Why Black OR White Shellenberger?
By Lindsey Lyons
I have always been an advocate for compromise, consensus and grey areas. I love to argue, and challenge others to see opposing views. Shellenberger was one of those Black Or White idealists that can’t imagine meeting others in the middle, perhaps for the simple purpose of solid argument. The talk should have been titled Technology will Save the World, Damn It!, not Will Technology Save the World? He wasn’t really here to ask us, was he?
My views were clarified during the faculty study group lunch micro debate between Maria, Joyce and Shellenberger. In defending that clean energy technology can save the world, he argued that overconsumption won’t provide greater challenges. He also shared that consumption can lead to happiness in both the sale and production of unnecessary products (he spoke with the women in Coke factories who are much happier because of their job). We know that ethical labor is not a global standard, and that using more of anything now- can only delay any solutions we are attempting to create. Even if the solution is clean energy technology. Right? I mean sure we could potentially produced more corn than we can fathom using GMO and fertilizing technologies, or more purses and nail polish using ‘green” synthetic chemicals, but ultimately, the more we consume the more problems we will need to solve. And who wants to live in that world- not my kids. Why should we then not reduce consumption AND produce more clean energy technologies?
Shellenberger shared twice that we live on Earth, not Heaven, and there are always going to be unintended consequences in any of his clean energy solutions. He suggests that our romanticism wants us to think that energy solutions can have no negative consequences and no waste- he calls this Heaven. He quoted, “our actions will have consequences.” Yet, he refuses to admit that consumerism may have similar unintended consequences… This is Earth, and we need to reduce consumption coupled with countless other strategies including producing more clean energy technology.
It’s complicated, but I know that no one solution, even one as broad as more clean energy, will save the world alone. It comes down to rates. Rates of consumption, rates of growth, and rates of developing technologies. This is as grey as it comes. We have to meet in the middle. Provide various types of simultaneous solutions. Some will work for some, some will work for others.
In the meantime, I am going to continue to buy bulk foods, teach my kids about fair trade products, and own a Prius. I can’t wait around for technology to save the world.