Some problems can never be solved – will clean energy be one of them?
There are many things we do every day that are plain stupid. Things that are dangerous to our short term or long term well being, or our very life. And we are quite comfortable living that way if the odds of harm seem low enough.
There are countless examples around every day, if you look. Consider this common act of insanity seen every few seconds in traffic. No matter where you drive, certain laws of physics must be adhered to – slowing for turns, etc. But there is one that is ignored universally that puts people in grave harm: tailgating. There is no arguing with the science behind the two-second rule – leaving a two second gap between you and the vehicle in front – yet that prerequisite for vehicular survival is ignored relentlessly. The problem was bad enough with older cars; with today’s array of distractions it is an epidemic. The result is an incredible number of accidents, some of which can be quite serious of course, or fatal, and can involve a lot of innocent parties.
Yet we do it anyway, and nothing will change that habit. I’ve ridden with people who’ve had at least one rear-ending incident, for which they were at fault, and still insist on the stupid habit.
Lack of exercise is another. One can get older prematurely by refusing to stretch or exercise muscles, yet the phenomenon is as common as dirt. We only get one life. One third of it, if we’re lucky, will be as an elderly person. Why would we consciously and with full knowledge embark on that portion in a state that is guaranteed to make it miserable, when a few minutes a day can make those decades immeasurably better?
And so it goes with energy. We all know what we could do to reduce our footprint. We could choose to holiday close to home, or go for the vehicle with the smaller motor, or better yet the smaller vehicle. We could turn down our thermostats and wear sweaters in winter. We could walk more.
But these choices are even more no-brainers than putting our lives at risk in traffic, because there is no obvious downside whatsoever. We can mercilessly ride the bumper of the car in front with full knowledge that the odds of causing an accident have risen a hundredfold, and we still do it anyway, so why on earth would we choose to take the bus as an environmental gesture when the benefits to the world are so unmeasurably small?
This isn’t an ideological decision, it’s the human condition. Maybe it’s just because we’re tired sometimes, or because we have too much on our mind, or simply are too mentally fatigued to care.
A certain percentage of the population is green to the extreme – but then they most likely always were. Forty years ago, these people were the kooks on bicycles or in tiny cars, wearing practical clothes and eating local food. The percentage of the population that behaves like this has no doubt risen, in part because they’re no longer considered weirdos, but it’s still nowhere near a majority.
The rest care about the environment, but…not all that much. It’s all a great idea unless it really inconveniences us too much. And we may not care at all if we live in the developing world, and have our hearts set on what those big fat westerners enjoy every day.
Unfortunately, that’s the mountain we have to climb to make true meaningful strides in minimizing our environmental footprint.