In 1824 the cry went out — Oh, we must be practical and do it gradually. Let's simply stop kidnapping and shipping slaves from Africa to the West Indies (the dirtiest side of the business). But Elizabeth Heyrick persevered, others joined her cause and the transformation was made rapidly and peacefully.
|What can be gradual about a leap across the divide?|
In the USA it wasn't so easy. Instead of switching to machines delivering by then kilowatts of power tirelessly, as was the case in the northern states, southern masters continued to use slaves producing 100-200 watts of power. A war ensued, entangling masters, slaves and soldiers in abject suffering, with repercussions persisting to this very day.
In like fashion the quest for fossil fuels has already led to untold suffering, entangling millions of people in violent oil wars, since World War I. In World War II, Hitler invaded Russia to conquer the Caspian Sea: "Unless we get Baku oil, the war is lost." And oil wars persist without respite.
The burning of fossil fuels is transforming the atmosphere and the oceans. The earth's atmosphere and oceans have changed before; the earth will survive. But will humans? Will we move directly now to the age of electricity? Will we continue to fight over oil? Will humanity's old friend Fire transform the atmosphere until we won't even be able to breathe?
And I can hear the cry going out — Oh, we must be practical. We must preserve our way of life. Some climate change activists will say we must avoid burning coal (the dirtiest side of the business) but burning natural gas is sorta okay.
But is that so? Who has sufficient understanding to unequivocally guarantee that humans can continue to test Mother Nature's limits without consequences?
If we follow the example of Elizabeth Heyrick's profound courage, there are only two possible futures for humanity and fossil fuels — get off or die off.
With quiet, clean, safe, low maintenance, economical renewable energy technology reaching maturity in the marketplace, it's an easy choice to make.