The climate crisis is finally getting front-page coverage from much of the mass media, thanks to extreme weather events, wildfires, ecosystems collapse, and crop failures.
And the scientific reports come out seemingly on a weekly basis, each one more dire than the last.
So what can we do about it?
Mostly, I think in terms of political and social activism. Like that of my guest of two weeks ago, Skye-Anne Tschoepe, who engages in direct action (often civil disobedience) to resist new pipelines and fracking.
Or the communication strategy of another young person, Greta Thunberg, who calls out world leaders for “blah blah blah” speeches that cover up inaction or worse, continued burning of fossil fuels and perpetuation of industrial animal agriculture.
But realistically, we're not going to change fast enough to make a difference. There's too much rancor, too much shaming, and too many entrenched interests with all the money and power. Changes of heart and consciousness may occur, but not instantly.
So in the meantime, we need other solutions.
And as suspicious as I am of big tech coming in to solve the problems created by… big tech, some of those solutions, whether permanent or stopgap, will have to be technological.
Today's guest, Virginia Klausmeier, founded and heads a climate tech company whose products could make a big difference in the quality of our futures.
Sylvatex (from “Sylva,” meaning woods or forest, and “tech” – so sustainable, nature-inspired technology) uses nanoparticle technology to make better batteries.
Whoa. That's it? That's the big buildup?
Well, it turns out that batteries — specifically, big batteries that can store significant amounts of energy, such as those in electric vehicles (EVs) and solar-powered homes — are going to be either a big part of the problem or a big part of the solution when it comes to climate destabilization.
For one thing, the energy sector of the economy accounts for a full 75% of all carbon emissions. So that's the big enchilada when it comes to making a difference.
For another, EVs are about to dominate the world of transportation. Given the success of Tesla and the popularity of other brands' electric offerings, the world's biggest car makers are all planning a fully-electric future. The transition is expected to take 10-30 years, but some folks think it may hit tipping point and go all the way much sooner.
Batteries are not good, at least not these days. Full of minerals that have to be mined from the earth, like lithium, cadmium, and nickel.
Expensive to produce, with lots of pollution as a by-product.
Inefficient to run.
Quick to lose their charge and slow to recharge.
Costly to replace.
In short, unsustainable.
Better, perhaps, than fossil fuels, but that's not saying much at all.
Klausmeier's company has developed batteries that can be built from molecules sourced from plants, rather than minerals or petroleum.
They are recyclable, producing much less waste than conventional batteries.
They promise to last longer and run more efficiently, and cost a lot less.
Low-carbon batteries might just buy humankind the time to get our heads screwed on straight, and discover how to live in harmony with the natural world, instead of trying to control and exploit it.
And in a twist worthy of a Marvel comic book heroine, Virginia Klausmeier is devoting herself to bringing this technology to fruition based on decades of research and development by her late father, Dr. William Klausmeier.
In our conversation, we discuss the urgency of the climate crisis, why it's so difficult for consumers to make climate-informed purchasing and consumption decisions, how technology can contribute to an industrial-sized solution, and what it's like to be a scientist-turned-CEO of a growing organization.
Also, we talked about a project dear to her heart: the Pandemic Supermom Award. You can check it out and share your story (or encourage a Supermom you know to share hers) at that link.
Need more incentive than just sharing your story and inspiring others? 20 Grand Prize Winners will win $500 cash plus one year of free dark chocolate Kuli Kuli SuperBark and Uncommon Cacao, and 30 Runners Up will win a gift bag of goodies from female-run companies.
Plant Yourself episode on Electric Vehicles: Transforming Transportation for a Greener and More Just World: Pam Frank on PYP 447
You CAN Change Other People!
Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative new book of that title.
What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.
Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.
Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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