Feeling a bit down? Feeling like that question is an example of massive understatement? Welcome to the modern world (as of February 4, 2022, evening, US West Coast time). You’re not alone, or maybe it’s just me and I’m alone. I suspect it has been too easy to see and hear too much bad news, lately. So, here I sit on a Friday night in February pondering the world. I wrote a post on one of my other blogs, PretendingNotToPanic.com (news for people who are eager and anxious about the future, about vertical farming. It is one of those stories that is easy to miss and not a subject of casual dinner conversation (for those who remember casual dinner parties.) That led to a tentative list of good things happening, which became a longer list, which became the inspiration to collect many of them into the following list. Reasons for optimism.
Pardon the delay in getting to the points, but this is a blog; you can skip ahead and I’ll never know unless you tell me so. This blog is about personal finance. The other blog is ideally about factual, significant, apolitical news, both pessimistic and optimistic. Since, oh, about 2015, there hasn’t been much that isn’t a repeat or apolitical. Without intending to, I realized that this list reflects my personal values, and also highlights financial opportunities in terms of investments, entrepreneurship, and job opportunities. That’s one reason the list includes stocks I own or am interested in. As for being able to buy more stock, well, maybe I’ll buy a ticket or twenty this weekend.
Once upon a time, every house was built on land. Then, we housed more people on pieces of land by housing them on top of each other. We’ve done the same with offices, parking spots, storage facilities, factories. Why not farms? It is tough to do with dirt, but aquaponics, hydroponics, and aeroponics make it possible to grown crops on top of crops without worrying as much about weather and pests. We may just have found a way to feed a lot more people.
I’ve been writing about tiny houses for over a decade for various publications, as well as within this blog. I stayed in one for long enough to see how well it would work for me. As a real estate broker, one of the Frequently Asked Questions I’m asked is some variant of; “All I want to do is buy a piece of land and put a tiny house on it. I don’t need much more than that.” Technology certainly not the hurdle. Bureaucracy is. Affordable housing? Sure. The main thing keeping many people from finding housing is other people. That’s fixable, and is far simpler than a lot of the solutions I hear proposed.
(Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/)
Was it really only last week that I wrote this post? Pardon me as I click on a tab.
Yep. Allow me to quote myself.
“How strange it is going to be to describe how we annually used one form of diesel to move over 100,000,000,000 gallons of gasoline from around the world, to deliver it to stations, that we had to drive to, to fill up our cars’ gas tanks, hopefully without spilling a drop (or losing it to a wrecked car or ship), while making sure it only caught fire inside a few cylinders in an engine.”
Electric vehicles avoid that oh-so-weird supply chain that we assume as normal. Producing and delivering the electricity has its issues, but they are far less intrusive.
Note: That’s one reason I bought stock in Electrameccanica, a new car company building a new kind of car, sort of like the tiny house version of a car.
First they ignore you, then laugh, then fight, – and hopefully you win. That progression happens to many of these innovations, even the low-tech ones like tiny houses.
And then there’s Geothermal Upside, which is estimated to be able to cover 23% of the US residential demand.
And just to show how innovative silly humans can be, create solar panels that are transparent and glass office towers, glass houses, and greenhouses can generate power essentially invisibly – and do so onsite or tied to the grid. Which is on reason I bought stock in Solar Windows.
Ah, a reader inspired this bit of personal promotion, something I came up with for tidal power.
So many things are going away from fossil fuels to electric that it would be more worrisome if nothing else changed, but things are changing. From tapes to VHS to DVD to streaming, information no longer needs to be made and mailed and eventually disposed. Computers have turned into phones, or was it phones into computers? Regardless, communication and computation are much easier and more capable – efficient enough to put in a pocket.
Oh yeah, the phone now has at least one camera, which has led to an era without needing film, and its chemicals, and its infrastructure. There aren’t even many pictures being printed anymore. Theaters don’t need to have reels mailed and loaded into mechanical marvels.
Long time readers have resiliently waded through many of my posts about MicroVision and its embedded projectors. Those mechanical marvels that have become conference room necessities might find a home in those phones. Take it far enough and laptops may join the desktop CRTs in gathering dust. Less to ship. Lower power requirements. Less to add to the landfill.
As with any innovation, it can be used for good or OMG. On the positive side, drones are showing us the world from perspectives few experienced; e.g. safely viewing wildlife like whales, safely assessing disasters, improving safety through emergency medical assistance.
Personally, life on an island has convinced me of the inevitable benefit of drones avoiding traffic jams, ferries, and other bottlenecks. Delivering in disasters will feel like manna from the sky, but even simple things like deliveries when the roads are too icy, or after trees have blocked a road, or flying over a flood will help even when local conditions aren’t dramatic enough to make the news.
Of course there’s more. There’s also more than enough bad news. Hello, anxiety attacks, eh? But optimisms put them in perspective, especially if patience prevails.
As I wrote in last weeks’ post, I’m old enough to remember dirtier air, dirtier water, more dangerous vehicles and jobs and crime. And that was considered normal and an improvement. I remember the first Earth Day. I remember watching us land on the Moon. I remember Watergate, which seemed atrocious at the time, but now it proves to be a fine example of politicians who worked harder at managing the country and protecting its foundation. It is possible.
I’m writing this post on a laptop that’s on my lap (ergonomic apologies to my body), that’s connected to the internet wirelessly, in a room lit with LEDs, with dinner that may take advantage of a microwave oven, with a pantry that has a greater variety of food than my Mom ever got to use. I won’t list the rest. If you were there and then, you know. If you don’t know, ask a friend.
Of course I am going to acknowledge the problems, but only in general. They get enough attention already. Many of them were caused by us, which is sad, but it is also a source of hope. There are enough responsible, intelligent, resourceful people to begin turning around these issues. There are even people who are building something I wanted to work on enough that I got a degree in Aerospace Engineering – lifeboats for humanity, which just might also be avenues to resources without digging up our planet. There are companies for that, too.
Eventually, we can have an astonishing civilization, society, and life, eventually.
“When you’re going through hell, keep going.” I was surprised to learn that it didn’t start with Winston Churchill. Whoever said it first, I’ll draw from Dante’s Inferno where the only way through hell was to go through the worst to come out the other side to find the best. I guess we should just keep going.