7. Lie Of The Green Promise
Posted by Environmentalism 101| 18 Aug 2015 |
Worldwide the trend continues to grow, pushing for renewable energy and moving away from the archaic coal and oil based energy systems. There appears to be an overwhelming consensus to shift our dependence for energy to a new, improved and more sustainable source. The promise of renewable energy seems to be the global solution to reduce the destructive human footprint and allow sustainable growth.
The civilised population is held captive by the idea that renewable energy systems, such as solar, wind, tidal and hydro, all produce no harmful emissions in converting natural energy sources into workable energy for human requirements. There is no carbon footprint when solar panels convert sunlight, nor when wind turbine blades turn from the wind blowing through the air. We know that oil and coal are finite and eventually they will run out, where as, renewable energy provides the hope that we will never run out of energy. As long as the sun shines, the wind blows, the rivers flow and the tides move, humans will have access to an infinite amount of energy, powering our cars, laptops, lights, ovens and TV’s. The promise of renewable energy maintains the belief that we don’t have to address or change our consumption habits of energy; rather we can change the procedure for how energy is harnessed.
Perhaps out of pure desperation to cling onto our prosperous and hopeful energy-rich future, we choose to ignore the ‘canary in the coalmine’. The manufacturing of solar panels, hydroelectric stations, tidal and wind turbines all require materials that are limited and are environmentally destructive and exploitative to extract. The steel, aluminum, copper, nickel and rare-earth minerals such as neodymium and terbium needed for construction are mined from the Earth, just as coal, oil or the components needed for nuclear energy stations. Regardless of the renewable factor or the difference in mining processes – all energy systems require mining of the Earths limited amount of resources.
We forget that these renewable energy machines will have to be upgraded, fixed and replaced, which will result in the use of more limited materials, entailing more mining processes. When outdated, the components for these renewable energy systems will then become waste. Any system that requires limited resources or entails exploitative, waste-producing or destructive processes is ultimately unsustainable, wasteful and destructive. Knowing that the efficiency of renewable energy sources will require continued improvement and much land usage, we also have to deal with the eventuality that in order to supply the growing need for energy we will have to manipulate a large portion of the Earth to allow for renewable energy systems.
There are ingenious and futuristic proposed ways of developing and establishing renewable energy systems, such as exporting the entire renewable systems out into space or on to other planets. In a best-case scenario we could eliminate every destructive process employed in the entire renewable energy system. The renewable energy machines can sit out in space collecting sunlight, other planets can be mined for the components needed to build the machines and what ever waste is produced is either recycled in a closed loop system or discarded into space waste stations. Ultimately off-Earth renewable energy systems will result in acquiring the greenest and cleanest energy possible, but what is neglected is that the energy is still used to fuel the growth of civilisation. The more energy acquired, regardless of its source and procurement, the more we fuel an inherently destructive system that cannot be sustained. If we were wishing to alleviate the destructive impact caused by civilisation, we would have to change its entire essence, stopping its growth and reverting from an anthropocentric to a biocentric core, which would then make the pursuit of infinite and clean energy obsolete, as humans are the only species that demand energy for their habits and lifestyles.
The renewable energy sector is just a lesser-evil system, fed to the public by the very same industries, governments and corporations who built and enforced the oil and coal-based systems. Are we really that naïve to believe that the oil and coal industry giants have grown a conscious and that they now care about environmental impact?
Our dedication to green energy is the last straw supporting the belief that we as a species don’t have to change and that we can continue with our selfish, anthropocentric views and growth. By investing our hope in renewable energy systems we are distracted, by settling for another system that only caters to us. We will eventually have to face the reality that infinite and clean energy will provide no grand solution to the environmental destruction we cause. We will have to face the reality that instead of choosing between coal or solar energy, we will have to choose no energy at all. Instead of choosing the LED lights over the incandescent bulbs, we will have to readjust to living in temporary darkness with the stars and moon as our light source. We will have to trade in the hybrid and electric cars for long walks and smaller communities. We will have to trade in the TV’s for watching what goes on in our surrounding environment and we will have to trade in the cell phones and Internet for proper personal and communal discussion.
We have to eliminate our need and dependence on all energy systems if we are to have any hope at all of addressing our impact on Planet Earth and on other species. Our task is not to look for cleaner energy sources to fuel our growth, instead, it is to dismantle the existing energy systems and eliminate our need and dependence on all energy systems. The promise of renewable energy provides no solutions in alleviating our impact or dissolving our destructive footprint, rather it presents the grandest and most large-scale example of ultimate ‘green-washing’.