While all other life forms on the planet adapt and harmonise with their surroundings, the human being modifies it according to his desires and goals, holding within himself an immense power: the power of creation.
Sometimes we forget that we are born on a planet consisting only of rock, earth, water and trees and that humanity, starting with life in caves, has managed to create engines, computers, skyscrapers, aeroplanes, and the internet, that’s miraculous.
The power of creation is, therefore, clearly inherent in human beings.
The era we live in is called the ‘Anthropocene’ and began in the 14th century. This term refers to the historical period in which man began, through technology and industrial development, to alter the planet’s natural balance in a significant way. The greatness of modern civilisation has a ‘dark side to the force’, as is inevitable in a reality governed by the law of duality.
We are consuming the planet’s resources much faster than it takes to regenerate them, so a concept that only a few decades ago nobody even imagined has become more and more topical: sustainability.
Let’s face it: there is no planet to save. The Earth has lived for a few billion years and will continue to do so for quite a while, without or with humanity. Only we have to worry about how much of the Earth’s resources can meet the needs of billions of human beings in the years to come.
I am not so concerned about oil and mineral resources running out because, so far, man has always been able, through new technologies, to find them and extract them anyway, even from places and depths where once it would not have been possible to do so. I ask myself instead: ‘Are we sure it is worth it?
What is the point of investing so much energy in digging and drilling in extreme situations if it means jeopardising the livability of our Earth?
If we consider the planet as a single living being, how can we be surprised that it decides to regard us as a pesky virus to be rid of as soon as possible? We may have forgotten that the Earth, as a whole, is far more powerful than man; it does not need us. We, on the other hand, do.
Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on something that allows us to produce everything we need while preserving the environment’s balance?
Earth, Sky, Water
Life on the Earth’s surface exists thanks to the balance between the mass of the planet and the atmosphere surrounding it. For a couple of centuries now, we have been undermining this balance, making massive use of the matter that the Earth has decided to allocate in its depths: coal, oil, gas, minerals, and metals. Over the years, we have been digging, drilling and drilling more and more, removing an ever-increasing amount of matter from underground; we bring it to the surface to burn it at high temperatures, dispersing millions of tonnes of what the planet had intended to be underground into the atmosphere.
All of that has created an imbalance.
Although we have always called it ‘Earth’, 70 per cent of our planet is composed of water, coincidentally, like a human body. The seas and rivers are not in good health: maintaining the current trend, according to the report of the World Economic Forum (1), in 2050, the total weight of plastic in our seas will exceed that of fish, and the environment will no longer be livable. Will this be true? I don’t know, but just thinking about it gives me the shivers.
Meanwhile, while we compromise our planet’s rivers and seas, great efforts are being made to search for water on Mars. All this has always seemed rather strange to me. I would ask: ‘Excuse me, but what do you do if there is a fire in your house? Do you try to put the fire out, or do you go out and buy a caravan?”
So, if our existence is based on water, Earth and air, how can you put anything before that? What could be more important?
These matters were first talked about a few decades ago by so-called ‘environmentalists’, then came the scientists and a few journalists, until today, when sustainability has become the main topic on government tables worldwide.
The consumption of materials is expected to increase by 2.8% annually for the next 25 years, and more and more will have to deal with natural, ecological and renewable products. (2).
But there is no need to give up anything we have achieved so far to improve our lives, and there is no need for ‘happy degrowth’: we have abundant resources and technologies.
It is a matter of using materials whose CO2 absorption is greater than the generated value in the production process.
So there are many reasons why producing sustainable raw materials is the most significant business of the coming decades.
Since we need to reduce the use of fossil raw materials, wood is the primary resource at our disposal due to its consistency and availability. It immediately presents a significant advantage: we no longer have to dig, drill or bore. Growing from the ground, the wood comes to us, from the surface, on its own.
This is enough to understand how the use of this material respects a balance that nature has provided.
However, there needs to be more than wood from trees, primarily because of its long production time. When you cut down a pine tree, it will take thirty years to get another one, eighty even for an oak. Add to this the fact that there is a growing and widespread need to preserve trees by containing deforestation.
Every year we lose 13 million hectares of forest. If we continue at this rate, more than 230 million hectares will disappear by 2050: more extensive than the forest areas of Peru, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea combined. (3)
We are therefore faced with two conflicting needs: on the one hand, we need abundant, sustainable raw materials for the conversion of industrial production; on the other hand, we need to protect the trees. How then?
The solution is bamboo.
Translated by Clara Cianchetti