Saturday, February 6, 2010

Alternative Energy Ignores the Problem

Gillian Caldwell, Campaign Director for 1Sky, recently had the chance for a quick chat with President Obama, which she blogged about here:
and to which I replied:

Hi Gillian... I think you and the Prez are both missing another, and much more fundamental, problem. We won't be getting all of our energy from wind and solar, either now or in twenty years, if the assumption is that we need to keep things going along their current trajectory, meaning a continued increase in energy demand.

The arguing over "clean" coal and nukes is a distraction to keep people from waking up to the fact that economic growth, and its role in industrialism, is a failed paradigm. Planned obsolescence, the throw-away society in general, and the substitution of materialism for psychological and spiritual health and well-being is a mistake--and a rather deadly one. The simple fact is that we could kick our coal habit today because all coal is doing is powering our waste and excess.

Plus, the Industrial Growth Society is only possible with the embedded energy of fossil fuels, which are post-peak and what's left of them is so environmentally destructive to obtain that only a society that has completely lost its way would attempt doing so. Even 100% LEED building standards, hybrid vehicles (or any other proposal that thinks we can "green" consumption and continued growth) can't overcome that basic ecological fact.

And since there is a viable alternative that would improve quality of life, that systemically replaces the diseased root of fear-based ranking hierarchies of domination instead of allowing itself to be satisfied with the occasional compromised clipping of branches, why are nationally recognized and rightfully respected organizations such as 1Sky reluctant to advocate fundamental systemic change? 1Sky's masthead states "America wants bold action," so why ask for minor reform on the fringes?

The bold, but thoroughly pragmatic, alternative to the status quo includes powering down, relocalizing, reconnecting to the natural world and each other, and giving ourselves the gift of time for what really matters. This alternative uses steady-state economies that focus on becoming qualitatively better instead of quantitatively bigger; it requires no new technologies and works with who we are right now--not after some shift to a higher state of consciousness or evolutionary adaptation; it can begin restoring all aspects of the natural world, which of course includes ourselves and our communities; it doesn't require mortgaging our future by bailing out industries thought to be too big to fail.

We could move toward true sustainability (which can be both ecologically and legally defined) and become a role model for the rest of the world that our grandchildren would be proud of--instead of our current sorry, disconnected path in which we won't have grandchildren.

We're supposed to be rational creatures. I think it is past time we started demonstrating it, and face the fact that it is not a technological problem that we're dealing with nor one that has a market solution. Thinking that we need more of what got us into this mess is not a rational response.


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