Monument to Saint Francis of Assisi at source of Sao Francisco River in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Laudato Si’, considered by environmentalists all around the world as the “Green Encyclical, has become a work read by Christians and non-Christians alike in all corners of the world. In it, Pope Francis calls on us all to take care of our “Common Home” and all that exists in it.
In his call, the Pope reaffirms that the planet is a common good that must be preserved and guarded. Therefore, it is our duty to refrain from any human activity that may degrade, pollute or pose any kind of threat or risk to our planet and those who inhabit it.
'Laudato Si’ also presents a strong and persisting plea for a shift towards a new energy and development model, leaving fossil fuels behind. Since these energy sources are responsible for the highest emissions of greenhouse gases, they pollute, render climate changes more intense, bring on diseases, and kill.
It is important to remember that, at the beginning of Creation, an organic relationship between all living beings was established. All that exists is connected and coexists in a sustainable and wholesome manner. However, by choosing dirty energy sources such as fossil fuels, which leave trails of destruction behind them, we disconnect ourselves from our surroundings and ignore the harm they may cause us and to our fellow creatures.
"It is our duty to refrain from any human activity that may degrade, pollute or pose any kind of threat or risk to our planet and those who inhabit it."
We could be asking ourselves: “When did we lose this universal communion connecting all life forms?” But I believe the question which we should find an answer to now is: “What can we do?” Or rather: “What must we do to recover this integral communion that is currently lost?”
Laudato Si’ points out an alternative when affirming, in paragraphs 13 and 14, that renewable energies would pave the way for a sustainable, integral development, and enable us preserve the earth’s equilibrium. He also states that all of us can collaborate, by each using our own experiences, cultures, initiatives, and abilities.
Today's world calls for new attitudes, new ways of life - more responsible, aware, and egalitarian. We need more communion and more dialogue. By affecting us regardless of political, territorial, racial, ethnic and religious boundaries, climate change unites the world through shared suffering. In order to fight it, we need to keep united and to transform this union into an action that is collective, global, and shared, involving all strata of society all around the world.
A few months ago, a group of renowned scientists sounded the alert that, if greenhouse gases emissions do not start declining by 2020, it might be too late for humanity to meet the climatic goals set in the Paris Agreement, which seek to limit the increase in global temperature to less than 2ºC compared to pre-industrial levels.
This signifies we have only three years before it is too late to save the planet from the most dire effects of global warming, which would prove even more severe than the ones we have been experiencing lately. If we do not act, unpredictable climate changes may cause devastating impacts such as rising sea levels, which would ruin crops all around the world and have disastrous consequences for the most populated regions of the globe, such as coastal regions.
Initiatives seeking to free society from the indoctrination of consumer culture and of profit “at all costs”, which have been severely affecting our Common Home, are indispensable. The economic model based on the intensive use of coal, oil, and gas that, which is in the center of the global energy system, threatens the survival of our planet and its populations.
By seeking to change that today—October 4th, 2016, St. Francis of Assisi’s Day—the Diocese of Umuarama, in the Brazilian State of Paraná, became the first episcopacy diocese and the first Latin American institution to join the global campaign to divest from fossil fuels.
"The economic model based on the intensive use of coal, oil, and gas that, which is in the center of the global energy system, threatens the survival of our planet and its populations."
This has been the biggest collective announcement made by the religious community so far. Today, a year later, more than 20 institutions in four countries have joined the call to divest. This illustrates the strength of our movement, which has already divested more than US$ 5,2 trillion from investments in fossil fuels all around the world.
Through peaceful and conscious mobilizations, we have gone down the path of fighting the exploitative practices that threaten life and the common good. We promote a low-carbon agenda that allows us to create an awareness of a new energy economy based on clean, just and free sources, that are available to everyone.
On this October 4th, 2017, I beg the patron of ecology and ecologists, who is also my patron, to intercede for us, so we can keep strong in this arduous path toward eternity. “Praised be the Lord.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don João Mamede Filho is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocesis of Umuarama, a member of the Workgroup of Church and Mining of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), and a partner of 350.org and of COESUS - No Fracking Coalition for the Climate, Water and Life - in the campaign against fracking and against fossil fuels in Latin America.
The Future of Renewable Energy
Originally published by
Feasta, 2 October 2017
under a Creative Commons License
Trying to build an electrical energy system mainly with wind and solar that would be able to meet the demand for electricity at all times as we have now is a futile endeavour. It would be way too expensive in money, resources and energy. We must get used to the idea of using electricity only when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.
I’ve been reflecting on the idea that the current energy system is starting to be swept along by a technological revolution somewhat akin to the “revolution” over the last 30 years in computers and telecommunications that has brought personal computers, mobile phones and the internet. Read some of the literature of techno-optimists and it is very common to suggest that Moore’s Law – the doubling of processing power on computers every year – provides an analogue for the sort of change that will apply in renewable energy systems – if only the politicians and carbon vested interest do not get in the way. In support of this idea people commonly point to the rapidity with which renewable systems like solar and wind have developed so far. The main thing is that the political support should be there…
I 60% agree but have severe reservations with carrying the analogy too far. There are some real differences that make the two “revolutions” largely non-comparable:
(1) The digital revolution has brought us many new products that do things we couldn’t do before – computers, mobile phones, the internet. That makes it attractive to people and companies and has sped adoption. The energy revolution does not bring new final end products – the end products are electricity (and heat and motion) which we already had. What it brings are many new ways of generating electricity (and heating and moving things).
(2) To pay for the energy revolution people must pay once for the new technology that generates the energy source (mostly as electricity) and once for products that are adapted to this new energy source (eg a petrol or diesel car to an electric car) – and perhaps a third time for the back up or storage to cope with intermittency in the renewable power source.
(3) To supply electricity, heat and motion reliably and at demand will be incredibly expensive – there are good reasons to believe that current cost reductions in the energy generation arrangements for wind and solar will not be sustained when the fossil fuel back up (ie natural gas power stations ) that is the current back up have to be replaced by renewable energy back ups or energy storage infrastructures. In other words it will get more difficult over time when fossil fuel back up has to be closed down.
(4) Over the decades while the digital economy was being developed household, corporate and government debt started out much lower and has grown massively. At the start of the energy technology revolution the economy is maxed out on debt which is only sustainable with very low interest rates. Rising interest rates are not going to make it easy to fund the capital/equipment costs of a new technological revolution.
(5) Over the last few decades conventional oil production has peaked and depletion in coal and gas, as well as a variety of minerals that will be needed for another technological revolution are becoming more costly to extract because they are in depletion too, with lower ore quality being tapped. Depletion in the oil and natural gas sector are driving that sector into bankruptcy because the sector cannot recoup its rising costs from rising prices – a stagnant economy cannot charge rising energy prices without crashing the economy. Developing a new energy system takes energy – a renewables infrastructure is first of all dependent on fossil fuel based energy to build it and if the fossil fuel industry is in trouble at an early stage in the development of a renewable system that is going to be a serious problem.
All these things can be summarised as saying that the digital revolution occurred while the global economy still had expansion capacity. It had not yet reached the limits to economic growth – although for some time now the global economy has been in overshoot and running down resources and “natural capital” (I do not like the term, however I use it here as a shorthand).
The energy revolution has to be made in totally different and much more difficult times – while the global economy is in retreat. It will be difficult to bring a new energy sector into existence when the economy is stagnant and people will struggle to afford expensive innovation. Paradoxically in these circumstances it is likely to be many older technologies that will make sense again – perhaps in a reworked form. That is what makes the work of Kris de Decker written up in the Low Technology Magazine and its companion, the No Technology Magazine so important – rediscovering a multitude of solutions from history.
Below are links to two fantastic articles written by Kris de Decker in Low Technology Magazine – well researched, clear and easy to understand and full of relevant technical data.
What they show is that trying to build an electrical energy system mainly with wind and solar that would be able to meet the demand for electricity at all times as we have now is a futile endeavour. It would be way too expensive in money, resources and energy. We must get used to the idea of using electricity only when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing (enough).
In practical terms that means that
“…. if the UK would accept electricity shortages for 65 days a year, it could be powered by a 100% renewable power grid (solar, wind, wave & tidal power) without the need for energy storage, a backup capacity of fossil fuel power plants, or a large overcapacity of power generators.”
I dare say a similar conclusion would be drawn for Ireland.
The second article develops in moder detail the idea of running the economy on renewables when the energy is there and is an important compliment to the first article.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Davey trained as an economist but, aside from a brief spell working in eastern Germany showing how to do community development work, has spent most of his life working in the community and voluntary sector in Nottingham particularly in health promotion, mental health and environmental fields. He helped form Ecoworks, a community garden and environmental project for people with mental health problems. He is a member of Feasta Climate Working Group and former co-ordinator of the Cap and Share Campaign. He is editor of the Feasta book Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society, and the author of Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis.