This post is dedicated to the Archdruid and his merry band: "Stealing from the present to give to the future." If you don’t read The Archdruid Report (and you should), none of the following will make much sense. But by now you must be used to that.
This is the first in a series of posts, the rest of which will almost certainly never be written, on the subject of the energy crisis looming over humanity.
Before I go into the reason the elves work for Santa and not vice versa, let me say a few words to those who believe the coming 'crisis' is some combination of paranoia and marketing. Look around you. Just about everything you see – the abundant food, cheap wares manufactured in distant lands, unlimited electricity on tap at the flick of a switch, and so on – is the result of a two hundred year binge of fossil fuel consumption. I take it I will not be surprising my more astute readers to note the fact that supplies are not likely to be everlasting. We have used quite a bit already and the cost and difficulty of extracting what remains is bound to increase. We cannot expand indefinitely on a finite planet. That, in the parlance of our times, is fo shizzle.
Nevertheless, and for entirely silly reasons that on close examination make almost no sense, I retain a certain amount of optimism. We may indeed be up a creek without a paddle, but there's a good place to camp over there, I've got a fishing pole, a banjo, and two bottles of homemade moonjack. I think we can make it through the night.
As longtime followers of this blog's project are undoubtedly aware, I do not give much (proverbial) truck to the high-tech so-called solutions breezily offered every day in the mainstream media (and recall, I have not watched television since I put my foot through my Sony Trinitron when J.R. shot himself on Dallas; I mean how symbolic of the predicament into which we have dug ourselves, and at the same time how lame, was that?). But today, just to play for a second the devil's adversary, let's make an exception and consider a few of these proposed alternatives.
Piezoelectric energy harvesting, for example, is a topic that has been much on The Mind lately. The concept is simple: the vibrations from anything in motion are converted to electrical energy. The possibilities are endless. What better way to assure that we can maintain our unsustainable energy consumption habits sustainably than by harvesting the excess energy generated from all the energy we waste? We need to be hooking these devices up to every wild animal on the face of the earth. In Africa in particular, with its large herds of big strong beasts making their long annual migrations, just think of all that energy, being mindlessly frittered away.
What if the energy from a bird building its nest could be converted to electricity? All that racket the cicadas are kicking up on a summer's eve, how are we letting that go to waste when we should be hooking it all up to the grid? Think of all the energy that weeds expend in pushing up through cracks in the sidewalk. Did you ever try to push your way up through a piece of concrete? Go ahead and give it a whirl – I'll give you a few weeks if you want. It boggles the mind that we are letting these tremendous sources of energy remain untapped.
Then ponder how much energy is wasted every day by the wind blowing through the trees. That gently relaxing sound is the sound of precious energy dissipating, energy we must capture if we are to survive and be richer than our neighbors. Imagine that each leaf is a sort of mini generator, hooked to a central power station at the base of the tree, and all of the wind energy was converted to electricity and easily accessible from a standard outlet. You could then plug your chainsaw directly into the tree, and fell it using energy sustainably harvested from its own leaves. Would that not just be a gas?
By now many readers will have begun to suspect of course that I’m just pulling your leggings, knowing as we do that the time to accomplish all of this was in 1974, when we as a society collectively decided to bury our head in our hands in the sands of time, that we need not concern ourselves with the needs of future generations or even with the needs of our own children. Now it's too late, at least if the goal is to maintain some semblance of our current lifestyles. Thus, if you will, the future that I have outlined in this series of posts is but a sneak peek at the depressing world that awaits as we slide down the other half of the peak of Hubbard's Backside.
If we define sustainable as 'that which can be sustained,' – and I think we almost have to, given what the word means – then it is not entirely without a hint of falsity to fail to disagree (if only to be disingenuous) with the notion that (ready for it…): Sustainable solutions are out there. The trick will be holding your breath until they arrive.
I’ll talk more about holding your breath in the next series of posts. Until then, don’t.
Brief, on-point and/or completely batty comments on this post will be published and responded to as time permits.