One of the books I started reading during my illness this week is Bill McKibben's new book Deep Economy. The introductory material is about establishing the need to think about the world in a radically new way... the "why you need this book" part of the book. The picture is pretty bleak:
- If the resources of the world were spread out equally, my life would look like the average Pakistani's, rather than mine (especially discouraging when Fox's new talking head is so informed about the lives of Pakistanis)
- Global Warming is the result of extracting vast reserves of energy stored in carbon from under the ground, removing the energy, and putting the carbon in the air
- We are less than 25 years from a radical change in our lifestyles, forced by any combination of peak oil, the gap between the haves and have-nots, rising temperatures, massive trauma to the biological mono-culture we've become used to eating
- and so on.
Using the spirit of Pronoia -- challenge despair -- I have this balancing thought:
The Industrial Revolution hasn't just been about extracting what we want from the earth at higher efficiencies... it has also been about establishing a common currency for the world. It is monetary and linguistic, but it is also energetic. The Industrial Revolution has largely resulted in a world where everything we care about--heat, clean water, transportation, communication, health, food production and storage, community, entertainment, education--can be powered by electricity. And the beauty of electricity as a currency is that electricity doesn't care where it comes from.
Today the wind blows by my house, the sun beats down on the shingles of my roof, and my bikes stand largely unused in my garage. This post is powered by wind-power if you ask the accounting niceties of the power company... but the reality is 90% of the electricity came from coal.
We are stuck in Industrial Revolution ways of producing power. We are long past the time when it's made sense. (Add the cost of resource wars fought since 1950 into your gas, oil, and electrical bill.) But a new world is already living breath-by-breath with the one we're in now. I imagine we are not so far away from a day when we sign up for spinning classes not just for the exercise and the community-building, but because the power is donated to the local health clinic.