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fighting for life - what phasing out fossil fuels looks like - a work in progress

peter thomas

New Member
There are more articles written all the time now talking about winding down and phasing out fossil fuel usage to keep us from the worst and existential effects of climate change and ecological collapse. Some, like Trump, say the die is cast and there is nothing to do but ride it out continuing to hold the pedal to the metal on amassing wealth for the few and exploiting resources. In contrast, I have friends with young children who vow to fight with their last breath to hold back the tide on climate and the environment if it is at all possible. It is overwhelming at times, but I tend to stand with them, even if it seems like a long shot.

The short list of the range of response options include: doing nothing, partying hearty, being a self oriented “prepper”, fighting for mitigation (sequestration & geo-engineering), hospice, or fighting for localized adaptation and resiliency. I lean toward a combination of hospice and resiliency. Perhaps you have your own preference.

If your choice involves phasing out fossil fuels over the next few years, the one question that looms large in my mind, is what would that look like for our culture. How would it work considering how dependent we are on fossil fuels in pretty much every sector of our infrastructure and culture. Consider that food and crops are dependent on diesel fuel, petroleum based fertilizer and pesticides. Also, how we do industry, defense, education, health care, our clothes, and our beloved plastic are all intricately intertwined with fossil fuels. Just think about cars and trucks and all the interrelated fields of manufacturing, tires, parts, asphalt, dealers, garages, parts stores, etc.. The design of suburban communities and shopping centers is individual car oriented. Clearly every aspect of our lives and economy would be effected. Would there be rationing of fuel and food? Would we all know hunger? How about our lawns, snowmobiles, and chainsaws? No wonder we are in such denial! Hold on, as maybe a total makeover would be a good thing. How could I even say that, you ask? My response is that the way we are living is rapidly killing off life on the planet (76% of winged insects, 60% of animals, western men have 50% sperm count, 287 chemicals in everyone’s tissue, CO2 and methane are increasing, ice and permafrost are melting, etc.) not to mention fanning the flames of the growing plagues of suicide, drug overdosing, violence, racism, hatred, and inequity. Things are really not all that sweet, are they? Might we then, be willing to choose austerity and change virtually everything in how we live, even our diet, and get rid of pretty much everything that is non essential, even capitalism?

So, there is talk now of a green new deal that initiates a WWII level mobilization to wind down and phase out fossil fuels. Some even feel it could be done without a burdensome carbon tax. It promotes both mitigation and adaptation while supporting us with massive job retraining for an infinite realm of jobs in renewables, environmental restoration, and localized small scale provision of goods, services, cottage industry, and organic farming. A hallmark feature includes a concern for inherent equity, justice, transparency, compassion, and democracy, which might help make it a bit more tolerable and provide a safety net to hold us all. While we, of course, would do the best we could, some, perhaps the most vulnerable, might fall through the cracks. It is a tough call. It is not like we wouldn’t be trying to take care of everyone and when you consider that doing nothing will undoubtedly bring about virtually all Earthly life form extinction like it did in the Permian era when 95% of all life perished when CO2 was as high as it is now. We simply must bear up under these challenging times with compassionate hospice style support for each other. If we proceed with this all out effort and by the slim chance we have some measure of success, maybe it would be a chance for us to leave behind our world of separation and recreate ourselves living intensely locally and connected, helping and working with our neighbors forging strong cohesive families and communities. That capacity and level of cooperation and connection might be critical when you consider that even with the greatest success imaginable, we would no doubt be extremely challenged to maintain existence in the face of thousands of years of climate turmoil from what we have already done.