Sustainability in Progress: Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

Yesterday it was announced that 22 renewable energy plants will be built in Europe, generating 2.2 gigawatts. This will serve a million households. To achieve the same wattage with legacy power generation would take 1.4 billion tonnes of burning coal.

But if you have a picture in your head of a coal mountain when you read of such a huge tonnage, rather imagine a toxic fog of monstrous proportions blanketing Europe. Then take your imagination for a walk, and picture children, lots of them, developing chronic, lifelong breathing disabilities. I use the word lifelong guardedly; what I really mean is, for however long their shortened lives will last.

What a tribute to industrial progress! Sulphur Dioxides. Nitrogen Oxides, our old friend Carbon Dioxide and a smorgasbord of other poisonous particulates lurking around, waiting for a host.

Europe Accelerates

Well, thanks to the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, the European Investment Bank and REPowerEU (the commission formed to end European dependence on Russian fossil fuels), none of the above will happen. This is real sustainability in progress.

This is great news; the generational value of this plan is, well, it’s incalculable.

China Stalls

But meanwhile, halfway across the world, there are forecasts of a higher demand for petroleum in China, even after consumption cruised past the 15 million barrels a day mark in March. 15 million barrels equals 160 million litres of crude oil. A day. That works out to over 160 million litres of petrol. A day. And that works out 368 kg of carbon dioxide. A day.

Not only that, but the darndest thing is happening to the price of crude oil. It’s coming down (excuse me while I race to the gas station to fill up). This is despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement that they are reducing their output of crude by one million barrels, you guessed it, a day.

Everything you’ve read here about Europe’s sustainability momentum and China’s sustainability inertia, you’re read before. This is definitely not sustainability in progress.

But because these two instances were reported on the same day, and I happened to read them one after the other, I couldn’t help but mourn the fact that the world just isn’t in sync about sustainability. And all indications point to it never being that way. No matter how giant the leaps one community makes in sustainability measures, another community just reinforces the concrete encasing their feet.

Inevitable Conclusion

After the birth of my son, I became convinced that the strongest drive in humankind was not self-preservation, but the preservation of progeny. I’m now starting to believe I was wrong. And terribly naïve.

Humankind’s strongest driving force is obviously self-interest.

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