revolution & progress. We’ve come a long way in the pursuit of making things easier & having more fun – basically everything that burns fossil fuels. But we’re reaching the limits of that technology because we’re reaching the limits of the fuel itself – or at least of how much of it the planet can take. We’ve set ourselves a great baseline in ability & fun, and we want more of it.
The invention of the wheel has been pivotal in our evolution, as has the development of things for wheels to go on and things to go on wheels. Wheels allowed us to discover taking more stuff to places further away, and rolling really fast down hills. And what did we do with those newly discovered abilities? We thought “Hey, you know what would make this even better – no wheels!” And hence we invented planes to do those things even better.
Hover-boards are the perfect example. We’ve had skateboards for ages, but we’ve always had that dream – mostly inspired by Back To The Future – of Hover-boards. Well… we’ve gone & made them (and they’re catching on, even Lexus is getting in there).
Throughout out past we’ve had a lifestyle we covet, and something’s got in the way & we’ve had to technologically overcome it. Wars, despite being the vessels of gross global atrocities, continue to facilitate the desperate need to develop new technologies to do things better, faster, harder, more secretly, or with more of a bang. It’s our technological version of The Red Queen Hypothesis.
Back to the Mitchell/Clarkson example of driving to the North pole drinking gin being brilliant fun. We can all agree that we’d like to do that. But it’d be nice to be able to without destroying the world (though its’ a close-call I know). Back when we relied on steam engines to get around that was all fine but it didn’t fulfil our needs perfectly, so we got the internal combustion engine in it’s stead. Now that’s letting us down, so we need to find another kind of fuel to use to get around.
Yep, that’s a thing now, and it’s freaking awesome. What’s better than driving around really fast and destroying the world? Driving around really fast and NOT destroying the world! The fossil-fuel-free future is not a drab case of a nicely tidied room. It’s touchable holograms, hover-boards, and SOLAR. FREAKIN’. ROADWAYS.
It’s no parent-y notion that ‘tidying up can be fun’ – we just need to drop the adolescent winge that something fun becomes work the second someone tells you to do it. If we resent it, we’ll all die. If we step-up and get involved, we’ll all get shiny hover-boards. This is globalised Having-your-cake-AND-eating-it. You wouldn’t buy that Lemon Drizzle cake from Tesco because of the potassium sorbate preservatives and palm oil that’s in it – you’d buy it because it tastes nice. Similarly you wouldn’t buy an almost-identical competing cake from a vegan farm shop purely because it didn’t have those things in it – well maybe some people would – no, you’d buy it because it tastes nice. And if you don’t think these world-saving efforts like solar-freakin’-roadways and ocean-powered sports cars are awesome – who cares? You’ll still get cake, just carry on not thinking about what goes into it.
The evolutionary & technological arms race is as alive as ever, and we’ve never been in a better position to make awesome.
And ironically, of course, we wouldn’t have these awesome lifestyles to aspire to if it weren’t for fossil fuels.