Limits to renewables.

Author:Henshaw, Phil
Position::FROM READERS - Letter to the editor
 
FREE EXCERPT

I don't think your answer to Richard Firn's comment ["From Readers," May/June] responded to what he was saying--that renewable energy resources of any kind still only offer limited niche opportunities. When used to supply a growing energy demand they'll have continually multiplying environmental impacts. To learn from our mistakes we need to carefully avoid denial. We really should be making a positive effort to expose and understand our mistakes. That same error, after all, is the one made in the general economic model that got us here, treating the Earth as an unbounded resource rather than the great niche opportunity we started with.

You can see how the environmental movement made that mistake most clearly in studying why 20 years of organizing and well-funded governmental and industry research failed to ask if using ethanol would set off a world food price war and riots. That growing conflict between land uses is still just beginning to unfold, unfortunately, and we should take heed. The problem is that no one asked the question, what will our growing use of land for fuel run into? People tend to not plan for what they don't see, and barge ahead, responding to crises later. If we don't learn to do better than that and think things through, we're not going to make it. We should be using our own mistakes to point to a new way of thinking about the Earth, not try to cover our tracks in the usual way.

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The penalty for not doing it is higher than ever now, but there's also a...

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