Editor and Contributor
Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans” is an excellent example of a climate movement’s problems: the film traffics in superficial misinformation, limited vision, and capitalist intrusions. It never mentions that fossil fuels likely have a life span in the low hundreds of years, while renewables’ resource base is billions. Not to say that fossil fuels would lead to abandoning our coastal cities. Fossil fuels are not an option; our creativity needs to be focused on needed change in energy and society. The film suggests overpopulation is a problem, while trends suggest developed countries’ populations are decreasing and others are increasing. The human population is expected to peak this century and then start to decline.
Most of us are not fully aware of how capitalism has influenced our world views and allows extreme inequality. The film does imply there may be other options but fails to explore them. Other variables can facilitate success for renewables. Do we need McMansions, inequality, or cities that require long commutes?
The film does suggest that the left has focused on political issues, but not in-depth enough to block the manipulations from corporations and the right. The right has been mischaracterizing renewables for a long time. The firms that are implementing renewables are mainly utilities with traditional capitalist views and intent on keeping their business model while going renewable sometime. That model has been based on moving energy hundreds of miles and misses opportunities for local use and governance. State and other government offices are likely to be more people-focused, but may not always see the opportunity to innovate a renewable future and create jobs.
The film repeatedly suggests fossil fuels must assist in the transition to renewable energy. The charade that renewables will not work because the sun and wind are not constant is purposeful ignorance to suppress solar-based resources. There are many energy sources and forms of storage. These capabilities include dams, pumped storage, batteries, networked electric cars, hydrogen technologies, water freezing transitions, flywheels, compressed air, gravity, thermal storage, and others yet to be realized. All of the techniques can be coordinated regionally by grids and locally by microgrids. The left needs to know the renewable tech and more about microgrids, not only as a way to replace fossil fuels but as a means for local self-reliance and governance. Knowing tech capabilities helps you see and plan the future. The film quotes many who are not letting their mind explore all of life’s variables.
However, we must admit that not all renewable solutions are well-developed and commercial. We are in a transition period, and some people ‘s minds are on what they know now and not on what needs to transition. Many working in renewables focus on expanding their companies’ direction, but not beneficial social transitions.
The left does not seem to be nudging members into renewable tech jobs, but politics and needed social areas. Our allies are suffering and need help, but we also need left politicians, members, city managers, and tech workers to understand all the possible social and technical possibilities. We need Science and Tech for the People!
We also need to step back and see how capitalism’s culture has limited our vision. Capitalism views time in the present day’s profits and has difficulty understanding the mid or long term. The Egyptians and the Chinese have built structures that can last thousands of years. In the middle ages, the Europeans thought nothing of taking centuries to build cathedrals. One presenter states that windmills last only two decades and must be backed up by fossil fuels. Is this the end of the discussion? Purposeful ignorance is not education. The resource base for renewables is maybe a billion years, and our products do not have to have planned obsolescence. Capitalist culture’s limits could push me to recommend we only let astrophysicists be president, so we get long-term solutions.
The film also misses the advantage of renewables sustainability. The Rocky Mountain Institute is aiding the Bahamas to go renewable because it is less costly. Hurricanes can put an island out of business for more than a year, while renewables recover in weeks or less. Climate change has shown fossil fuels unsustainable in the Caribbean. The more impoverished Caribbean islands may become renewable faster than more prosperous North America.
Moore does point out tricks played on us, such as biomass as renewables. A new Virginia climate law lists biomass as a renewable resource. That is true, but its burning releases CO2. The environmental movement will have to use new terms like “pollution-less energy.” Moore’s point (known or not) is that the profiteers try to mislead our society. The rich are using new tools to manage us (internet lies) as well as old tools such as owning media, racism, manipulation, and the disillusionment of poverty. However, the rich have not proved to be the essential workers designing and doing the work.