"We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making"
The above text is copied from Extinction Rebellion website https://rebellion.earth/, an international organisation calling for a rebellion against governments who have been too passive when it comes to climate change.
You may think these people are dramatising, just to get our attention, but personally I fear that they are right. I believe the scientists who have been warning us for many years are right, and also I believe what I see and the logic that growth cannot go on forever. On my current trip I have seen evidence of climate change and talked about it with local people. The south of Europe is already becoming a hard place to live in the summertime because of the extreme high temperatures.
(image below, august 2019) Loire river in France is almost dried up. The elder people living in the area never saw the river this low before in their entire life.
(image below) Large areas of forest in Portugal in the area of Figueira da Foz have been burned away. People living in this area told me that they also noticed a change of the climate as a result of the fires. This may be an example of a "positive feedback": the effects of warming is causing even more warming.
As an engineer I prefer to think in solutions rather than problems. The technology is already available. (https://www.drawdown.org/) Just a small part of the desert covered with solar panels could provide all the energy needed in the world. (https://www.desertec.org). Imagine the energy that all cars, all ships, planes, heaters, coolers, and the entire industry of the world consume. This means the solution to our problems is shining down on us. Just a small portion of the Sahara could power all of Europe and bring CO2 emissions down to zero:
The red squares represent the area that would be enough for solar power plants to produce a quantity of electricity consumed (as of 2005) by the world, the European Union (EU-25) and Germany (De). To replace all energy consumption (not just electricity), areas about 5 times as large would suffice. Data provided by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), 2005.
Such large scale projects is what our governments should focus on because it has become a matter of survival ! As an individual you can also contribute by making different choices : cycle more often, buy a smaller car, eat less meat, invest in house insulation, fly less etc. You will become more independent from the system and will have a more comfortable life ! Just like me leaning backward on my recumbent bicycle, peddling with little effort around Europe and waving at all those surprised faces.
On my way I sometimes meet interesting people who are also working on their own solution. Like this man on Boulevard in Biarritz who made his own solar powered tricycle. He plays his guitar while the sun is filling up his battery. Not owning a car saves him a lots of money, so I imagine he can afford the time off.
.. and this couple in the north of Portugal with their own sun-tracking (rotating in two directions) panel in their backyard. I spotted this panel just after I crossed the border from Spain into Portugal. While I was taking pictures from the street the couple started shouting and waving to me and invited me for a drink.
John (the man in the picture) said that solar panels are considered a big investment in Portugal but one that pays off well. While cycling from north to south through Portugal I saw many more private homes that had such a rotating solar panels in the garden. I calculated that these panels in Portugal would generate about 8500 kWh / year (worth about 1800,- Euro's !) each year.
The fossil fuel industry provides a beatiful background for this photo. I hope very much for the sake of our children this will soon be industrial heritage.