Land Matters Podcast: Kara Swisher on What Tech Can Do for Climate
The leading technology companies should be doing more to address climate change, says Silicon Valley chronicler Kara Swisher, host of the Sway podcast at the New York Times. Inventions await in manufacturing, materials, batteries, agriculture, land use monitoring, and carbon sequestration, she says.
“A lot of these answers are going to be in how we build things, how we make things, how we consume things, how things are distributed—and tech really does play a part in it,” Swisher says in an interview for the Land Matters podcast.
Technology has long been intertwined with the way people live, since well before the notion of the smart city and the Internet of Things. Traffic lights were transformative technology a century ago; today traffic and transit management is using Artificial Intelligence, there are apps for finding a parking space or getting a pothole filled, and 3D printing and other methodologies are part of building construction.
Now expectations are even higher for addressing the biggest challenge facing humankind: the climate crisis. Swisher predicted in a New York Times column at the end of 2019 that there were abundant, lucrative opportunities for tech entrepreneurs in green solutions. Their contribution might be vital as national governments struggle to come together on a global program to reduce emissions.
“These are issues that are not going to solely be fixed by tech, but there’s a lot of technology that’s going to go into … how to build the right seawall and make it work, to less consumption to carbon capture to space travel, all kinds of things are all within the bailiwick of the tech industry,” Swisher said.
One promising area among many is the task of monitoring global land use changes, fires, land clearing, severe weather, drought, and floods. Expect these platforms to get even more sophisticated as a kind of global dashboard, using artificial intelligence to map and understand all the climate data.
“Our whole world is monitored,” Swisher says. “I think we can use it to help us really understand what’s happening versus anecdotal stuff that often happens when we make policy decisions.”
Perils abound, including, for example, insufficiently vetted ideas involving shooting supposedly curative matter into the atmosphere—a geoengineering scheme depicted in the sci-fi novel Termination Shock, which Swisher recommends.
The blurring of technology fixes that are truly good for the planet with those that simply make money was also underscored by the quirky tech entrepreneur featured in the film Don’t Look Up. “I thought it was perfect … this idea [of] that benign goodness that really masks malevolence and greed,” Swisher says. “I think the whole point of that character was that there are people on this planet that are more powerful than governments.”
Climate change—and land’s role in both reducing emissions and adapting to new realities—is a core focus for the Lincoln Institute, which is also engaged in the role of technology in cities and in the stewardship of the earth. The Center for Geospatial Solutions has been developing precisely the kind of land use monitoring and mapping tools that Swisher talks about.
You can listen to the show and subscribe to Land Matters on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Anthony Flint is a senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, host of the Land Matters podcast, and a contributing editor of Land Lines.
Image: Kara Swisher Credit: vox
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