We’re at a crisis point. A sacrifice is needed. Only a sacred cow will do. Economic growth is our society’s most sacred of cows. And guess what? The cow is sick anyway.
How likely is it that the threads of thought and action attempting to reclaim cultures of restraint, restoration of nature and finding humanity’s place in that order, both at the local and the global level, over the last 100 years or so, would spread, let alone become dominant during any new pulse of free energy, so close on the heels of the frenzy of consumption of millions of years’ worth of stored sunlight (in fossil fuels)?
My point is that if we’re going to really have an energy transition it will have to be primarily a transition to a much less energy intensive economy and material culture.
Many studies have concluded that the current global economy can transition from fossil fuels to be powered entirely by renewable energy. While supporting such transition, we critique analysis purporting to conclusively demonstrate feasibility.
One of the strongest parts of The GND and Beyond is its systematic exposés of myths regarding energy, many of which are directly from the fossil fuel industry, and others which come from those who are so enthusiastic about AltE that they overlook its downsides.
My request to those working in the renewable energy industry is to ask themselves before undertaking any new project: “Will this help people to live a lower energy lifestyle than they previously did?” – which, regrettably, is not something we can say of the low carbon energy installed globally to date. If they can’t answer yes to the question, I’d request they dump the project and seek another one. It’s urgent.
Rees and Nikiforuk call this “realism,” but that’s a very loaded word. It says, “These are the facts: you can’t argue with them.” “Be realistic” invariably means “Stop being ambitious.” This kind of realism, applied to the climate and ecological emergencies, sends the message that we’re screwed.
Spiritually and emotionally it’s not in my makeup to accept defeat, so I have a problem with this, especially before we’ve even begun the rapid transition needed to tackle the climate emergency.
Something new will arise, and in the evolution of what comes next, many may find what is often lacking in life today—the excitement of a profound challenge, meaning beyond the self, a deep sense of purpose, and commitment to place.
This leads us to the view – open to change through ongoing learning of which actual experience related to the realisation of post-carbon societies will be central – that humanity’s best course of action is to act in the present as if renewable futures will entail energy descent.
Our goal presently is to broaden the discourse on energy futures. If we cannot always provide comprehensive answers in the space available, we hope at least to provoke thought about new questions, with the aim of unsettling some assumptions about energy futures presently held with undue confidence.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that competitiveness is a good thing.
OVER THE LAST two centuries in the West, we have been telling ourselves that economic growth is the most direct path to prosperity, that the good life implies material affluence, and that technology and ‘free markets’ will be able to solve most of our social and environmental problems.