The line is being drawn.
On one side there is that old dream of man as the technological wizard, the tool-builder, ever capable of surmounting the impediments put before him, with ever more complex, expensive, and potentially dangerous creations. The unspoken goal is above all else to continue with the status quo; to maintain private access through the private vehicle to private properties, whether it be hydrogen powered or nuclear; to leave the market place with its evolved disparities of wealth as the dispenser of global justice and equity, because it is through the concentration of money, as well as for, that such wizardry is furthered; to yet maintain that growth will come someday to share with the unfortunate, when finally there is enough. Nay, more than enough, so very much more than enough.
If we are in danger of having overshot the capacity of the earth to sustain us due to our dependence upon gas and oil, there will be no need to drastically reorganize our relation to the land, to tear out golf curses built upon agricultural soil and watered with drinking water in the desert, because there will always be the possibility of bringing yet more nuclear reactors on line, to thus enable processing of coal into liquids, or unlimited production of hydrogen, or the making of fertilizer from the air, or the bringing of water from the Mississippi to the Ogallala plains, or desalination from the sea. This time the possibility of human fallibility will be designed out of the equation, by human beings now more clever than their predecessors. With such energies the towering physical structure of civilization will be limited only by our imagination, and upon having made no mistake in choosing the fork of the road, this one that leads to breeders, and would posit the most Promethean arrogance of fusion.
It does not matter that we have yet to pay the full cost for the very first kW of electricity generated with nuclear energy, a cost that we cannot now calculate, for the job of that generation has not been finished. The reactive process has not come to an end. The reactor still stands, with its radioactive parts, and with everything that shall become radioactive with sufficient exposure to those parts. Even if the fuel residuals become plausibly dealt with, radioactive source points will contagiously increase. Will that reactor be dismembered, buried, and the surface land left usable for something else, or will it be more cheaply sealed with cement? If the latter, will that cement sarcophagus withstand the time of weathering as long as the unhappiness of the atoms within it, or will it have to be repeatedly redone over the centuries? But those of the future will undoubtedly be even more clever than we are, and will have received assets as well as these liabilities. We have seen the imagination of our ships traveling at warp speed among the stars powered by a torturing of atomic structure, and because it has been imagined, then, so it must become. We are yet infatuated with our tool-building, and see promise in the physical creations wrought by our hands. We do not imagine that the greater force is potentially in the aggregation of human consciousness, when the shared goal is centered as the Earth holding all its creatures to it.
This plea for an unbounding of energy by a species who cannot rid itself of life-diminishing addictive drugs, illegal and legal, who covets weapons of war ever more guaranteeing of unbroken privilege, who believes that the sacredness of money gives unassailable right to master and to have without limit, whatever the condition of others or the planet may be. This plea when already the seas have sickened, the waters and the air dirtied, the lands degraded, the species each with their unique face of the one Desire increasingly, heedlessly, been left to die.
On the other side of the battle line lies the unknown, the pathless wilderness of a self-organization yet to be evolved. A change which will have to be personally manifested by so many individuals, and that has little likelihood of becoming if it is not the envisioned and the willed, if it is not a solution intended for all rather than the few, if there is not some quality of existence that improves even as that which appeared to be wealth in the past, becomes less. Here, the images that one might conjure in anticipation are so foreign to what we are accustomed, and have learned to desire, to expect. How can our world function if it no longer be one immense parking lot interconnected by the myriad streamings of steel vehicles whose very multitude and compass belie the existence of a two-legged being? How will we make sense of all those private properties we spend the greater part of our life to own, if these beasts of convenience with their voracious appetites can no longer be fed, or if the temperate climate be quite elsewhere?
Is there a middle ground, where we build just a few more reactors to help us smoothly turn toward sustainability? The question is, are we going to deliberately build down toward that which is sustainable or continue trying to go up in growth against the declining curve of carrying capacity? It will be all too tempting as the present demonstrates to spew rhetoric about the former, and pursue in actuality the latter.
Complacency, and faith in the motivation of the grand corporations, in the wisdom of our government, even if begrudgingly, will leave us upon the known side of the line in the sand. But protest against the known and even refusal to participate will serve us naught for the crossing of that line. It is only with the creation of a new world for all that we will be able to truly leave behind the old.
Oh Change, great may be thy might, but do not come to leave our hearts with dry sand, for we are creatures of dreams and go willingly only toward joy and more abundant light.