From War Against Nature To Peace With Nature:
The Need For A Transition To A Renewable Energy Path
During this past year alone the world has witnessed some of history’s worst catastrophes related to nonrenewable energy uses. The Gulf oil spill, nuclear disaster in Japan, coal mine collapses and natural gas explosions; tornadoes, cyclones, floods, droughts, and melting of the Arctic due to climate change; oil wars that have turned the Middle East and beyond into killing fields; and ruthless exploitation of fuel reserves causing shortages and collapsing economies around the world due to skyrocketing energy prices. The list keeps growing. On the nonrenewable energy path all these predictable consequences come in the same package, and continuing on the same path takes us nowhere but a dead end. The long idealized energy-intensive lifestyles turn to “deathstyles.”
All these add up to one thing: Fueled by hubris, greed, short-sighted scientism and stupidity, we – human beings – are at war with Nature, and we are losing it.
So, the question is, is there hope for a transition to a sustainable path of innovation, renewable energy and peace? To me, the answer is: Yes! It will require, however, for us to be awakened to the simple truth – and the holistic, perennial wisdom – that the essential condition of sustainability lies in our ability to live harmoniously within the limits and renewability of our natural resources. That is, to be able to live at peace with Nature.
Daunting as the task seems, we have the fuel source and the technologies for it.
Look at the Sun – and the amazing set of technologies which are fuelled by it! Only one hour of sunlight falling on the Earth’s surface contains energy equivalent to what we use globally for an entire year. Freely, the energy from the Sun is received through the renewable subsystems of light, heat, wind, water movement and photosynthesis. In addition to direct uses, there are also an extraordinary variety of technologies to convert, store and distribute energy through a wide range of designs and scales. Photovoltaics, wind turbines, hydroelectric generators, solar water heaters, solar greenhouses, biogas plants and solar cookers are being implemented for a wide range of domestic, industrial and consumer products and purposes. They demonstrate that these economically, environmentally and politically advantageous options are within our reach right now. Solar hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels and geothermal options are maturing through technical, economic, social and environmental criteria for widespread applications. With innovations and breakthroughs, there’ll be more.
What’s most hopeful, however, is what scientists are saying about the revolutionary potential of the renewable energy technologies we have now – and what some countries, such as Germany, Denmark, Iceland and the Maldives, are doing by setting their goals of becoming 100 percent renewable energy powered nations by 2050. Conservation and efficiency go hand in hand in that transition. For example, The Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050, released in 2011 by the World Wildlife Fund, puts it this way: “By 2050, we could get all the energy we need from renewable sources. This report shows that such a transaction is not only possible but also cost-effective, providing energy that is affordable for all and producing it in ways that can be sustained by the global economy and the planet.”
There’ll be challenges. The global energy demand is estimated to double by 2030, but barely 7 percent of it is currently generated from renewable energy technologies. With all the excitement about going “green” – encouraging first steps – most goals in national policies do not exceed 20 percent by 2030. The grip of those with vested interests in the highly profitable nonrenewable energy industry – and the highly profitable war industry – remains tight over the public mind, media and politics.
So, there’s work to be done. A 100 percent transition to renewable energy – the sustainable energy solution, the peaceable solution – is achievable, but only if we exercise our choice for it. The revolutionary nature and potential of renewable energy offer us the opportunity to accelerate the transition – in which anyone across the world, in small and big ways – can participate. Through education and action, that power of the people needs to be unleashed. And time is of the essence!
I’d like to end with two quotes, which I think are just as relevant, if not more, today, than when they were first said or written.
The first is the 1970s famous Chiffon margarine television commercial. In it, Mother Nature, personified as a woman in a long white dress wearing a floral headband, confuses the newly introduced Chiffon margarine with butter. She gets very angry and unleashes a thundering storm, along with a warning with this memorable phrase, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Whether the margarine was a preferable substitute for butter or not is a different question, but her warning certainly has proven its merit.
The second quote is from the “Hymn to the Earth’ in the Vedas, the ancient Indian spiritual scripture imbued with human wisdom and recorded around 1500 B.C. It says:
Whatever I dig up of you, O Earth,
may you of that have quick replenishment!
It reminds us of our stewardship role and responsibility as we utilize renewably the Earth’s resources, Nature’s gifts to all who inhabit this incredible planet, our shared home. As I keep searching for possibilities for us to move from being at war with Nature to peace with Nature, I find this quote – this advice – enlightening and inspiring—and extremely urgent.
Together, let’s follow this advice. Let there be peace!
Sajed Kamal, EdD, author of The Renewable Revolution: How We Can Fight Climate
Change, Prevent Energy Wars, Revitalize the Economy and Transition to a
Sustainable Future (Earthscan 2011), teaches in the
Sustainable International Development Program at Brandeis University in
Massachusetts, and has been involved in the field internationally for more than
thirty years, setting up projects in the USA, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Armenia
and El Salvador. He is also an award-winning poet, artist,
translator, nursery school teacher-consultant, psychotherapist and author of
more than a dozen books and many articles in a wide range of areas. In 2007 he was awarded Boston “Mayor’s First Annual Green
Award for Community Leadership in Energy and Climate Protection,” in 2008 a “Lifetime
Achievement Award” by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the
“Greener Issue” of the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine on September 28, 2008,
featured him as one of the “Six local heroes whose work is having rippling
effects – at home and far away – in making the world a better place.”
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