Humans tend to be wasteful. Fossil fuels are running low, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is being wasted every year. We at Tomorrow.Bio believe in a brighter future, where our cryopreserved patients can live a fulfilling second life. But for that vision to come true, humanity needs to become more sustainable. A lot of people who are interested in cryonics are also active in the field of sustainable solutions. So their descendants, and possibly themselves, can enjoy the benefits of a healthy and self-sustaining future. To reach this future of minimal waste and maximized resourcefulness we first need to find solutions for our current problems. Luckily, a lot of scientists and researchers are already hard at work doing just that.
Every solution starts with an idea. When Robert Ettinger first published his groundbreaking book “The Prospect of Immortality” in 1962, he proposed a simple (albeit very detailed) concept of how immortality could be achieved in the long run. Before the publication of his book, this seemed outlandish - to think we could be on the brink of figuring out the solution to human longevity. But afterwards, people started to believe. Some of those believers joined forces and helped push the field of cryonics forward, making the cryopreservation procedure of today much more effective than it was at its conception.
If you believe in humanity’s ability to find sustainable solutions for all aspects of life, then this concept will be the one for you: Sustainable Superabundance. The term, coined by David Wood in his book of the same name, describes the possibility of advancements in technology leading us to a point of “superabundance”. Simply put, this would mean that we will have more than enough of everything. According to Wood, looking ahead to the year 2050 there is a 60% chance that we are heading towards superabundance, a 30% chance we will make the wrong choices and face a new “Dark Age” and only a 10% chance of stagnation. But which factors make him so sure about these prospects? Let’s take a look at the latest ideas, that might be the start of the sustainable solutions of the future after revival.
In the north of Scotland, a couple kilometers off the mainland (16 km at the closest point), lies an archipelago like no other. Orkney, a group of 70 small islands of which 20 are inhabited, has an unusual problem: Too much energy.
In 1953, during a natural event aptly named “the great storm”, Orkney recorded the highest wind speed in Great Britain to date, with speeds of up to 125mph (~201 km/h). While this extreme was an exception, strong winds tend to be the norm on the islands. A short burst of 90 mph (~145 km/h) wind is a relatively regular occurrence, and a strong breeze can be felt at virtually any time of the day. But Orkney didn’t sit idly and wait for the gusts to blow them away. Instead they invested in sustainable energy.
Today over 650 wind turbines can be found, sprinkled across the 990 km2 Scottish archipelago. Together with further investments into marine energy resources, the ~22.500 islanders are using their local environment so efficiently that they produce 30% more energy than they can use. Other islands with similar natural resources also use wind and marine energy to their advantage, yet most of them still heavily rely on fossil fuel imports from the mainland. Not Orkney though. On the contrary, they might even provide the British mainland with energy in the future through a proposed power link.
The sustainable solutions for the future may have already been discovered and we are just not using them right. This is the basis that rejuvenates our next example technology: eHighways.
eHighways make use of overhead lines, which are already prominently used for electric trains and trams. These wires provide electricity from high-voltage electrical-grids, to vehicles attached via so-called pantographs. Usually the cables adorn the air along railroad tracks, but in the case of eHighways, they are suspended a few meters above the right-most track of a highway. Trucks equipped with a modern pantograph system can then extend upwards and attach themselves to these wires at speeds of up to 90 km/h. Once attached, the truck can keep driving at 80% efficiency, only using the electricity provided by the overhead lines. Should the need arise, trucks can also opt to drive in hybrid-mode, i.e. to allow for overtaking.
Currently eHighways are being tested on multiple roads including three in Germany, one in Sweden and one that’s been proposed in India. According to Siemens, the operator of the currently running eHighways, equipping all of the German Autobahn with their system could result in a multitude of benefits. Decarbonization of road freight transport, reduced air pollution, high energy efficiency and lower operating costs are among the potential benefits of eHighways. For a more detailed analysis refer to the infographic below.
With vegetarianism and veganism on the rise, a lot of imitation meat products have entered the market. These plant-based products try to recreate the taste of meat by mixing ingredients like soy protein, peas, beans, wheat gluten and others. Scientists are taking a different approach by cultivating so-called “post-animal meat” or “cultured meat”. It is produced through tissue engineering, using stem cells of animals and cultivating them in the lab.
Although this meat is technically still an animal product, like regular meat, no animals are harmed while producing it. This is because stem-cells can easily be extracted from living farm animals, without putting them in any danger. Additionally, cryopreservation can be used to store stem-cells for many years, making it an effective option for stockpiling. But there is a catch: In 2013, production of the first fully developed cultured meat burger cost upwards of 250.000€, and the taste of the burger was said to be bland. Since then, more than 70 companies focusing on this field were established, and production-cost sank to as low as 9$ per burger. Taste-related issues were addressed as well, further pushing the option closer to a marketable and sustainable product. Could cultured meat eventually be our main protein-source of the future?
Vertical farming is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of spreading harvest across a huge horizontal field of land, it is being distributed in vertically stacked layers. This practice ensures that farmers make the most out of their land. It enables them to grow substantially more crops than possible using conventional methods. The area reduction needed also allows for natural flora and fauna to take its place instead, making it less disruptive to nature.
Oftentimes vertical farming incorporates controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) using modern technology to increase plant-growth and use soilless farming techniques amongst other things. This is done using specialized LED lights that can reduce growth-time of plants by up to 250%. Again, there are some roadblocks we have to overcome before this solution can be regarded as truly sustainable.
The artificial lighting of CEAs used in most vertical farms leads to larger energy-demand and, with that, a higher cost. These extra costs are currently making most vertical farms unprofitable with today's technology, with the exception of multiple companies from Japan. Japan is also the country where vertical farms are being installed inside urban supermarkets, drastically reducing energy-cost for shipping, greenhouse gas emissions and food waste. If we keep a close eye on what Japanese companies are doing differently, we might figure out a more sustainable solution to this problem as well.
Sustainability is a key-factor for a great future ahead. Inventors, scientists and researchers develop sustainable solutions every year, bridging the gap between this possible future and our present. The more of these ventures bear fruit, the more different fields of science and technology will influence each other in a positive way. Cryopreservation only makes sense if you believe in a future worth living in. We hope that this article has shown you that there are plenty of interesting future prospects to look forward to.
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