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Green Building Curmudgeon

The Earth is Our Drug Dealer

Strip mines in Kentucky.
Image Credit: Google

As I was reading about a bill in the Georgia legislature (unlikely to pass) forcing utilities to stop buying coal from mountaintop removal, it occurred to me that our dependence on fossil fuels and the havoc that they are wreaking on the environment is kind of a cruel joke played on us by the Earth.

Free samples mean customers for life

It’s like the story of drug dealers passing out free samples to kids. Then, once they are hooked, there is a built in clientele. For the first 100 years or so, coal and oil were cheap and easy; we didn’t see (or we ignored) most of the downside. Now we understand the problems, but we are as addicted as a junkie is to his regular fix. When an addict has a support network they may have an intervention or go to treatment, and many of them succeed in kicking their habit.

The system steers us away from smart thinking

The big question for the planet is this: do we have enough of a support network to kick our habit? Our dealers (coal and oil companies) do not appear to be interested in helping us out. A bad combination of strong profits and regulation in many areas (particularly the Southeast US) that encourages rather than discourages more power generation gives them little incentive to reduce fossil fuel use. In those few areas where regulations encourage energy efficiency by utilities (the Western US comes to mind), per capita energy use has declined while it continues to rise in most other areas. So we have these islands of efficiency, places that have succeeded (at least partially) in “kicking their habit”, surrounded by the rest of us, happily smoking our “crack pipes” (oil and coal) day in and day out. They must be pretty ticked off at the rest of us.

Forget about the earth, save yourself!

Environmentalists often speak of saving the earth. The real issue, however, is saving humanity. We are the irritating boil on the earth, causing most, if not all, of the problems. Once we are gone, the earth will, over many millennia, very likely heal itself quite well. This century-plus addiction of ours may just be a cruel joke played on us by our planet – it has plenty of time to wait out our demise, after which it can go back to business as usual.

One Comment

  1. Michael Anschel | | #1

    Drug of Choice
    Breathe deep man. Inhale that social irresponsibility. Feel the rush of human greed. The problem now isn't even that we have a lifestyle so hooked on juice that its constantly looking for new ways to tap one more vein, it is that for so many their livelihood is tied to the harvesting, processing, and distribution of this drug crop.Take the not-so-distinguished senator from West Virginia arguing for stimulus $$ for the coal industry. Or the subsidies for Midwestern farmers for energy intensive ethanol. It is like arguing that cocaine is healthier than crack, or that switching from pot to mushrooms is a viable solution.
    Where is the huge education initiative? Where are the feedback devices that give us real-time understanding of our consumption? Where is the conversation about life-style change?
    You are right man. We are hooked and trying to quit is like quitting booze while hanging out at the bar when someone else is buying the drinks.

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