In 2030, North America will not only be energy independent but a net exporter of energy. We’ll be sipping local wines that once upon a time were produced somewhere else or not at all. And, if we continue living out of sync with the natural environment, we’ll be in big trouble.
These are some of the predictions Ontario researchers made at the last week’s Life in 2030: Discussing the Future With Those Who Are Creating It event, hosted by Brock University in conjunction with Western University and the University of Windsor.
According to engineer Rupp Carriveau, “new, very novel energy recovery techniques,” such as a drill that can reach more than 10 kilometres into the earth, will increase our energy supply, although we’ll still likely source some energy internationally.
Also, about 20 per cent of North America’s energy will come from renewable resources, such as wind and solar power, says Carriveau, associate professor with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Windsor.
But a striking prediction is how we’ll get that energy. Carriveau says micro-grids delivering electricity, gas and other power will pop up in neighbourhoods, delivering energy that now comes from centralized grids.
“Consumers will now have a choice,” he says. “They will say, I can buy my power based on price, or I can buy my power based on origin - where did it come from?”
Biochemist Debbie Inglis sees major innovations in the way Ontario’s grape growers and wine producers will work in 2030. The industry is already progressing, she noted.
“When Mother Nature froze our grapes, we made icewine,” says Inglis, director of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). “When Mother Nature froze our vines, we tapped into wind machine technology and figured out how to use it to prevent further damage to our vines.”
She says future innovations will spring largely from the way the industry adapts to the “huge” impacts of climate change, which include volatile weather patterns, too much or too little rain and extreme cold events during the winter. These can lead to vines being stressed, injured by cold temperatures or disease, and the emergence of new insect pests.
“What are the grape varieties to plant that will thrive in the environment of the future and have market appeal?” Inglis asks.
“Do these varieties currently exist? Are they planted in the ground right now? Do we need to look beyond what we have in the ground right now?”
The focus will be on emerging new wine styles that overcome challenges of climate change, such as appassimento wines, a style that is currently found in northern Italy, or sparkling wines, Inglis says. The Brock research team also identifies regions in Ontario, such as Huron and Durham counties, that could become new frontiers in grape and wine production.
For business professor Tima Bansal, the rapid evolution of technology over the past decade has created a planet where people are connected instantly, the world of ideas is exploding and business is moving faster, compressing time and space.
In contrast, in the natural environment, plants and other organisms take time, which can’t be accelerated, to grow and are usually rooted to one spot or location.
She urges the society of the future to take a lesson from nature and slow down.
“Time is more than money,” says Bansal, a professor at Western University. “You cannot put a price tag on the time that you spend with your children. You cannot put a price tag on the time it takes to build a relationship.”
Bansal, Inglis and Carriveau are part of the Research Matters campaign, a collaboration between Ontario’s 21 universities to find new ways to tell stories about how research is changing the way we live, work and play.
Earlier Research Matters events have played to full houses in Kitchener-Waterloo, Sudbury and Oshawa. The next event in the series takes place in Toronto on May 9.