It seems to be a rite of passage into adulthood in the West in recent generations to come to the realization that one hates multi-national corporations; and more than any other kind among them, one must hate those that deal in energy, whether Coca Cola or Nestles or The Oil Companies. Corporately manufactured energy is seemingly bad. More specifically, energy alienated from the end-user is, to varying degrees, bad. Thus, walking is good in that one is not alienated from ones own energy. Riding a bike is good in that one uses a machine but still uses ones own energy to propel the machine. A bicycle, a corporately manufactured machine, is better still if it's as old and clunky and "non-corporate" as one can find. Low-tech is ideal in that it is also "low-profit." There is a comparable decrease in ones alienation and a corresponding decrease in ones collusion with "consumption." To use "recycled" material, e.g. hemp shoes for walking, or a bike salvaged from dumpsters is energy-friendly. One then has extra cash for other goods and services such as ethical investments and organic, locally produced food, for example. For those communal projects that require more energy than one can produce oneself, natural energy is preferable: solar or wind power, for example. Unalienated from Nature, to an extent, one still might use solar panel and windmills, but the lowest tech possible is preferable. It is a high ideal to corporate hate energy. It is a sign of adult maturity in Modernity.
A large proportion of post-Modernists seem to think it is a good thing to indulge in expressions of sympathy for philobarbarism. Primitive cultures are, expressly, low-tech or even no-tech, using natural power exclusively. Those who are pastoralists or nomads, using animal power, are lauded as "in touch with nature." In Modernity's heart, the homeless are equally lauded as "non-consumers" of non-renewable resources. For the post-Modernist, it is a matter of morality. The higher ones energy consumption, the lower ones personal morality. And conversely.
Immediately below is a selection from Wikipedia on the Kardashev Scale, followed by some short selections from an essay by popular writer Michael Crichton on energy use.
The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement. The scale is only theoretical and in terms of an actual civilization highly speculative; however, it puts energy consumption of an entire civilization in a cosmic perspective. It was first proposed in 1964 by the Soviet Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. The scale has three designated categories called Type I, II, and III. These are based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal, and the degree of space colonization. In general terms, a Type I civilization has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet, Type II of its solar system, and Type III of its galaxy.
Energy is a static quantity and is denoted in joules. Power is a measure of energy over time, and is denoted in watts (joules per second). The three levels of the Kardashev Scale can be quantified in units of power (watts) and plotted on an increasing logarithmic scale.
- Type I — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet — has approximately 1016 or 1017 W available. Earth specifically has an available power of 1.74 ×1017 W (174 petawatts, see Earth's energy budget). Kardashev's original definition was 4 ×1012 W — a "technological level close to the level presently attained on earth" (presently meaning 1964).
Using nuclear explosion tests as a perspective, Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, released an estimated 57 megaton yield; even a Type I civilization makes use of roughly 25 megatons of TNT equivalent a second. A Type II civilization consumes 4 × 109 times more energy (4 billion hydrogen bombs per second), and a type III 1011 times more yet.
Current human civilization has a Kardashev value of about 0.7. However, the Kardashev scale was not developed to model a specific civilization. It's primarily used by SETI researchers, science fiction authors, and futurists as a theoretical framework.
Human civilization is currently somewhere below Type I, as it is able to harness only a portion of the energy that is available on Earth. The current state of human civilization has thus been named Type 0. Although intermediate values were not discussed in Kardashev's original proposal, Carl Sagan argued that they could easily be defined by interpolating and extrapolating the values given above. In 1973, he calculated humanity's civilization type to be 0.7, in relationship to Kardashev's model for Types 0 and I.
Sagan used the formula:
Value K is a civilization's Kardashev rating and W is its power output in watts. Sagan used 10 TW as value W, which was considerably higher than present data suggests. Sagan's overestimation makes little difference in regards to human civilization's K rating, effecting only a difference of 1% in the value of K (See Table Below). International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook (2005) and section 7 of Key World Energy Statistics project values for planetary power production yielding these corresponding Kardashev scale estimates:[....]
Methods by which a civilization could feasibly advance to Type I:
Large scale application of fusion power. Type I implies the generation of about 5 kg of energy per second. This can be achieved by fusing about 1,000 kg of hydrogen into helium each second, a rate of about 3 × 1010 kg/year. A cubic km of water contains about 1011 kg of hydrogen, and the Earth's oceans contain about 1.3 × 109 cubic km of water. So this rate of production can be sustained over geological time scales.
Anti-matter production is still beyond our civilization's ability to utilize as a power source, but any civilization with the technological ability to produce or collect anti-matter in large quantities cheaply, would have a mechanism to produce power on a scale several factors above our current level of technology. In antimatter-matter collisions, the entire rest mass of the particles is converted to kinetic energy. The energy per unit mass is about 10 orders of magnitude greater than chemical energy (compared to TNT), about 4 orders of magnitude greater than the energy that humans liberated today using nuclear fission, and about 2 orders of magnitude greater than the best possible from fusion. The reaction of 1 kg of anti-matter with 1 kg of matter would produce 1.8 × 1017 J (180 petajoules) of energy (by the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc²), or roughly the equivalent of 47 megatons of TNT. For energy comparisons see anti-matter as a fuel source.
Solar energy — converting sunlight into electricity by either solar cells or indirectly through wind and hydroelectric power. Currently, there is no known way for human civilization to successfully utilize the equivalent of the Earth's total absorbed solar energy without completely coating the surface with man-made structures, which is presently not feasible. However, if a civilization constructed very large space-based power satellites, Type I power levels might be achievable.
Full essay at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
It is a certain goal among many post-Modernists to decrease energy use. It is, for them, a religio-philosophical position, and it is a religion per se for many.
Michael Crichton, "Environmentalism as Religion."
Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.
Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.
And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.
There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?
And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process. And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly: the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare. Generations of hatred, tribal hatreds, constant battles. The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety.
How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction.
There was even an academic movement, during the latter 20th century, that claimed that cannibalism was a white man's invention to demonize the indigenous peoples. (Only academics could fight such a battle.) It was some thirty years before professors finally agreed that yes, cannibalism does indeed occur among human beings. Meanwhile, all during this time New Guinea highlanders in the 20th century continued to eat the brains of their enemies until they were finally made to understand that they risked kuru, a fatal neurological disease, when they did so.
More recently still the gentle Tasaday of the Philippines turned out to be a publicity stunt, a nonexistent tribe. And African pygmies have one of the highest murder rates on the planet.
In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.
And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies. Take a trek through the jungles of Borneo, and in short order you will have festering sores on your skin, you'll have bugs all over your body, biting in your hair, crawling up your nose and into your ears, you'll have infections and sickness and if you're not with somebody who knows what they're doing, you'll quickly starve to death. But chances are that even in the jungles of Borneo you won't experience nature so directly, because you will have covered your entire body with DEET and you will be doing everything you can to keep those bugs off you.
The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It's all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.
Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge.
Energy production and consumption are "Progress." Those who indulge in philobarbarism and philistine Romance are condemning the world to a life, as Hobbes described it, as one "nasty, brutish, and short. A prime example today, Zimbabwe. It's an attitude and a religion. Philobarbarism is the life of the mind of a Death Hippie. It is an expression of Povertarianism. There is a price to pay for it. That price is the death of Civilization. It's a price many spoiled adults think they want to pay for the sake of a moralistic pose to impress their fellows. They will find few friends in the world of poverty, would that they would go and find out.
To deny energy use to others is to deny them life, the ultimate alienation from authenticity. To what purpose?