Colette & I on Dinedor Hill
Yesterday Colette and I and an old friend of ours trudged through deep snow up to the top of Dinedor Hill. It was so magical to be immersed in the perfection of the natural world. We could tell from the way the snow stuck to the east faces of tree trucks that the wind had first come from that direction and that later it had become very still as more snow piled up deeply on top of tiny twigs. The weight of snow in the silent woodland weighed heavily on branches and from time to time a branch would come crashing down, breaking off with a sharp crack followed by a swooshing sound as it and a load of snow descended to the forest floor. I think we all experienced that pure joy at the shear perfection that the natural world can present us with. Something to treasure.
We returned home and watched Blue Planet Two. Again we were immersed in the perfection of the natural world, but tinged with its fragility and the damage we are doing to it. Seeing a man snorkelling off the coast of Sri Lanka as a pod of about 300 sperm whales swam past was wonderful. A pod this size probably hasn’t been seen since before the days of whaling, a couple of hundred years ago. Individual species and the whole planetary ecosystem can flourish if given the chance. We are a part of that whole interwoven tapestry of life and it is vital for our survival as a species that we treasure and protect it. David Attenborough, in very clear and simple language made the case that we need to stop the pollution and the damage. He and these programmes are an inspiration to millions of people. We need to absorb the message and use it to redirect our politics, our economy and the technologies we utilize. We also need to get out and experience nature first hand, in whatever way we can, in our own neighbourhoods. It is such a source of pure joy and something to celebrate often and deeply.
In last week’s blog I wrote about how humans interpret the World through stories. This is, of course, an old idea. It overlaps and merges with the concept of meta-narrative. Max Weber used the term Weltanschauung to describe the ‘World outlook’ of various cultures, communities, nations or religions. Economic growth and the relative strength of nations have been at the core of the dominant belief systems throughout ‘The Fossil Fuel Age’. That historical era is drawing to a close. It will either be replaced by an era of chaos, war and ecological catastrophe or something very much better: a new golden age, or the term I’ve been using for years, ‘The Solar Age’.
The continued existence of the human species depends on our ability to tackle the macro ecological challenges ahead, from climate change to habitat loss, from poor air quality to the plastics polluting our oceans. We need a pollution minimizing way of maximizing the benefits of a modern global economy that can bring prosperity to all humans while allowing biodiversity to flourish. The switch from fossil fuels to renewables is in itself important, but it also has a symbolic significance as a sign of wider social, political, economic and ecological renewal. This global energy transition is now happening far faster than many people expected. Governments, businesses and the media are all still caught up with the old story of how the World works and so failed to see the new narrative begin to unfold. In a way Trump, Putin and Brexit are manifestations of the fossil fuel industry fighting back to keep the old story alive.
Last year two thirds of all new global electricity installations were renewables, and solar was the biggest and fastest growing sector. Newspapers and technical journals are full of reports of the falling cost of renewables and how they are displacing fossil fuels. This trend is increasing in speed. The prospect of renewables supplying 100% of humanity’s need for electricity, heating, cooling and transport looks ever brighter. Most of the world’s major car manufactures are beginning to make announcements about quitting petrol and diesel in favour of either battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Change is also happening in myriad ways as everything from global megacities to the design of individual houses adapts to a post fossil fuel world.
I’m giving a talk, 3.30pm on Sunday 15th October, at De Koffie Pot in Hereford expanding on all of this. The talk is called ‘The Solar Age: Global Energy Futures’. It is part of the wider h.Energy events. Do come along if you’re in Hereford. Alternatively, if you’d like me to deliver this talk in your town, do please get in touch.