Friday, 24 April 2009

Don't Be Afraid of The Dark (or the bus)

There is general cheer for Ed Miliband's announcement (BBC story here) that all new coal plants must be fitted with carbon capture and storage technology. He's given the go-ahead for four new plants on the provision that they will capture the carbon dioxide and store it under ground.

Nobody is sure if this technology is viable however. Greenpeace give the news a cautious welcome then retreat to a more sceptical wait and see position, pointing out potential pitfalls in the proposal.

On BBC Radio Four's Today programme the coal policy was reported as a move necessary to avoid black outs. Have a look at this for more.

All of this, in my opinion illustrates a central flaw in how we are responding to climate change, peak oil and the other causes of sleepless nights - we are trying to protect our current way of life.

The real inconvenient truth is that our current way of life is completely unsustainable. Why are we burning coal and relying on unproven technology to avoid blackouts? Because we are scared of the dark? Will darkness bring lawlessness, chaos and murder? It might but there is no a priori causal link between darkness and acts of evil. The New York blackout of 1977 resulted in widespread looting but the blackout in 2003 saw people helping each other - citizens directing traffic, bars serving free food, block parties and The Indigo Girls performing in Central Park using power from diesel generators. Why the difference? In 77, there was recession and a lot of social tension. The New York of 2003 was a very different place.

And that in a nutshell folks is sustainable development. If we manage to create a socially just, equitable and affluent society then we will be able to handle regular blackouts. If we built strong cohesive societies where people look out for each other and the strong take care of the weak then we have nothing to fear from the dark. Lets stop kidding ourselves that there is any way we can maintain this energy addicted insatiable society and start building the society that doesn't need coal, that can survive happily without oil.

Another illustration of our folly is the lengths we will go to cling on to our mobility. In order to meet demand for transport fuel we are gleefully embracing biofuels as the answer to our problems.

To grow biofuel we are cutting down primary biomass and using land that could grow food. Systems thinking see...

Friends of The Earth are trying to point out that there's no such thing as a free lunch or free journey for that matter - here

Once again this is an illustration of the folly of trying to maintain our unsustainable lifestyle. There is an alternative and no doubt subsequent blogs will explore this but for now we have to start adjusting our values and aspirations and realise there is nothing to fear from the dark or from leaving the car at home.

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