In 1985, a film debuted that quickly became one of the most beloved classics in the history of cinema. That film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, stars a decidedly eccentric scientist, Emmett Brown, also known as Doc, and his much younger friend, Marty McFly, on a very different kind of journey from the ones we’ve been on. , at least so far.
Indeed, Doc and McFly travel aboard a strange car, a Delorean specially modified by Brown, which is not used to move through space, but to travel through time.
The title of the film, you will have understood, is “Back to the Future”.
Right now, we humans are not headed for the future. If we don’t contain the increase in the average temperatures of our planet, if we don’t achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, there will be no future for us on this planet.
We must drastically reduce CO2 emissions, we must decarbonise our lives, our production systems, our economies. In short, the climate crisis is an extraordinary possibility of radically questioning the system that has brought us here.
It is this radical questioning, it is experimenting with new solutions, making room for new habits, new ideas, personal and collective renewal that will also allow us, like Doc and Marty McFly, to return to the future.
So I suggest you board the Delorean and come with me on a tour of 2050.
Sound of door opening, birds chirping
There are few cars around, most people travel by bicycle, even children! In fact, with fewer cars around, the streets are safer, and there is much more space to play on the street.
The city is green, because by reducing the number of cars, it has been possible to plant more trees in the streets, which help to muffle noise and keep the streets cool even in summer.
The few cars and public transport I see around are all electric.
I enter a supermarket, it’s beautiful! Almost everything is sold on tap: glass bottles are recycled on site and disposable plastic packaging is no more.
The energy transition is still ongoing, and always will be: with advances in science and technology, clean ways of producing energy are becoming more and more efficient, and energy production is less and less centralized and increasingly widespread: many condominiums and many small companies are completely independent in terms of energy. Through latest generation photovoltaic panels and mini wind turbines, they produce the energy they need and re-enter the excess energy into the common grid for the benefit of the population residing around the plant.
In this way, energy costs have been decreasing for many years, and energy has become a right for everyone, even for the millions of people who had never had access to it.
The coal-fired plants were shut down several years ago, and replaced with plants that produce energy without emitting greenhouse gases.
In 2022, all of this seemed impossible. I wonder how we managed to make such a radical transformation and I decide to go into a bookstore to find out. Like the supermarket, the bookstore is beautiful and very different from what I remembered. More like an art gallery, book covers are displayed on large digital screens, on which a trailer of the book can be seen, like a movie. There are also paper books, but most of the books are purchased using a digital reader and scanning a QR code. A very kind bookseller tells me that books are heavy objects and that moving them from one side to another generated too many emissions. You also tell me that many books after being printed, if they weren’t sold, were sent to the shredder, and that a very important part of the green transition was to reduce waste as much as possible.
In the book that the bookseller recommends, I discover that there are two elements that have made it possible to achieve the zero emissions goal.
The first is electrification: we have managed to electrify our consumption. We no longer use fossil fuels for our cars, or for our heating systems, or for our kitchens. By electrifying our grids we have managed to use renewable energies to cover a huge chunk of our energy needs.
The second is decentralization. In the past, energy was only produced in power plants and distributed over the grid. Today, in 2050, the production of energy takes place in a much more distributed way and the networking of the systems that produce energy serves to optimize the efficiency of the system and ensure that there is no waste or moments of blackout.
This is why I see photovoltaic panels on the roofs of condominiums, and mini wind turbines on the profile of that skyscraper! An airplane is passing through the clouds. It is a solar powered electric aircraft. It seemed impossible, but the acceleration of battery research has made it possible to even decarbonise aviation.
The people I see walking the streets aren’t rushing to their next engagement. Everyone works, but they work less.
Since we humans have understood that we cannot grow infinitely and that pushing people to buy more than what they need has a negative impact on their lives and on nature, producing incessantly is no longer necessary. People have more time to read, play sports, hang out with loved ones and be in nature.
Sound of car alarm disabling.
My time in the future is up. I have to go back to 2022, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that in 2050 the world is this, and not an inhospitable place, plagued by extreme climatic events and all the suffering they cause in the lives of so many people.
Departure Delorean, arrival in the present
How does the city full of smelly cars, and the fruit in plastic tubs covered with cellophane in that corner store. On my way home, to rest at the end of this journey I think that if there is one thing we are really good at… well, that thing is change. Change ourselves, and change the environment around us. We humans, in fact, from the moment we appeared on this planet, are the species that more than any other has managed to change life on Earth.
And if the changes that we have set in motion, without too much awareness, have generated profound imbalances, this means that we now have in our hands the power to change the course of history and ensure a long and happy life for us and other living beings. in the wonderful place where we were lucky enough to be born.
Each of us can make an important contribution to decarbonisation.
Driving an electric car instead of petrol, having an electrified kitchen or heating system instead of gas, installing photovoltaic panels on the roof of the house to make one’s home or one’s communities as self-sufficient as possible from the point of view energy, not only helps the planet, but it is also a very effective way of promoting peace.
The scarce availability of fossil fuels and their presence only in some countries, in fact, over the years has generated an enormous amount of conflicts and generated terrible violence.
Not all sectors can be electrified. And that’s one of the reasons hydrogen is so important.
What we need is a real revolution, a change of perspective on what it means for us humans to “be in the world”, and the pitched battle of this revolution actually takes place in a very small place: our head.
The challenge we are facing is epochal, and – if we don’t change our habits – we don’t need a time machine to discover that the future that awaits us is not rosy, because that future is already here.
Floods, fires, wars, the staggering increase in energy costs… the extreme events that are already putting many of our countries to the test are there for all to see, and unfortunately they are already a reality for many of us .
Dramatically reduce CO emissions2 in the atmosphere is a goal that unites us all, and correcting the errors of assessment we have made in the past will benefit all of us, allowing us to thrive in a new reality: the peaceful and sustainable one of November 22, 2050.
If, in 1825, we had described the world we live in today to the lamplighter, he would have thought us crazy.
If we had told him that the streetlights would light up by themselves not only in Paris, but all over the world, he might not have believed us.
If we had told him he would have heating in the house, television, if we had told him he could send a letter to the other side of the world and have it arrive in less than a second… he would have thought we were joking.
What if we told him that one day too far two human beings would set foot on the moon?
We must not be afraid to do difficult things.
We’ve done a lot.
This is perhaps the most difficult of all, and that is why it requires the contribution of all of us.
Writer, entrepreneur and activist. In 2017 she won the Golden Book with “Bedtime stories for rebel girls”. Her latest book is titled “I have a fire in my drawer”. Her works, translated in over 50 countries, have sold over 6 million copies