Learning to ‘save our future’

Published December 4, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

These days, we are given to doom saying or forebodings perhaps because of exposure to “Cassandras” who continually predict that our planet will no longer be able to survive the current onslaught on our environment.

Climate change poses a threat, and society could collapse by 2050 unless drastic changes in our energy behavior is made. Our ecosystem has limited carrying capacity and we have gone beyond the limits, our climate change advocates remind us.

The grim scenario: Rise in global temperature to three C, with droughts, floods, wildfires, destruction of coral reefs and rainforests, and agriculture and in the process, turning millions into refugees.

But we can prevent the above from happening with what Andrew Nikiforuck describes as a “sustainable retreat.” In an article for the “Mother Pelican” (December, 2021), he suggests returning to the economy in the ‘60s or the ‘70s, which would simply imply “contracting energy by half as well as shrinking consumption.” No change is necessary in our use of technology including “green technologies,” he notes. This “powering down” would mean consuming 30-50 percent less of what we are now consuming – be it water, steel or energy. It will not require any new inventions and it will actually save us money. It means less global trade and more local production. Reducing fossil use means relying on human muscle and local energy. More human labor means more physically active lives in close contact with each other and nature. To contract our economy means expanding our humanity.

A good example is what is now happening during the pandemic when many were forced to park their SUVs. Or simply stopped regular domestic and global air travel, and the unnecessary use of a lot of fossil energy.

Because if we do not go this way, which is to preserve the health of our planet, the oceans would turn acidic, and our forests and fisheries would disappear. About 62 percent of energy today is said to have been wasted and ended up in the atmosphere – the landfill for CO2.

Of course we can explore some other alternatives such as “dematerialization” described as the use of fewer materials or less energy believed to be more efficient and cheaper. LED lights is such an example. But its efficiency and cheapness encouraged wider adoption and as a result the LEDs ended up using more energy and material spending.

The other example is the use of hydrogen which can decarbonize the global economy by powering trains, trucks and airplanes. But the gas is made with processes that required lots of energy.

The author then concludes that only contracting energy by 50 percent and shrinking consumption would address our current dilemma. But will the majority of our population who had been spoiled by the products of our civilization be willing to take that leap?

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