The monolithic mainframe has proven too inflexible against the personal computer. The fragemented computing cloud has proven more scalable than the centralized data bank. Wiki-ness has tapped the collective brain trust of each of us. Evolving systems based on flexibility, adaptability, and scalability are successfully mimicking the qualities of human communities: the sum of the diverse parts is greater than the homogeneous whole. How can this trend in efficient technology distribution be applied to a greener planet? Can energy production become cloud-based? Can our dependence on fossil fuels be unsurped by smart grids and multiple renewable sources of energy?
Portugal has been aggressively building an energy industry that promises to have half the country off of fossil fuels by 2025, putting them in the progressive European vanguard with Denmark and Iceland, and leap years ahead of the US and China. The principal reasons being something inherently non-American: they are a small country with strong central leadership, limited domestic fossil fuel supplies, and abundant renewable energy supplies (hydro, wind, solar). Yet, even with all this, the government faces intense opposition, and may be voted out of office. Can you imagine the perfect storm that would be required here in the US for this to happen? Congress working amicably? Neighboring states agreeing on shared interests? Ingrained, lobbyist-laden, industries allowing development in new directions? The immense size and geography of the country being knit together with new technologies? National Geographic recently reported on the patchwork of projects that may prove to stitch this country together and steer us in the same direction. There are many ideas and many directions. We’re too big to be Portugal, but their lesson is there for the taking.