8 Steps Used By Offshore Wind to Create Agreements

8 Steps Used By Offshore Wind to Create Agreements

Editor’s note: While this article could have been written about any extractive industry, it has focused on offshore wind turbine farms. These destructive projects should require at least as much scrutiny as an offshore oil rig, but they are not. Because in the name of climate mitigation, they are rushed through without consideration for the damage they will cause, or even their effectiveness in serving this purpose and need for existence. Which is usually just based only on government mandates. And this is all done in the name of Big Environmentalism. DGR does not believe the Bright Green Lies of mainstream environmental NGOs.

By Carl van Warmerdam

People who believe that offshore wind turbines can help solve climate change are misinformed. Because the facts are that they will not. Even the companies building them make no such claim. And the truth, based on facts, will always trump belief. I am not a climate denier, but you don’t have to be a climate denier to know that these things are bad and are doomed to failure. And you also don’t have to be linked to the fossil fuel industry, the same people that knew they were causing global warming and therefore threatening the very existence of the planet. Yet, in pursuit of profit, fossil fuel executives not only refused to publicly acknowledge what they had learned but, year after year, lied about the existential threat that climate change posed for our planet. “Renewable” energy projects should require just as must scrutiny from regulators and environmentalists as fossil fuel projects.

Truth be told, most rebuildable “renewable” energy extractive companies are also liars, and have ties to fossil fuel companies. In reality what is really going on is a boondoggle, that you won’t hear about in mainstream corporate media because they only give disinformation. After years of rebuildable energy – solar and wind infrastructure – the world used more fossil fuels in 2023 than it did in 2022, as it did the year before that and the year before that. We are in fact using more fossil fuel than ever before. From 61 thousand terawatts-hours of primary energy consumption in 1973, which was the year of the OPEC oil embargo, when governments began to massively support research and development of large wind turbines and solar panels, to 137 thousand today. This is well over twice as much. In that same period, emissions grew from 17 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions to the 37 billion metric tons today. A 20 billion metric ton increase in the last 50 years. And after all of that, 80 percent of our energy use still comes from fossil fuels. The percent of US energy use from electricity has remained the same, about 20 percent. Of that, wind turbines account for 7 percent and solar energy provides 2 percent of total US electricity used. So the dream of a 100 percent electric power supply is just that, a dream.

 Why? Because these energy intense extractive technologies require massive amounts of fossil fuels to produce and those emissions are adding onto what is already being used, not reducing it (Jevons paradox). Thus spewing more planet-heating carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a time when greenhouse gas emissions world wide must nosedive to stop extreme weather from growing more unpredictable and violent. The only reason CO2 emission may drop in countries installing rebuildable extractive energy and electric vehicles is because they have outsourced the mining and manufacture of these machines to other countries, thus increasing the CO2 emissions in those countries. LNG has replaced dirty coal to run power plants.  Add on to all of this, easy access resources are gone. So the Energy Return On Investment (EROI) has gone down sharply in that time. Instead of Jeb shooting for some food, we have to use fracking and offshore drilling, mountaintop removal and deep sea mining. In the foreseeable future, the energy needed to produce our energy needs could approach unsustainable levels, a phenomenon called “energy cannibalism.”

If this continues, the so called “green” energy transition will in fact be an energy correction, complements of Mother Nature, bigger and more storms, flooding, fire, drought and biodiversity collapse. These are no longer natural disasters, instead these more powerful weather events are man made.

Nature is not more complicated than you think, it is more complicated than you CAN think” ~Frank Edwin Egler

Rebuildable extractive energy capturing machines are not clean except through greenwashing and are only making our predicament worse. The trillions in government subsidies given to this sector only makes the rich richer. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) should more appropriately be called the 4th Industrial Revolution Act. This is government redistribution of wealth from the working class to offshore transnational state sponsored corporations and the wealthy financial class, which are also principally owned by fossil fuel companies. Ultimately any money that is offered by them as payouts for grants, agreements, promotion or mitigation will come from the utility ratepayer. This is a scam that is not financially feasible without trillions in government subsidies. This is what their balance sheet looks like. What is done to the natural environment is even worse.  

Wildlife and wind turbines are an uncomfortable mix. Rotating turbine blades can make short work of anyone or anything unlucky enough to collide with them, but direct mortality is only part of the story. Having reviewed the available evidence from around the world, biologists in Finland have found that 63 percent of bird species, 72 percent of bats and 67 percent of terrestrial mammals are displaced from areas where turbines are installed. The same holds true for offshore wind farms, to include fish and marine mammals. Wind turbines are an invasive species to functioning ecosystems that took millions of years to create. The building process is a war zone. The noise and devastation are a disaster to fragile ecosystem habitats. Consider how you would feel if these massive monsters were put up next to your house in your town. The oceans, from which we came, are the lungs of the planet. Life can not exist if the delicate balance is disrupted. These projects are doomed to failure in more ways than one.

True resilience and sustainability comes by thinking globally and acting locally. The land base that people live on should be able to, on its own, continually feed, clothe and house the people who live on it. It makes no sense to destroy the sustainable food provided by the ocean in order to keep the lights on. It is preferable to eat in the dark than to starve in the light. Also know that fish farms are in the same league as wind farms. It is an enclosure of the commons for corporate control of our food supply, what they call “The Blue Economy”.    

How do we know that offshore wind will be a “pain” now and into the future for fishing, tourism, cultural heritage, beauty, integrity, stability, sustainability, ecological balance and quality of life? Millions of dollars are offered up to mitigate (bribe) it. Money would better be spent to mitigate the already abandon mines, fossil fuel wells and habitat degradation. This is where our good paying jobs should be working, to protect the planet. Life on the planet can be saved, a modern industrial lifestyle cannot.

How to Convince a Community to Destroy Their Future 


Step 1. Create an effective advertising campaign for Your Destructive Offshore Wind Project

Use a name that has a certain historical, cultural, or environmental value for the communities. Change the name from Pilgrim and Mayflower(tone deaf) to South Coast Wind or Vineyard Wind(more like Graveyard). Call it “clean”, “green”, “renewable” energy that is the solution to climate change and save our lifestyle. With the right branding, people will drink any poison, pinwheels for everyone.

Step 2. Get the Local Government on Your Side

Pay off the local politicians to agree and hand out licenses. Tell them there is nothing they can do to stop it, so they should just get the best Good Neighbor Host Agreement possible or get nothing.

Step 3. Lobby as Much as Possible to Bend the Law in Favor Offshore Wind

Create legal loopholes and tax credits for corporations, behind closed doors. Speed up the “permit” your destruction process. Buy-off federal and state politicians and corporate capture regulatory agencies. Nobody wants these in their backyard, let’s just put them out to sea. 

Step 4. Presents! Buy Off Public Opinion

Build a new school, library(Carnegie) or sewer system. Or just offer money as compensation to do with as you wish. The major ENGOs have entered into agreement with offshore wind: Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and Conservation Law Foundation and taken money; Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Environmental League of Mass., Sierra Club, etc. along with aquariums, universities and the media. 

Step 5. Offer a Compromise

Let us destroy this land/sea here and we will protect some other land/sea. Or agree with us and we will let you have a say in how the destruction will occur. This project has to be done to stop climate change, we have to destroy the planet to save it. There must be sacrifice zones. Sorry that your home is being destroyed but don’t be a NIMBY(Not In My Backyard). Actually when respondents of national surveys begin to think about ideas of what rebuildable energy entails, such as offshore wind, their support often diminishes. There will be painful trade-offs, trying to preserve comfortable lives. Most of that pain will come from other species. But if we acknowledge that our modern industrial lifestyle is causing the end of life on the planet, we must say NOPE(Not On Planet Earth).

Step 6. Threats Are Effective Deterrents

If you file a law suit against this project, we will file a lawsuit against you, a SLAPP(Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Focus on the leaders of the struggle. Scaring people works. This smear tactic was conducted by the prestigious Ivy League College Brown against the opponents to offshore wind. Attack the messenger. In the global south, this is done literally. Real nice place you got here, it would be a sham if something bad happened to it.

Step 7. Create Chaos and Conflict; Divide the Community in Two Camps

Tout the temporary “good paying union” jobs you will create over the permanent sustainable jobs, fishing and tourism, destroyed forever. Destroying a food source never makes good sense. What is truly needed, at this time of ecological collapse, is food sovereignty. Where jobs are hard to come by this is called poverty pimping. Then don’t forget to accuse those opposed to offshore wind of promoting “disinformation“. Push it as a choice in political values, Republicans against Democrats. There is a backlash against “renewable” energy. It’s turned Democrats into Republicans.

Step 8. Having Wrought Havoc, Now Frame It as a Successful Story of Growth and Prosperity

Welcome to the great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. Technology has fixed the problem that it has created! Too bad it is a dystopian science fiction. No one willingly wants to destroy their environment. It is done because of the Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold, makes the rules! Not to mention that these companies have gotten out of paying most of the taxes required of multinationals. And avoid putting emphasis on the fact that the jobs are short term, while the environmental damage is forever.

The Community Environment Legal Defense Fund can help to fight these corporate criminals from destroying your town.

If you would like to help stop The Blue Economy of offshore wind, see Green Oceans https://green-oceans.org/


Contact: Ben Martin
Steinreich Communications

(212) 4911600



LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. – Rhode Island-based Green Oceans, a non-partisan, grassroots not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting the ocean and the ecosystems it sustains, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging four federal agencies shortcut statutory and regulatory procedures and violated environmental protection laws by approving the South Fork and Revolution Wind projects. An additional 35 co-plaintiffs joined the litigation.

The suit alleges that the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their respective administrative leaders, issued permits for the two projects on the critical marine habitat known as Coxes Ledge, despite the acknowledgment of serious irreversible harm and without adequate environmental impact studies. The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the approvals for both projects until the government complies with all relevant statutes and regulations.

“In a rush to meet state mandates, we cannot short-circuit our country’s most important environmental and natural resource policies. This suit will ensure the federal government follows its own rules and regulations,” said Green Ocean’s Co-founder and President Dr. Elizabeth Quattrocki Knight. 

Filed under the Administrative Procedure Act, the suit intends to prove that the federal agencies violated eight statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Clean Water Act, and their associated regulatory programs.

The suit highlights the alarming scale of proposed offshore wind plans – up to 1,000 turbines, each towering over 870 feet high. The closest turbines will reside just 12.9 nautical miles from the Rhode Island coast. Collectively, the nine projects planned for the waters off the coast of Rhode Island represent the largest offshore development anywhere in the world. The Green Oceans suit alleges that BOEM did not adequately consider the cumulative impact of the entire lease area, a legal requirement. No geographic boundaries exist between the nine different projects planned for the 1,400 square miles of coastal waters between Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Marine mammals will not appreciate whether any given turbine belongs to one project or another. Legally, BOEM must evaluate the collective impact, not just each project in isolation,” Dr. Quattrocki Knight emphasized. The projects threaten to permanently alter the environmentally sensitive Coxes Ledge, one of the last remaining spawning grounds for Southern New England cod and an important habitat for the North Atlantic right whale and four other endangered whale species.

Barbara Chapman, a Green Oceans trustee, added, “Even people who support the concept of wind power understand the threat to sea life. On the official NOAA site, they have granted the developer of Revolution Wind, just one project of many, permission to harm and harass over 13,000 marine animals, including 568 whales, during the course of a single year. We do not consider 13,000 a small number.”

“BOEM admits the projects will have adverse impacts on the health of our fisheries, navigation safety, historic resources, the North Atlantic right whale, and environmental justice populations, while having no effect on climate change. Why accept this irreversible environmental damage for no overall gain?” questions Green Ocean’s Co-founder and Vice President, Bill Thompson.

Co-plaintiffs to the suit include the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, Save Right Whales Coalition, New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association, Bat World Sanctuary, three former Rhode Island Fisherman’s Advisory Board members, along with local and regional recreational fishermen, sailors, boaters, pilots, conservationists, residents, and leading members of the business community.

Green Oceans is a nonprofit, non-partisan group of community members dedicated to combating climate change without jeopardizing biodiversity or the health of the ocean. For more information or to get involved, visit: https://green-oceans.org/.

Featured photo by Pete Godfrey on Unsplash

The Only Long-Range Solution to Climate Change

The Only Long-Range Solution to Climate Change

This article originally appeared in Resilience. It is adapted from the book POWER: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (New Society Publishers, September 2021) by Richard Heinberg

Editor’s note: Under the current system, Economies of Scale create Jevons Paradox. “This is crucial: Increased energy efficiency not only doesn’t generally reduce demand, but instead increases it. This is called the “rebound effect,” and we see it all the time.”
Bright Green Lies p. 213
Our power over nature is only an illusion. Nature has no mercy.

By Richard Heinberg

Climate change is often incorrectly described as an isolated pollution issue. In this flawed framing, humanity has simply made a mistake in its choice of energy sources; the solution entails switching sources and building enough carbon-sucking machines to clear the atmosphere of polluting CO2. Only the political power of the fossil fuel companies prevents us from adopting this solution and ending our existential environmental crisis.

But techno-fixes (that is, technological solutions that circumvent the need for personal or cultural change) aren’t working so far, and likely won’t work in the future. That’s because fossil fuels will be difficult to replace, and energy usage is central to our collective economic power.

In other words, power is the key to solving climate change—but not necessarily in the way that many pundits claim. Solutions will not come just from defeating fossil fuel interests and empowering green entrepreneurs; real climate progress will require the willingness of large swathes of the populace, especially in wealthy countries, to forgo forms of power they currently enjoy: comfort and convenience, the ability to travel far and fast, and the option to easily obtain a wide range of consumer products whose manufacture entails large inputs of energy and natural resources.

This is not a feel-good message, but the longer we postpone grappling with power in this larger sense, the less successful we’re likely to be in coming to terms with the climate threat.

The Big Picture: Power and Consequences

Why can there be no climate techno-fix? There are two routes to this conclusion. The first one meanders through the history of humans on Earth, revealing how each new technological or social innovation empowered some people over others, while often imposing a long-term environmental cost. The adoption of agriculture was a milestone on this path: it enabled more people to subsist in any given area, and it led to cities, kings, and slavery; further, in many places, plowing tended to deplete or ruin topsoil, and city-dwellers cut down nearby forests, leading to eventual societal collapse.

But the real show-stopper came much more recently. The adoption of fossil fuels gave humans the biggest jolt of empowerment ever: in just the last two centuries, our global population has grown eight-fold, and so has per capita energy consumption. Our modern way of life—with cars, planes, supermarkets, tractors, trucks, electricity grids, and internet shopping—is the result.

Climate change is the shadow of this recent cavalcade of industriousness, since it results from the burning of fossil fuels, the main enablers of modern civilization. Nevertheless, rapidly increasing population and consumption levels are inherently unsustainable and are bringing about catastrophic environmental impacts on their own, even if we disregard the effects of carbon emissions. The accelerating depletion of resources, increasing loads of chemical pollution, and the hastening loss of wild nature are trends leading us toward ecological collapse, with economic and social collapse no doubt trailing close behind. Ditching fossil fuels will turn these trends around only if we also deal with the issues of population and consumption.

That’s the big picture. However, the quest for a climate techno-fix also fails on its own terms—that is, as a painless means of averting climate change while maintaining our current industrial economy and way of life. The rest of this essay deals with this second trail of evidence and logic, which requires a more detailed presentation. So: buckle up. Here we go.

Why Solar Panels Won’t Save Consumerism

Most energy analysts regard solar and wind as the best candidates to substitute for fossil fuels in electrical power generation (since nuclear is too expensive and too risky, and would require too much time for build-out; and hydro is capacity constrained). But these “renewables” are not without challenges. While sunlight and wind are themselves renewable, the technologies we use to capture them aren’t: they’re constructed of non-renewable materials like steel, silicon, concrete, and rare earth minerals, all of which require energy for mining, transport, and transformation. These materials are also depleting, and many will be difficult or impossible to recycle.

Sunlight and wind are intermittent: we cannot control when the sun will shine or the wind will blow. Therefore, to ensure constant availability of power, these sources require some combination of four strategies:

  • Energy storage (e.g., with batteries) is useful to balance out day-to-day intermittency, but nearly useless when it comes to seasonal intermittency; also, storing energy costs energy and money.
  • Source redundancy (building far more generation capacity than will actually be needed on “good” days, and then connecting far-flung solar and wind farms by way of massive super-grids), is a better solution for seasonal intermittency, but requires substantial infrastructure investment.
  • Excess electricity generated at times of peak production can be used to make synthetic fuels (such as hydrogen, ammonia, or methanol), perhaps using carbon captured from the atmosphere, as a way of storing energy; however, making large amounts of such fuels will again require substantial infrastructure investment, and the process is inherently inefficient.
  • Demand management (using electricity when it’s available, and curtailing usage when it isn’t) is the cheapest way of dealing with intermittency, but it often implies behavioral change or economic sacrifice.

Today the world uses only about 20 percent of its final energy in the form of electricity. The other 80 percent of energy is used in the forms of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. A transition away from fossil fuels will entail the electrification of much of that other 80 percent of energy usage, which includes most transportation and key industrial processes. However, many uses of energy, such as aviation and the making of cement for concrete, will be difficult or especially costly to electrify. In principle, the electrification conundrum could be overcome by powering aviation and high-heat industrial processes with synfuels. However, doing this at scale would require a massive infrastructure of pipelines, storage tanks, carbon capture devices, and chemical synthesis plants that would essentially replicate much of our current natural gas and oil supply system.

Machine-based carbon removal and sequestration methods work in the laboratory, but would need staggering levels of investment in order to be deployed at a meaningful scale, and it’s unclear who would pay for them. These methods also use a lot of energy, and, when full lifecycle emissions are calculated, it appears that more emissions are often generated than are captured.[1] The best carbon capture-and-sequestration responses appear instead to consist of various methods of ecosystem restoration and soil regeneration. These strategies would also reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions. But they would require a near-complete rethinking of food systems and land management.

Not long ago I collaborated with a colleague, David Fridley, of the Energy Analysis Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to look closely at what a full transition to a solar-wind economy would mean (our efforts resulted in the book Our Renewable Future).[2] We concluded that it will constitute an enormous job, requiring tens of trillions of dollars in investment. In fact, the task may be next to impossible—if we attempt to keep the overall level of societal energy use the same, or expand it to fuel further economic growth.[3] David and I concluded:

We citizens of industrialized nations will have to change our consumption patterns. We will have to use less overall and adapt our use of energy to times and processes that take advantage of intermittent abundance. Mobility will suffer, so we will have to localize aspects of production and consumption. And we may ultimately forgo some things altogether. If some new processes (e.g., solar or hydrogen-sourced chemical plants) are too expensive, they simply won’t happen. Our growth-based, globalized, consumption-oriented economy will require significant overhaul.[4]

The essence of the problem with a climate techno-fix is this: nearly everything we need to do to solve global warming (including building new low-emissions electrical generation capacity, and electrifying energy usage) requires energy and money. But society is already using all the energy and money it can muster in order to do the things that society wants and needs to do (extract resources, manufacture products, transport people and materials, provide health care and education, and so on). If we take energy and money away from those activities in order to fund a rapid energy transition on an unprecedented scale, then the economy will contract, people will be thrown out of work, and many folks will be miserable. On the other hand, if we keep doing all those things at the current scale while also rapidly building a massive alternative infrastructure of solar panels, wind turbines, battery banks, super grids, electric cars and trucks, electrified industrial equipment, and synthetic fuel factories, the result will be a big pulse of energy usage that will significantly increase carbon emissions over the short term (10 to 20 years), since the great majority of the energy currently available for the project must be derived from fossil fuels.

It takes energy to make solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars, and new generations of industrial equipment of all kinds. For a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE), 10 percent of lifetime energy usage occurs in the manufacturing stage. For an electric car, roughly 40 percent of energy usage occurs in manufacturing, and emissions during this stage are 15 percent greater than for an ICE car (over the entire lifetime of the e-car, emissions are about half those of the gasoline guzzler). With solar panels and wind turbines, energy inputs and carbon emissions are similarly front-loaded to the manufacturing phase; energy output and emissions reduction (from offsetting other electricity generation) come later. Replacing a very high percentage of our industrial infrastructure and equipment quickly would therefore entail a historically large burst of energy usage and carbon emissions. By undertaking a rapid energy transition, while also maintaining or even expanding current levels of energy usage for the “normal” purpose of economic growth, we would be defeating our goal of reducing emissions now—even though we would be working toward the goal of reducing emissions later.

Many folks nurture the happy illusion that we can do it all—continue to grow the economy while also funding the energy transition—by assuming that the problem is only money (if we find a way to pay for it, then the transition can be undertaken with no sacrifice). This illusion can be maintained only by refusing to acknowledge the stubborn fact that all activity, including building alternative energy generators and carbon capture machinery, requires energy.

The only way out of the dilemma arising from the energy and emissions cost of the transition is to reduce substantially the amount of energy we are using for “normal” economic purposes—for resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, heating, cooling, and industrial processes—both so that we can use that energy for the transition (building solar panels and electric vehicles), and so that we won’t have to build as much new infrastructure. Increased energy efficiency can help reduce energy usage without giving up energy services, but many machines (LED lights, electric motors) and industrial processes are already highly efficient, and further large efficiency gains in those areas are unlikely. We would achieve an efficiency boost by substituting direct electricity generators (solar and wind) for inherently inefficient heat-to-electricity generators (natural gas and coal power plants); but we would also be introducing new inefficiencies into the system via battery-based electricity storage and hydrogen or synfuels production. In the end, the conclusion is inescapable: actual reductions in energy services would be required in order to transition away from fossil fuels without creating a significant short-term burst of emissions. Some energy and climate analysts other than David Fridley and myself—such as Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester—have reached this same conclusion independently.[5]

Energy is inextricably related to power. Thus, if society voluntarily reduces its energy usage by a significant amount in order to minimize climate impacts, large numbers of people will likely experience this as giving up power in some form—whether physical, social, or economic.

It can’t be emphasized too much: energy is essential to all economic activity. An economy can grow continuously only by employing more energy (unless energy efficiency can be increased substantially, and further gains in efficiency can continue to be realized in each succeeding year—a near-impossibility over the long run, since investments in making processes more efficient typically see diminishing returns over time). World leaders demand more economic growth in order to fend off unemployment and other social ills. Thus, in effect, everyone is counting on having more energy in the future, not less.

A few well-meaning analysts and pundits try to avoid the climate-energy-economy dilemma by creating scenarios in which renewable energy saves the day simply by becoming dramatically cheaper than energy from fossil fuels; or by ignoring the real costs of dealing with energy intermittency in solar and wind power generation. Some argue that we have to fight climate change by becoming even more powerful than we already are—by geoengineering the atmosphere and oceans and thus taking full control of the planet, thereby acting like gods.[6] And some business and political leaders simply deny that climate change is a problem; therefore, no action is required. I would argue that all of these people are deluding themselves and others.

Do the Right Thing—Even if It’s Hard

Problems ignored usually don’t go away. And not all problems can be solved without sacrifice. If minimizing climate change really does require substantially reducing world energy usage, then policy makers should be discussing how to do this fairly and with as little negative impact as possible. The longer we delay that discussion, the fewer palatable options will be left.

The stakes could hardly be higher. If emissions continue, the result will be the failure of ecosystems, massive impacts on economies, widespread human misery and migration, and unpredictable disruptions to political systems. The return of famine as a familiar feature of human existence is a very real likelihood.[7]

It’s easy to see why people would wish to avoid giving up social, political, economic, and physical power to the degree that’s necessary in order to deal with climate change. Fighting entrenched power is a contentious activity, often a dangerous one. People with power don’t like threats to it, and they often fight back.

That’s why environmentalists like to choose their battles. The fossil fuel industry is wealthy and formidable, but at least it’s an enemy that’s easy to identify, and a lot of people already feel critical of the oil and gas companies for a variety of reasons (gasoline is too expensive, oil pipelines cause pollution, and so on).

But not all roadblocks to climate solutions are attributable to the oil companies. The rest of us are also implicated, though to greatly varying degrees depending on where we live and how much we consume. Our whole modern consumerist way of life, the essence of our economic system, is at fault. Unless we’re willing to give up some of our power over nature—our power to extract and transform resources and deliver the goods that we have come to rely on—then we’re destined to careen from one disaster to the next until our worst fears are realized.

It’s understandable why most environmentalists frame global warming the way they do. It makes solutions seem easier to achieve. But if we’re just soothing ourselves while failing to actually stave off disaster, or even to understand our problems properly, what’s the point?

The only real long-range solution to climate change centers on reining in human physical, social, and economic power dramatically, but in ways that preserve human dignity, autonomy, and solidarity. That’s more daunting than any techno-fix. But this route has the singular advantage that, if we follow it intelligently and persistently, we will address a gamut of social and environmental problems at once. In the end, it’s the only path to a better, safer future.

[1] June Sekera and Andreas Lichtenberger, “Assessing Carbon Capture: Public Policy, Science, and Societal Need.” Biophysical Economics and Sustainability volume 5, Article number: 14 (2020); https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41247-020-00080-5

[2] Richard Heinberg and David Fridley, Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for 100 Percent Clean Energy. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 2016. Full text available at www.ourrenewablefuture.org. Accessed September 2, 2020.

[3] Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. For example, Tim Morgan (former head of research at Tullett Prebon) argues that it is surplus energy—the energy left over once energy required for energy-producing activities—that has driven economic expansion, and that a transition to renewables will necessarily result in declining surplus energy (see Tim Morgan, Surplus Energy Economics website https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/ Accessed September 2, 2020.) In a recent paper, Carey King of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, shows the inadequacy of current growth-based economic modeling of the renewable energy transition and proposes a new model that incorporates data-derived relationships between energy use, resource extraction, and economic growth. His conclusion is that the renewable energy transition will entail trade-offs with consumption, population, and wages; these trade-offs will depend on the path taken (whether high or low rate of investment). Carey King, “An Integrated Biophysical and Economic Modeling Framework for Long-Term Sustainability Analysis: The HARMONY Model.” Ecological Economics, Vol. 169, March 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106464 Accessed September 2, 2020.

[4] Heinberg and Fridley, Our Renewable Future, p. 140

[5] Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin, “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change Demands De-Growth Strategies from Wealthier Nations.” KevinAnderson.Info, November 2013. https://kevinanderson.info/blog/avoiding-dangerous-climate-change-demands-de-growth-strategies-from-wealthier-nations/. Accessed September 2, 2020. See also Patrick Moriarty and Damon Honnery, “Can Renewable Energy Power the Future?” Energy Policy Vol. 93, June 2016, pp. 3-7.  www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030142151630088X. Accessed September 2, 2020.

[6] Rachel Kaufman, “The Risks, Rewards and Possible Ramifications of Geoengineering Earth’s Climate.” Smithsonian, March 11, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/risks-rewards-possible-ramifications-geoengineering-earths-climate-180971666/. Accessed September 3, 2020.

[7] Christopher Flavelle, “Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns.” New York Times, August 8, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/climate/climate-change-food-supply.html Accessed September 3, 2020.

For a New Green Revolution

For a New Green Revolution

This piece, originally published on 5th June 2020, calls on us to reject so-called “green technology” as a false solution and instead organize for revolution against industrial civilization. It has been edited for publication here. Join the conversation in the comments.

Green Energy vs. Wild Nature

by Jorge Clúni/Medium

The documentary “Planet of the Humans” generated a lot of criticism. This contributed to its removal on the 25th of May from YouTube over a four-second copyright infringement.

“Renewable energy isn’t perfect,” they all say, “but it’s an improvement over the fossil-fuels now being used.” These thoroughly civilized writers share the desire to continue techno-industrial society, thus missing the core problem of Technology.

Each of them writes with the assumption of a need for continued electrical power, forgetting that electricity is very recent in human existence and unnecessary for human life. Electricity is severely detrimental to the proliferation of wild Nature, of which humans are but one species.

So honed-in to defending renewable energy’s “efficiency” and affordability are the film’s detractors, they do not ‘see the woods for the trees’. Cathy Cowan Becker’s rebuke of the film is one of the better critiques, but through all its numerous citations of the documentary’s supposed statistical errors it really amounts only to having found some typos.

The main point consistently being missed, writes the film’s director Jeff Gibbs (responding to claims of “old data”), is that “solar, wind, and electric technologies are not something separate from a giant fossil-fuel based industrial civilization; they are one and the same.” The critics miss this point. Technologies are burning polluting fuels and fouling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Other technologies also cause harm.

The essential problem is that technology always comes to exist in exchange for a sacrifice of wild Nature. It always has unforeseen and unforeseeable consequences which inevitably impinge upon naturally-occurring freedoms for humans and non-humans. Even a superficial look over the history of technological advancement reveals precisely this. This holds true for the ‘green energy tech’. As noted by Becker, the closing scenes of the documentary show orangutan-habitat destruction due to industrial scale food manufacturing. This atrocity which will only be remedied through a dramatic decline in the demand for and production of civilized-manufactured foods; by the collapse of industrial civilization.

The degree to which we face, accept and embrace the collapse of civilization, regardless of the hardships it may entail, demonstrates the degree of our love for (and defence of) wild Nature.

In hopes of impeding rampant consumption of our Earth, Becker puts forth five common economist-suggested assessments of growth and success, but each of these trite suggestions are undeniably vague: “good jobs, well-being, environment, fairness, and health”. They can all be judged subjectively (as met or unmet), so they’re useless.

Like the wise who pull out the roots rather than hack the branches (paraphrasing H.D. Thoreau), we must aim efforts on one grand goal – that is, saving Nature beyond human control — even if it isn’t as easily achieved as less-effective alternatives we might be allowed to enact (e.g., minimal pollution regulations, the Green New Deal, subsidized contraceptives, et cetera). That goal should be the forced collapse of the worldwide industrial-technological system (industrial civilization) which creates the problems plaguing us. That is the only single goal which will adequately resolve our dilemma.

Socialism alone is no answer.

The control of a governing class in Cuba, China, and Bolivarian Venezuela are provided at the sacrifice of wild Nature and by human’s dissociation from Her. Cuba imports oil for the same reason that Venezuela pumps and burns and exports its own crude reserves, which is to  — at best —  deliver a better quality of civilized (read: unnatural, subordinated) life.

Mao’s ‘Four Pests’ extermination campaign was explicitly designed to improve living for China’s assimilated humans at the expense of the non-human “pests”. The government’s horrendous South-North water re-routing project might ‘benefit’ 100M people by diverting 44.8 billion cubic meters of water, but only at the expense of non-humans who will henceforth be deprived of the pre-existing natural waterflow.

You can’t make a techno-industrial-power and economic-growth omelette without breaking Nature.

Capitalism is clearly incompatible with the continuation of wild Nature; copper, gold and lithium are taken from Nature, and can land be seized and converted to allow palm oil or chocolate or beef to be grown?

This does not mean that alternative economic systems which perpetuate a reliance upon (or subservience to) industrial technology will abandon the game of amassing technological power and instead let Nature thrive, uncontrolled and wild: Whatever else can be said of the self-proclaimed socialist nations, they are indisputably seeking economic growth just as much as the capitalist countries, the very concept being predicated upon the transformation of free Nature into uses designated exclusively for Civilized humans.

Everyone knows that a better material “standard of living” as judged by Civilized measures is not provided when people live freely to engage with Nature, beyond civilization’s economics, foraging and hunting so long as they and their tribes are capable of it — and dying without immediate high-tech medical interventions, too. Rather, technology demands that Nature must be conformed and adjusted and as reward for this civilized people will be given more damaging comforts and detrimental conveniences: indoor plumbing, heating and cooling, refrigeration, rapid long-distance transportation, “healthcare” (to repair the body of the most apparent damages caused by civilization). Benjamin Franklin noted in 1753 that the natives don’t seem to prefer civilization, and even his fellow Whites who’d been among the Indians were more inclined to return to them after being ‘rescued’ — an odd reality to reconcile with the notion of its improving living conditions.

Living in Balance

The occasional lack of food for humans in any region is just one of the realities of life on Earth.

It isn’t unfair or unjust when there is a drought, or when the large game animals move, and a tribe no longer has food in that area and has to migrate. That doesn’t harm our entire species, though agricultural food has indeed hurt human health, just as its land takeovers eradicate entire species. Nor is it a tragedy or insufferable cruelty when conditions don’t allow for menstruation or offspring-conception or infant-nursing. It is simply the law of the land, something which all other creatures experience when being provided-for by Nature — and also being limited by it.

To live this way, accepting the good and also the bad, would be humanity living among and with Nature, not exceptional, nor beyond its ways of operating. Ending the techno-industrial system will take the modern agricultural system with it — thereby mostly re-wilding the biosphere and freeing most of an imprisoned Nature.

To sustain oneself on fresh forage and local wild game is the healthiest diet we can have, and the mental dexterity and physical exertion required easily surpasses the routine, apportioned exercising performed at a gym. One can look to numerous beneficial facets of the nomadic forager-hunter lifestyle in contrast to the detriment of sedentary city-dwelling, even in the earliest days of agrarian culture.

While clans living in Nature are indeed subject to the caprices of “the gods” or the chance (mis)fortunes of natural weather (and simple bad luck) they are not subjected to market fluctuations depriving them of a meal, nor do they suffer from faraway chain-of-supply disruptions, as we in Civilization are burdened with. With ‘only’ 10,000–12,000 years of full-time agriculture delivering constant food surplus, we’ve managed to transform the Earth. Hasn’t it been long enough now, don’t we have 20/20 hindsight to see that it isn’t working?

For all our years of constantly feeding people we keep generating more people, Do we want to undertake yet another intervention and set about altering that ancient, deeply-embedded natural inclination to have children rather than simply end the relatively far more recent means by which we produce food surpluses to yield global population growth (and deforestation)?

Power Plants and Destruction

Becker mentions legal requirements of environmental-impact review for any proposed new power plant; of course, even if nothing bad ever resulted at any places given approval, it is inconceivable that any agency would rule the majority of power plants detrimental to their local environs and order them shuttered — the nation’s electricity-generating simply won’t be ended without a revolutionary movement to force it, because the technological system demands that electrical power be delivered, regardless of the consequences to Nature (and people).

Moreover, the laws today can (and do) change tomorrow. It seems like every year of this President has generated an outcry about his nullifying EPA regulations which were enacted under the last President. Do we continue to gamble the future of humanity and all the rest of Nature on reversible legal policies? Any policy which restricts a specific technological means will eventually break under the push of technology overall; for permanent prevention of damaging technological impacts, the technical ability must be totally removed from existence. This is one reason why coal has not disappeared, though market forces in some areas have diminished its appeal (profitability).

All the frequent mentions by ‘green tech’ cheerleaders that coal plants are closing in the USA or Europe give the false impression that coal will no longer be torn from Earth and burned; in reality, it’s being sold by everyone to anyone who’ll buy it, providing “economic growth” and “increased standard of living” in exchange for its usage, definitely polluting the air and adding mercury to the oceans and undoubtedly increasing their rate of material consumption (as mentioned earlier), but only potentially (and not evidently) diminishing their population growth.

Renewable Energy Doesn’t Displace Fossil Fuels

Effectively, renewables simply add a non-emitting source for electrical power rather than replace any existing fuels.

While there is a baseless hope, or a theory or prediction, that wind- and solar-generated energy will supplant the dirty fuels presently used most, there is absolutely no guarantee of this; were it to happen, it would be contrary to all history of industrial fuels: the access to crude oil (and later refined diesel) did not end the usage of coal, nor did the utilization of oil and gasoline prevent the development of uses for and extraction of natural gas. (Similarly, natural materials which had little utility decades ago have since been put to industrial uses and so are now valued, resulting in the increased destruction or alteration of vast swaths of wild Nature in order to obtain those resource deposits.)

So not only has techno-industrial society sought out and laid claim to all available coal, oil, and natural gas accessible beneath our planet’s surface, but now it wants to take the sunlight which lands on the surface and the wind which flows over it, too. Was it forgotten that evolved organisms currently utilize the sunlight which falls on them, or do these non-humans not matter if consideration of them limits Civilization staying electrified?

Electricity and expendable fuel consumption has gotten more efficient, but has electricity demand ever diminished in all the time of transition between different fuels? Of course not, and the Jevons Paradox informs us that efficiency increases always bring consumption increases.

That ‘renewables’ are becoming cheaper and renewable-powered machines more efficient may sound good, but the only real limit on consumption is imposed by price. If solar energy is generated for at least one-third of every day, and wind the same, and it’s incredibly cheap because it’s unlimited, its use will inevitably be maximized, not only by individuals leaving the lights or A/C running but also with flying and driving all around the planet. The problems of this inhuman technological movement and the land-contouring it brings (and largely requires) go far beyond its levels of CO2 released now, but the prevailing thought would be “Well it’s not polluting” or “But it’s not costing us”, or “At least it’s not fossil-fuel powered”.

Power Corrupts

Let’s disregard the horrible things that industry and government would do with limitless, non-polluting electrical energy.

Even still, residential and individuals’ uses of electricity are incidental to power plants’ generation of it; industrial demand exceeds residential by magnitudes, and is in fact the reason power plants are operated. If renewables can actually provide for all present residential use, the demand will not cease at this present level. And what will fuel industry’s demand? Hydrocarbons while they are available, but further development and deployment of the renewable-energy technologies would go on, because the addicted are never sated.

Even if that entails ‘only’ more solar panels and windmills and no further use of coal, gas, or oil, the ‘green tech’ would be interrupting the natural flow and fall of wind and sunlight upon our Earth, a characteristic of life here conservatively estimated at billions of years old. Is that audacious, hubristic entitlement of Civilization not shameful, and potentially (if not probably or obviously) perilous? Some critics of the documentary falsely claim that the film advocates fossil fuels, while others bemoan that it gives the fossil-fuels industry ‘ammunition’.

With only a bit of checking we can see the true priorities of the film’s attackers. For example, Ketan Joshi’s website reveals his bona fides for discussing ‘renewable energy’ — disqualifications to any claims of being out to save Nature: “I did a science degree at Sydney University, and since I was a teenager I’ve loved science, technology, philosophy and psychology. I worked in the renewable energy industry for about eight years…”

While his page greets visitors with a picture of a robot, he does not at all mention a love for wild Nature, only his work for the (oxymoronic) ‘green tech’ industry, which has gone from professional to pro bono. In any case, it doesn’t indicate a loss of ethics or giving aid to the hydrocarbon industry to agree with Exxon that 2+2=4, it is merely an undeniable truth to be recognized by all parties; to cite some promotion of the film by fossil-fuel loyalists is simply casting the shadow of a bogeyman in order to darken a truth which ought to be recognized by opponents.

The Non-Profit Industrial Complex

If we only scratch the surface of why the hydrocarbons defenders might advance this film which critiques ‘green energy’, we can see how their view actually aligns with the criticism of the documentary by prominent professional ‘green’ leaders.

At best, the environmentalists reveal that they agree with the point being made by the Oil, Coal, & Gas lobbyists who say, “If solar and wind won’t do any better, you might as well stick with what you’ve got — you certainly don’t want to give up electricity!”

This is precisely what liberals like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein and Josh Fox are all worried about,that people will so value the maddening and addictive technological garbage of the modern era that they will simply settle for baking the planet to death. But not only do humans not need any of the electrified stuff we daily engage with, it actually worsens our lives, dividing us from connecting with Nature and even other people, physically, face-to-face, in-person.

For 200,000 years humans just like us lived in small groups, deeply connected to their people, relying upon and aiding their fellows, competing against outsiders (thus giving each one well-balanced traits for making allies and facing enemies, ensuring security and confronting threats, developing wholly with both offense and defense ).

Yet, only 220 years after the first use of electric power, most people who think themselves environmentalists are now debating whether the use of windmills or solar panels can suffice for providing enough electricity (an unnecessary extravagance) to make it worthwhile to stop using fossil fuels and thereby avoid destroying our only lifeboat in the sea of the entire Milky Way. And when the insanity of that is challenged, when “Planet of the Humans” says we need to pull the needle out and clean up, get sober and face reality, the reaction is to shout down the messenger.

Infinite Electricity

Think about what would be done with infinite electricity, based on what has been and is now being done already.

We need to have electricity (without the CO2) so that video games and “binge watching” can continue? So that aerial drones (for surveillance or assassinations) don’t need to land for refueling? So that cyber-bullying and fake news and child porn can proliferate despite all controls attempted?

If this is raising the ‘standard of living’, why do we have so many unhappy people who kill themselves (and, increasingly, others before themselves)? The 40,000 annual suicides in America are surely only a fraction of all the people miserably unsatisfied by life in fast-paced techno-industrial civilization who don’t succeed in attempting to end their lives; how many more are medicated into accepting their discontentment? When will we reclaim our dignity as a species that survived for at least a couple hundred millennia but are clearly unable to cope with modern conditions, and also blind or hopeless to altering them?

People existing in Nature rarely become so miserable and seek to end their lives. This is a unique attribute of the civilized. Facing challenges and working diligently to overcome adversities is rewarding and builds confidence, just as it provides its own intrinsic value to people.

Civilization is what the renowned Desmond Morris referred to as “The Human Zoo” with the title of his 1969 book.

Simply imagine for a minute, eating only the foods our species is adapted to, which you (or a close friend who lives among you) have obtained, and being with your children; imagine children of all ages playing together, each of them acquiring every skill and material item they need to live well, simply from being in the suitable natural environs to which they are adapted, and being around their parents and emulating them; imagine getting intimately acquainted with your bioregion, not being crowded like industrial-agriculture’s chicken in a growing-warehouse.

Imagine being free from the psychological toll of potential annihilation via nuclear conflict, being free of worries over the forecast of (induced) sea-level rise, or not suffering a tech-facilitated viral contagion greatly worsened by heavily-polluted air (not merely the ‘greenhouse gases’).

Imagine shedding the burden of existential crisis because we actually stop the worsening potentials of Technology, which grows more autonomous by the day due to the vile works of lauded scientists and technicians.

Modern Existential Fear

Even those involved in Technology’s advance are seriously worried about it, but feel powerless to stop it, because they will not look to revolution which is required. And for being milquetoast and servile to the technological system, Bill McKibben, a most prominent advocate of renewable energy, gets to soak up the limelight and be heralded as an environmentalist leader. He often has grand platforms (Rolling Stone, frequently, and recently “60 Minutes”) to extol the talking points of the Green Energy industry (for which he volunteers), in addition to deflecting valid criticisms which might otherwise awaken sincere but misdirected people.

Were he to take a more oppositional, or boldly confrontational position against the menace of further technological progress. McKibben would be marginalized and replaced by another figurehead for false hopes of a techno-salvation to come. McKibben — who on May 6th, 2020 declared that one of rural America’s biggest problems is a lack of consistent and reliable WiFi signals — measures quite poorly against even the timid academic-philosopher class who at least named the enemy as Technology itself: Martin Heidegger, Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford, Neil Postman, Chellis Glendinning; while none of them were brave enough to unequivocally state that only a revolutionary movement will be able to depose technoindustrial civilization and free all the inhabitants of Earth from the controls imposed by Technology, at the very least they recognized the primary source of the problem.

This documentary also does so, in the seventeenth minute, when its director’s narration rhetorically asks:

“Is it possible for machines built by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?”

Only if they are used disruptively, against the continuation of techno-industrial mass-society and to allow the revival of wild Nature.

The Green “Misleadership” Class

The so-called ‘green leadership’ offered within technological society will never point attention at industrial civilization itself. The cabal of professional ‘Greens’ primarily act as steam-valves to relieve any serious tension or resentment against technology, a sentiment which has constantly increased due to the knowledge — both reported and personally felt — of the ever-worsening destruction of Nature, in addition to the misery of modern humans enduring techno-industrial society.

“The idea that societies could collectively decide to embrace rapid foundational changes to transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, and more — precisely what is needed to avert climate breakdown — is not something for which most of us have any living reference.” — Naomi Klein, April 2019

When she wrote those words, Klein had in mind merely that a popular movement be developed to press for enactment of legislation which is itself only vaguely imagined by the Green New Deal resolution of the US House of Representatives. She was not thinking of revolutionary action, which is never advanced by a mass of millions, nor the revolutionary sentiment which can’t be satisfied with legislative appeasement from the existing powers.

Naomi Klein is not a revolutionary, not in spirit or thought. If we are to save the wonderful spirit of free and wild Nature, that caretaker of all beings on Earth, we need to understand that the green leaders put forth by the technological system are the most reactionary and conservative of environmentalists to be found. Their prominence serves as misdirection for those who are truly fed-up with the killing of Nature, those who live with and deeply love the land they are acquainted with, those unwilling to watch the natural world be sacrificed for the sake of civilized greed.

Rather than putting hopes and prayers into some new technology which might deliver the ‘Diet Coke’ fix for techno-industrial society — that is, all the same “great” benefits with none of the currently-known downsides — we need only hopeful optimism that our commitment and effort can make successful a revolution against the technological system. Indeed, while many a Leftist is inherently a pessimist, defeated before they even begin, truly the only reason that revolution seems not to be possible is that it is not thought to be possible.

When people stop awaiting a savior (whether man or machine) and begin to see and believe that revolution can indeed be undertaken and achieved, then in reality it can be.

Against Efficiency: How A More Efficient Economy Hurts the Planet, Part One

Featured image: Tesla gigafactory construction near Reno, Nevada

Editor’s note: This is the first part of an edited transcript of a talk given at the 2017 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. Read the second part hereWatch the video here.

     by Erin Moberg, Ph.D., and Max Wilbert / Deep Green Resistance Eugene

In this culture, and in the environmental movement in particular, there is an increasing emphasis placed on promoting and implementing so-called “energy efficiency,” or “green energy practices” into all areas of human life on the planet; from commerce to agriculture, from corporations to individual homes, from the economy to the legislative arena, and from academia to activism.

In many cases, striving toward efficiency is viewed and proposed as the only solution from the outset, mainly because it effectively serves as a means to perpetuate this culture as we know and live it. In some of these contexts our current obsession with efficiency is motivated by a genuine desire to halt climate change and the destruction of the planet. Yet at best, the proponents and practices of energy efficiency as a solution to the planet crisis conflate efficiency and sustainability.

At worst, the pro-efficiency movement helps to obfuscate the real causes and impacts of human-caused climate change, towards the end of maintaining capitalism and the socio-political hierarchies on which capitalism depends. From a corporate and economic standpoint, efficiency is generally proposed as the only viable solution to increasingly scarce resources, population explosion, and health issues. In most articulations of the merits of efficiency, the focus and incentive are anthropocentric, explicitly grounded in preserving and furthering civilization, the global economy, and everyday human comforts.

As activists, and also as people concerned with the health of the planet, we find significant ideological and material disconnects between the realities of climate change and the oft-accepted approach of energy-efficiency measures as a means to a more sustainable world and planet.

Economic efficiency as a means to saving the planet is a myth. Instead, that efficiency promotes and perpetuates capitalism because it aims to make more energy available for other uses. Energy efficiency measures ultimately increase the amount of energy being used overall, thereby causing more harm to the planet. As a foundational premise, the health of the planet is primary rather than just the health and lives of human beings.

Depending on the dictionary, the word “efficient” is defined in multiple ways, but we will focus on the two that are relevant to this discussion:

  1. “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense” and;
  2. “preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource.”

Take a moment to juxtapose these two definitions while considering the following quote by Vandana Shiva: “Through the green economy an attempt is being made to technologize, financialize, privatize, and commodify all of the Earth’s resources and living processes.”

The goal of a production line falls under the first definition of efficiency: “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort.” Frederick Winslow Taylor was the creator of what is called “scientific management,” which has been hugely influential on our culture and around the world. He realized that early artisans and craftspeople were highly inefficient; he could make production more efficient by streamlining the process, having each person doing one precise, specific task and then passing it on down the line.

This changed the world forever.

It is worth noting that Taylor was a devout Quaker. Quakers have a rich history of social justice activism, and Taylor thought that by increasing the productivity of production, it would make everyone so wealthy that class differences would be eliminated and lead to a utopian society. Clearly, that is not what happened, and this has echoes in our own time around the efficiency movement.

These good intentions have brought the efficiency movement to the modern era of automated production lines. Robots don’t need breaks or salaries, they don’t get sick, they don’t have children, they don’t go on strike, and they don’t get tired. They are the perfect workers.

Over the past 40 years we have seen more and more jobs become mechanized and now we have the rise of computer learning and artificial intelligence. These are some of the hottest fields in computer science right now, so this is only going to continue and accelerate into the future.

Factories are one of the major factors killing the planet. They are, essentially, the engines of consumerism. On one end of a typical factory raw materials go in – the flesh of the living planet that’s been ripped apart – and on the other end shiny products come out, and usually they are used for a short time and then are discarded, ultimately ending up in a landfill. Factories produce pesticides, bombs, toys, cars, computers, and so on; almost anything you can think of comes out of a factory.

The new Tesla giga-factory in western Nevada, near Reno, is one of the largest factories in the world, and is powered by solar panels and wind turbines. A state-of-the-art facility, it is producing batteries for electric cars and grid energy storage. It is highly efficient. Many people are hailing the construction of this factory as a major victory for the planet, and Tesla and other multinational corporations are building enormous battery factories like this around the world right now.

Environmentalists are speaking out in favor of this. I won’t hide my view–this is an industrial atrocity that’s killing the planet, no less so than any other factory. I was once in favor of “green technology” like this but my attitude has completely changed.

Jennifer Eisele is a Paiute woman from the Duck Valley Reservation in northern Nevada who has been fighting against Tesla’s factory construction, lithium mining across Nevada, and the harm it’s causing specifically to indigenous lands which, of course, are all lands. These are global issues, too. Lithium is a strategic resource these days; the price is extremely high and rising, and mining is ramping up around the world, mostly in desert areas, because that is where lithium ends up forming. I mention Tesla to show that there is a tension between our ideas of efficiency, and what that means in the context of the global, capitalist economy, and the natural world.

The Port of Antwerp in Belgium is the second-busiest port in Europe. The commodities that travel through this port, from their website, include: toys, televisions, computers, crude oil, vegetable oil, grain, coal, iron ore, cement, sugar, sand, paper, wood, steel, cars, yeast, buses, trains, tractors, kerosene; almost anything you can think of goes through a port like this.

Port of Antwerp

Essentially, this is a distribution center for the global extractive economy. These are all over the world: there are giant ports in Seattle, Tacoma, one of the biggest ports on the West Coast in Oakland, a big port in L.A. – all over the world. Each shipping container that comes through these centers is a bite that has been taken out of the planet and is being shipped around the world. That material is usually going from the poor to the rich, from the brown to the white, from the global south to the global north, from the colonized to the colonizer.

Most of us have heard the term “free trade,” how twisted that language is; it is the libertarian idea of freedom, essentially: “I have the freedom to become rich, and you have the freedom to become poor.” Perhaps there is a relationship between the two.

Returning to the first definition of “efficiency,” achieving maximum productivity is not something that the environmental movement should build a strategy around. Most of us would probably agree that industrial capitalism already has too much productivity, in fact. Too much fossil fuels, too much consumer goods, too much population, too much suburbs, too much of everything.

It is the final definition of efficiency that is interesting to us as environmentalists: “preventing the wasteful use.” I still have problems with the use of the word “resource” here because that implies a subject-object relationship – it implies that the world exists for our use. People talk about fisheries as resources, but that is an idea that we have constructed around real, living communities of fish that exist independent of our ideas of them as fisheries resources.

We think that we are being sold efficiency by the capitalist system, as a solution to the problems that this same system has caused. The efficiency that we are being sold comes with the same mindset embedded in it. It is coming from the same corporations, the same business interests, and the same governments. Almost all the efficiency schemes and technologies that we see out there today are not, in fact, aimed at reducing the overall amount of energy we use.

They are aimed at making more energy available for other things, and increasing productivity. They are aimed at that first definition of efficiency.

If we are going to discuss efficiency it is important that we talk about the Jevons paradox, the story of which revolves around a man named William Stanley Jevons. He was one of the premier economists of the nineteenth century and was working in the United Kingdom at the height of the Industrial Revolution, during the 1860’s. His most famous text was a study of the coal-driven economy of the United Kingdom.

This was during a period that was at the height of the Empire, and the entire economy was dependent on coal. Coal ground the grain, it pumped water out of the coal mines, it powered the trains, and it powered the ships which were the entire war machine of the Empire. Over the 50 years preceding his report, steam engines had been becoming much more efficient. It was the cutting edge of business at the time, and everyone expected that this increase in efficiency would lead to a reduction in the use of coal at the national level.

It didn’t, and the reason is quite simple: steam engines could be run more cheaply and efficiently, and they didn’t have to buy as much coal, which made the businesses using them more profitable. Because this is capitalism, and production is the goal, those profits were poured back into growth, which means that more efficient steam engines led directly to more growth, which caused higher overall coal use.

Jevons saw that efficiency can lead directly to higher resources use. If we look at the global economy today, we see a similar story.

Obama was supposedly one of the most progressive U.S. presidents, but his energy strategy was called the “all of the the above” energy strategy. This is not so different than what we are seeing with Trump. Basically, he just meant: develop all of these sources of energy. If your main concern is the economy, then that makes sense. In maintaining the American lifestyle, the American Empire, the goal is to bring energy production as high as possible. “All of the above” is what makes that grow.

We know what that energy is powering: construction. The urban expansion of Dubai over the past several decades, which is mainly the result of slave labor and indentured servitude, is an example of this. The urban expansion of Las Vegas from the early 1980’s to now is another example.

It’s estimated that the 15 largest ships on the ocean today create more pollution than all of the cars in the world. That’s about 800 million cars. 15 ships. That energy powers technology, such as data centers.

Consider just a few of the elements that go into your average smartphone, and of course, that all comes from mining, usually open-pit mining or strip mining, what sometimes is called mountaintop removal mining.

That energy is also powering industrial farming. Viewing the Great Plains from space, you can see the biotic cleansing occurring there. Anything that’s not for human use has been killed, and replaced with things that are grown exclusively to feed human beings. This applies to industrial fishing, as well.

Every major sector of the economy has become vastly more efficient. Whether you’re talking about transportation, mining, steel production, combustion engines, farming, lighting, heating, all these things have been getting more and more efficient, yet the energy use overall continues to go up, just like fossil fuel use goes up, just like erosion goes up, just like species extinction goes up.

Things are getting worse, and efficiency isn’t doing a thing to stop it. Inside this system, inside an empire, there’s rarely a surplus of energy. Energy always gets put to use. The reason we’re getting confused about this is that we’re using the same word, which has two different definitions. Corporations and governments are talking about that first definition, and environmentalists are talking about that second definition.

Pilbara Minerals Pilgangoora lithium tantalum mine, Australia

I have a checklist for determining if efficiency improvements are likely to actually help the planet, and it’s relatively simple:

  • If a given efficient increase doesn’t reduce the cost of operation and therefore lead to more profits for business;
  • doesn’t result in a flush of extra spending money for individuals in a capitalist society;
  • doesn’t free up materials or energy in a way that reduces scarcity or price of these resources for other development;
  • doesn’t itself encourage further technological escalation that may lead to further destruction of the land;
  • and, doesn’t set in motion certain models of development that can have unintended consequences;

then, that efficiency increase may actually help the planet.

Regarding the last requirement about unintended consequences, the development of housing in arid desert regions provides an excellent example. In desert regions, like around Las Vegas, the limiting factor on new housing developments is water availability.

There’s just not enough water to have unlimited houses. In a situation like that, if you increase the water efficiency in each household, what you are actually doing is enabling further development to take place. You are freeing up more water. People may go into that situation thinking, “I’m saving water and that water is remaining with the planet, that water is there for the plants, and for the ecology of the area,” but, in most cases, it’s not.

Your good intentions end up supporting the same system that is killing the planet. In terms of efficiency we need to be addressing the main things that are killing the planet, such as major fossil fuel expansions, the existing fossil fuel industry, the number of dams in operation, the number of mines in operation, the scale of industrial farming, fishing and logging. These are the numbers we need to concern ourselves with.

We also need to be asking, “where does our efficiency lie?” Does it lie with a baby turtle hatching? Or does it lie with the system? The point is not only to get you to question efficiency as a method to saving the planet, but to question capitalism, and industrialism, and civilization itself.

Yes, fossil fuels are killing the planet, but a solar panel production facility costs around 100 million dollars to produce, and produces its own set of toxins and greenhouse gases. Even the latest so-called “eco-technologies” are ultimately technologies of Empire. They require mining, and global supply chains, and free trade, and all this, of course, is made possible by war and exploitation. These are not things that help the planet; they’re not solutions.

The Elon Musk SolarCity solar panel factory

You may have heard this quote before: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” Thomas Friedman isn’t my favorite person, as he is ultimately in favor of global invasion and capitalism, but this is one of the most biting quotes about how the global economy works.

Don’t believe for a second that these so-called “green” technologies are actually going to challenge the system that is killing the planet. Don’t believe it. We all need to be using less energy, we all need to be scaling down our lifestyles and so on, but the U.S. military is the biggest polluter on the planet. The majority of trash, pollution and consumption is driven by industry.

Our personal choices aren’t going to stop this system, unless our personal choices are to take down that system. I think that doubling down on industrial technology is not a good move to make. We’ve been down that road before. We know where it leads.

Instead we need to start thinking systemically about how to stop the globalized industrial economy that is killing the planet. Considering all of this concrete data and historical context, what do we do about the fact that efficiency measures cause further harm to the planet, by promoting capitalism, by promoting consumption, by promoting greater energy usage overall? As radical environmentalists, the radical environmentalist approach highlights that you can’t stop global warming without stopping the burning of oil and gas, without stopping the construction of industrial infrastructure, without stopping the omnicidal system of this culture as a whole.

The Myth of Green Energy Efficiency

The Myth of Green Energy Efficiency

By Joshua Headley / Deep Green Resistance New York

We ought not at least to delay dispersing a set of plausible fallacies about the economy of fuel, and the discovery of substitutes [for coal], which at present obscure the critical nature of the question, and are eagerly passed about among those who like to believe that we have an indefinite period of prosperity before us. –William Stanley Jevons, The Coal Question (1865)

There are, at present, many myths about green energy and its efficiency to address the demands and needs of our burgeoning industrial civilization, the least of which is that a switch to “renewable” energy will significantly reduce our dependency on, and consumption of, fossil fuels.

The opposite is true. If we study the actual productive processes required for current “renewable” energies (solar, wind, biofuel, etc.) we see that fossil fuels and their infrastructure are not only crucial but are also wholly fundamental to their development. To continue to use the words “renewable” and “clean” to describe such energy processes does a great disservice for generating the type of informed and rational decision-making required at our current junction.

To take one example – the production of turbines and the allocation of land necessary for the development, processing, distribution and storage of “renewable” wind energy. From the mining of rare metals, to the production of the turbines, to the transportation of various parts (weighing thousands of tons) to a central location, all the way up to the continued maintenance of the structure after its completion – wind energy requires industrial infrastructure (i.e. fossil fuels) in every step of the process.

If the conception of wind energy only involves the pristine image of wind turbines spinning, ever so wonderfully, along a beautiful coast or grassland, it’s not too hard to understand why so many of us hold green energy so highly as an alternative to fossil fuels. Noticeably absent in this conception, though, are the images of everything it took to get to that endpoint (which aren’t beautiful images to see at all and is largely the reason why wind energy isn’t marketed that way).

Because of the rapid growth and expansion of industrial civilization in the last two centuries, we are long past the days of easy accessible resources. If you take a look at the type of mining operations and drilling operations currently sustaining our way of life you will readily see degradation and devastation on unconscionable scales. This is our reality and these processes will not change no matter what our ends are – these processes are the degree with which “basic” extraction of all of the fundamental metals, minerals, and resources we are familiar with currently take place.

In much the same way that the absurdities of tar sands extraction, mountaintop removal, and hydraulic fracturing are plainly obvious, so too are the continued mining operations and refining processes of copper, silver, aluminum, zinc, etc. (all essential to the development of solar panels and wind turbines).

It is not enough – given our current situation and its dire implications – to just look at the pretty pictures and ignore everything else. All this does, as wonderfully reaffirming and uplifting as it may be, is keep us bound in delusions and false hopes. As Jevons affirms, the questions we have before us are of such overwhelming importance that it does no good to continue to delay dispersing plausible fallacies. If we wish to go anywhere from here, we absolutely need uncompromising (and often brutal) truth.

A common argument among proponents of supposed “green” energy – often prevalent among those who do understand the inherent destructive processes of fuels, mining and industry – is that by simply putting an end to capitalism and its profit motive, we will have the capacity to plan for the efficient and proper management of remaining fossil fuels.

However, the efficient use of a resource does not actually result in its decreased consumption, and we owe evidence of that to William Stanley Jevons’ work The Coal Question. Written in 1865 (during a time of such great progress that criticisms were unfathomable to most), Jevons devoted his study to questioning Britain’s heavy reliance on coal and how the implication of reaching its limits could threaten the empire. Many covered topics in this text have influenced the way in which many of us today discuss the issues of peak oil and sustainability – he wrote on the limits to growth, overshoot, energy return on energy input, taxation of resources and resource alternatives.

In the chapter, “Of the economy of fuel,” Jevons addresses the idea of efficiency directly. Prevalent at the time was the thought that the failing supply of coal would be met with new modes of using it, therefore leading to a stationary or diminished consumption. Making sure to distinguish between private consumption of coal (which accounted for less than one-third of total coal consumption) and the economy of coal in manufactures (the remaining two-thirds), he explained that we can see how new modes of economy lead to an increase of consumption according to parallel instances. He writes:

The economy of labor effected by the introduction of new machinery throws laborers out of employment for the moment. But such is the increased demand for the cheapened products, that eventually the sphere of employment is greatly widened. Often the very laborers whose labor is saved find their more efficient labor more demanded than before.

The same principle applies to the use of coal (and in our case, the use of fossil fuels more generally) – it is the very economy of their use that leads to their extensive consumption. This is known as the Jevons Paradox, and as it can be applied to coal and fossil fuels, it so rightfully can be (and should be) applied in our discussions of “green” and “renewable” energies – noting again that fossil fuels are never completely absent in the productive processes of these energy sources.

We can try to assert, given the general care we all wish to take in moving forward to avert catastrophic climate change, that much diligence will be taken for the efficient use of remaining resources but without the direct questioning of consumption our attempts are meaningless. Historically, in many varying industries and circumstances, efficiency does not solve the problem of consumption – it exasperates it. There is no guarantee that “green” energies will keep consumption levels stationary let alone result in a reduction of consumption (an obvious necessity if we are planning for a sustainable future).

Jevons continues, “Suppose our progress to be checked within half a century, yet by that time our consumption will probably be three or four times what it now is; there is nothing impossible or improbable in this; it is a moderate supposition, considering that our consumption has increased eight-fold in the last sixty years. But how shortened and darkened will the prospects of the country appear, with mines already deep, fuel dear, and yet a high rate of consumption to keep up if we are not to retrograde.”

Writing in 1865, Jevons could not have fathomed the level of growth that we have attained today but that doesn’t mean his early warnings of Britain’s use of coal should be wholly discarded. If anything, the continued rise and dominance of industrial civilization over nearly all of the earth’s land and people makes his arguments ever more pertinent to our present situation.

Based on current emissions of carbon alone (not factoring in the reaching of tipping points and various feedback loops) and the best science readily available, our time frame for action to avert catastrophic climate change is anywhere between 15-28 years. However, as has been true with every scientific estimate up to this point, it is impossible to predict that rate at which these various processes will occur and largely our estimates fall extremely short. It is quite probable that we are likely to reach the point of irreversible runaway warming sooner rather than later.

Suppose our progress and industrial capitalism could be checked within the next ten years, yet by that time our consumption could double and the state of the climate could be exponentially more unfavorable than it is now – what would be the capacity for which we could meaningfully engage in any amount of industrial production? Would it even be in the realm of possibility to implement large-scale overhauls towards “green” energy? Without a meaningful and drastic decrease in consumption habits (remembering most of this occurs in industry and not personal lifestyles) and a subsequent decrease in dependency on industrial infrastructure, the prospects of our future are severely shortened and darkened.

BREAKDOWN is a biweekly column by Joshua Headley, a writer and activist in New York City, exploring the intricacies of collapse and the inadequacy of prevalent ideologies, strategies, and solutions to the problems of industrial civilization.

Photo by Andreas Gücklhorn on Unsplash