Guest post: The war we are fighting this time

From a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? on Average maximum temperatures.

Dr Forrest said Mr Malinauskas had “experienced the incredible power of zero emission green hydrogen when he drove FFI’s huge haul truck, seeing with his own eyes, how a massive 6mhigh mining truck can operate without using a polluting fuel like diesel”.

Perhaps his irony metre is broken, as the reduced pollution from a hydrogen-powered truck is more than outweighed by the coal in each load it carries.

How much of the process that mkes the hydrogen that goes into the truck is “zero emission?” If it’s only the bit that gets burned in the vehicle that’s “green,” then that’s not quite the solution it claims to be. As Mike B. pointed out above, the real problem is ecological overshoot. Even if we were to change all our energy use to renewables, we’d still be fucked, beacuse we’d still be overconsuming. Energy conversion without energy use reduction (amongst many other things), just puts us on a slightly greener road to hell.

The overall global response to the pandemic gives a very slight cause for hope. If the current ecological/biodiversity/energy crises could be seen and acted upon in a similar manner, with equivalent speed and robustness, we could make more progress than we are currently. Unfortunately, we need to do a good deal more than wear masks and keep farther apart. We would have to reinvent our economies, learn to live with less, and reduce wealth disparities. There is little that we do that would not be touched by the need to restructure and scale back our economies. Ophelia has pointed out a number of times that no government promising to do what needs to be done would ever be elected, and that those inclined to dictatorship would probably accelerate in the opposite direction. Countries have found the will to make sacrifices in times of war, but this time the war we are fighting is against our very way of life. The greatest threat to our way of life is our way of life. We have met the enemy and he is us.

To undertake the transformations required would be painful and expensive; failure to do so will result in even greater pain and expense, on an unimaginable scale, greater than all previous human conflicts combined. It could be slow and gradual, or it could involve massive, abrupt changes to previously reliable, stable systems and processes. Most likely it will be a combination of both. By refusing to choose the lesser of two evils, we ensure the inevitable manifestation of the greater.

We are in uncharted territory, leaving the envelope of conditions within which our civilization arose, and upon which it is based. We are travelling at great speed without a clue as to where we are heading. Cultural inertia makes changing direction on a global scale slow and awkward, if not impossible. There are powerful forces actively working to block any change at all. We are running out of water; we are running out of food. If you think things are bad now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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