It'll Take More Than Solar Panels and Electric Cars


At some level most of us probably know that solar panels and electric cars won't be enough to avert a climate catastrophe. Yet they do appeal to our inner "lazy self." However, what sort of future we bequeath to our grandchildren is a function of how much we're willing to change.

Anthropologist, Peter Sutoris, says, for all the big talk, we're still in the same, deadly rut.

Our society has come to believe that technology is the solution. Electricity from renewable sources, energy-efficient buildings, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuels are among the many innovations that we hope will play a decisive role in reducing emissions. Most of the mainstream climate-change models now assume some degree of “negative emissions” in the future, relying on large-scale carbon capture technology, despite the fact that it is far from ready to be implemented. And if all else fails, the story goes, we can geoengineer the Earth.

But the problem with this narrative is that it focuses on the symptoms, not the causes of environmental decay. Even if the technologies on which we pin our hopes for the future deliver as expected and do not lead to much collateral damage – both of which are huge assumptions – they will not have fixed our mindsets. This is a crisis of culture and politics, not of science and technology. To believe that we can innovate and engineer ourselves out of this mess is to miss the key lesson of the Anthropocene – that dealing with planetary-scale processes calls for humility, not arrogance.

...Our civilisation is underpinned by extractivism, a belief that the Earth is ours to exploit, and the nonsensical idea of infinite growth within a finite territory. Material possessions as markers of achievement, a drive to consume for the sake of consumption, and blindness to the long-term consequences of our actions, have all become part of the culture of global capitalism.

It's all in our minds. I dare you to show me one party leader in Canada who doesn't pursue perpetual exponential growth, ever expanding GDP, a consumer economy. Any such leader, not that one exists, would be speaking out against these deadly sins but you'll be waiting a long time for that. To a Tory that would be heresy, high treason. To a Chamber of Commerce Liberal, ditto. 


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