I Warned Against the Green Energy ‘Boom.’ It Sparked Debate
Challengers raised points that merit responses. Mine lead to one answer: degrowth.
The best intentions in the world will not stop the inertia of a heavy civilization that is rolling on its way. — poet Gary Snyder
In a recent essay I argued that replacing a 150-year-old fossil fuel system with a shiny electrical one in just 25 years to address climate chaos would come with monstrous ecological costs.
I also said it won’t get the job done given that climate change is just one symptom of a greater crisis: the excessive consumption of resources on a finite planet. You had to read deep into the essay to arrive at what I proposed we must do instead of embracing “clean tech” as the blessed saviour.
So let me put it straight here at the top, before I elaborate later: Any imperfect solution to our current civilization-threatening predicament must include dialing down our energy consumption rather than coming up with high-tech visions that keep accelerating it.
And that means reasserting human control over the technosphere now fragmenting us and imposing real limits on the algorithmic conquest of our thinking.
In my article I summarized the work of geologists, journalists, physicists and energy experts — including Simon Michaux, Siddharth Kara, Vaclav Smil, Guillaume Pitron, Alice Friedemann, Nate Hagens and Tom Murphy — who have done the critical math. The ecologist William Rees, the physicist Antonio Turiel and oil analyst Art Berman also have all made important contributions to this conversation.
Their calculations, which respect biophysical realities and limits, show that humans will have to mine more metals and minerals over the next 30 years than have been dug up over the last 70,000 to build a “renewable” transition.
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