Turning Rejection Into Acceptance, Solarly

Improved growing technology and niggardly consumption of resources now allows industrial farmers to grow ten-to-twenty-times more vegetables indoors in smartly designed greenhouses by employing hydroponics and sun-capture techniques. The new hothouse method uses fewer chemicals, water, and arable land, and it feeds more people. The only obstacle to upgrading our produce paradigm is money: the vast and tall greenhouses require an enormous outlay of capital; in the case of a leading Ventura County grower recently profiled in the business press, the transition from old-fashioned greenhouse to the high-yield modern one cost more than $50 million. Saving water and reducing pesticides and garnering more edible fruit is something everyone wants, and it sounds noble, too — but only if we don’t have to pay extra for the improvement.

The same conundrum faces property owners considering the benefits of installing solar cells. It’s a nice idea in theory, but wait until you see the bill.

So instead of accepting the jillions of gigawatts of energy radiated upon us every day from our life-giving sun, we toil mightily to reject its love. We design our buildings to reflect the heat, sending it back to whence it came, simultaneously spending jillions of gigawatts of energy to keep the air inside our edifices cool. We do what we always do: consume and waste.

As every middle-aged man knows, we’d be nowhere without our fantasies. So here’s one that doesn’t involve comely starlets or intoxicating power: transform one — just one !–skyscraper in every major city into a towering greenhouse and energy capture station.

One skyscraper presently designed to abjure the sunshine retrofitted to soak it up. One skyscraper with the carpet and desks and computers replaced with tomato vines and strawberry plants. One massive, wasteful, phallic insult to nature committed to working in harmony with the cosmos. The energy and the food this new beacon would produce could probably power an entire metropolis, and feed it much of its veggies. And in the sweetest of all capitalist fantasies, it would eventually produce a fertile harvest of profits.

Commencing the skyscraper project will require a billionaire or two with vision and compassion, the latter quality being a rare commodity among rapacious hoarders. But as the oceans rise, the temperature warms, and more people need to be fed with less potable water, a momentous transformation of our priorities from More to Better could inspire the oligarchs who own our gigantic symbols of human triumph to remake them — some of them, a few of them, even a single one to start — into symbols of human decency.

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