Logo Eurosolar

In case of emergency: Solar energy

Article by Dr. Josep Puig i Boix

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of a health emergency caused by a virus that spread across the planet, paralyzing countries as never before.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the cause of the multiple pandemics, which have manifested themselves in recent years on the planet, are due to the fact that the present civilization is "playing with fire", both symbolically and in fact. The head of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, recently said about the coronavirus: "Nature is sending us a message".

Still, the prevailing world view maintains that there are no limits to human action and therefore humanity has a "right to dominate" nature. This vision of the world has taken shape despite the radical transformation of the planet's natural systems, resulting from society's addiction to fire and the burning of fossil materials to provide energy.

The consequences are there for all to see: the destruction of natural systems, due to mining and extractive activities at the service of an economy that loves indefinite growth, which engenders unbridled consumerism. The destruction is exacerbated by the extent of industrial livestock farming, which promotes the abuse of carnivorous diets and the conversion of traditional agriculture into an agriculture based on chemical and fossil inputs, destroying the ecological health of the soil.

This destruction [can be seen] by the unbridled urbanization that was so well portrayed in Murray Bookchin’s book: 'The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship', which has meant that people have ceased to exercise their citizenship, to the benefit of anonymous beings, qualified as consumers, who are only very occasionally asked to vote after being subjected to real "brainwashing" by the dominant economic forces.

Getting out of this quagmire requires attaining the full exercise of citizenship within the frameworks of the community or local community where one lives and works, and responsibly accepting the limits of the planet’s natural systems which we form a part of.

And it is precisely here where technologies  developed to harness the energies that surround us, which the biosphere freely offers to us, can play a decisive role in the development of the 21st century.

Ivan Illich affirmed: "to believe in the possibility of high levels of 'clean' energy as solution to all the evils represents an error of political judgment. It is to imagine that the equity in the participation of the power and the use of the energy can grow together. Victims of this illusion, industrialized men do not put the least limit on the growth in energy use, and this growth continues with the sole purpose of providing more and more people with more products from an industry controlled by fewer and fewer people [...] My thesis maintains that it is not possible to achieve a social state based on the notion of equity and at the same time increase the energy available, if not on the condition that per capita energy use remains within limits". He went on to say: "It is now necessary for politicians to recognize that physical energy, once it has crossed a certain barrier, becomes inevitably corrupting of the social environment. Even if clean energy could be produced and produced in quantity, the massive use of energy will always have the same effect on the social body as intoxication by a physically harmless but psychologically enslaving drug. A people can choose between a substitute drug and a detoxification done at will; but it cannot simultaneously aspire to the evolution of its freedom and coexistence on the one hand, and energy-intensive technologies on the other".

The health emergency caused by the global coronavirus pandemic clearly shows us that continuing on the path of the 20th century will lead us into the abyss. At the same time, it offers a valuable opportunity to rethink our society and to rebuild it on the basis of a new global vision, one that considers the Earth as a planet in which sustainable living will mean respecting certain limits. And one of them is the solar constant, because although our planet is a closed system as far as materials are concerned, as far as energy is concerned it is an open system, in which life is based on the use of the Sun's energy.

Will we be able to maintain and reproduce the millennial and endearing love story between our planet and the Sun? Today we have the technologies to do so, but will society be capable of defending and exercising its right to social appropriation of them? Or, will it renounce to the benefit of minorities whose only objective is their domination over society?

Posted in News from EUROSOLAR Sections