20 for '30: Imagining sustainability in 2030
What lies ahead! From Building Robotics and El Paso to Google and NASA, thought leaders look ahead.
After looking at the surprising sustainability breakthroughs in 2015 and hopes for 2016, we present our third and final installment of a series focused on the unprecedented opportunities for progress at the nexus of business, the environment and society.
Here are 20 responses from inspiring, provocative VERGE movers and shakers answering our third question: "Imagine it’s 2030 and we got it all right. What technology, trend, policy or other development made the biggest difference?"
As the saying goes, we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
Amory Lovins — chairman and chief scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute
Led by the U.S. and China, the world in the late "twenteens" started recognizing, learning and scaling integrative design, which greatly sped energy savings and avoided much costly supply. By optimizing buildings, factories and vehicles as whole systems, not as a pile of components, integrative design often made very large energy savings cost less than small or no savings, turning diminishing returns into expanding returns. Just using such design to optimize friction in the world’s pipe and duct systems turned out to save half the world’s coal-fired electricity, with lower capital cost in newbuild and paybacks averaging under a year in retrofits. Yet even as late as 2015, no official study or industry forecast had even recognized such possibilities. What took us so long?
Davida Herzl — CEO and co-founder, Aclima
Frank Pennisi — VP and general manager, Honeywell Connected Buildings
Kate Brandt — lead for sustainability, Google
Robin Chase — co-founder, Veniam, Zipcar
Adam Lowry — co-founder and chief greenskeeper, Method
Peter Gleick — president and co-founder, the Pacific Institute
By 2030, we will like to see that the technologies developed for a sustainable mission to Mars are also used to on Earth to help us live in synergy with our planet. For example: LED lighting and crop science that grows food for our crew will be used for vertical farming in urban areas. Water management technology developed for a space station also helps minimize water shortage impacts here on Earth. We would also like to see that the word "trash" has been eliminated from our vocabulary. Children and adults routinely recycle, reuse and repurpose all materials, no matter whether they are on Earth, or in space …
Jason Kelly Johnson — founding design partner, Future Cities Lab
Danny Kennedy — managing director, California Clean Energy Fund
Andrew Beebe — managing director, Obvious Ventures
Tom Werner — CEO, SunPower
Stefan Heck — CEO, Nauto
Lindsay Baker — president and co-founder, Building Robotics
Ev Williams — co-founder, Twitter, Obvious Ventures, Medium
Nicole Ferrini — chief resilience officer, city of El Paso
Andrew Liu — VP of new ventures, AECOM
If it’s one thing, I think it would be collaboration between the public sector, private sector and regulatory bodies. It has to be OK for private sector to make profits on solutions that benefit everybody.
Stephen Ritz — founder, Green Bronx Machine
Rethinking the status quo
Helene York — global director, Responsible Business, Bon Appetit at Google
By 2030, I would hope to see global (not just Asian) cultural acceptance of these foods as mainstream options, regulatory support for seafarm production hubs producing water temperature-appropriate species in every ocean, and the retirement of large-scale fishing fleets that have been hoovering the biodiversity of the oceans for 40 years. Many technologies in this space are well-developed but not fully deployed; political and culinary acceptance are trailing technological development in this field, whereas the technologies of the 1970s and '80s (especially sonar targeting of high-value fish) are wrecking havoc on the balance of marine resources. One area that needs applied attention are fish breeds. So much attention has been paid to one company's efforts to introduce GM salmon but breeding smaller impact species that can eat lower on the food chain, are more efficient with feed, have healthy nutrient profiles and taste great is still a work in progress.
Antwi Akom — founder, ISEEED/Streetwize