Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 04:56:16 -0000
What if a hypothetical society elected to combat global warming and to move toward sustainability by imposing a carbon emission tax on fossil fuels over a ten year period such that fuel costs rose to aound 4-5 USD/gallon? Also, suppose they decided to offer subsidies to promote the use of fuel efficient vehicles that get 80 MPG rather than the 20 today? The phase-in would be timed so that the average driver's cost per mile would remain the same as the carbon emissions tax increases. More jobs would be created as imports of fuel drop and as alternative fuels increase.
What if an intelligent extra-terrestrial being observed this world, charged with the task of making it more wise in terms of energy usage? If she just looked at this part of the world, the first thing she would have to differentiate between is life as being either mechanical or organic, so predominant would be the movement of chromed vehicles.
If one can separate their self from the fact of dependence upon the existing
infrastructure, and from their faith in the infinite dimension of man as being
one limited to the technological, a simple glance at a congested multiple lane
freeway is enough to know that therein resides a horrible energy inefficiency.
There can be no doubt about it. In terms of energy, unless its availability
is infinite and the planet an expanding sphere, the automobile as the method
of personal transportation is the stupidest invention to ever hang like a dead
albatross about the neck of humanity, not to mention pollution and destruction
of the environment through killing strips and parking lots everywhere. It has
been engendered by the drive of the profit motive, which cares not for the
integral consequence of its self-seeking, but only for its own engorgement.
Whatever path of solution you envision for humankind in confrontation with
the finitude of the Earth, the difference between one built about continuing
proliferation of the private automobile and one fleeing wholeheartedly from
this energy intensity, is fundamental. The dichotomies abound: privilege versus
equity, individualism versus community, luxury versus sufficiency, species
extinction versus species survival, war versus peace, profit versus sharing,
insustainability versus sustainability.
You are the absolute cornucopian of the list. If there is a problem to be
solved, throw nuclear power at it. But the logic of your argument has lacunas.
You admit that nuclear power waste as now generated requires a method of reprocessing,
and also that the breeder technology to do so does not yet exist. Yet, you
want to expand traditional nuclear power based upon confidence that a solution
to the waste will be found. Society extended that confidence once and remains
disappointed. I think now intelligence demands that nuclear power have its
total cycle solution in hand before expanding. No promises, no faith. Proven
solution in hand. And all significant sources of residual reactivity to be
first cleaned up.
I think part of your attitude stems from wanting to believe in the marvelousness of humankind, and the impression that a curtailing of energy consumption would somehow contradict the greatness of conscious being, even as our reality is exceeded by our potential. I see that marvelousness, that greatness, but I do not think more energy is now the better path by which to evolve the potential. We have our tools enough in hand. Now, it is time to look at the global society, and ask if some reorganization might not promise to best give us a greater quality of existence, if somehow our individual well being be also dependent upon the well being of humankind and our collective relation to the ecosphere -- a novel dream of well being.
We have been increasingly chasing after money for more than twenty centuries. If money can only strive now to put more and more cars onto the streets, then it is time we got onto something more intelligent.
Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not try to cover up poverty with inner pretense. If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further understandings. Indeed, there need be no concern if the outward beauty of the civilization should have to suffer because of simplicity. One must draw on the strength of the inner attitude to compensate for what is lacking in externals; thus, the power of the content makes up for the simplicity of form. Even with slender means the sentiment of the heart can be expressed.