July 30, 2018

We Need Renewable Ideas, Not Stale Ones About “Renewables”


They may say I look like Don Quixote, but they’re the ones charging a mirage.

Industrial renewables are unsustainable because of their dependency on a foundation of cheap plentiful fossil fuels: Especially, they and the industrial economy they’re supposed to rescue would continue to be completely dependent upon fossil fuels for transportation. Industrial renewables also are bound up in ecological destruction: The destruction of arid ecosystems for CSP monocultures, the murder of rivers for hydroelectric, the straight extractionist rape from the metals mining it requires. And of course the wholesale massacre of birds by industrial windmills. It takes a special kind of depravity to call this “environmentalism”, and only today’s corporate environmentalists could reach such a level of depravity.
The main evil of the propaganda of a large-scale industrial renewables buildout is that it’s supposed to replace fossil fuels in powering what would otherwise be the same corporate globalization regime. This is no improvement. Centralization itself, gigantism itself, is at the core of the crisis. No one who would want a high-consumption grid based on CSP and industrial wind mega-farms would care about replacing fossil fuels anyway; they’d only want to supplement them. If the paramount imperative is to feed the monstrous consumption maw (and for the advocates of the industrial civilization this is the only imperative), then the climate crisis and all other environmental crises can’t have any importance at all, other than as propaganda gambits on behalf of further escalated destruction. On the contrary, if averting the worst of the crises was any kind of goal, then the goal of maximizing energy production automatically would be downgraded severely.
What’s most promising about renewables is their decentralized, non-grid potential to contribute to a decent life for human beings, such as the great potential of passive solar heating. Just as with agroecology, here we can provide warmth and comfort and sufficient electricity for family and community use, as opposed to the productionist mindset which only wants massive corporate-controlled electricity generation for its own sake. It’s the same as how growing food for human beings is vastly more productive and healthy in every way than producing agricultural commodities from which food is then supposed to trickle down as an afterthought. It’s true that acre for acre agroecology is far more productive in every way – calories, nutrition, biodiversity, every other ecological function – than industrial monoculture, whereas decentralized renewables would produce less gross energy quantity than any kind of industrial generation. But the better quality of life provided by a decentralized ecological society would more than make up for that.
Anyway, industrial-scale renewables never could be self-sustaining rather than dependent upon a fossil fuel foundation. Therefore the whole quantity-vs.-quality debate is moot since the quantity couldn’t be sustained anyway.
All this must be placed in the context of humanity’s great need to abolish the onslaught of industrial poisons. This is a more immediate and dire threat even than climate change, as pressing as that’s becoming. (But these two crises are completely intertwined and cannot be separated. What drives one drives the other, and the only solution for one is the only solution for the other.) Many of those who tout industrial renewables want to use this to prop up poison-based agriculture. Obviously it won’t be possible really to do that once the necessary cheap, plentiful fossil fuels aren’t available. But the idea itself is pernicious since it’s part of the “delayer” form of denialism, the de facto denialism of the climate crocodiles shedding their usual crocodile tears.
That too is a reason to reject any version of the call for productionist Business As Usual, including the version which would have it all powered by industrial renewables. Such a program, if it were possible and actually carried out, would continue destroying the Earth and would continue to drive the climate crisis since it would continue destroying the forests, grasslands, and soil.
No aspect of the modern technocratic-corporate system is redeemable. Productionism, capitalism in itself is the most evil of all ideologies and systematically maximizes all other evils because it can’t use or tolerate anything that’s good in people or the Earth, only the bad, destructive, and wasteful.
We must reject concepts of absolute production and consumption, but rather think and speak only in terms of what’s sufficient and desirable. This includes the social/community element. All the worthless high-maintenance material junk which has been available to the Western rich and middle classes and their apes around the world have not made them psychologically secure, content, happy. On the contrary, it’s evident how unhappy, insecure, insane and deranged the “modern” human type has become.
Conversely, and as a corollary, people still close to an indigenous or national way of life, or who faithfully seek such a life, don’t need more “stuff”. We can benefit from modern agroecological science (which is knowledge, not imported junk like commodified seeds and poisons) and some of the medical knowledge (there too, it’s basic knowledge and low-tech practice which helps most, not modern high-maintenance technology; the fact is that most of the modern medical gains were achieved by things like better sanitation, while hi-tech modern medical science has had a much smaller and diminishing-returns role, and in any event is increasingly impossible financially for most people even in the West). Agroecology is not a revelation to people still close to the Earth, but builds upon and modifies traditional knowledge.
For the physical reasons of Peak Oil, the climate crisis and the many other environmental crises, driven by the socioeconomic and spiritual evils of productionism and corporate capitalism, all our ideas about energy and technology must mean finding the level which is best for the most constructive and fulfilled human experience and interaction within the ecology, our only home. The workable political and economic level for the ecology is also the best level for human happiness and contentment, on an individual and community level. All the evidence says this level is low in terms of the physical technological sophistication and grossness, high in terms of knowledge. The best example is the extreme contrast of the technologically highly ramified, but intellectually and scientifically very stupid and retrograde poison agriculture regime, vs. the “low-tech” but intellectually highly advanced agroecological paradigm. The same is true for money and finance. The same is true for everything else. And the same is true for energy, where the low-hanging fruit of fully developing passive solar knowledge to provide adequate heating for home and community use, joined with the necessary social transformations, is far more promising than generating extreme amounts of electricity amid an ongoing consumer atomism while the civilization attempts to murder the Earth and commits suicide in the process.

November 19, 2017

Trickles and Blasts


Life is complete right here

Picture a steady trickle of water from a faucet. Now picture this trickle, over hundreds of millions of years, filling a cistern whose walls gradually close in. Eventually the water would be so compressed that if you could insert a pipe the water would blast out with great force.
So far the analogy with an oil well is fairly direct. And for the sake of argument let’s go further and say the compressed water could be extracted and its force used in all kinds of ways. So we have an analogy with fossil fuels.
Now instead let’s say we want to go directly to the trickle and extract force from it. Immediately we see the problem. Yet the cultists of industrial renewables – industrial wind farms, concentrated solar panels, the whole notion of using solar power for consumerist electricity generation – think that the concentrated solar energy of hundreds of millions of years, compressed into fossil fuels (and of course it took vastly greater energy to concentrate fossil fuels in the first place than is contained in the fossil fuels themselves), can be replaced by tapping the present trickle. This is an example of the religious insanity of the modern ideological complex of productionism-consumerism-technocracy-scientism-progress-corporate rule.
It’s no wonder the apostles of a renewables-based “future” always support the fossil fuel status quo in the present. Just as almost all who verbally deplore climate change support this climate-wracking status quo. And as a Green Queen might say, it’s “fossil fuels today, renewables tomorrow, never renewables today!” Because deep down they know that the great renewables Millennium, like all utopian techno-hype, is a pipe dream. The idea of powering the extreme energy civilization on renewables is only that: An empty idea, a propaganda campaign. Like all other such propaganda, its purpose is to prop up faltering faith in the model of civilization based on fossil fuels, extreme energy consumption, productionism, and high-maintenance technology. Its purpose is to keep the gate against any thought of an ecological future. Keep “civilized” (i.e. technocratic) thought and action in, keep ecological thought and action out.
But the faith continues to falter, because deep down everyone knows fossil fuels are finite, these cannot be replaced, the Earth is not an infinitely disposable waste dump, Gaia shall impose its correction, there will be no technological savior and there are no “stars” to go to (i.e., no god will descend to save us, which is what both of these really mean). The extreme energy civilization, having bottlenecked all human potential and driven humanity into a socioeconomic and political dead end, now drives itself into its own terminal bottleneck.
Anyone who feels bottlenecked, whatever the surface reason seems to be, must understand that yours is a symptom of a global ecological crisis. You cannot solve your crisis within the bottleneck which causes it any more than the civilization can pull itself out of its own bottleneck.
There’s only one liberation, for all of us, for humanity, for the hope of an ecological civilization. This is to liberate ourselves from the decadent barbarism of the corporate-technocratic extreme energy Babylon. We must liberate ourselves first in thought, and propagate the necessary new ideas. Then we must organize, taking all actions possible within the existing framework, while preparing for the coming physical, political, and spiritual tribulations as the extremist civilization begins its collapse in earnest.
Renewable energy offers great benefits for the coming transformation. We must think in terms of passive solar heating, rebuilding and improving wind energy for pumping water and other on-site and local uses, small-scale electrical generation, and similar uses. In the same way many of us are working on agroecology, many are working on a truly rational theory and practice for renewable energy, starting with off-grid development today. These are thoughts and actions toward a human ecological future.
But typically extreme, gigantist, megalomaniacal notions of renewables powering vast cities floating on the sand are nothing but typical desert mirages, as often occur in the minds of those crazy from the heat. We must renounce such dinosaur notions ourselves and counteract them by propagating the necessary new ideas, the ideas of an ecological way of life, which is the only possible human way of life.
The trickle is indeed more than enough for all we need and all we could sanely want. For four billon years now it’s been more than enough for all life on Earth. All we need is to give up the insanity of thinking we need the blast.