Ever since the run up to Copenhagen, I have been intrigued by the degree to which those who seem to care about the climate have seemed to be oblivious to the madness that has spoiled it. The madness to which I refer is the fact that a meta-challenge underpinning the havoc we’re wreaking on the environment is our terribly unimaginative view of efficiency. We use electricity because our appliances require it. We don’t stop to ask whether taking a fuel from the ground or sky and using it to heat water to create a pressure gradient to drive a turbine to put a variable charge into a copper wire to run over great distances to get to our homes so that we can use a compressor to create a pressure gradient so that we can chill our beverage makes as much sense as our consensus illusion wishes it would. We don’t ask how much copper has to mined from how many lands dispossessing how many people so that we can have a more efficient power grid that reduces carbon emissions by 20%. We don’t consider whether Prometheus’ theft of fire means that we always need combustion for locomotion.
While we continue to focus on climate change and CO2, we are missing the elephant in the room. Our commitment to electricity (an addiction that goes unspoken) is something that not only leads to the pollution problems we have, but is the “drug trade” that supports resource extraction, capital market inefficiency and a host of other ills. In the graphic below, you see that based on mechanical inefficiency ALONE, just to run a refrigerator, we have to over-supply 188% of the power requirement just to get to the outlet to run the compressor.
And this analysis pays NO attention to the fact that the steel, water or land contamination, water use, transmission metals (copper, etc) all are MISSING from this equation. If we didn’t have our copper addiction (the syringe for our electricity heroin), the South American, Mongolian, Chinese, North American and African environmental carnage would be defused. Our best estimates (when we include land, water, metals, etc.) suggest that a refrigerator actually requires over 500% energy inefficiency which could be largely deconstructed if we engineered devices which create mechanical compressing functions rather than running an electric compressor. In short, by asking the wrong question and diagnosing the wrong disease, we wind up frustrated in solutions which don’t achieve their objectives.
Second, the analysis above masks the fact that the 500% inefficiency supplies the “investment” inventory for those who promote debt and equity models – both of which lead to resource asymmetry and injustice. Think about it. If we didn’t support the metals and fossil fuel (commodity), the refining, shipping (equity and private debt resulting in over 30% of the S&P value), transmission and utilities (public debt and equity), we wouldn’t have much of the frictional resource waste of capital but we’d also have resource abundance to distribute in other fashion. So when we suggest “climate equity, bonds, or other structures” what we’re really saying is that we will replace the idol of production or consumption, but we’ll leave the inefficiencies (actual and capital) unaddressed. In short, unless we confront the currency of the drug trade, we’ll just be swapping dose but the addiction and resulting injustice will flourish.
Therefore, we need to consider whether we can “solve” anything if we ignore the inventory / supply of capital products which make mandatory the preservation of obsolescence avoidance behaviors which destroy the environment. We need to engage in a dialogue about the degree to which promoting bonds, equity, tax-credits, etc, simply replaces one dealer for another. In an interest to elevate our dialogue around a change of climate of our consciousness, should we consider modes of value creation which are linked to incentivizing fruitful production with a warm embrace to obsolescence in favor of our compromise capital systems which preserve incumbencies of injustice and scarcity? If not, our addiction and the consequence thereof remains unaltered.
And when we consider that our electricity addiction is a symptom of a deeper condition – an illusion of the control of “power” in a world from which we’ve detached ourselves from the empowerment of a unified ecosystem of living dynamism – we realize that the 60Hz hum is a mantra that simply drowns out deeper contemplation. In my next post, I’ll suggest a few ideas about trust, fear and risk which live at the heart of the illusion. So, stay tuned…
The Following is a Comment by Jan de Dood and was too big for the Comment field...
This weekend I had some time to think about the document which David attached in his invitation to the Dialogue about “The Elephant in the room” or Electricity addiction. I must say that I was aware that we were not very efficient in many ways, but had not seen this kind of figures before and it is quite eye-opening. Looking at the pictures that were in the document, especially the one called The Cost of Our Electricity Addiction, I tried to place it in the context of my thoughts about the transformation of the world we are living in. Although this can be already known by some of you in one way or another, I feel I have to share this with you.
First a short introduction of myself to give you some context of my remarks:
As some of you may know I am a risk manager within the financial world and a kind of Philosopher/thinker when it is concerning the Transformation and Future of our world. My work as a risk manager is done within the Rabobank, the cooperative bank based in the Netherlands. My function is Head of Risk Management for the Private banking division. My activities on the transformational issues have led to the publishing of a book, written in cooperation with a friend of my: Marieke de Vrij. The book is titled “ The Future of a Truly Stable Economic Order” (you can find more information at www.dedood.nu in the English section). At this moment I am mainly focused on transforming the Rabobank from within, and with that trying to influence the Dutch financial institutes and regulators. A long and lonesome road sometimes, but progress is (slowly) being made.
A short overview of my thoughts.
Crisis, what crisis?
Looking at the world today, we are faced with a lot of so called crises. There are five big crises where we focus on: a water crisis, a food crisis, an energy crisis, a financial crisis and a climate crisis. When we take a closer look at these five crises we can see that there is not only a connection between these crises, but there is also an order. This order is connected with the evolution of humankind.
The water crisis: Water is the basic element of life. Having a crisis here means humankind faces a crisis in the basis of its existence.
The food crisis: Food refers to maintenance and growth. Humankind faces a crisis in the ability to growth further in terms of evolution.
The energy crisis: Energy stands for dynamics and creativity. After humankind took the first two steps in its evolution it became creative in designing its way of live and existence. We now face the crisis of being the opposite. It looks like we are (not you ; ), but in general) not capable in bringing in new ways of living or working that can really change the world. We stick to the old paradigm.
The financial crisis: Finance and economies are about structure. After the process of creativity humankind felt the need for structure to keep pace with the processes and developments that this creativity had initialized. Now we see that we are not “in control” (quite a financial term isn´t it!) anymore. This is not only the case in financial structures, but also with social, political, ecological structures etc.
Then finally we face the climate crisis: Climate is about systems. We exist, we grow, we are creative, we create structure and then humankind became a system. And now we have a systemic humankind crisis.
In one of my essays, I called the overall crisis “the sixth crisis or the Consciousness crisis”. Humankind is at the end of an evolutionary step, and must be made ready to take the next step. This can only be accomplished if we are aware of what is going on and if we have an appropriate level of consciousness. All the mentioned five crises will attribute to the development of this consciousness.
So far the crises.
During the above mentioned process of developing consciousness there are two things very important. First we have to make visible what does not make sense, is weird, rare or whatever in the context of the way humankind is existing and has organized itself. By doing this we can make people think and get ready for the paradigm shift that humankind needs. Secondly, those who see the challenges in the current system and have the right mindset have to think about possible solutions, ways of doing things different or simply stop certain activities or change there attitude. This is necessary because when me make the transformation, we have to redecorate our social, ecological, economical system etc. (and we need new leaders!)
Going back to the Electricity addiction topic, it is certainly something that for many people (like me) is an eye-opener and something that does not make sense. And it indeed makes even lesser sense when we include land, water, metals etc. So it certainly fits with the things mentioned above and by bringing this in the open, it can make a big contribution to the change in consciousness.
The more challenging part is to look for a solution of this “drug trade”. I will make some comments on this hereafter, but of course this is only one possible direction of thinking.
When you see the process in the document David sent to us, you see a path from the oil platform to the refrigerator. The costs of this process are very divers, and even without the mentioned figures one can imagine that it is a very costly process. The reasons why this is so costly are also divers: we see a lot of processes to change the basic materials (oil and metals) to a new product. I am not a engineer, but I assume that in such a process you will have a waste of the original product and a waste and/or pollution of the sources you use to keep the process going (land, water, air, metals, minerals etc.). Furthermore we have a lot of transport costs.
When we are looking for a solution we can look to make the current process more efficient. This is a start, but it does not solve the real problem. It only mitigates it. I think it is quite clear that the solution can be found in reducing the pollution, material waste and the transport costs. This mean that we have to make the process of producing electricity more efficient by introducing new methods of producing. These methods must be more direct in terms of a simple process (maybe like solar, wind or gravitational energy) with as less waste and pollution as possible and we must combine this with the will and ability to produce the energy in the neighborhood of the user.
This sounds simple, but I know it is not. It means we have to rethink the way we organized our society. This is not only necessary in the context of the topic of our dialogue, but also in terms of risk management. We have to reorganize the way we build systems and the way we connect these systems via structures . We need a more robust system to a) cope with the current and coming crises as a result of the transformation process and b) to have a solid basis to build a new world on. As I wrote in my book:
“The processes and developments stated above indicate that we have created an unmanageable and uncontrollable world full of uncertainties. A world full of high risks, due to the direct unsustainable connections and the intercorrelation between all (sub)systems. However, man wants to be in control, feel secure and enjoy life. This can be achieved by splitting up the large systems into many smaller systems. A problem in a controlled environment with limited external influences (whether internal or external) is more easily recognised, is usually less complex and is therefore easier to solve. To solve the problem of leverage, we must create smaller units, ending up with a sort of cell structure.
As already stated, deglobalization is on the rise. Countries will operate more independently, societies will become more communal, and nature will be spared more, and abused less.
The cell structure system enables the mutual connectivity of the cells. But these connections are sustainable and strong. Each cell, each structure and each system employs its qualities for the benefit of others. Not for monetary profits or reward, but on the basis of appreciation and mutual trust. None of this represents a step backwards. Although we have been talking about the disintegration of old structures, the new structures are being assembled at a higher level of consciousness and developed into the next phase of renewal.
Money will again become a means of exchange and not something against which we assess our personal value. We will become human again.” (From: "The Future of a Truly Stable Economic Order by Jan de Dood and Marieke de Vrij)
Having written my first thoughts on this issue it is clear to me that it is an important issue on at least two levels. First because of the fact that it is producing a lot of waste and pollution that is affecting our environment in a not preferable way, and secondly because addressing this problem can help us to create more consciousness in this highly complex transformation we are going through as humankind.
Warmest regards, Jan