Could the bluish-green liquid sloshing around in a laboratory beaker save the world from climate change? The liquid is an algae-based bio-fuel, and scientist Steve Mayfield believes it is a sign that a post-carbon future is drawing closer.
If we're going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we will need to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But which alternatives are the most promising?
POST-CARBON FUTURES, a companion documentary to MR. CO2, examines the options&mdashfrom massive wind and solar projects, to re-engineering the planet itself, to more modest local efforts.
From his office in sunny California, John Woolard of BrightSource Energy sees the future in solar power. The company runs the largest solar plant in the US. Located in Nevada, it produces enough energy to power 15,000 homes. Woolard says we don't have an energy problem, we have a collection and distribution problem. But with 2,000 new cars hitting the road in Beijing every day, and China set to open a new coal-fired plant a week for the next decade, the truth is we will require far more energy than solar and wind energy can produce&mdashunless we want to cover the surface of the earth with collector panels and windfarms.
Some believe the solution lies in enormous, continent-altering projects&mdashsuch as a plan to blanket the Sahara in solar panels to produce electricity for Europe. Meanwhile, the developers of the proposed green city of Cao Fei Dian, 150 miles from Beijing, see the future in a city built from scratch on in-filled coastal land.
POST-CARBON FUTURES makes the case that we need a completely different approach to economic growth and prosperity&mdashthat geo-engineering and building huge projects simply in order to maintain a consumer society makes no sense.
British environmentalist Tim Jackson, from the University of Surrey, and French writer Paul Ariès both argue that our current economic system has trapped us into needing to constantly increase our emissions. Ariès, a leading advocate of the "de-growth" movement passionately argues for a re-imagining of our economic system&mdashnot just cutting back on emissions but redefining prosperity itself.
The film travels to the UK, where we visit the British "transition town" of Totnes, which is converting itself into an environmentally sustainable community, and meet permaculture activists in San Francisco who dream of turning the city's 1,800 acres of lawns into sources of food, fuel and fibre.
The Copenhagen and Cancun climate summits resulted in stalemates. But perhaps the focus on international treaties is misplaced. Maybe our best hope for bold changes lies right in our backyards.