Global warming has long been strongly correlated with increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. Coal and oil-fired electrical power plants generate CO2 , as do the combustion engines of gasoline-powered vehicles. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the solutions presently being developed to provide transportation and power sources that don’t produce CO2 emissions. These include electric vehicles as well as electricity production from solar and wind power farms. We’re going to briefly explore some important aspects of each of these three solutions.
We’re not attempting to validate or invalidate any particular solution to CO2 emissions or global warming in this section. We are also not suggesting that CO2 emissions are not a serious problem. They are. Instead, as in our exploration of West, we are looking at these three solutions so you can really see and analyze the paradigms and values that Western culture brings to the table when it defines and then sets out to fix ecological problems. But this time the “fixing of ecological problems” part is trickier than it was in our previous examples.
First, people are directly applying their fix-it paradigm to humans themselves in each of these examples, rather than to the environment. The actual changes are being made to cars and buses, and to power plants and energy delivery systems. So these actions are a lot like those that engineer buildings to survive earthquakes, or vaccines to protect people from viruses. Since Western culture sees a wall between humans and the natural world, there’s a strong assumption that these engineering solutions are therefore inherently innocuous and can’t create environmental problems of their own.
However, the ultimate reason for these actions is, nevertheless, fixing the environment itself — to slow and eventually reverse climate change by no longer burning fossil fuels to power vehicles and electric power plants. So . . . there’s a smouldering warning there. Do you see that? Burning coal and oil to warm houses and then to generate electricity were technology practices on the “human side” of the supposed wall between humans and the natural world. That’s why no one worried for decades about the consequences. But clearly, the wall did NOT prevent environmental impact. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise us the wall “failed,” given that you now know it doesn’t actually exist. What I’m getting at is that we ought to be thinking about how ‘green energy’ solutions impact the environment. And, as part of that, we even need to ask whether or not a focus on CO2 emissions is a shell game that keeps us from seeing the real paradigmatic issues we need to be addressing.
After all, Western culture doesn’t just believe that humans are separated from the natural world. It acts as if this separation is ontologically real. When you stir the panic that’s ticking up with every new set of record high temperatures, ice break-up, and rise in sea level, into a system that sees human-technology actions as wholly separated from the natural world, the outcome is a frantic push to implement these solutions as quickly as possible. Green solutions get fast-tracked as both urgent and safe. So there’s a lot moving here, paradigmatically. And when paradigms come into conflict, you find out which ones have the deepest roots. Sometimes you even find new paradigms you didn’t realize were there. So let’s go see what we can dig up.
This time you’ll be reading more information from outside sources, with less direct input from me until the very end of the exploration. Required links to information you need to read and process are written in bold font or indicated clearly in another way (e.g., “Please read this”). Just follow the instructions on each page. But be sure to read what I ask you to read, and to read it with your paradigm-assessing skills set on “high”.
Finally, before you begin, I want to remind you that I am a scientist. I have even taught a college course in the physics of energy use and consumption. I think it’s important you know this. The papers about solar and wind facilities specifically deal with issues related to the Laws of Thermodynamics. If it’s been a while since you took physics or chemistry, you need to understand that these are laws that can’t be violated any more than can the law of gravity.
At the same time, the pages you are about to read are absolutely NOT arguing for continued use of carbon-based energy sources. Instead, they point to one of the biggest problems facing contemporary people today: unnecessarily dualistic “either/or” energy solutions that focus on what type of energy to use without including additional considerations such as how much energy to use. Either/or duality forces people into making choices that trade one destructive and non-sustainable “solution” for another because the real underlying problem — in this case, that we use unsustainable amounts of energy — is never seen or addressed.
Please go to the first of these three pages now, Mining the Land.