What’s A Realistic Course For Our Survival?
In conversations about the future of energy, I endorse a 100% renewable energy future. Down with the fossil fuels! The most common retort to my prothslytization is, what are we supposed to do for energy when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? My common response here is that we can use diverse renewable energy sources, and focus on improving energy storage technology.
I personally don’t advocate for nuclear energy because I think that any system (capitalism) that thrives from cutting corners and costs shouldn’t be trusted to play with such a dangerous process to boil its water. I don’t think that there is an equilibrium for the amount of regulation that I would want over the nuclear industry and the amount of regulation that capitalists would be willing to accept over the industry. So I like my potential energy futures to be clean and simple. For me that means turbines, geothermal pipes, and solar panels.
If contemporary society is going to survive climate change then changes need to start being made quickly. There are segments of the climate movement who have undertaken a defeatist viewpoint. They believe that environmental organizers need to acknowledge that the situation is dire and it does not look like there is a way of stopping the earth from heating, all that organizers can really promise if society acts now is some level of mitigation. The optimism of a lot of people in the climate movement is not connected to reality. There have been victories recently. The cost of solar energy has dropped significantly, solar and wind energy technologies are becoming more impressive and environmentally friendly, the reality of climate change is being accepted by more people, and climate negotiations have begun to be taken more seriously.
However, what we don’t have is a realistic, actionable plan to save humanity from the ravages of industrial capitalism. Dr. James Hansen, a renowned climate scientist, believes that for humanity to continue thriving in our environment we need to return the consistency of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from 400 parts per million, where it is today, to 350 parts per million. To drastically reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would require ending many of the industries that people associate with the progress of the industrial revolution.
Fossil fuel industries would need to be run with renewable energy and the technologies that developed around them would need to be radically altered to fit the new energy paradigm. Construction and development projects would need to be performed within a new paradigm of energy conservation, innovative material use, and environmental friendliness. Consumerism would need to focus on product longevity, environmentally friendly manufacturing, and the recyclability of materials. Agriculture would need to develop smart, low-pollution ways of providing sufficient, nutritional food to everyone without releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane from cattle flatulence. All of these changes would be unpopular with people who currently make a living off of these industries. They would be hated by the capitalists who made their wealth and power from these industries.
These changes would have powerful enemies but they need to be performed if humanity is going to have a hope of surviving into a new millennium. And regarding the opposition of this kind of progress, I think it’s founded in a pathology of insecurity and greed that refuses to seek a better way forward for all of humanity out of fear of losing material wealth and stature. I see it as an addiction to opulence and for humanity it’s a zero-sum game. They can either have their opulence or we can have a future. I know which option I would choose.