Sustainable Technologies – IV Green Technologies

A brief review of some technology strategies for building a greener world.

But clean energy is only one aspect of the technological solution. The other aspect is the various forms of green technologies which can lead to a cleaner environment but without sacrificing efficiency and economy. One of the main principle of green technologies is that the technology of man must imitate the technology of nature. The most prominent aspect of Nature’s technology is Recycling. In Nature’s economy nothing remains waste because the waste of one organism becomes the food of other organism. Waste recycling is now a well-known eco-technology widely used in industrial circles all over the world. One of the reasons for the wide acceptance of this green technology is perhaps it is not only ecological but also economically profitable. For instance, Tata Steel recycles its grease and oil waste by converting it into fuel for the blast furnace, thereby saving a tidy sum of fuel cost. Thus, as R.P. Sharma, chief of environment and public health in Tata Steel states: “There is a clear business sense here. You improve the environment and it directly improves your bottom-line.” The new concept of Carbon Credit, which pays organizations for reducing the carbon emission, provides further incentives for business for eco-friendly practices. Some nations have advanced further by incorporating ecological principles at the level of planning. For example in Denmark, industrial estates are planned and organized in such a way that the waste of one factory becomes a resource for the other.

The other aspect of the technology of Nature is bio-diversity. Nature never promotes monoculture. Everything in Nature, forms, species, energy-flows, tends towards a rich diversity. This aspect of Nature has important implications for energy management and community development.

Creating a diversified eco-system made of biomass or wind energy, aquaculture, livestock development, agri-industires and services like food processing or preservation based on local resources and appropriate technology, cottage and craft industries for women, on a base of traditional or organic farming, is perhaps the most effective eco-development strategy for agricultural and rural communities.

Another new and interesting concept in green technology is the concept of the “living machine”. A living machine is a mechanism or machine built mainly from living organism of Nature and according to the living process and laws of Nature. They are machines because they designed and built to do a specific task. But they are also eco-systems made of living organisms like plants, algae. They are not only ecological but also more efficient and economical than conventional machinery in environment-related tasks like heating and cooling of buildings, food production, waste treatment and purify air. John and Nancy Todd, inventors of the concept, describe the rationale and significance of living machine for the present environmental condition of the planet:

“The innumerable and life-endangering environmental ills that currently plague us globally and locally are the byproducts of human cultures deeply estranged from the great natural systems of the planet… The only lasting solution to counter this dynamic is to create consciously symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature. Such relationship demand nothing less than a fundamental technological revolution designed to integrate advanced societies with the natural world… Among the most encouraging recent development has been the invention of living technologies that literally harness the intelligence, process and organisms found in nature not only to support human societies but to restore damaged and polluted ecosystem.”

The Living Machine is not merely a concept. Prototypes of them are now being installed through out the US, Canada and UK. As the inventors of the living machine concept state:

“We have designed and built living machines to grow food, to heat and cool buildings, to bioremediate naturally occurring bodies of water. It is possible to apply the same kind of biological engineering to the production of high-quality biogas fuels. Living machines produce byproducts that can be used in the manufacture of materials ranging from paper products to advanced construction materials. They can be linked together to form an engineered ecology, a living technology that can be designed to protect and nurture natural environment and to support human communities.”

These living technologies, according to Tack and Nancy Todd, will be “upto 10,000 times more effective than conventional technologies” and in terms of energy and chemical inputs, the existing examples of living machines are already “ten to one hundred times more effective”. Thus the concept of the living machine is a wonderful innovation with immense possibilities for creating living technologies which are in tune with the technology of Nature.


The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.

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