As we have mentioned many times before, a world of startup societies will mean a world of competitive, market-driven people undertaking whatever they can to provide value to others in a streamlined way. Be this in the fields of transport, governance, energy or what have you, the name of the game will be being more competitive, smart, cheap and reliable than the guy next to you. This will provide us with a wide range of products, art and marvels never dreamed of before. In this haste, we must not lose sight of a long-term plague that has been stalking us for decades. As wondrous as market forces may make life for us, we do, however, run into the problem of externalities: namely, pollution.
It's the greatest issue facing us today: The environment is as delicate as ever, and human action is polluting our living space more quickly than ever before. Although many economists posit that "peak pollution" is coming up in less than 10 years, the damage will have already been done. What remains for present and future society is to reduce pollution by leaps and bounds if we're to make up for the damage of the past 2 industrial revolutions. So, we begin with how pollution may be relevant in the startup societies paradigm:
Urban life is fundamentally anti-nature. Streets of cobblestone must be quarried from the earth. Asphalt is a byproduct of petrochemical refineries. Urban ecosystems are parasitic upon nearby nature by definition and are thus a large detriment to the environment at large. How can we handle the current state of megacities, megalopolises and their sprawling suburbs and farms in the transition to startup societies? We can't possibly imagine bulldozing even a small town for the sake of the environment, let alone a larger settlement. So what is to be done with the megacities of today and tomorrow?
A simple answer can be found in green urban design. Simply adapting current structures is much easier than destroying them or constructing new ones. Endless benefits are yet to be reaped by both markets and nature from the advent of such amazing emerging technologies as:
- CO2 binding concrete
- Artificial photosynthesis
And a special mention:
Cities go upwards. We take the example of Hong Kong - instead of destroying what little green surface they have, the people of Hong Kong have wisely decided to reach for the sky with amazing architectural marvels. There are many ways that using height can help create solutions for societies. From vertical farming to padding external building walls in specially engineered pollutant-recycling moss, the third dimension is an oft-neglected aspect of environmental sustainability.
The next logical step is a leadership approach to the environment, pollution and nature. Can startup societies lead by example? They absolutely can.
Eco-villages and eco-tech startups
The ability to create a society with a positive net impact on the nature surrounding oneself is a small miracle, even with today's technology. We do not endorse purposeful primitive life as a business model; as such attempts at keeping the human footprint down usually fail in their stated goal and deliver miserable conditions to their inhabitants. The environment more than anything needs a revolution in technology and the application thereof in the creation of positive-nature societies.
This may but need not be in the form of eco-villages. The reformatting of current settlements large and small will contribute immensely to the environment, but a proof-of-concept is needed before such colossal changes may begin to be implemented elsewhere. This pioneering example will come about through governance entrepreneurs establishing remote stations of experimental technology field tests along with their favored brand of untried social cohesion mechanism. These societies need not produce ground-breaking results, but the mere fact that one can be produced by a handful of strong-willed people may shake people out of the stupor of modern urban life.
The establishing of smaller, more localized jurisdictions will help speed up the competitive pressure mechanisms that will make cities begin to convert their current structures into something resembling nature. Instrumental to this is the preposition that these societies cannot simply outsource their pollution elsewhere.
The pollution haven hypothesis
The pollution haven hypothesis is a term in environmentally conscious economics. It posits that when firms operate overseas from their home nation, they will often resort to doing business in a part of the world where wages, energy and land are inexpensive. This is more often than not to the detriment of the local environment and especially populace. The reason for this migration need not be rooted in the expansionist ambitions of a business, but may arise from necessity - such as environmental regulations that effectively send facilities to a grinding halt. This is a classic case of competition in regulation: businesses will flock to countries with lax environmental regulation, resulting in more economic development, but also pollution for the locals.
The startup societies skeptic will claim that one society will simply remove all environmental controls and accept the refuse and waste of other societies for a fee. This drums up images of waste sites that seep into underground water channels, careless owners that take on more than they can handle, accepting waste they are not prepared to deal with and similar nightmares. This is a perfectly reasonable concern: After all, if societies exist to create profit, one society may specialize in waste storage that is perfectly economically efficient, correct?
The problem with this line of criticism is that we assume the public is completely unaware of such dealings, the waste disposal specialist is in no way culpable for failing to meet standards and that companies would do business with shabby partners. Nobody will sign a contract with a waste disposal society that doesn't entail proper waste management and the improbability of the waste coming back into environmental circulation.
What have we to learn from this? The environment can survive without us, but we cannot without it. Thus, we must ensure that competitive market pressures keep pushing in the direction that means greener, safer waste disposal and more efficient use of space. Luckily for us, the profit motive makes sure that everybody tries to be as efficient as possible, and with a free market in governance, this will keep getting extended to wider echelons of people in such a way that the advent of startup societies may mean virtually certain eventual salvation for a mutually beneficial between the state of nature and the many societies that will flourish in the centuries to come.