Good News Can Change the World

If We Printed Good News, We Could Change the World

All images in this post are from Flickr, as I have not been to Iceland

This morning I woke up to a really shitty headline on my Facebook feed. It came from the Washington Post, whom I consider a reputable source, and it went: Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity. I especially appreciated the word “bleak” as a way to start my morning.

Recently, at WebSummit, I’d heard about some incredible innovations in combating climate change, so I was pretty peeved at this trolling of pessimistic sentiments. Not wanting to be a total hypocrite however, I decided to read on. The opening included phrases such as “dire warning,” “biblical plagues,” “unable to sustain life” and my personal favorite, “But things were only going to get worse.” Not, in any way, sensationalist.

Finally, there were some real facts.

“But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.”

And then, surprisingly enough, a sprinkling of good news.

“The lone bright spot exists way up in the stratosphere, where the hole in the planet’s protective ozone layer has shrunk to its smallest size since 1988. The rapid global decline in ozone depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively.”

Continuing on…

“To this end, Ripple and his colleagues have formed a new organization, the Alliance of World Scientists, aimed at providing a science-based perspective on issues affecting the well-being of people and the planet.”

What I get out of this piece, after reading it in its entirely, isn’t quite as intense as the *cough* clickbait headline led me to think. The same information could have been positioned more like: Scientists Warn of Major Ecological Problems; Advise that Decisive Action Can Create Positive Changes.

Or. “Scientists Inform We’re Still Killing Our Planet, and What We Can Do to Stop.”

Either of those would have made my morning more pleasant, informative and hopeful. Potentially, the latter positioning would have also driven me to take some sort of positive action.

Now For Some Good News

Let’s contrast this with an optimistic global warming story that came out of Iceland several months ago, and obviously did nothing to arrive on my news feed. (Also, someone please explain to me the business case behind spreading negativity? I’m assuming that there’s money behind it and that’s why Facebook does it?)

The article, which I found in Science Mag, has no leading headline. It simply reads: “Underground injections turn carbon dioxide to stone.” If you don’t understand the significance of that off the bat, you’d likely to pass over this article. However, if you do … HOLY FUCK. That’s incredible! Scientists have managed to turn the dangerous greenhouse gases that are causing global warming into stone by injecting them underground? Please tell me more!

“Researchers working in Iceland say they have discovered a new way to trap the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) deep underground: by changing it into rock. Results published this week in Science show that injecting CO2 into volcanic rocks triggers a reaction that rapidly forms new carbonate minerals—potentially locking up the gas forever. The technique has to clear some high hurdles to become commercially viable. But scientists say the project, dubbed CarbFix, offers a ray of hope for beleaguered efforts to fight climate change by capturing and storing CO2 from power plants.”

The article goes on to discuss the type of stone that is safe for injecting CO2 gasses, and the impressively short amount of time – only a year and a half – it takes for them to calcify, effectively locking the gas away forever. Then, the article goes to talk about the hurdles this technology would have to face in order to become widespread. One: It’s high cost; Two: There needs to be more testing to make sure there’s no leakage; and Three: there is no commercial incentive to do this, so it probably won’t get adopted. Aka, no one will make money saving the world from Global Warming, so scientists don’t imagine that this technique will become widespread.

Excuse me? We have the Washington Post printing a sensationalist, clickbait story about how we’re destroying our world and we’re all going to die, while scientists in Iceland have found a completely viable solution to a major ecological problems, which they realize probably won’t be used as no one will make money off of it.

To quote the article again:

“Even CarbFix’s own scientists acknowledge that the biggest obstacle to CCS in basalt is financial: Power companies have little incentive to pursue it. “Without a price on carbon emissions, there’s no business case,” admits Matter, who hopes policymakers will create such an incentive.”

Here’s my suggestion. Let’s get in touch with CarbFix, figure out how much money they need to bury our CO2 emissions and turn them into stone so we don’t destroy our planet, then get some VC’s from Silicon Valley to stop gagging over ICO’s for five minutes, pool a bit of money and save our world really quickly before they go back to their man-caves. Or, failing all that, I’m keen to run a Kickstarter.

Anybody in?