THE ENERGY DEBATE
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, pepinsky.blogspot.com
April 11, 2011
Today the global debate on energy is whether to mine coal or uranium, over which fuel source is cleaner. I think the framing of the debate is ass backwards. Never mind how safe a nuclear plant in your backyard is, or how little pollution gets out into our atmosphere. Either way, we choose to lay mother waste to human waste. Framed thus, I compare obliterating a mountain or polluting an aquifer for coal and gas to “safely” storing waste humans dare not get near, nor drink its water waste, nor eat its plants nor the animals who have consumed them, for half a million years.
A friend asked me recently: so Hal, how are you going to meet our energy demands? My Darwinian answer: people will survive longest who among their nearest and dearest evolve ways to feed, clothe and celebrate their lives together in more creative and diverse ways, who become members of self-sustaining ecosystems. I realized long ago that what to me is this truth of Darwinism is, if you will, the ass end of Spencer’s social Darwinism, that the stuff we accumulate among those who remain the richest and most powerful on the earth’s surface depletes and poisons our mother’s capacity to renew earth and sustain life as we value it.
I’ll just throw out one example of the kind of human invention that might reduce people’s household and business consumption of energy: In windswept places, why not use principles of intermediate technology created by E. F. Schumacher to build windmills that as few as three people at a time could use to create and store energy, say for cooking, or for construction work? In Schumacher’s utopia, the average business would employ no technology more costly than the average worker’s triennial income, and the ideal workforce would be worker owned that would grow no bigger than 300 members before it split. This stuff cannot be engineered from on private or public high, but it happens all the time now and no matter how the toll of humanity on humanity, privately and publicly, from inexorable forces of human growth and destruction. Don’t ask me to predict whether any of our children’s children will exist on this planet by the time it becomes safe for their children to live in the vicinity of nuclear waste, but I feel obliged to decentralize and humanize and localize the scale of ownership of our work, our waste and the richness of our lives together as a contribution to future generations as best I can imagine.
Our whole energy debate ought to be framed about the shit we leave behind rather than about how safely and conveniently we “grow” the stuff. Love and peace--hal