Thursday, November 29, 2007

say no to no

A small oil company logo on the front of a leaflet with a picture of a green tree against a blue sky.

It can't go well, can it? The level of insult to our intelligence is already off the scale before we open the fucking thing.

But then there's the slogan, 'Real Energy Solutions for the Real World'. That really offensive use of 'real', like when people use 'realpolitik' in a non-perjorative sense. If you don't agree with Shell, you're not living in The Real World. More, what they present is not a decoy or greenwash but a Real Solution.

Shell's 'Real Energy Solutions' leaflet

Over at the associated website, you can watch the short film 'Eureka!' which is, ahem, 'inspired by' real events. Like around a third of movies, it has cows in it.

It basically runs like this: Shell engineer rebuffs his son's criticism of his dad's work by explaining that without oil we could have no cans of fizzy drinks. Son becomes proud of father who invents a way to drill previously inaccessible oil reserves, oil that would - they really do say this - otherwise 'go to waste'.

Message: if you keep wanting cheap oil, we'll keep supplying it.

A few months ago DVD copies were shamefully given away with Wired and The Guardian, two publications who undoubtedly know better.

Back on the leaflet, there's a reproduction of their Say No To No advert.

Shell's Say No To no advert

Yes, some test cars are driving around on biofuel made from straw. But all the straw in the world can't fuel even a serious fraction of our vehicle fleet. The only solutions have to involve serious cutbacks in transportation itself.

Now that there's real and vocal concern over climate change, the oil companies cannot deny it. So they shoot off these decoys. 'Yes, it is a problem, but we'll have it fixed for you soon with something that can't work, so keep on burning the stuff'.

To borrow a metaphor from Johann Hari, it's 'like telling an alcoholic that he doesn't need to quit drinking, because in a few years you'll give him a liver transplant with a few rusty old knives you found in your garage'.

In the real real world, there's a finite amount of resources, so we can't keep hoping to have an ever-increasing amount of raw materials. In the real real world, much as all of us love the comforts of the hydrocarbon age, we now know we need to cut our consumption right back as a matter of life and death urgency.

People who are campaigning for a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 are commonly told that it's impossible. Yet it is nothing of the sort. It is entirely possible. It requires no new technology, just a reorganisation of what we have.

They get told it's impractical. Yet it is merely what the science demands of us. If you think a swift move to a low-carbon economy would be socially disruptive, you're not understanding the results of a continued high-carbon economy.

The problem we face is not technological but psychological. The odds are mightily stacked against us. But if we don't try, we will never know what would've been possible.

Probably the greatest catastrophe to hit humanity is still - just - largely avoidable. But we won't stop it because, what, it isn't profitable under systems built before this knowledge was understood? It's not comfortable to the people who made the mess in the first place?

The solutions are in our hands. Can we do it?

Yes, yes, yes.

What does it take to turn no into yes?

Curiosity. An open mind. A willingness to take risks. And, when the problem seems most insoluble, when the challenge is hardest, when everyone else is shaking their heads, to say: let's go.

Overthrowing the consumer-capitalist model and the dominance of the oil companies; real energy solutions for the real world.

1 comment:

Paul said...

"Like around a third of movies, it has cows in it." Cows are useful to the energy industry in many ways.

They can blame cow farts for climate change. The market solution is to sell big rubber bungs to farmers. The scientific/industrial approach is to create genetic mutant cows with shorted intestines.

You can turn dead cows into biofuel. This also works with Jews. Certainly some of the cattle waste than cannot now be reintroduced into the food chain thanks to prions and what have you are being used to power trains in Sweden as I'm sure you've written about somewhere.