There is a lot of hype and promise, some of it even real, with regards to alternative energy technologies. Heralded as the next best thing to sliced bread, alternative energy “promises” to replace petroleum dependency and even carbon emissions with something “clean”.
Fact or fiction? You be the judge. Any technology developed requires energy to create the actual hardware. Minerals are mined, the ore is extracted, factories are powered up to processing the metals, silicon and glass required, production facilities are built and manned, the actual hardware is produced and assembled, distribution networks are built, parts and pieces are transported and finally, the entire apparatus arrives at the end of this process and is assembled, tested and finally, switched on.
To produce what?
Power. Electricity. Which in turn is utilized by yet something else. A motor, a battery, a car, an appliance. Something, another manmade creation, is at the end of the entire process saving labor for a human, somewhere.
But at what cost? The hidden costs are almost always overlooked as if they don’t matter, don’t count. And moreover, does alternative energy mean just switching from one type of dependency to another? And what about all of the energy required to mine, extract, manufacture, transport, build and operate the thing? And what about all of the plundered resources that were required in the manufacturing and assembly, including the assembly and processing plants, the distribution networks, trucking and even international shipping themselves?
What exactly are we really gaining here? And at what price?
Technology is being heralded as some of the greatest inventions and “advancements” of mankind. I don’t agree with this assessment. I think technology has become one of our slave masters, making entire continents of people slaves to the demands of technology.
It’s not technology itself that is inherently bad, its how we utilize it and singularily fail to count its actual cost in resource, political and social control, dependency and insatiable demand for further advancement, which is just another way of saying it’s a self-sustaining feedback loop, which will last as long as the resources do.
Technology breeds dependency, dependency upon resources (which require ownership or control), extraction (which requires equipment), processing (even more equipment), manufacturing (production plants requiring even more resources), transportation (more equipment, more resources), and the incredible accumulative energy requirements to make this all happen. It’s easy to see how the dependency and the demands of technology, any technology, creates gigantic resource and energy demands.
Alternative energy technologies are no different. They suffer from exactly these same set of negative characteristics, or rather, we continue to foster these same set of negative characteristics, because we refuse to control the use of the technology and come to understand its true price on human and planetary existence.
Technology also affect all of the rest of non-human world. The extraction of resources seriously disrupts the planetary balance of global ecosystems worldwide. Entire species destructions are the “norm” because of the human demand for technology. The toxic pollutions and wasted dumps generated as part of the extraction, creation, usage and disposal of our technology is now threatening the very survival of all life on Earth. Our land fills throughout the globe are filled with billions of tons of our “technological castoffs”. Our oceans are polluted with it, our groundwater is contaminated with it, even our near-earth orbits are cluttered with it.
And yet there is still no recognition of these simple facts. Increasing complexity and rising dependency on technology, both conventional and “alternative” is the battle cry of the human race. It should be our mourning cry, as we come to recognize that we have embarked upon the wrong path.
The problem with technology should be obvious. Humans, using their technology, have utterly failed to come into harmony with the planet they live on. Instead, they exploit its natural resources to the point of total collapse and depletion, then moving on to yet another unexploited resource leaving behind toxic waste dumps the world over. This cycle of voracious consumption is a cancerous attack upon the very elements of the planet itself and cannot last forever. Eventually, exhausting all known natural resources, humans will wonder in stupid bewilderment “what went wrong?” while they stand among a pile of their own excrement and technological castoffs.
Yesterday, I had to make one of my dreaded day trips into the city. As I looked at all the glass, steel, concrete and paint I saw, I wondered about the process of human evolution and technology. The human body has not kept up with the demands (or lack thereof) that technology has supplanted. We were not meant to sit in cubicles and stare out of windows, excluded and isolated and insulated from our environment. We develop back problems, neck problems and poor posture. Our legs weren’t meant to remain barely used as we cross from chair to coffee pot and back again.
Most of the modern ills of mankind can be attributed directly to the application of technology and how it has been used to “save” us from “back-breaking” labor. But are we really better off? As a species, we are unhealthy, overweight, underexercised and underutilized according to our natural capacity for work and exertion. We are sickly, diseased, tumorous, cancerous, crippled, arthritic and plagued with a whole host of human-induced afflictions.
And this is supposed to be the “good life”. I call foul – I don’t think it is at all. I think we are on the highway to hell and partying like there is no tomorrow, heading ourselves, our planet and our future to ruin.
I don’t hate technology – not at all. I don’t like being a slave to it. I like electricty and what it does for me, but I also like very much being non-electric. The quiet and peace that this brings is unsurpassed by anything that technology offers.
But it isn’t technology that is at fault here – it’s us. It’s how we use it and what we expect of it and the unfullfilled dreams of how technology is going to somehow “save” us. This is exactly the promise that alternative energy technologies are promising yet again. This is a false promise that has been hyped for generations, yet to be realized. Technology cannot save us when it is actively destroying us. How could it be otherwise?
Our job would be to find ways where (and a great big IF) technology could be used for benefit (not just for humans, we are not the only species living on this planet). Right now, unbridled competition and demand for profits is causing the application of technology to be utilized for these reasons – and be damned everything else. This has caused incredible environmental damage and widespread species destruction. There has GOT to be a way humans can live on this planet without destroying everything in sight. If that is not true – then we do not deserve to be here.
That may be the case, although I think not. The rise of civilization and the use of technology, from the simple grinding stone to ICBM’s have overtaken traditional methods of living. The few surviving indigenous cultures today give living evidence that real alternatives exist. But they are considered oddities and the modern world is fast trying to change their “strange” behavior and traditional existence. It is we that need to change. Nothing about modern living is healthy, beneficial, productive, peaceful, sustainable, quiet, calm, contented or tranquil. It is our very way of life that is at fault, as we wrestle with the very elements themselves attempting to forge a better existence.
We have failed, miserably so and it is obvious as hell how far off the mark we are. We insist with our concepts of ownership that we alone have charge of the earth and it is ours alone to determine what is to be done with it. The bacteria would not agree. Nor would the viruses. Even the cockroaches would disagree. And the rats. While we could probably eradicate all life forms on earth, we would leave many of the lower life forms as our successors after we irradiated the place to hell and gone.
And for what? What good does it do mankind to destroy everything he touches? What’s the point? Greed? Profit? Instatiable lust for power and control? This type of behaviour is sickening and ultimately, self-defeating, but it doesn’t affect just humans, but the entire planet and all life forms upon it. Either we learn to control our own selves, instead of trying to control the planet (which can take care of itself as it always has), or it will be the lower life forms that become the inheritors of the earth after we die out from our own stupidity and pollution.
Right now, we don’t deserve to be here. Nothing that humans are doing on and to the planet can justify our existence as being a fully-qualified species living on this planet. Our exploitation of each other, the land, the sea, the plant and animal kingdom and the very elements themselves demonstrates the fact that we are unfit to live on this planet. Alternative energy is only trying to continue this party a little longer. Harsh words, but that’s nothing compared to what we’ve actually done to the place. We’re well on the road to self-extinction, with humans being the last remaining survivor (temporarily) at the top of the food chain while we first devour and eliminate all other life forms. That’s the reality, and that’s the truth.
If we’re going to live here, then we must learn to co-exist with everything else and this will require an entirely new earth ethic, one which does not put humans first. If we’re “first”, then everything else is secondary and that is exactly the kind of thinking that got us into this predicament in the first place.
We assume our “first” placeness because of our concepts of ownership, when we in reality, own nothing. It is the Earth that own us, cradles us, nurtures us and sustains us. But we reject that notion, deeming it ridiculous and archaic. But the reality is very different, humans do not own the earth, nor anything within it. Our attempts to exert ownership and control has now resulting in the rejection of homo sapiens. However, it is not the earth that is rejecting us, it is us rejecting the Earth.
When we abuse and reject that which supports and sustains us, we are in reality rejecting each other, because we are rejecting life itself. Life comes from the earth, not from humans. There is nothing humans can do without the earth. When we destroy the life of the earth, we are in effect, destroying each other as we destroy everything else. The evidence of this fact abounds all around us with our depleted and polluted world, our overcrowded cities, our sicknesses and disease as we attempt to exert greater and greater control and ownership on what isn’t ours.
A new ethic must be embraced, rejecting the old and abandoning what clearly does not work and is only leading to our destruction. This ethic must embrace a new set of ideals and cultural values, which in truth, are not really new at all, but have been long since abandoned by modern man. We have much to learn from the indigenious cultures that have left their faint marks upon the planetary surface, we would do well to do the same.
Alternative energy proposals do not embrace this new ethic, but seek to further the continued “dominance” of mankind over life on earth. The hidden costs to alternative energy development and usage is being deliberately overlooked, but it is important for us to realize that mankind does not need a continuance of his party on earth, but rather a revocation of assumed ownership. We are neither deserving nor worthy to be deemed the rightful masters of this planet. We can pretend otherwise all that we want, but the facts are now clear. Our stewardship is woefully lacking and we are not worthy of the task. the roaches would do better. Alternative energy is one such proposal that falls into this same category of irresponsibility. If we cannot reign in all of our demands upon the planet, coming up with a “clean” energy source will only ensure the continued destruction of the planet and ultimately, oursleves.
We can do better. In fact, we have to. What other real choice is there?