I received an invitation recently to participate in a discussion with “clean tech” leaders and congressional staff about how to get green technologies into the hands of developing world countries through mechanisms associated with an international climate agreement. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to talk about this because it should be a key element in the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen this December.
It is tempting, though, to remind everyone that the cleanest technologies available to us are rakes, shovels, hoes and other human-powered farming implements.
That may seem like a stupid comment, but it’s actually quite important.
Small-scale farming by peasants throughout the world can be more effective at feeding the world and sequestering carbon than large-scale, industrial farming. It is far preferable for peasants to control their own destiny on land they own and farm than for them to be forced off their land to become poor and chronically unemployed urban slum dwellers.
It’s also very important that indigenous peoples be left in control of their lands. Doing so will ensure that their lands remain effective carbon sinks.
While clean technology is clearly a necessary replacement for the fossil fueled energy sector, it’s a mistake to always think in terms of technical solutions. The clean technology solutions we have in mind are often more about generating profits for domestic companies than providing real benefits for the rest of the world.
When we discuss climate solutions, it’s important to remind ourselves that the best solutions leave people with the power to control their own destiny and generate their own solutions.