In his book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, co-written with Steven Kotler, Peter Diamandis, the Greek-American innovator, entrepreneur, physician and founder of the X Prize Foundation, says, “When seen through the lens of technology, few resources are truly scarce; they’re mainly inaccessible. Yet the threat of scarcity still dominates our worldview.”
The premise of Abundance is that, because of the exponential evolution of technology, a great many of the fears we have about the world, in particular, future potential scarcity of food, energy, and water, are unwarranted. As far as Diamandis is concerned, as we continue to innovate, we will be able to better access these resources.
For example, “according to the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation,… enough solar power hits one square kilometre of Africa’s deserts to produce the equivalent of one and a half million barrels of oil or three hundred thousand tons of coal.”
For too long, we have been at the bottom end of the food chain and many of us continue to live in survival mode.
All we need is to find more innovative and cost-efficient ways of harnessing that energy, which, the authors argue, is close to guaranteed when you consider how quickly technological advancements have happened, particularly over the last 20 years.
Diamandis makes a serious case for optimism, and it is hard not to get caught up in that optimism for the future.
But we cannot become complacent. While we live on a continent that has an abundance of resources, we have never had the access to those resources. Historically, it has been extracted by and for the West, and there has been a lag in our capacity to harness those resources in more recent times.
For too long, we have been at the bottom end of the food chain and many of us continue to live in survival mode. This is why, for those of us who are privileged to have access to resources, there is a great responsibility in how we live our lives and interact with the environment around us.
Take water, for example. Southern Africa has been undergoing a drought. In Cape Town, the situation has become dire. In Gauteng, while we have had good rains, it hasn’t always been in the right places and we cannot guarantee a steady water supply in the future. Yet look around our cities and it feels like business as usual. It is the things we do and the habits we acquire today that will determine the kind of world we leave for our children and the generations to come.
We need to do something. We cannot act like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. This is what this issue of Afropolitan is about: facing our challenges head-on with commitment and a willingness to not only talk but to do. Repeatedly.