A transition away from fossil fuels seems like a sensible approach to climate change but what are the correct ingredients? Wind, solar, hydrogen, electric vehicles, carbon capture, nuclear, geothermal, heat pumps, hydropower?
It’s like a doctor treating a patient without examining the source of his symptoms.
“If many remedies are prescribed for an illness, you may be certain that the illness has no cure.”
—Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard (1904)
Climate change is a serious threat to civilization, but it is a symptom of the larger problem of overshoot. Overshoot means that humans are using natural resources and polluting at rates beyond the planet’s capacity to recover.
The main cause of overshoot is the extraordinary growth of the human enterprise made possible by fossil energy. As that enterprise grew, more and more energy was needed to support its complexity and continued growth. The carbon emissions that underlie climate change are merely a byproduct of using all of that energy.
Humanity has been having quite a party with fossil fuels for the last century of so. Now it’s time to survey the mess we’ve made. Everyone wants solutions but first we must understand the present state of things and how we got here. Without a map of the territory, we are lost. Choosing a destination without a route will probably get us more lost. Yet, that is society’s current approach.
Ecology and economics come from the same Greek word oikos which means home or household. Ecology means what we know and say about our home. Economics means how we measure and manage our household. It seems strange to me that economics largely excludes ecology and the natural world that we consider to be our home.
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