Waste not, want not.
Did you grow up with this homily? I seemed to hear it quite often when I grew up — mostly when I pushed vegetables around on my dinner plate. But then, I grew up in a time and place that is now foreign, even to me.
When I was five, I lived on a dairy farm and attended a rural one-teacher school. Electricity came from the diesel generator, water came from rainwater tanks, and the school even had a horse paddock for the couple of kids who rode horses to school.
That was post-WWII Australia — a foreign land compared with my current life in Sydney, one of the world's most liveable cities.
So, why am I thinking about "waste not, want not" when I could be thinking about Luke Nguyen's new restaurant?
It was triggered by this Eurostat data that ranks European countries on their use of renewable energy. One column of data shows the proportion of their energy that comes from 'Biomass and renewable wastes'. Here's a graph of the top countries.
Share of biomass/wastes in gross inland energy consumption, 2009
Latvia already gets 29% of its energy from biomass and renewable wastes!
These countries are so much better-prepared for the future than countries like Australia where we rely so heavily on fossil fuels for our energy. Less than 1% of our energy comes from biomass/renewable wastes.
It seems to be taking enormous effort for Australia to move to more sustainable energy, however our new carbon tax, starting 1 July, will make a difference. For example, it will give an incentive for major rubbish dumps to harvest their methane emissions and generate power, instead of letting the methane leak into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.
Another helpful measure is our State target to increase the proportion of ethanol in petrol. Ethanol in NSW is made as a byproduct from processing wheat into protein and starch. After these food elements are produced, ethanol is made, and finally the waste from ethanol production is turned into feed supplements for cattle. Waste not, want not.
Nevertheless, it will take us decades to catch up with countries that already get more than 10% of their energy from biomass and renewable waste. Our efforts now will build a bridge to the new Clean Energy Economy that will appear when the Dinosaur Economy based on fossil fuels collapses.
Human societies are fast approaching the limits of some critical resources. The earth has only limited quantities of oil and gas. It is foolish to waste things that are in short supply. Indeed, it is foolish to waste anything at all.
In a world of constrained resources, coming generations will re-learn what our grandparents knew. They will live again in a world where "waste not, want not" is the rule to live by.
News from the Transformation tab.
Vale, the world’s second-largest mining company, and leading Australian renewable energy company Pacific Hydro will jointly build and operate two wind farms in Brazil’s northeast. The power produced will be used by Vale in its mining operations. Source: Pacific Hydro.