Sunday, May 4, 2008

Energy Ethics

A post of mine on April 20th (The Role of the Frontier Myth on our Energy Policy and Technology) conveyed the basic thesis of my research paper. The current situation, essentially, is that our society operates according to a set of assumptions in which progress is achieved by economic growth with the support of new technology. The fixation on new technology and belief in salvation through science distracts America from discussing and developing a set of ethics for how to use energy in the first place.

On the last day of class, Professor Webber said that he believed that what sets humans apart from the rest of nature is how we use energy. If we accept this premise, then it becomes clear that whether we succeed or fail as a civilization is largely dependent on whether we use energy appropriately or not. It is not simply a question of developing “sustainable” energy. We can misuse so-called renewables as badly as we have fossil fuels.

The defining human challenge of our civilization in this age is to become aware of how the various myths and underlying ideologies of society affect our assumptions about energy and growth and progress. Awareness can empower society to make more informed choices with regards to our energy policies and technologies. A grassroots response by informed citizens, already begun, is the only way to generate the necessary leadership in government, industry, and business in order to effectively redirect America’s inertia. Social movements require time; it is essential that we increase the level of debate in society around these issues.

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