(Image Credit: pixabay.com; the image is at this link. Used without modification under Creative Commons Licence)
In many people’s perception, voicing opposition to a proposed solution to a problem amounts to denying the existence of the problem. This opens up room for scheming individuals to enrich themselves at others’ cost.
A FORK IN THE ROAD
The topic of climate change & green energy is multifaceted, with several offshoots to further complicate matters. That is by no means a unique feature of the topic, but in this article I will attempt to deal with one particular aspect of the climate change / green energy issue (which also is not unique to this topic), viz., that only wholehearted and unquestioning acceptance of the sanctioned narrative is expected. Any attempt to ask for details (technical, atmospheric, logical, environmental or economic etc.) suffices to brand the questioner as ‘climate denier’ (and other, more unsavory epithets). There are even memes floating around on social media with derisive depictions of ‘I am only asking questions’.
This of course hampers intellectual inquiry. Beyond that, it shapes the collective mindset of our society into a simplistic one; there is a tacit acceptance of the notion that examining an idea from multiple angles is verboten. I consider this to be a fork in the road of societal evolution; making an unwise choice will definitely lead us to an undesirable destination.
My focus at present is on the fact that the various proposals to ‘save the planet’ cannot be objected to on grounds of the consequences of implementing these proposals. Here, I am going to assume, out of necessity, that the crisis, as depicted by those proposing / advocating for the solutions is indeed as they claim. Once we have accepted the very basis of their doctrine, do these proposed solutions lead us to a place where the crisis gets averted?
Before we look at the pros & cons of these solutions, let me tell you a story that I had read in my childhood.
Once upon a time, there was a pond in a meadow. A lot of creatures lived there happily and in harmony – fish, frogs, crustaceans, and birds. The water was plentiful and sweet. Then, without warning, disaster struck. The annual rains failed to arrive.
As time went by, the water in the pond kept diminishing. The creatures started getting worried. They feared that before the next year’s monsoon, the water would be gone, and they would all be dead. Those creatures who couldn’t leave the water – such as the fish – were especially in a panic.
Just as they were beginning to resign themselves to their fate, a ray of hope arrived in the form of a stork. After listening to everyone’s tale of woe, he spoke of another, much larger pond that was located one day’s journey away as the stork flies. He told them about how that pond had a lot of water, and how life there was as peaceful and prosperous as it had been in this smaller pond before the rains failed. Everyone asked if he could take them there.
“I can certainly do that”, the stork assured them, “But I can only take one of you in my beak at a time, and the place is one day’s journey away as I mentioned earlier. Therefore, it would take quite a while for me to take you all.”
Sure enough, no one wanted to be far behind in the queue of creatures trying to escape to safety, so a clamorous debate ensued. With a lot of difficulty, a waiting list was decided upon.
On day one, the stork lifted up one fish in its beak (he filled the beak with water to help the fish stay alive), flew until he was out of sight of the creatures in the pond, and then landed on the ground and proceeded to eat the fish.
The next day, he returned to the pond, told everyone about how happy the fish had been to reach safety, and asked whose turn was next. It was a crab.
The stork had a dinner of crab that day.
And so it went every day. The stork had an easy life until the next monsoon season.
VYING FOR SUCCESS
The two main preferred policy measures to deal with the climate crisis are:
- Wind, solar and biomass energy,
- Electrification of transport vehicles.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty, allow me to make a general observation: The main weakness of the proposed solutions is that they seek to resolve a problem that was caused by industrial scale activities, by resorting to another set of industrial scale activities. Extracting minerals on a gargantuan scale, processing them to derive the desired materials, transporting these materials to manufacture the needed items and transporting these items to the locations where renewable energy installations are meant to be erected is, fundamentally speaking, doing more of the same. In fact, it amounts to doing vastly more of the same. Given that we are not starting with 100% of the energy supply (that is needed for these activities) in the form of renewable energy, there is an obvious question:
At what point can renewable energy provide all the power needed to make renewable energy installations?
Or, in simpler terms, when does renewable energy become self-sufficient?
This is important because from that cut-off (or break-even) point onwards, the pace of transitioning to renewable energy quickens sharply.
I have not come across any literature that answers this fundamental question, but it is likely that it exists somewhere. If it does, my next obvious question is why it has not found mention in the truckloads of media coverage of the climate crisis that we generate every day. Is it because that literature arrives at an inconvenient answer?
Finally, if this point is not finding a mention in the debates / discussions, why?
CLOAK OF IDEOLOGY
There are myriad issues attached to the mining / extracting / harvesting the materials required for renewable energy, mainly falling in the areas of environmental degradation and violation of human rights. If someone wants to discuss these as part of the discussion on renewable energy, does that make them ‘climate denier’? The unfortunate answer in Canada is ‘Yes’. Instead of reacting emotionally to this sad state of affairs, let us ask ourselves why that is so.
Why is it that a large number of Canadians, perhaps the majority, is so dismissive of a painful reality that would make them alarmed and agitated in any other context?
I am toying with possibilities here, but it seems likely that the ‘climate cause’ ranks much, much higher on the ideological totem pole than the plight of enslaved children in faraway lands, or degradation of the environment in places they have likely never heard of, let alone be able to locate on a map. As long as they can see windmills and solar farms getting installed in their neighborhood (figuratively speaking), they don’t care about the high cost that others are paying for these contraptions elsewhere. That cost is, if they are even aware of it, a ‘worthwhile price to pay for progress’.
What brings about this cognitive dissonance?
THE POWER OF MONEY
In common parlance, it is easy to heap all the blame of ‘evil corporations’ for a wide assortment of maladies that sadly exist – and persist – in the world, but the reality at the granular level is considerably more complex. It is my contention that the realization – maybe at the subconscious level – that their own financial well-being is tied to uncritical support for renewable energy conditions them to dismiss concerns relating to the downside of renewable energy. This is especially true when the brunt of that downside is borne by others.
The above argument may appear counter-intuitive at first; many people are aware that the push for renewables is driving up the cost of living. We will keep that aside for the moment.
The really important messages that influence and shape a person’s thinking (and beyond that, also their personality and character) are often delivered in small doses – perhaps even tiny doses.
Let’s understand the above via a humdrum example. Envision a client discussing their RRSP or RESP investments with their advisor. They will be shown a series of performance charts of various investment options, along with predictions for the immediate-to-mid-term future. As these pieces of information flash across the advisor’s computer screen, images of African children attired in dirty rags and digging the minerals with the most basic instruments of mining will be conspicuously absent. As well, any mention of entire forests being felled to make room for a supposedly ‘green’ energy installation (such as the report of 14 million trees that were cut down in Scotland for a wind farm) will be absent. There is a good reason for this:
Humans often conduct themselves in a modular fashion; the investment advisor’s job is to get the best return on the client’s investment. It is not a part of their job to point out the moral side of investments – or even the illogical parts.
At this juncture, cognitive dissonance kicks in; the same individual (client) who may have strong views against the environmental impact of fossil fuels is blinded – voluntarily or otherwise – to similar carnage being wreaked on the environment in the name of ‘progress’. In their view, in the former case it is the ‘evil’ corporations that are at fault. But in the latter case, since their own financial future is hitched to one particular industrial arena, there is no harm being inflicted on the planet’s ecology.
The cumulative impact of these (relatively) small individual transactions and attitudes is a massive river of money flowing in the direction that is currently believed to be ‘moral’. This suits the peddlers of faulty ideology just fine.
In this context, it is worth noting that every time a major financial institution announces its plan to ‘tackle climate change’ (or achieve ‘net-zero’ by a certain year), it causes unbridled jubilation among the adherents of this new ideology. There is absolutely no mention of how the same institutions, similarly energized about an idea, wrought havoc on the economies of the world in the not too distant past. Some examples of their ‘glorious’ performance are: the LTCM crisis in the late 1990’s to the Dot-Com bubble at the turn of the century, to the housing mania and the alphabet-soup of derivatives in the first decade of this century. And since they were never brought to book for all the shenanigans that were discovered in those disasters, they continue their previous behavior unchecked. As if that were not enough, this time around, they have the backing / sanction of the State itself to promote ideas and investments without being subjected to rigorous scrutiny. To put it differently, the authority that can act as a check on unbridled financial ambition is wedded to the promotion of the ideas that cause that ambition to come into being in the first place.
The net result of this is that all the entities that have a vested interest in pushing the bouquet of notions on ‘green energy’ are in cahoots with each other because that brings greater revenues for all these entities.
But as the concept of ‘Chain of fools’ tells us, the individual is the last fool in the chain of ‘green energy’ policies. Every other fool in the chain has the ability to pass on the risk to the next one, except the last one, who is left holding the bag.
HOW THIS (POSSIBLY) ENDS
At some point, either the whole edifice of ‘green energy’ will come crashing down (because the earth can only take so much devastation before it lashes back) or the dream merchants in the financial markets and government will move on to the next big idea, with nary a thought for the impact(s) on the individual for the sudden reversal in direction. They are the storks in this story, and they will be content with having their bellies full. We, the ordinary individuals, are the fish, frogs and crabs in the pond. Before the next monsoon arrives, we will have voluntarily entered the stork’s beak, hoping to be flown to a more plentiful pond.