I have been long familiar with the framing of the need for a massive renewables plan as a new Apollo project, but something always sat wrong with me on that. I finally put my finger on it – the need to move away from fossil fuels is a morality issue, not a glitzy, cold-war race, public invigoration issue. In the need to preserve the present viability of our planet for the children of those creatures currently alive, and to prevent resource wars, it is more akin to the need to abolish slavery because slavery is wrong. Even though economic results may initially be painful. Like the abolition of slavery, a big push away from fossil fuels will meet plenty of hiccups and political maneuvering and resistance. It will require many to totally change their lives. It can not happen gradually enough to not be painful in the short term, or things will likely be very painful in the long term. I found some words on the internet to echo my sentiments – the following is extracted by a published talk by Pat Murphy as given at the 2005 Community Solutions Conference (I am not familiar with the speaker or the conference):
Some people are calling for a new Manhattan project or a new Apollo project to solve fossil fuel depletion. But the Manhattan project brought us the possibility of instant planet annihilation and the Apollo project has shown us the limits of expansion. Star Trek is only a child’s story. We and our children will live here – on this planet – in this place … forever. If we destroy it, then we will disappear. If we foolishly waste the resources we will suffer. There is no escape at warp speed to Alpha Centura. There are no dilithium crystals.
There are much better analogies of major change in the past that are not based on technology and science. We need the equivalent effort of the abolition of slavery. We need the equivalent force of the work for getting the vote for women. We need the equivalent of the banning of child labor. We need an effort something like the Civil Rights Movement. We need a Copernican Revolution – a change in mindset from the fantasy model of infinite fossil fuel driven growth and pollution to one of understanding our physical limitations. We don’t need another war on something – poverty, government spending or terrorism. We need no wars or even analogies of wars. What we need are metaphors of creation. We need a new society. And it has to be based on low-energy ways of living.
My fellow scientists may be a bit rebuffed at the dismissal of scientific solutions, and I am not sure that rebuff is totally warranted, but I do believe that turning the light switch off manually (every time), is better than the gizmo that does it for you and fails in 10 years, is better than building a wind turbine to power the light. A new mindset and way of living first, and then some appropriate technological solutions. Most of us reading this can make a lot of “sacrifices” in our current lifestyles before we truly deserve the world’s pity.