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I just saw a great article by Stephen Lacey linked to on Crooked Timber on how the price of solar power is falling very rapidly. This has been a long term trend, and shows no signs of slowing. The rate is close to Moore’s Law concerning computer memory, which once was also expensive. In a time with so much bad news this is great news. Solar power’s ability to stop adding to the causes of global warming is obvious, and if it gets cheap enough it will start reversing this fatal process. But here are other reasons that also justify leaving carbon based energy as quickly as we can.
The debate over global warming between most scientists knowledgeable about the matter and the oil and coal industries and their intellectual whores has obscured two other important reason to wean ourselves from carbon based fuel.
From a human perspective we have militarized our society to support cheap oil. The Middle East would be of little importance to the US today were the Western economy not so dependent on oil. From many hundreds of thousands to a million dead Iraqis, their land polluted with radioactive ammunition, down to every wedding party killed by our drones, every family annihilated by mistake by our troops, all are part of the price of oil. We don’t pay it. They do. For us. The rationale for our empire and the killing it requires, immoral as it is, rests on this dependency. Whenever some opponent of doing anything about global warming or some so-called “libertarian” ideological imbecile condemns subsidies for new carbon free technologies, they always conveniently fail to mention the trillions we have spent on our military to safeguard energy for ourselves. As domestic production falls this subsidy will grow. As solar power becomes cheaper even the greedy and heartless will need the subsidy less.
Then there is the increasing destruction of our environment to acquire more oil and coal generated electricity. Jimmy Carter, perhaps the last really decent man to have been President and more environmentally aware than any who succeeded him, nevertheless was willing to write off huge portions of the American West as “national sacrifice zones” so that oil shale could be converted to petroleum. The same travesties are now happening in the tar sands of Alberta. Mountain tops in the Appalachians are being destroyed, the residue dumped into valleys, poisoning water, wrecking lives, and raping the land, because of our dependence on oil and coal. Not to mention hideous destruction of land, water, and people’s lives from Nigeria to the Gulf of Mexico, courtesy sociopathic corporations and the gangsters they employ. Even our least harmful form of carbon based fuel extraction poisons water tables with fracking, pumping proprietary pollutants into the earth to extract oil no matter the cost to people’s wells or the health of the land. In some areas treated this way tap water explodes when it comes into contact with a flame.
Petroleum and coal extraction companies breed one of the worst possible mentalities for our time: take and run. A farmer has to pay attention to the soil, a lumber company to the supply of trees, and a fisherman to the fish in the sea. Corporations dumb all these attitudes down enormously, but none approach the lack of concern for the future we see in those who rip and such from the earth and never give anything back When people were few the earth could handle such actions, but today people are more than many.
From a Pagan perspective there is an interesting symbolism here. Oil and coal are products of life long passed. Like a mushroom or maggot, the modern world primarily lives off what is dead. In the Ecology of Eden Evan Eisenberg terms us, like them, saprophagic life forms. Eaters of the dead.
To the degree we shift into a culture using sunlight we shift from mushroom to plant, living off light, the bringer of life.
There are so many good reasons to want out of our coal and oil based economy that this news about solar power hopefully raises the spirits of everyone who learns of it.