An Irritating Truth
by Jo Abbess
17 September 2009
Essay to answer the question : ‘Which technical solutions offer the best potential for decreasing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions over the next 50 years?’ based on the key text, Chapter 4, entitled “Energy Supply” of the mitigation volume of the Working Group III (WG3) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published in 2007.
Should they be sentenced to build a straw bale, lime and mud community centre in Liverpool ? Should they be required to host Permaculture seminars in inner London ? Should they be asked to take part in leafletting and campaigning for the 10:10 campaign ?
Whenever you hear government ministers or public figures telling the people that technology will save us, remember this : the word “technology” is synonymous with the word “business”.
“Technology” is Big Engineering, and this is what is done by large companies and corporations. Large organisations that make profit by selling manufactured products and Energy always have a surplus set aside for their communications budgets, and that includes persuading government people that their business is invaluable and needs promoting.
Environmentalism has trudged a long, winding, often silent road, with many cul-de-sacs of defeat, desperation and despair.
In the last few years there has been a raising of the collective consciousness about how many problems are interrelated with an obscure corner of gas chemistry, which offers grave prospects for the whole of Life on Earth.
Ecologists and treehuggers of all varieties have started to gather round the camp fire of Climate Change, finding that people will pay attention to the destruction of Nature if they pay attention to their own fate first.
When are the intellectual and political ranks going to stop trying to apply universal guilt ? The real question to ask is not, “how are we going to get average emissions down ?” You can’t treat all the people in the United Kingdom as one blurred lump. Around 20% of consumers are conscious. Another 20% to 30% are going to be hit directly by any measure designed to put an environmental tax on Carbon, and will have no choice about responding.
Climate Change worldwide is affecting the poorest first and hardest – an expression used by everyone from Nicholas Stern through to Christian Aid. But it’s a stratification of impact that isn’t just global. The poorest in the industrialised countries are suffering hardship too : people who cannot get their homes renovated after floods, people who have to apply for Fuel Poverty assistance.
Despite what the psychologists evidence and the psychotherapists cogitate, there’s no getting through to some people, and I really think we just ought to accept that, stop with the guilt trip and the navel-gazing and admit it : the people with leadership authority have got to start telling people that things will change, whether they come along with it or not.
Everybody knows that there’s no secret to persuasion, no “how to win friends and influence people” magic techniques : you just need to have enough money to guarantee yourself the widest possible audience and the dominant narrative, and your product gets all the sales it needs, and overrides “what if” critique. TV was made for it. The Hollywood film industry is its highest and finest embodiment.
What would you do if you met a Climate Camper face to face ? And how could you be sure ? Would they have dreadlocks ? A facepainted clown face, raggedy, dirty clothes ? Would they be shouting ?
More to the point, would they be getting in your face ? Or in your way ? Would they be threatening or violent or extremely negative ? Or would they offer you a cup of tea and a nice wholemeal organic flapjack ?
Climate Change is a problem quintessentially expressed in numbers : how many degrees of warming, how many parts per million of Carbon Dioxide in the air, how much Carbon Dioxide the Oceans, Forests, Rocks, Plants and Soils soak up, how many lives will be affected by drought, famine and sickness, how much Methane could be released from tundra and hydrates, how many species will be lost, perhaps including our own.
Constructing and operating Nuclear Power facilities has historically required overt and covert support from nation states. A non-negotiable, non-vanishing fraction of every tax dollar/euro/rand goes to keep Atomic Energy alive.
So does the population get some benefit from this costly energy ? Some people ask “payback ? What payback ?” and cast dark hints that Nuclear Energy never has, and never will, produce a net Energy benefit, after all the labour, time, concrete, steel, liquid fuel and other resources that have to be used in reactor building, site monitoring and waste disposal.
So it seemed rather like the British Government had put themselves in a cleft stick, announcing a new round of building Nuclear Fission electricial generation plant, but at the same time foreswearing any state financial support :-
Not content with having four very similar Planning Applications overturned previously in quiet, suburban Highams Park, London E4, (including one taken to a Public Inquiry), nothing seems to be able to stop Tesco trying again, with a remarkably unchanged plan for a mega-superstore with crowded urban-style blocks of adjacent flats.
Only this time it’s got a “travellator”, you know, the kind of moving walkway normally found at airports, to take you from the ground floor car park atrocity to the first floor store.
This is their attempt to design the plan into our hearts. But not even a brilliant architect can make a catwalk model out of this bloated parasitical plan :-
He may prowl like a cat and purr like a cat, and make out he’s soft and sweet in interviews, but Peter Mandelson’s ideological positioning gives him the impression of him more resembling a pawn, an eel or a rat, and gives me a shudder of disgust; and I’m glad to hear the Climate Rush non-Pussycat Dolls have seen fit to pounce on him :-