sustainable + efficient

Expedition Zukunft - Science Express
Expedition Zukunft - Science Express

Carriage 09

sustainable + efficient

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Copyright: ArchiMeDes

Thinking in cycles – Saving resources

Increasingly precise scientific observations mean that we now understand our world better than ever. We know that human activity influences the climate and that our future energy supplies are by no means secure.
We draw virtually all of our energy from the sun, either directly or by way of wind, water and – fossil or renewable – biomass. Only when we use the tides or geothermal heat does our energy originate from the moon or the Earth itself. We must learn to use energy more efficiently, to use it only where we really need to and to think about the underlying cycles so that we do not disrupt our planet's delicate balance any further.

The percentage of renewable energies used for generating electricity in Germany rose from four to fourteen percent between 1996 and 2007, and the figure is rising. However, renewable energies are not without their problems when it comes to supplying power: the energy they generate depends on the time of day and the weather and is difficult to store for use at a later date. In the future, intelligent power grids, in which distributed capacities are interconnected to form virtual power plants, will help to solve these problems.

And although the energy discussion often focuses on alternative ways of generating energy, we will remain reliant upon the efficient recovery of energy from conventional sources for the foreseeable future. The future of coal, gas and oil depends upon whether or not we succeed in finding new methods of keeping damaging carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere or neutralising it. The problem for nuclear power plants is not the carbon dioxide they emit, but the radioactive waste they produce. Fourth generation reactors can provide some relief here, as their radioactive waste has a much shorter half-life.

Clean water, clean air and unspoiled natural habitats need to be among our goals for the sustainable exploitation of our Earth. Maintaining the status quo is no longer sufficient to protect the basis of human life for the future.