Recently I have begun to blog about my opinions, and whether you still have your arse attached to the rest of your body by the end of this entry is not my concern. You will be as interested as I can keep you, but that wonít deter me from saying what I want to say. It might, however, deter you from reaching the end. Itís a matter of choice.
Vive la blog!
The Answer, My Friends...
As a species, we spend energy, and we have a planet with an extensive overdraft facility.
The globe on which we have grown has reserves of energy that we are learning to use in all manner of exciting and sexy ways, pushing us faster and harder into more debt than we have ever had before. I say this because this fuel isnít something we had to begin with. We found it and weíre using it. We might not have to pay it back, but once itís gone, it is gone, and then, like hitting the end of an overdraft, weíll really be in the shit.
We have the facility to expend what we have. Students with little or no experience of money management begin to notice that spending all the time feels a little weird, as though the emergence of a reliance on spending triggers something inquisitive within us. The very frequency of expenditure raises questions about where it is all coming from, and finally panic about what to do when it all runs out. (Which was usually about the 9th week of the semester, in my own, ever-so-Ďumble experience.) As a planet weíve got very good at ignoring this instinct.
We have nuclear power. A way to get more for our money. An intensive spending plan. Call it what you will. Nuclear power has provided us with modern society, shored up and backed up by gas, coal and oil, petrol...the list goes on.
The first time I saw evidence of mankind beginning to earn its keep, I was twelve and I was on a school trip somewhere in the depths of Wales. I only saw them for a few minutes, as our minibus picked its uniquely ballistic way through the valleys, but a few white, clinical windmills turning hypnotically slowly on the hills above the road changed the way I looked at the world.
Being the kind of kid that I was, I imagined the power from them allowing someone nearby to watch Coronation Street or to have a cup of tea...the white-blue electricity speeding through wires to power everyday lives. Here was power we were generating ourselves, stepping into the natural processes of our planet, destroying nothing but making something. Later, at university, I stood beneath one of those pure white babies looking up at the spinning blades and thought outwards from it to the entirety of its sphere of influence, the power it was providing wasnít vast, but it could be improved on, and that power was clean, and that power was earned...and all without touching the overdraft.
A hypothetical forum, somewhere in the human psyche...
Reason:ďYou really have to cut back on your spending.Ē
Logic nods agreement. Indignance prods Mankind in the small of the back, whilst Fear slinks around at the back of the room with his hands over his ears.
Mankind: ďI donít see why I should have to do that.Ē
The challenge in front of the world is to start fending for itself, to steel itself to the reality of the situation and wean itself off the overdraft.
This can happen one of two ways...
1. The Reality Check
Firstly, there could be widespread recognition of the situation that we are in, as the peoples of the world. This wonderful energy is not infinite, our global society cannot stay this way forever, and this world is not as comfortable as we would like to believe. We are a mollycoddled society, used to instant power, instant light, and our wonderfully comfortable infrastructure. This first option would have to involve a solemn international announcement that change is needed, energy needs to be saved, that we all need to ration our energy use and finally be responsible. It would be the same horrible feeling when you realise your money has almost run out, but on a worldwide scale. You just canít live in that casual, unconcerned way any more.
Such an announcement certainly wouldnít please the masses.
When leaders only lead if the people are pleased, making this call would be political suicide.
2. Donít Worry About It, Theyíll Sort It Out
The second path, the only alternative, is that science and technology, the wonderchildren of modern society, will have to pull new toys out of the hat so that an energy surplus is produced and the wider society never notices, never knows, never has to worry its comfortable little head about it.
Iíd be first in line to say wind power looks good, but it canít be the ultimate answer. Wind doesnít blow all the time. If you have a million windmills and you need to double your production, what do you do? Double the number of windmills? Isnít this all too much like doing maths on our fingers?
Donít worry. Science and technology...they can do wonderful things nowadays.
The only practical option is the first...but the option most likely to be taken, in this society of ours, is the second.
And itís one hell of a gamble.
...the answer, my friends...
I chose my degree at university with a strong mind to getting into wind power. It was a growth industry when I chose my GCSEs, when I chose my A-levels, and when I chose my degree - and I wanted in.
I graduated in perfect time to see the expected explosive growth in wind power take place, and in a few years Iíll be uniquely placed to enter the industry if I choose.
In that first year at Warwick I told people I was doing a degree in Saving The World.
I was an arrogant cock but for some reason I still made friends.
Now I can see that wind power might merely be a step on the path towards a way of running the planet that will echo the principles that todayís Green Engineering gives us.
What it might be, I donít know, and how we as a planet will get there, well, I donít know that either.
What I do know is that taking these industries seriously, taking responsibility for ourselves, acknowledging the importance of energy in our society, and the absolute necessity of its generation (not refusing to have windmills near your house or 20 miles over the sea horizon just because you feel it should be dealt with somewhere else)...all of these qualities are valuable steps towards a mankind that is prepared to face up to the problem wholesale and demolish it. It might not be the ultimate practical step, but it is part of the way, and as a generator of future social and psychological change on a global scale, wind power is invaluable.