I have always been a man of seemingly conflicting interests. I’m an engineer and scientist in my core, I appreciate the ability to be productive and useful in logical and quantifiable ways. But I have also been vigorously involved in the Arts and know that unquantifiable efforts can be productive in their own right. Every school play I could physically cram myself into I did and I have been on a few playbills in my local Fringe Festival, making my professional theatre debut in the 6th grade.
So where am I going with this? Well, it has a bit to do with all this current Green New Deal down in the US. If you live under a particularly heavy rock and are unaware of what that is, the basics are this. Pretend to be Germany until they are a bigger version of Germany. The goal is 100% renewable energy, complete refits of all infrastructure to promote energy efficiency, a vast increase of high-speed rail to replace air travel, a full build-out of a Smart-Grid electricity system, and a bunch of other non-energy related items. Its current estimate for cost is in the tens of trillions of dollars.
Now having lived in Germany, I would love to see more countries adopt high-speed rail transit as a more substantial method of travelling long continental distances. It’s relaxing, it’s pretty, there’s a bar car… But the problems I have with the GND, on the whole, is that it is trying to do everything at once. Which basically means that it will do none of them, or at best a few of them quite poorly. And this is where the engineer part of me starts coming to the fore.
You have to build a good foundation for everything else to build off of properly.
But what is foundational in the desires of the GND? What is the thing that everything else can base off of to be successful? As far as I can tell, nothing is foundational. It’s all woven together and interrelated so that you can’t do anything without at least one other thing. Politically, I can understand the reasoning for it because it prevents the attempt from getting pared down to the absolute basics. But as a method of building something functional and long lasting it’s an awful self-defeating practice.
The closest thing to a foundational desire is the transition to renewables and the smart grid together. You can’t operate a 100% renewables energy sector without a smart grid to handle the instability and constantly shifting current directions. But here’s the thing, without renewables as the primary power source, a Smart Grid is just very expensive for no reason.
A good foundation has to be able to stand on its own. Everything else that you put on top of it can be as flamboyant or ephemeral or counterintuitive as you want. If you try to build something on top of two things using each other for mutual support however, you are just asking for failure. And that is not something that should ever be allowed to be considered as an option. Especially when talking about the energy that supports the livelihood of everyone in an area, whether it is the United States or Alberta or anywhere else.
Nuclear energy is that foundation we need. You build a full fleet of nuclear energy and you have the capability, reliability and sustainability to build pretty much anything you can dream of on top of it. I know it’s boring to think about doing things one part at a time, and it feels like it isn’t quite enough. A problem as all-encompassing as climate change should require a massive effort across all sectors, shouldn’t it? We should have to revamp not only our infrastructure but our society as well to counter the crows of our past excesses that have come home to roost on us.
And here’s why I said that I had a history in theatre. Because the GND reads like someone thinks that this is a play or a movie, that the onrushing storm can be averted by a few plucky do-gooders that rally everyone behind them to save the day. It’s a heady, intoxicating narrative to tell yourself. That a gamble with the world on the line can do nothing but succeed. We feel that way because we are almost conditioned to believe that a David vs. Goliath story always works out for David.
But here’s the problem, we aren’t in a Man vs Man story, or even a Man vs. God. This is Man vs. Nature, and that’s terrifying because you cannot reason with Nature. It doesn’t care about your good intentions, your crystal energies, your history of recycling or the fact that you separate your organics, plastics, and papers. Nature is indifferent to suffering or pleasure, agony or ecstasy, life or death. Nature simply happens. All the goodwill or attempts to appease it with what we think “It” wants are worth less than sand in the wind. In our modern society, we have forgotten that nature is not a being to entreat and bargain with, but something to be survived. Something to prove to that we are worthy of living in Its world.
We Have to live with nature and are dependant on it for survival. The way we have historically tried to do it has been proved that it will kill our civilization eventually through fire or flood. So if we don’t want to have to hope that we can find a tiny cave to shelter the storm in and hope to survive then we have to build something that is capable of surviving what is coming.
We Can build a foundation to begin fixing our problems right now. We Need to build a foundation to fix our problems Right Now. But instead, we seem to want to do things the hard way, the long shot, the storybook underdog tale. And in this, both my engineering and my theatrical parts are in agreement that we cannot afford to be making things more complicated than absolutely necessary.