October 19, 2012

Some brief thoughts on energy


I have been thinking so much about solar energy, about how much of what I read, especially from a mainstream perspective, seems misplaced. When I read that we will not be able to generate enough energy using solar and wind, I feel they are completely missing the point. The points are:

1) That these new, sustainable technologies will force us to use less, will demonstrate – on a real, lived, experiential basis – that resources are renewable but not infinite.

2) That there is more autonomy, and less greedy profit, in a decentralized power grid.

3) That the many exorbitant expenses of polluting the air and water are simply not being factored into the standard calculations. Environmental devastation is expensive on every level.

But it is mainly the first point I obsess over. Let’s say you have solar panels on the roof of your house. Each day, you will use only as much energy as these panels generate. When it runs out you go to sleep and wait for the sun to come up tomorrow. The energy is not infinite, not available twenty-four hours a day. There are limits and you learn, out of necessity, how to live within them.

This, for me, is the main lesson of sustainable technologies. They would force us to live differently, to be aware of daily limits, to find solutions that acknowledge real limitations. They do not make life easier in every way. They make life harder in some ways, ways that force a fundamental shift in how we see the world and our place within it. I also suspect that working within a series of concrete, reasonable limitations would bring along with it a kind of reality and even joy.

It is easy for me to write these things, since I am certainly not living them, and I am clearly not the first to suggest this. However, I definitely wish they were being said far more often.


1 comment:

Andrew said...

I also like the idea of the possibility of energy forecasts which would show what days the centralized power would be great (windy and sunny days).