Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The impact of “green” energy visualized by an artist

Sometimes it takes art to analyze and display human follies to the full extent. Estonian contemporary artist Kristiina Õllek has created a science-based artwork called “Powered By” that exposes uncritical optimism associated with the notion of “green” energy. The art installation is currently displayed at “Tiger in Space”, an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia.

What do big-hearted, enthusiastic, and action-oriented individuals who intend to change the world for the better do? Usually, they start the journey by identifying the problem (e.g., climate change) and then choose a set of solutions to start fighting for.

However, in our complex world, it is important to avoid simply promoting the advantages of the chosen solution but also analyze its weaknesses and risks. Successfully managing our impact is about minimizing the creation of new problems while solving the initial challenge.

A fragment of Kristiina Õllek´s installation “Powered By”, which highlights the toxicity of the raw materials used in producing “green” energy.

The exhibition´s booklet explains part of the idea behind the installation as follows: “Paradoxically, the color green can never be manufactured as “green”. Despite the availability of plant-based materials, the pigments used to stabilize and technically fix green are always composed of some toxic substances. Inorganic pigment Green 50 consists of cobalt, titanium, nickel and zinc oxide, the same resource metals that are extracted for the current “green” technologies”.

If you would like to know more about the need of minimizing the negative impacts of “green” energy, a good starting point is an article called “The Limits of Clean Energy” (written by Jason Hickel, published in Foreign Policy in 2019). The article´s main point can be summed up in a quote “But while sunshine and wind are obviously clean, the infrastructure we need to capture it is not. /-/ The transition to renewables is going to require a dramatic increase in the extraction of metals and rare-earth minerals, with real ecological and social costs.”

Insufficient analysis of full impacts of “green” energy leads indeed to the establishment of flawed systems that are unprepared to tackle the negative impacts even as they are sincerely trying to counter the challenge – climate change.

Many investors hoping to change the world for the better invest uncritically into “cleantech” and renewables. Most of the so-called ESG funds seem to calculate any investment into “green” energy automatically as positive. The image of the sustainable investment sector may be seriously damaged if more information will be public about the negative impacts on the environment and humans due to the unchecked activities related to the mining of metals and rare-earth minerals at increased speed.

The message is not about skipping any advancements of renewable energy sources but developing them in a mindful way. We need to be brave enough to firstly identify and then mitigate the unintended impacts of our oh-so-noble “green” initiatives. Only then will we be able to implement strategies that decrease the negative impacts of the initial challenge and truly create better future conditions for the environment as well as humans. That was what I felt the greenish artwork was trying to tell humankind.

If you need any help with your own impact targets and activities, do get in touch with us at info@storiesforimpact.com or using our contact form.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top Posts

More posts

Analysis
Richard Annilo

User manual of the Portfolio Impact Analysis Tool by UNEP FI

Would you like to save a few hours? We have mapped out the step-by-step process and components of the brand new Portfolio Impact Analysis Tool for Banks. It was published by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) in March 2020. As the original tool consists of 10+ Excel worksheets and literally thousands

Read More »
Responsible Investment
Richard Annilo

The road to net-zero economies and the investment implications

The Responsible Investor Digital Festival was an online event lasting from June 15th to 19th 2020. It was filled with in-depth discussions about responsible investing. To save your time, we have summarized some key insights from a discussion about the challenges and current progress in reaching a global economy with net-zero emissions, titled “The road

Read More »
Tools for Success
Richard Annilo

User manual of the new Corporate Impact Analysis Tool by UNEP FI

Would you like to save a few hours? We have mapped out the step-by-step process and components of the brand new Corporate Impact Analysis Tool. It was published by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) in March 2020. As the original tool consists of 10+ Excel worksheets and literally thousands of rows

Read More »
Tools for Success
Jaan Aps

Why I believe in using mind maps and other diagrams [with examples]

Wikipedia says that a diagram is a symbolic representation of information using visualization techniques. I would add that mind maps and other diagrams are the most powerful yet still massively underused tools to transform real-world complexity into actionable blueprints. You don´t have to be a designer to work professionally with mind maps. I usually draw

Read More »
Corporate Social Responsibility
Richard Annilo

Assessing Alignment with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

How well are companies currently aligned with the 17 UN SDGs? A webinar by Responsible Investor titled “Assessing Alignment with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals” on 15th October 2020 answered that very question. To save your time, we summarized a few key insights from the talk. The webinar had 4 speakers: Olga Emelianova (MSCI),

Read More »
X