Michael Reibel Boesen

December 8, 2023

🌍 An ode to infrastructure

Almost done with 2023. And it sure is something right? No new pandemics (maybe?), a pointless war in Europe, a fossil fueled COP28, and endless climate warnings, protests etc that the media has stopped caring about.

Billions of dollars raised in funding for climate startups though. It feels like everyone and their mother/father has a climate fund at this point.

Yet we’re still heading to a weird and scary place, aren’t we?

Look outside.

Where’s the electricity that are too cheap to meter?
Why don’t we have solar on top of all buildings?
Why is there still such as a thing as NIMBYism when it comes to wind turbines?
Where are the freeways that charge your car as you go?
Why are we still flying places? Why aren’t trains more convenient? Where are the avatars that are not in the uncanny valley?
Why do we still have millions of km of pipelines transporting black dirty stuff all around the world? (And why are still building them?)
Why do we still have millions of km of pipelines transporting bad smelling gassy stuff (that have a big tendency to escape) all around the world? (And why are we still funding them?)
Why do many places still have power cables and telephone wires floating in the air on poles?
Why don’t we have internet globally yet?
Why do we insist on that the only way to fill up a car is to go somewhere and put some stuff (gasoline, hydrogen, electricity) into it no matter how inconvenient that model is?
Where’s the wireless charging of everything?
Why are aging electrical cables lighting wildfires all over the world?

If you look everywhere outside our infrastructure of the world is so damn old. Look at your smartphone. How many times have you changed it in the past decade? Everything with a computer inside has been replaced many many times these past decades. Software has that power for better or worse. It can change change everything that has a computer inside with click of a button.

Try to think about all the complex steps that needs to happen to bring that smartphone in your hand and mind might explode. Silica needs to be mined and processed to make the chips, glass etc. Fossil fuels will need to be mined to produce the plastic. It will need to be assembled in a giant factory. Then operating systems and software will need to be written to make it work. And finally a developer will need to write the apps that use ever day to run on it. What it seems that most people care about today is the very top layer of the iceberg. The software, the apps. But underneath that is a gigant layer of infrastructure. From mining, to processing materials, to logistics, to power production, engines, fuels, etc. And then there's bringing fuel and electricity to ALL those machines that are used in each of the steps. And then bringing fuel and electricity to those machines that bring fuel and electricity to those machines.

Infrastructure is hard for many reasons. Primarily because governments are sitting on it. To do something about it you usually need to get permission to do something or even worse participate in, God forbid, public tenders which you know some consultancy company will win, a company whose sole purpose in life is to milk tax revenue from governments around the world and use it to buy faster Ferraris while they charge millions of dollars to change the color of a button. (Ugh sorry for that detour, that's for another post).


Still to me for these exact reasons infrastructure is the most exciting thing ever. Do you think Standard Oil quite possibly the single most literally (unfortunately very literally) world dominating company of the world (now of course split into multiple smaller companies (Exxon among them) to make it look less dangerous or something 🤷‍♂️) got to where it was today because it sells fossil fuels? It got to where it was because it built infrastructure that enabled fossil fuels to be sold. Just like Tesla (and other car manufacturers) today builds charging networks to enable more EVs to be sold.

Infrastructure is dirty AF which means there’s a huge shift in infrastructure coming (either that or we all drown). All those terrawatts today being produced by fossil fuels will need to come from clean sources of electricity and the devices that used to be happy to gorge themselves on fossil fuels now needs to be repurposed or replaced with ones that run clean electricity (or other kinds of energy).

This is going to make the internet boom of the late 90s look like a recession.

Fuck yes it’s hard.
Fuck yes it’s risky.
Fuck yes it’s regulated AF

But OMG this is where the future is.

Think of what we can do with infrastructure today if we just designed it right this time.
Think of local micro grids that supply towns and homes with electricity from clean renewable sources.
Think about all the air pollution that we never have to smell and die from ever again.
Think of the oil spills or gas leaks that don't get to destroy towns, forests, animals and people ever again.

But we need to be smart about it. Most importantly infrastructure should be invisible. Cities and towns are for the living, not inanimate ugly objects. You should never have to look or smell a gas station ever again. Electricity for your car should just be where you need it not inside a big ugly fridge like structure. Replace the fossil fuel power plants with solar and convert the power plants into hipster condos, whatever it takes.

Climate change is one giant infrastructure problem. Don’t take my word for it. Take my all-time scientist crush Saul Griffiths (many) word(s) for it.

Software ate the world, but it's not gonna cut it this time. Infrastructure is the only thing that can save it.

About Michael Reibel Boesen

Dad 👨‍👩‍👦‍👦, builder (🤖⌨️🏢), 💌 Weekly Climate, 🚁📸photographer, 🎧vinyl record collector and reseller, 🥃 distiller (Gefjun), 🎸guitarist, 🎹pianist, 🍷winenerd (WSET3), 🏃‍♂️runner and 🤓engineer/PhD.