Each week we take a look with EV specialist and Innovation Origins columnist Auke Hoekstra at what caught his eye on topical issues or what he runs into where the preservation of our planet is concerned.

Despite the fact that everyone is working from home as much as possible, Auke is extremely busy. So busy, in fact, that last week he had to cancel this column. At home, he has been constantly distracted by huge diggers that have been working outside the front of his energy-neutral house. “Seeing those diggers shoveling stuff in front of your window all day long isn’t really helpful. And the noise that those things make … ” Auke sighs.

But as soon as he said it, he insisted that he shouldn’t complain and that he’s busy with some wonderful things. He won’t talk about what projects they are yet. “NEON is taking shape now, it’s becoming more and more concrete.”

To be continued then. Because today Auke wants to broach another issue. On Twitter he wrote that sustainable energy or meat substitutes have nothing at all to do with an economic or political trend. After all, this is how a large proportion of the population still sees it at the moment, according to him. “I’m extremely annoyed by the school of thought which embraces the idea that we must use less energy. This Degrowth Movement assumes that energy is finite and that everything we use damages the natural ecosystem. But that doesn’t make any sense. We have enough energy from the wind and sun. Why should we use less energy?”

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    Read here what Auke Hoekstra has previously written about this

    Is it a kind of minimalism, less is more, something like that?

    “No it’s more Calvinistic. There’s a certain sense of self-castigation inherent in that because we are supposed to suffer. More of anything is off-limits. We have to tighten our belts. It’s the kind of philosophy that says TVs or cars are bad because energy is finite. A problem cannot be solved cheerfully. Instead, it always has to be a drama. Otherwise it doesn’t feel satisfying enough. And that’s a pity because there is no need for this suffering. If we approach it smartly, we don’t have to worry about a limited supply of energy at all.”

    On the other hand, blind capitalism, as Auke calls it, is failing to bring about the needed rapid transition of the energy system. “Capitalism only looks at the growth of the gross domestic product and not at the consequences. To put it bluntly, the earth is being thrown to the wolves. Neoliberalists have this idea that our children’s children can solve everything through innovation and we can turn a blind eye to the very real problems that exist.”

    Where does the solution lie then?

    “So we have one school of (Economic) thought ignores what is happening and is confident that our children will solve the CO2 problem. The other school greatly exaggerates the issue and is pessimistic. Their solution is actually that there is no solution. I may be wrong, but I don’t think we should listen to either of them. Economists have solutions to theoretical problems, whereas our problems are very hands on.”

    “As an engineer I feel like saying: ‘For God’s sake go and bore someone else because thsi is pointless.’ I think you should look at the consumption of materials and pollution without being distracted by political or economic ideology

    According to Auke, it’s relatively recent that people have a car. “Driving around in a car is not an outcome of millions of years of human evolution that is indispensable to our existence. It’s just a convenient thing that we can pay for now. The same goes for me too. I live quite a way out of town. Then an electric car comes in handy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think of other options, or that there are no alternatives.”

    What do you suggest then?

    “It’s pretty simple to me. A greater focus on reducing CO2 emissions and more conscious use of materials don’t have to stand in the way of wealth creation. Take shared cars. Not only would you need 10 times fewer vehicles, but they can also be made a lot smaller. Together that really reduces their negative impact. But it also makes cars much cheaper so anyone can afford them and you always have them available.”

    “Nobody who ever buys a car thinks: ‘I want this car because it is wrecking nature.’ Of course not! The same goes for meat. We breed animals in inefficient slaughterhouses that are a burden on the environment and which cause suffering to animals. But if you ask people why they eat meat, you never hear anyone say that they buy their pork chops because a pig has suffered so much. If you think about it that way, we quit halfway when we set out to make the meat industry more efficient. Cultivated meat would complete the industrialisation by taking those poor inefficient animals completely out of the loop. How cool would it be to take a couple of cells from a pig at a children’s farm and use them to grow thousands of kilos of meat? That’s worth exploring, don’t you think?”

    And the nay-sayers, as you call them?

    “The real sermon that I want to give is that it shouldn’t be a sermon,” Auke laughs. “When I say that we have to switch to another system – because capitalism is destroying everything – you rub many people the wrong way. We should also not say “You must quit meat!” That’s not the way to bring people on board. But if we show that there are ways to create more wealth and meat while sparing nature and animals I think we will have a much easier sell.”

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Milan Lenters is a writer and editor. Through IO, he got to know his native city Eindhoven in a different way and sometimes looks with amazement at the many stories that lie ahead.