Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIII

Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)
3 min readMay 17, 2021
Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Electrify Everything: Neither ‘Green’ Nor ‘Sustainable’

Electrifying everything has become a rallying cry for many people concerned with the ecological/environmental impact of humanity. But do such attempts to mitigate/solve such problems/dilemmas actually do what they claim to? I would argue no. They are simply substituting one set of problems for another set of problems and completely avoiding the underlying causes. They are primarily about creating the idea that they are a solution, not that they truly are. They are a marketing scheme to sell products and gloss over using language the problematic issues they prolong or create. It is fundamentally about propaganda, not addressing the plight that human expansion is.

In this vein, here is my comment on an article that looks at substituting electric long-haul trucks for internal combustion engine ones.

We really do need to stop using language that does not reflect reality. Electric vehicles are neither ‘green’ nor ‘clean’. A shift to them is not in any way, shape, or form helping us to address the various ecological/environmental dilemmas humanity has created in its endless expansion and exploitation of the planet’s limited resources (and that go far beyond carbon emissions).

Narratives that use the small Overton window of internal combustion engines vs. electric vehicles completely disregard the underlying issues of our dilemmas and avoid the hard choices that need to be made — to say little about the fact that they mislead and propagate false beliefs. They do, however, help significantly in reducing our mass cognitive dissonance that is created from our pursuit of the growth chalice on a finite planet with hard, biophysical limits.

The question that needs to be confronted and at the forefront of hauling goods around is why we continue to pursue an energy- and resource-intensive approach to living and should real sustainability not be primary in our thoughts? We need to not only be discussing fervently the concept of degrowth and how we can implement it equitably, but focusing our energies and finite resources on localising everything so such wasteful pursuits are curtailed significantly, not attempting to use up the remaining resources in some hollow pursuit to hold on to unsustainable practices.

Electrifying everything is not a panacea. In fact, I have increasingly come to view the entire idea as primarily an attempt to shift capital from one unsustainable, ecologically-destructive enterprise (fossil fuels) to another equally unsustainable and ecologically-destructive one (all the alternatives). It is a marketing scheme concocted to ‘sell’ the idea that we can seamlessly transition to other energy sources and address our toxic legacy. All it is doing, however, is substituting one problematic technology for another (and that still depends upon and requires massive amounts of fossil fuels from the mining for resources to the processing of minerals to the manufacture of products…to say little about the impact of the toxins that must be considered in the after-life of electric products and alternative energy sources, especially the batteries necessary).

We have been increasingly propagandised through repetitive sloganeering that electric vehicles and alternative energy sources to fossil fuels is our saviour. They are not. They are snake oil from salesmen whose primary purpose is to generate wealth and profit regardless of the cost. We would do well to stop listening to such nonsense and shout as often as possible “the emperor has no clothes!”

Please visit my website.

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Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)

A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...