Friday, January 14, 2011

Regaining Paradise

: Towards a Fossil Fuel Free Society

T. Vijayendra

The only possible paradise that we know for real is Planet Earth. The Human species started the process of losing it by exploiting their own kind and exploiting nature. The former being conspicuous, met with dissent from time to time. The accumulated scars of the latter began to appear only in the last couple of centuries. Presently, the extent and intensity of the phenomenon is such that it now endangers all life on earth.

This book is about regaining this paradise. Hence it is about ending exploitation of man by man and exploitation of nature by man. The two being inseparable, neither can be achieved in isolation.

This book is about humility. It is about humility to accept we are part of all forms that belong here; to accept coexistence; to accept that science is not meant to conquer nature or exploit it, but can only assist us to live in harmony with nature by accepting and adapting to her ways.

This book is about struggles. It is about struggles to stop the exploitation of man and of nature.

And finally this book is about rebuilding communities. Being a social species, our survival is dependent on cooperation. This is possible only when there is individual freedom and mutual respect.


The world is going through a major crisis. Many have called it the biggest crisis after the 1929 depression. Several factors have come together to herald this crisis.

First is environment degradation, which has now reached a crisis point in the shape of global warming. Every one agrees that it is a very serious crisis. If carbon emissions continue at present levels, then a time will come when the tipping point will occur. That is, reversals will not be possible and global warming itself will create more global warming. No one knows when such a point may be reached. Some say it has already occurred; some give it 10, 20, 50 or 100 years.

The second factor is peak oil, peak gas and peaking of several mineral resources. Peaking means that after the particular point has been reached, production will only keep on falling. The reason being, there is only a finite quantity of these minerals and when half of it is taken out, the production starts falling. Often because, the cost of extracting from leftover, lower grade, remnant sources, is much higher in terms of energy and money.

The third is the economic crisis which began in the U.S.A. with the housing crisis in September 2007. It culminated in the financial melt down of September 2008.

Broadly, there is no disagreement on the above facts. The differences are in the responses. The response of the government and the ruling class follow a particular trend. Primarily all these crises are not considered together. Each is treated separately. The financial crisis is tackled by a bail out kind of response. Global warming is treated by international agreements of reducing emissions. The response to peak oil and peak gas is to opt for coal and nuclear energy, supplemented by alternatives like solar, wind, bio fuel etc.

Most people are aware of the different aspects of this crisis in a piecemeal manner. Thus for the economic crisis, people seek job security. They hope that these international agreements will manage to tackle global warming. While many oppose coal and nuclear based energy sources, they all hope that either alternative like solar, wind etc. will happen or some new technological innovation will solve the entire problem.

This book addresses these issues in a different manner. One cannot rule out the possibility that this approach is wrong; that any of the above approaches may prove right; or that, the future being unpredictable, problems may be addressed in an altogether new manner.

All the same, based on study and concern for the future, this book outlines a different approach. First, in the opinion of the author, this is the most unprecedented crisis in human history.

For the last 10,000 years or so, human society has experienced an increase in available energy through technological innovations and exploitation of man by man and exploitation of nature. This energy availability kept on increasing. And, in the last 200 years of industrial revolution it has increased enormously. The author believes that for the first time in human history we will face a decrease in available energy.

Realistically speaking, one cannot estimate when exactly, global warming will reach its tipping point. Peak oil and the related economic crisis may actually reduce emission. It is possible that global warming will be arrested; even though effects of the past “warming” will continue to create problems. The real solution then will be to learn to live with reduced levels of energy.

There are two kinds of challenges involved. Society cannot go back in time from its modern or present sensibilities. The challenge is how to have a modern society with reduced energy. A fossil fuel free society implies a drastic reduction of available energy use for mankind. It makes the present social system of capitalism unviable; not implying we go back to Stone Age! More than half the energy used in the present system is irrational. The war industry, tobacco, narcotics, alcohol, much of the medical industry, a large portion of the finance industry, bureaucracy etc are totally unnecessary. The alternative sources of energy would be sufficient for this reduced need of energy. It could still allow for man to live comfortably with modern sensibilities.

The second and more immediate problem is that the ruling classes are not going to give up voluntarily. People all over the world are struggling to save their livelihood, land, water and air from the sharks of the industry. The agents of change, therefore, will be organised people who are carrying out these struggles. People will not agree to a solution where in they continue to be poor, oppressed and exploited.

So the final solution may lie in reduced and equitable access to energy for all. Finally, human society has encroached on nature much beyond its share at the cost of other living beings. Human society will have to restore these resources so that all forms of life can survive. Otherwise, human society itself will not survive.

This book is in three parts. The first, ‘The party is over’ describes the nature of the problem; the second, ‘Where do we want to go?’ describes a vision of the future; and the third is, ‘What then should we do?’ In it the strategy proposed is: 1. Halt the juggernaut of dying capitalism - coal based power plants, huge hydro-power plants, sponge iron plants, new mining leases etc. This can be done only through local people's organisations. 2. Build regional coalitions of people's organisation to plan and build a new society. To begin with, work towards assured alternative fossil fuel free livelihoods for every one.

The objective of the book is primarily to provide educational material for activists and non-professionals. The book puts forward the views and action plans in a straightforward, simple and cogent form, without meandering into academic debates. While I checked with professional colleagues that no gross error has occurred in the data presented I have avoided giving references. The references provided at the end of the book are more in the nature of resources.

About the Author

T. Vijayendra (1943- ) is a B. Tech. (Electronics) from I.I.T. Kharagpur (1966). Over the past four decades, his work with the trade union movements, alternative journalism, libraries, bookshops, publishing, socio-political research, health, education, and environment have given him unique insights into India’s people and problems. His writings directed towards activist education are published regularly in the weekly journal Frontier. He lives on an organic farm in the Western Ghats.

More books by the author

The Losers Shall Inherit the World, 2009, English

1 comment:

  1. Great post....Conserve the Natural Resources and Support the Eco System .
    So we need environmental services and pollution control management for protect and keep clean the environment.