Opinion: Sustainable energy or empty promises?



Rachel Godin

Rachel Godin

Rachel Godin is a columnist for The Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

On Oct. 28, in Harbin, China, schools were closed, and roads were blocked off as people awoke to smog-filled streets. It was nearly impossible for people to safely go about their daily lives. Imagine, because of an entire city barricaded from normal life due to pollution that measured 40 times over what the World Health Organization considers safe. We ought to be more concerned that this is a new reality. The world’s air safety is on the decline at rapid rates, and developing countries are no exception; we need more than short-term bandages to fix this problem, but we aren’t getting them.

China is a microcosm of Earth’s total problem if not a premonition of Earth’s future. Unlike China, America is not dealing with such large-scale pollution but does share the crisis-response system rather than be a country that takes preventive measures. The U.S. will only transition to sustainable energy when the system of energy production stops being successful. The thing to remember here is that just because our high metabolism of energy is negative and results in havoc-breeding pollution energy-industry businesses are enormously successful, thus the issue to change is not really addressed; their power is not challenged.

Jerome Dangerman studied the world energy system and believes, according to Science Daily’s article “The Transition to Sustainable Energy Will Not Be Automatic or Painless,” “The question of whether alternative action should be taken is essentially not addressed until it’s too late. That is, until the climate has been irreversibly disrupted, essential ecosystems have collapsed or energy has become unaffordable. For this reason, it is important that the current flows of subsidies and investments, which are now primarily aimed at conventional energy, be redirected towards renewable energy.”

Paying for the consequences of ravaging our environment is much less efficient than investment in a cleaner future. One blogging resident from the smog-infested Harbin said it best: “I live in a country making people desperate. The environmental pollution is not scary. What’s scary is the no-action government and the silence of people like slaves.” It is easy to take for granted what we have always known, but, according to the Environmental News Network, “Most of the world’s population will be subject to degraded air quality by 2050 if human-made emissions continue as usual.”

We were born into a disposable society. Anything can be exchanged, replaced, tossed out; few things are created to last. This society may have large quantities at cheaper initial prices, but the long-term effects of our consumption-obsessed society are going to be incredibly expensive, because we will have more to fix than the consequences we are currently creating. We will have to invest in an alternative form of energy all together. We will need to sacrifice comfort and convenience in order to make progress, but I don’t see this happening on a large scale or for a very long time. It will not be until the terrifying truth is staring us in the face or interrupting our habits that we’ll make some effort to minimize the consequences.