Shifting Away From Green Illusions

24 08 2014

My last post has created a bit of a stir….  widely read and shared, it’s getting kick arse viewing hits.  It’s odd how Ozzie Zehner managed to fly under our collective radar screens…  so over the last couple of days I have done a bit of research on this interesting and very clever young man.  Interesting because, like me, he obviously believes spending money and energy on energy efficiency is far more valuable than anything spent on the bling on our roofs.  Also fascinating is the way people prefer to spend money and energy on the bling, simply because it’s highly visible, and it makes them look like they’re actually doing something to ‘save the planet’.  Terminology, by the way, I have learned to detest….  Whereas of course, nobody cares what sort of fridge or light bulbs you have, or whether your TV is a 60 inch screen or not.

What 10kW looks like

What 10kW looks like

Non spinning turbine

Non spinning turbine

A classic case is the neighbour on the hill who, pockets full of money after he inherited his mother’s wealth, decided to build his version of an ‘eco house’, I gave him loads of advice, but as usual he ignored me…..  even putting large windows on his western wall, now covered with acres of shade cloth to keep the heat (and that view he wanted…) out.  Doesn’t matter you see… he’s got 10kW of PVs on the roof!  Not to be outdone, his neighbour (whose house is fatally facing the wrong way and whose PVs must be producing less than 50% of their rated output) put up a wind turbine, even though the wind resource here is less than impressive…  Even my sister shocked me the other day when I mentioned it might be time to think about replacing her 14 yr old fridge…….  “I don’t care she said, I’ve got solar panels on my roof”.

Every day, the news about climate change and the disasters that are sure to accompany it gets worse and worse.  Methane emissions are accelerating at a rate that might even prove Guy McPherson right after all…  To many greenies, the answer is simple: power shift.  That is, shift from fossil fuels to clean, green, renewable, alternative energy.  Well-meaning concerned people and activists, myself included, have jumped on the bandwagon.  But the silver bullets are indeed jamming in the breach.

The problem with simple solutions almost always is things aren’t as simple as they seem…. and there’s no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to energy consumption and production.  Consumption is consumption, whether they be solar cells or Big Macs…  Furthermore, what we’re often sold as “green” and “clean” is actually neither, as Ozzie clearly explains in his video.

Ozzie Zehner

Titled, “Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism,”  Ozzie Zehner‘s book is a timely tome to buy.  I’ll see if I can get a copy online.

As Zehner writes in the book’s opening pages according to internet research, “…this certainly isn’t a book for alternative energy. Neither is it a book against it. In fact, we won’t be talking in simplistic terms of for or against, left and right, good and evil … Ultimately, this is a book of shades.”  I like it already.

When asked in an interview what’s wrong with the current US environmental movement, Zehner replies:

I would say that the environmental movement has relegated itself to cheerleading and mindless chants and that it’s time for us to step away from the pom-poms.  I encounter a boundless enthusiasm for creating positive change when holding dialogues with environmental groups.  Unfortunately, the mainstream environmental movement is channelling that energy into an increasingly corporatist, and what I call a “productivist,” set of priorities.

Yep, it’s capitalism’s fault yet again.  We are born to consume; or at least we are made to conform to consume.

50 years ago states Ozzie, “activists were at least on a far better path. Prominent environmentalists were living modestly, challenging dominant economic assumptions, and imagining durable strategies for human prosperity that were more in tune with the non-human planet. That humility has largely eroded.”

And he’s dead right.  I know so many self titled greenies with swimming pools and who fly overseas regularly (you know who you are!) AND who also have bling on their roofs…. the mind boggles.  I’m living proof that leading by example doesn’t work.

Zehner then also says

The modern environmental movement has rolled over to become an outlet for loggers, energy firms and car companies to plug into. It is now primarily a social media platform for consumerism, growth and energy production – an institutionalized philanderer of green illusions. If you need evidence, just go to any climate rally and you’ll see a strip mall of stands for green products, green jobs and green energy. These will do nothing to solve the crisis we face, which is not an energy crisis but rather a crisis of consumption.

All Ozzie Zehner has proven to me is that nothing substantial will be achieved until consumerism, inflated by capitalism, rolls over and dies.  Enough is enough.  We can do better than this.  Even if the majority can’t see that less is better than more.




6 responses

24 08 2014
daniel boon

I grew up in the bush, parents struggled financially, so doing without was the norm.
My consciousness is steeped in that ‘ independence’ of not wanting what was unaffordable.
In 1984 l designed and built my first ‘ energy efficient’ home; some things l got spot on ( orientation and design), but the correct choice and use of building materials evolved.
But fundamentally, reducing my reliance on the system was the main driver.
Fast forward to today, l have two degrees from university ( why l used that email address) but they – and most degrees – have nothing to do with sustainability.
Why post?
Just to say common sense and not succumbing to fanciful ideas will reduce your dependence on the system; that the Greens are the cream of the crap in politics (and they need more common sense) and organizations like beyond zero emissions are just as misleading.

24 08 2014
Ben Pennings

Great post Mike and love his quotes. Glad you’ve done some of the research on this guy as could save me some time from my intentions! Much appreciated.

24 08 2014
Graham Palmer

The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones…

—John Maynard Keynes

27 08 2014
Chris Harries
27 08 2014

With media like that, is it any wonder people believe in white man’s magic..?

27 08 2014
Chris Harries

It’s not just the unwashed masses who believe this stuff, it’s earnest young people, environmentally tuned people…. developing a belief cult that defies the fundamental laws of thermodynamics. If a person wants to believe something hard enough they can find ways to turn wishful thinking into a belief system. It’s the other end of the denial spectrum, well intentioned but just as misguided and dopey.

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