Preparing for Blowback

by Mike Nickerson, Contributing Author • Ontario, Canada.

With increasing popular support, fossil fuel production may soon decrease, while renewable wind and solar energy are increasing dramatically.  Still, renewables barely keep up with increasing energy demand.  In some places, this has already resulted in some people not getting the energy they expect and depend on.  They are not amused!

Our efforts to end fossil fuel use will do well to have contingencies for blowback. 

Reality ebbs and flows.  When something becomes widespread, it tends to stimulate its opposite.  Rapid change is essential to bring humanity into balance with the Earth.  There will be counter actions.  Populist politicians await eagerly to spin such reactions into a power base which could seriously set back our efforts to end the burning of fossil fuels.

A contingency plan will recognize that as blowback increases, the ebb and flow could feature our aspirations for a sustainable world as the light emerging from the darkening background.

We will do well to prepare for the next cycle.

What alternative do we have to offer?  What vision can we present to inspire and guide society through the disruptions of the energy transformation?  

Business as usual, even while driving renewably powered electric cars, will disappoint as natural resources continue to be depleted, species go extinct, inequality deepens and pollution accumulates.

The vision of economic growth—GDP—has led us well past its best before date.  Now it is stressing Earth.  It is time to pay attention to what Earth can provide on an ongoing basis.  “Progress” has to be measured in terms of environmental health and human well-being.  This is the intent of Genuine Progress Index (GPI), which would measure social and environmental factors separately from economic accounts.  Expenses from climate disasters would be listed as regrettable expenditures, rather than simply being added to the GDP as is currently the case. 

The replacement of unnecessary consumption with life-based activities can make up for a large part of the energy shortfall.  That is activities rooted in living: learning, love and laughter; caring, appreciation, sport, music and the like.  Such activities require little or nothing from the environment.  Yet they can be so fulfilling that we wouldn’t have time for, or interest in, consuming at a dangerous level.  More fun, less stuff. 

While organizing for strong decisive public policy on fossil fuel use, there are a wide range of steps which can advance public support for the transformation.  While fear is a good motivator it can fall short and yield unfortunate political outcomes.  Something positive to work toward can provide more lasting effects.

As Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

We will do well to prepare for shifting attitudes as we shut down fossil fuels.

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