I’m trying to write a book on problems with the energy transition and the use of ‘climate technologies’ such as carbon trading, carbon capture and storage, geoengineering, biofuels, nuclear, evs and so on.
This is kind of an introduction to the book’s introduction.
As well as being about the problems with the needed energy transition and the climate technologies we use to deal with climate change and ecological devastation, this book is also about some of my theoretical obsessions, such as:
- The ways that attempts to order the world in a good way (however that is defined), generate the disorder that is feared.
- The normality of unintended consequences, the lack of control over everything, and the need to look out for these normalities, in our lives and correct for them.
- Despite everyone knowing about unintended consequences and their prevalence in life, this knowledge is not part of contemporary western social theory (including economics), or philosophy.
- The realisation that everything is ecological, and interconnectedness, interdependency and lack of apparent harmony are fundamental to all life. No thing, and no one, exists by itself. Hence to perceive an action’s effects we have to look around widely.
- This realisation implies the need for a politics which is experimental rather than dogmatic. We don’t know what a policy’s complete effects will be in advance – no matter how sensible and virtuous it appears to be.
- The realisation that human conscious thinking is limited, and directed by the theories we have. This also tends to direct what we observe. We don’t perceive the world as it is, but through the tools we deploy.
- To keep our modes of thinking and life, it is common for people to engage in defensive fantasy ‘solutions’ if the problem seems too big or overwhelming and potentially destructive of their ways of life. These solutions can even make the situation worse.
- The need to listen to our unconscious awareness of patterning, and to be aware that processes which we cultivate unconsciousness of, sill exist and can harm us.
- Forms of economic organisation can be destructive as well as productive, and we need to minimise destruction.
- Wealth is not the same as riches.
- Forms of economic organisation can lead to destructive power imbalances, and positive feedback loops, as the economy gets organised to feed the rich. The power and politics of neoliberalism is one of the fundamental problems of contemporary life, along with developmentalism.
- Markets are subsidiary to ecologies, rather than ecology being submissive to markets. A market which destroys its ecology will almost certainly destroy itself.
- Technologies involve social uses and social organisations, and they can also have harmful effects on people and ecologies if we ignore them.
- Societies, and people, all face challenges and have to respond to them. How they succeed in this response, influences their future trajectory. Sometimes the challenges they face are self-generated and these challenges are particularly difficult to respond to, other than by avoidance of the problem. Climate change and eco-destruction are such challenges. The personal and social response are intertwined, hence they reinforce each other, either for success, avoidance or failure.
- The obvious realisation that energy technologies, energy supply and its organisation are vital for forms of social life, what can be achieved and who is likely to dominate over others.
The energy transition is as much a matter of social and intellectual change as it is about technical phenomena. This is one reason why it can be scary. We don’t know the results.
While the book is sometimes bleak, and argues that many of the proposed technological solutions are fantasy avoidance solutions, it is also arguing that as many people as possible need to organise to face up to this problem, and this will bring some degree of personal and social health. We all have been waiting well over 40 years for governments and businesses to act, and they have delayed and prevaricated. We have tried the market for the last 40 years and it has not worked and it turns out that there are good reasons for this: markets cannot be separated from politics, corporate power or simply the power of established riches. Markets and Governments will not save us.
The problem also suggests we need a new way of thinking. This is implied in the theoretical outline above. To deal with the reality of eco-geo-social-technical problems, we have to be able to think, at nearly all times, in terms of: ecology, complexity, and unintended consequences; and be prepared to try processes out without prejudging.
We need a local action which helps us to build the communities we need to survive climate change, or uses the existing communities to build further resilience. There is an argument that local transition, is more likely to build appropriate local technologies, and that a clear local demonstration of concern is more likely to build political concern and emulation, than is a purely theoretical awareness of support.
The book attempts to draw attention to problems with the hope of advising action, and awareness of those problems. If people are forewarned, then people can act in more useful ways, and avoid distractions.