Supersonic rhetoric, rising fossil fuel consumption, and a dead void between the two. What a mess


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

  • Buckminster Fuller, American inventor and visionary


Government scientists have produced a new report on climate change in Canada, and it’s beyond grim. The details trigger thoughts of hoarding and maybe selling the house and moving to higher ground. To a millennial, the findings should inspire naked fear.”


We have escaped orbit, into the great unknown.

No, not in any sense that the CBC’s Neil Macdonald is becoming unglued about; we have entered unknown territory in the sense that Macdonald’s statement not just exists but is considered sane in the same earthly sphere as the fact that fossil fuel consumption continues to rise.

The fear of climate change is now like nothing else in living memory. No government scientifically-oriented report has triggered “thoughts of hoarding”, nor has any mainstream media commentator implied that a government climate study should inspire “naked fear”.

But naked fear always takes a back seat to whatever it is that we’re up to that we deem necessary. We must stop burning fossil fuels now or we will all die! I will stop right after I get back from Europe! Or the week after!

Consumers cannot coexist with this contradiction. They cannot function in a world where they believe they are doomed if they consume fossil fuels and doomed if they don’t. So they continue to consume, because the effects of not doing so are obvious – no holidays, no imported food, no more clothes, no more plastic, no more anything, pretty much.

The discrepancy in viewpoints has to be unparalleled in human history, and the only conclusion that can be derived is that the general population isn’t buying it. That is, the fear is not registering.

If it were, if Macdonald et al were believed, then any person that bought into his view would never get on an airplane again. No one would accept anything that used fossil fuels; people would walk or bike everywhere possible and would swear off any vacation that was out of eyesight. It is not that hard to catalogue what items consume the most fossil fuels, and if people truly cared they would avoid those like the plague.

But they don’t. Where they do choose the “green”, such as with electric vehicles, they show utter disinterest in the environmental impact of the chain of events that brings them the new wheels. We choose to upgrade our electronics and cell phones relentlessly, despite the staggering environmental footprint of finding, processing, and bringing together 78 elements from the periodic table to make a single cell phone, from every corner of the globe.

The central problem here is multifaceted. First, humans seek comfort, and almost universally view their tiny contribution to emissions as being TSTM – too small to measure, or irrelevant. Next, humans do not understand the value and resource chains that bring them what they demand every day – the food, the fuel, the heat, the cellphones. All these things appear as if by magic, and are now “human rights”.

Finally, the general population that is paying attention to climate warnings can only be scared for so long before tuning out the signal. That’s how we work. Every single human knows they should eat less and exercise more, because their life is at stake. Yet obesity and inactivity are rampant and spreading.

If the world is heating as is feared by Macdonald et al, it is almost inevitable that it is simply a condition we are going to have to live with, because the general population cannot be both frightened into avoiding the deemed necessities and comforts of every day life. So they go with the short term solution, to use what they need to live a good life, and put on the back burner the abstract fears. We simply don’t know what a two-degree warmer climate will look like; we hear scary scenarios but, as with frightening messages to lose weight or else, the message fails to resonate if there is no immediate impact. We can see for ourselves that fear as motivator does not work beyond a certain short time frame.

But Macdonald et al will not change, and that is unfortunate. To make true progress, we need all hands on deck in an all-out effort to adapt our existing energy delivery systems. That means full collaboration with those who provide energy now. But fear merchants simply refuse to try to engage the existing and overwhelmingly dominant energy distribution industry to try to find solutions. They just scream louder about how scared everyone should be, while trying to undermine that existing and entrenched system. And they wonder why no progress is made.

Want a better energy dialogue? Pick up a copy of “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at, or!

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1 Comment

  1. bjrhayes says:

    Well said Terry. I would argue about the term “fear merchants”. They’re not selling, they’re giving it away for free. And this resonates so well with the piece in the G&M yesterday where the young lady is worrying about whether to bring a child into this terrible world, while flying back from an overseas vacation. And she doesn’t even understand the irony.


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