THE ENERGY FACTOR

Of all of the systems under the Industrial Age regimes, the one which is by nature most decentralized is the also the one which has been most resistant to it. That is the production and distribution of energy. As long as burning fossil fuel remains the primary source of energy to drive the Industrial system, this centralization will prevail. The source location of fossil fuel, coal, oil, gas, is determined by nature, often at locations remote from its end-users. Control of its extraction, processing, transportation and distribution provides the the opportunity for centralization of political and economic power, and has driven private profit and public policy for decades.

Prior to the Industrial Age, building design and community organization reflected the limits imposed by local natural conditions and the responses necessary to mitigate their most undesirable effects, at least from the perspective of human utility and comfort. The technology to respond to excessive heat or cold, too much or little rainfall, or a host of other more complex natural phenomena was limited. The Industrial system responded to these limitations by creating a parallel artificial environment, sealed off, in effect, from the natural world. The unintended consequence of that strategy has been a progressive assault on the natural environment because the industrial system has been constructed so that creating a balance with nature is not economically feasible. It is not that industrial products and systems cannot be designed to maintain this balance, but that the entire physical, political, social and economic enterprise is configured against it. At the core is a cosmology, a philosophical worldview that humanity has a special relationship to the rest of the natural world which not only allows, but demands that the natural world has be altered to fulfill human destiny.

The cost of this has been higher than most people can conceive. While the great majority busy themselves with immediate concerns, comforted by the certain belief that nature can absorb any level of human assault, a small but growing community of people are acutely aware that this is becoming less so year by year. Their alarms are largely background noise, readily suppressed or unattended to when they threaten to demand more than a few gestures of change. It is more appealing to listen to the comforting assurances of stability promised by maintaining the current industrial system, or the strident voices of more visible and immediate social, economic and political concerns.

 

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  bennett.d.j@worldnet.att.net