What hopes do ‘we’ have for the future? What choices do we think we will have to make, or perhaps seek to avoid? What do our old hopes tell us about our new fears?
All good questions, which I can’t really answer particularly well, until I’ve had a longer think/looting of other people’s thoughts. But while failing, I will at least be able to share some interesting images I’ve stumbled across over the last few days, that come with words like energy, community, coal and so on. They’re from 1978, 1992 and 2007; from just before neoliberalism properly took hold, from the beginning of its long peak and from the year before it should have imploded but didn’t…
First up; during his talk on Tuesday night, Dr Mark Diesendorf alluded to a conference he helped organise in Canberra in 1978, called ‘Energy and People’ (for a fascinating personal history of Australian wind power research, see here). By coincidence, the following day I stumbled across a copy of the book that emerged from it, and scanned the cover.
So, on the left, low-rise and co-operative. On the right, autogeddon. The war over whether our cities would have streets (for pedestrians, play) or roads (for cars) has been going on for a long time. Battles are won and lost. Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide accumulates….
Next up, the 1992 Australian Coal Association Conference. The cover is a fairly crude ‘we’re one of you’ bid, about which not much more needs to be said perhaps. Oh, alright – this – White family, man in charge (it’s only natural), and none of them has any asthma or health issues. Oh, and ‘Community’ is a hard-working word…
Next up, from that same conference, from a presentation by Tamio Kawamata on ‘New Coal Technologies – How Critical in Ensuring Coal’s Acceptability’, here is one of the first images from an actual coal industry publication that I’ve found of what carbon capture and storage might look like.
So, we’re at the stage of ‘yes, there are serious problems with capital accumulation – insofar as it causes carbon accumulation, but Our Technology Can Solve It.’ This is classic ‘you don’t have to make a choice’ stuff, for a future that has been sold off, and folks atomised, aka ‘ecological modernisation‘.
That logic continued through the 1990s, with its soothing platitudes. By 2007, in Australia at least, climate change rose (back) up the political agenda, for a host of reasons, to do with state-level action, prolonged drought, international events (Al Gore, the IPCC, the Stern Review, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme), and the Labor oppositions’s use of climate as a stick to beat the incumbent Prime Minister with in the run up to the November election. It’s in this context that the ‘Your Eco Handbook’, published by the closest that Australian mainstream print media has to reasonable journalism – the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald – should be read.
The final image here contains one of the hardest-working words in the English language – ‘balance.’
We know there are problems. We know that all the previous promises of technological resolution (if not revolution) have not worked. But we can do Our Bit (since collective solutions are dead), and intone the magic incantations. And she’ll be ‘right’ mate. Except ‘she’ won’t.
Damn glad I am in my mid-40s, not my mid-20s…