A Different Pope (Carl) on Energy

Carl Pope is a sort of “Pope” of the environmentalist movement, being chairman of the Sierra Club and on the board of several environmental groups. He has recently written an article on the environment and poverty, specifically on energy access. The full article is here. There are 2 interesting points for reflection. Lets start with the opening paragraph:

“After the Durban talks last month, climate realists must face the reality that “shared sacrifice,” however necessary eventually, has proven a catastrophically bad starting point for global collaboration. Nations have already spent decades debating who was going to give up how much first in exchange for what. So we need to seek opportunities — arenas where there are advantages, not penalties, for those who first take action — both to achieve first-round emission reductions and to build trust and cooperation.”

1. A certain change in tone in the environmental arena. The narrative is changing, and the hope of reaching a global agreement and grand consensus, especially since the failed Durban talks, is waning. The idea of a ‘shared sacrifice’ that has been a prevalent motto, and the mixture of moralism and asceticism alone, seem to become out of fashion. This change of narrative is an opportunity for new ideas and approaches. One of the directions can be to reformulate and identify the roots of environmental problems, something that would be welcome. Another is what seems to be happening, which is a unreflexive pragmatism, which is what Carl Pope suggests.

2.  Carl Pope proposes off the grid energy for the worlds poor. This certainly sounds like a good idea, and there is much room for putting them to practice. The problem is the facile picture he paints about how to get it done. At the end of the day, the implementation of solar panels in poor areas will face the same problems that water pumps, sanitation facilities, education projects and so many attempts to help the poor. The problem of development, I dare claim, is a bigger problem than the environmental one. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but the results in this field are quite poor so far. The great obstacles to development are mostly human, cultural and spiritual – and these need to be addressed for a successful implementation in most cases.

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