On the face of it, this article seems like our energy needs can be met – safely, cheaply and sustainably. And that the future is “exhilarating”. Is it? What’s wrong here?
Quite a lot. In fact, almost everything praised in this essay is just the same old economic and destructive model as the old one it proposes to replace.
The basic premises is that we can continue to grow, (ie, “economic progress”) if we just do it a little bit differently. We can continue to support the capitalistic model, unchecked consumer consumption and with a little help in the area of population control, we can have the healthy economy we desire and all the fancy toys to go with it.
Unlimited growth isn’t the answer. The “new economic model” proposed is just a rehash of the old (failed) economic model. The resources to fuel this unlimited growth will still be needed. Recycling alone won’t even come close to meeting the needs for economic “growth”. Growth can only be sustained by the continued expropriating (exploiting) raw resources. This is the basic foundation block to economic growth. Thusly, economic growth as a model for future living is just plain wrong from a planetary or ecological perspective.
The alternative energy “solutions” are also wrongly recognized as answers. There not the panacea supposed, but rely upon all kinds of cheap energy to be developed, maintained and distributed for widespread use. They will certainly have their use, but they do not have the energy return on energy invested (EROI) values that are implied in this article, and particulary, the means to continue the “energy truth”. Not even close. We can produce quite a lot of energy using alternative sources, but the basic question that needs to be asked is very simple – should we?
Undoubtedly, we will try to continue the capitalistic experience as long as possible, which will (among many other factors) ensure our collapse. We’re too entrenched in the current paradigm to consider the massive cultural and economic changes that are really needed (and necessary) to actually save us and the planet. But that is exactly what we should be considering and working towards. Unfortunately, these ideas don’t even come close to the necessary steps we need to take.
Using China as the villian, Brown does show that no nation on earth can possibly come to US standards of living. But he fails to point out that the basic problem isn’t just the US, but the fundamental idea that we should even try to continue to attain these standards of living under our present population levels. What is needed is drastic downsizing of everything; energy, consumption, population, pollution and human impact across the entire spectrum.
This is the opposite to economic growth and for that reason alone, will be soundly rejected. As Brown points out –
And since the principal advisers to governments are economists, we need economists who can think like ecologists.
Indeed we do, but ecologists or economists aren’t thinking small enough. The only way the planet can survive with all of the living species on its surface and oceans, is if we reduce our impact, taking only what we need versus everything we desire. This is in reality, is the only thing we really need to do. Nature can and will, take care of itself. We can assist this restoration, or we can simply let nature take its course. But the main emphasis here is the problem and the solution remains entirely a human problem. Rethinking the old paradign of economic growth and wrapping in up in “exhilarating” but empty promises is indeed a major part of the problem.
The question is how to get from here to there quickly enough to avoid economic decline and collapse, the sad fate of numerous previous civilizations who found themselves faced with the same difficult choice.
Economic decline is exactly what we need. The path to reduced consumerism, reduced population and reduced human impact cannot possibly come in any other way. Ignoring this fact won’t change it.
???Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.???
And failing to identify root causes to planetary and cultural suicide will also lead to collapse.
I definitely won’t be buying his book. Maybe it will be available at the local library for a free checkout.