by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Renewable energy will not and cannot support perpetual economic growth, the way we have been doing it for so long, for too long, in fact. But this does not, actually, have to be a bad thing at all.
The globalized consumer society has always been and will always be unsustainable anyway, and we might be happier without it. But unless we plan for the post-growth renewable future, and do this now, existing economic institutions may tend to shatter rather than adapt smoothly.
Industry, and its practices, as is the case today, requires large amounts of energy in the form of electricity and gas (not to mention water also often) and is not sustainable in in its current way. Solar, wind and small-scale water, cannot provide for such requirements. Thus a total and complete change of working practices is required and that also means a change in the attitude of consumers.
Oh, and while I am at it let me throw yet another rather large monkey wrench into the works and that is that electric vehicles, that is electric (battery-operated) cars, vans and trucks, etc., are also not going to make the grade. Aside from the fact that the “rare earth” and minerals required to make both vehicles and their batteries are close to running out the charging of large amount of electric vehicles by use of electricity from renewables just will not work. Aside from that a great majority of car and van users today – on a personal, not fleet level – use on-street parking and it just would not compute to run a charging cable to each and every car right across the sidewalk.
While battery technology may be improving in time making such vehicles more energy efficient and thus giving greater range and quicker battery charging times the restriction that will come about from a full transition and uptake – as must happen – of renewables will make the manufacture of both electric vehicles and batteries almost impossible if not even entirely impossible.
Renewables, and we must face this, and that despite the fact that we have no other option than to move over to renewables, cannot ever fulfill all the energy needs of today because (1) we simply waste too much of it and (2) many of the practices are far too energy hungry.
In the post-growth society (and economy) things will have to me done differently, made differently, and we will have to change many of our current ways and practices.
While this may mean a great deal of change and the need to adjust and acclimatize, which will take some time, considering that most of us have been living in this current way of things all our lives, it is the only way that we, as a species, and the Planet, can survive.
It will mean a reconsideration as to where we live and work, what we do for a living and where and how, and how we travel to and from work, and so on. Living miles and miles, in many cases ten, twenty or even more miles, away from our place of work and having to commute by car or, maybe, by rail just will not longer be an option.
Unless we want to continue with a “the devil may care” attitude destroying the Planet and our own source of life then we will have to change, and we will have to begin that change, that transition to a different way yesterday, or preferably the day before that. As that, however, does not compute it will have to be today and we cannot put this off to some time in the future. We must act now.
In order, however, to make this transition to a post-growth and post-carbon society and economy we must change society first of all into one where people and the Planet matter from the current one where profits come before everything. Not an easy task, I know, and especially not in view of so many people wanting everything for almost nothing and immediately.
In this new economy things will no longer, as they won't be able to, made by large factories but mostly, no doubt, by hand and thus prices will be higher but quality too will be much, much better and those products will then, once again, be made to last and be repairable, unlike currently where everything is made in such a way – built-in obsolescence it is called – that they break soon after the warranty expires.
Factories of the kind that we know today that are consuming vast amounts of energy and other resources we will not longer know in this new economy and society and to some extent it should also mean a return to making many things that we want and needs ourselves once again, as used to be the case a time past when things were similar to those at the threshold of which we stand today.
But this new society and economy where people and Planet matter and where exploitation of man and Nature will be a thing of the past will not come about on its own nor can we rely on the powers-that-be, but should not be, to bring it about. It is not in their interest and their capitalist cronies. We must do it. We must create it. So, let's get to it.