The genie

08 February, 2009

The genie

A fairy-tale casting light to some others.   

By Thanos Stasinopoulos

Greek version

cartoon by Chris Madden ©

One night, a powerful genie jumps out of my lamp and tells me that it will materialize any miracle that I wish. Being an individual with an ecologic consciousness, I ask for help to solve a few major problems that, in spite of our efforts, keep troubling us and the planet more and more.

Miracle #1 is an amazing invention to move our cars for free, without fumes or noise pollution. The genie obeyed immediately.

Miracle #2 is to convert all power plants so to use only renewable energy sources to produce electricity from now on. Zap, the conversion was done!

Miracle #3 is about garbage: The genie replaces all dirty dumpsites with ‘hygienic garbage burial areas’ and makes widespread recycling a reality!

I ask for a fourth miracle –this one about buildings: so, the amazing genie converts all building materials into ‘ecological’ ones (whatever that may mean), and all our buildings become healthy and energy self-reliant.
Before being able to ask for more miracles –about water, forests, and sewage- the genie vanished as suddenly as it came. The disappearance wasn’t that bad, since the 4 magic changes solved vital issues that torment us and our biotope.

Or that’s what I thought:

With zero fuel cost, cars started multiplying faster than before, when they were doubling in our country every 12 years. To lessen congestion, we constructed multi-level roads, but soon they weren’t adequate. To solve the parking problem we built car parks under every square and open area, over roofs and hills, on floating decks and anchored balloons, yet they became full beyond capacity. And motorways from town to town started carpeting the countryside. The miracle became a boomerang.

Free from fuel expenditure and air pollution fines, the power authority reduced substantially the price of electricity, increasing demand faster than the 4% annual rate in the era before the genie, when we were doubling our kilowatt-hours every 17 years. So the country started being covered with more and more wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, and hydroelectric lakes between the motorways of the previous miracle.

Although the genie withdrew all toxic waste, our ‘green’ garbage continued to grow more than 4% annually, to require substantial areas and to stink. So the hygienic dumps and recycling sites had to double their capacity or numbers every 17 years, in spite of public protests for their placement –just like today.

Thanks to the fourth miracle, our city homes became ‘green’ at last. And so they did our country homes too (one on the mountain, one near the coast, one for the children), that started flooding the rural areas between the ‘green’ dumps of miracle #3, the turbines etc. of miracle #2, and the motorways of miracle #1.

At that point I woke up: miracles and boomerangs were just a dream –I have no lamp and there are no genies.
Contemplating on the dream, I realized that I wished for the wrong miracles: instead of asking the genie to put a ‘green’ dress on our myopic greed, I should have first asked to curb it, dismissing two popular fairy tales:

- that we are able to pursuit eternal ‘development’, equating it with the growth of our consumerist materialism, ‘green’ or not;

- that the environmental problems which start to choke us will be solved in the future with 4, 10, 100 technical marvels, without any radical revision of our collective structures and priorities.

The next night, I saw in my sleep Titanic sinking. I noticed that lifeboats were for first-class passengers only.
How that dream relates to the one with the genie is something we’ll see on another occasion.

Don’t worry, be happy!

Thanos N. Stasinopoulos
Dr. Architect Engineer NTUA, AAGradDipl.

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