"Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite as a nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battle field of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny."
- Jimmy Carter -
To better understand what I hope is considered by Renewable Energy World readers as a constructive criticism, let me begin by defining what a worldview is through the lens of “ideology.” From here, we can move on to understanding the importance of shifting our value systems ever so slightly to allow a respectful and constructive dialogue to emerge. It is important to note that in order for you to assess the merits of this slight shift in values and the potential energy this “shift” possesses, it will require an in depth examination of integration beyond the scope of this piece. Perhaps history is a good place to start (note 1970s)?
To begin with, our worldview or ideology can be understood as a limited set of belief systems that informs our understanding and interactions with the world around us. However, in the spirit of bringing philosophy to the renewable energy table, perhaps Slavoj Žižek — the man they call “the most dangerous philosopher in the West” partly due to his relentless critique and exposure of the mystifying world of ideology – can provide us with some insight into how our own renewable energy worldview functions. Let’s begin with this fun filled video if for no other reason than to have a good laugh (click on image below):
In The Sublime Object of Ideology, Žižek provides a clear picture of what ideology does by showing us that it is not an “illusion masking the state of things but that of an (unconscious) fantasy structuring our reality itself.” Statements like, “I’m saving the planet” come to mind – one I frustratingly attempt to swat off almost daily. At this point, we begin to enter the strange and often frightful world of ideology or, to be blunt, disavowed realities of the world that we either consciously or unconsciously choose to ignore through the processes of “fantasy building;” essentially disavowing the raw-nature-of-the-real that provides the fertile soils for generating our value systems or, to put it another way, to specifically ignore the underlying currents that allow for us to develop our renewable energy worldview in the first place. I strongly believe that this fantasy is fundamentally rooted in a rigid and unmoving us vs. them worldview such as:
Here the ideology is simple; we tend to create a negative value system about fossil fuel without fully assessing its merits and most importantly its role in generating the social fabric that makes up our everyday lives as "green" entrepreneurs – specifically in the United States. Moreover, our worldview seems to have forgotten one specific hero in the mist of our self-gratifying “saving the planet” fantasies (myself included). We have in the past and continue in the present to forget one of the hardest working members of our social fabric – the American coalminer – the very flesh and bones that supports our way of life.
To be very transparent as to my personal “underlying currents” or intentions with this piece: First, the blog you are presently reading should not be taken out of context and should be read in an integrated fashion or as a continuum beginning with this, then this, then (with an emphasis on) this. Secondly, I would like to pop the hood on our renewable energy worldview to show what may be obvious to some. Specifically, to demonstrate the important role integration plays in making our "reality-engine" work and moreover, given the importance of integration, highlighting the merits of considering an all-the-above energy strategy in the United States (see video here).
While our hood is still open, I would like to call your attention to one of the most dynamic nodes of integration. This node can be experienced by taking a brief moment from reading this blog and assess you present “existential” condition. While doing this, please note that your experience as a human being – who may have the privilege of living in robust and somewhat stable economy like the United States – is fundamentally shaped by fossil fuels even at the most granule level, that is, the way we perceive and interact with time and space with the experiential surplus being personal free-time or what some may refer to as liberty. At the very least, an appreciation is in order…
For example, some calculations estimate that we have roughly 147 virtual energy people working for us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing us with a lot of free-time to sort out how to, for example, integrate renewable energy into the grid. In short, fossil fuels should be considered our friends when it comes to our present means of survival and in turn, by understanding the integrative nature of our reality we may begin considering how this raw-nature-of-the-real can begin influencing the manner in which we create our values as entrepreneurs within the renewable energy sector, all the while remaining respectful of the powerful forces embodied within market dynamics – I often stand in awe when considering these remarkable forces.
This may seem novel to some and obvious to others but when I cautiously write to a Renewable Energy World audience, perhaps saying “fossil fuels are our friends” is tantamount to a capital crime – some articles in this particular source and others tell me that readers may say yes and others no. As presumptuous as this may seem, it remains to be seen as I am unaware of these “type” of comments piercing the contemporary veil of the renewable energy worldview except for maybe here and here and perhaps other places that deserve mentioning as well. To serve as an vivid example, the photo below highlights one of the more extreme manifestations of this worldview, that is, Renewable Energy vs. Fossil Fuel which sometimes carries an "unfortunate twist" regarding central Appalachian stereotypes (notice the black faces):
Please keep in mind that I am not writing this to create more divisions in an already divisive climate; I am however writing this in hopes of revealing the fact that the world is far more complex than most of us believe it to be and more practically to begin building bridges in the Renewable Energy World similar to the one recently built between the United Mine Workers of America and Green for All, the source of the all-to-real quote below. My hope is to clear the air of our reactive tendencies to “speak truth to power” (one I personally struggle with) so that tangible real-world solutions may inform a constructive approach to speaking truth to power where we can agree on what we agree on and leave the rest to market dynamics or political processes. To create a place where, despite our differences, we can all agree that corporate greed is a bad thing. To see past our own ideological lenses and experience the world of possibilities where republicans and democrats come together in West Virginia to support one of America’s greatest heroes!
To make it perfectly clear, I am in no way implying that there is not validity to the critique of fossil fuels in many arenas but there are arguments regarding the environmental impacts of renewable energy which hold validity as well – simply put, every energy source carries with it an environmental footprint that comes in all different sizes. However, what I am saying is that division (us vs. them) has interlaced itself within the very fibers of the way we “do renewable energy” and perhaps the remedy begins by the kind gesture of reaching across the table and identifying synergies within the energy sector as a whole, all the while honestly assessing the impacts of what those synergies may hold for the eco-systems that support us all. As suggested before, perhaps an all-the-above energy strategy is a good place to start?
This is a plea to engage in non-reactive conversations about energy that is rooted in the collaborative spirit of America. To build a stronger economy founded upon unity not division. In the words of UMWA coalminer Roger Horton:
I couldn’t have said it any better myself!
And now for a healthy dose of existential realism brought to us by the Director of Hollow: An Interactive Documentary about McDowell County, WV. A coal based county full of life and aspirations that serves as a stark example of when coal goes bust and never booms again (arguably an externality of the above worldview):
Note: I am not ignoring the elephant in the room, here is a small kernel of what informs my personal worldview regarding Climate Change.
In response to a comment below: A different way to see the world.
Disclaimer: This piece does not reflect all individual worldviews but does attempt to unpack what is believed to be a predominant worldview within the Renewable Energy sector.
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