“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair.
Imagine, if you will, an alcoholic who decides to start attending Alcoholic Anonymous to fight the deadly disease of alcoholism. The alcoholic knows drinking is unsustainable, wreaks havoc on all of the people involved and ultimately leads to personal destruction. So our alcoholic friend walks into a meeting, stands up and admits their struggle, gets assigned a personal accountability partner, only to have that partner take them to a bar for drinks after the meeting.
I’ve been listening to Republicans from the US House of Representatives talking about their major economic objective once they assume control and it sounds very much like that AA mentor offering to take us out for drinks. Rather than addressing sky-high corporate profits, one of the biggest forces behind inflation, they want to focus on America’s part in the global energy crisis. Specifically, they want to drill for more fossil fuels, reopen the Keystone pipeline (steal more land from Indigenous Americans and rape another ecosystem), bring back more coal power plants and generally ignore all of the best science on humanity’s role in climate change. This comes at a time when Republican states like Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina are being pummeled by ever more powerful hurricanes and water shortages threaten many more.
Putting Republicans in charge of these issues is very much like taking an alcoholic to a bar with a bottomless tab. Maybe it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing short-term, but the extended consequences are unconscionable.
Breaking our addiction to fossil fuels is not going to be an easy process. We don’t have a great alternative, either, as even electric cars depend upon fossil fuels for charging in most cases. Hybrid cars get great gas mileage and burn much less gasoline, but the batteries offer up their own environmental challenges. Hydrogen cars are the best idea so far, but even they require a great deal of fossil fuels to produce. The prevalence of plastic, in particular, makes the most energy-efficient vehicle hugely environmentally expensive in terms of their carbon footprints.
The hard truth we must face is that we can no longer depend upon fossil fuels to power our economy, whether we’re talking about consumer goods, vehicles or even the way we do home and business construction. The solutions are not easy, but getting people to accept change and make adjustments is even harder.
We still have to aggressively pursue such change.
Drug abusers don’t stop using drugs because they don’t like drugs. They stop because those drugs are ruining their lives. Alcoholics don’t suddenly decide they don’t like alcohol, they stop drinking because the damage being done by their drinking pushes them to stop. Fossil fuels are our global economy’s version of drugs or alcohol; it’s easier and cheaper to just burn, baby, burn. Unfortunately, the cost of continuing this habit is every bit as damaging to our planet as drugs and alcohol are to their respective addicts.
I won’t pretend to be an economic expert. I don’t know how we can take an economy based primarily on the consumption of fossil fuels and turn it into a sustainable civilization. Well, to be more precise, I have a pretty good idea how it has to be done, but I don’t pretend to know how on Earth you get people to participate in the process. It’s easier to just take another drink, inject another dose and keep burning fossil fuels.
What I know for sure is this: if we don’t elect serious people who aren’t afraid to pursue paradigm shifts in how we power our lives, our addiction is going to make life on this planet extremely difficult for our children.