“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Think globally, act globally

We recently signed a deal with Solar City to get solar power for our house. Solar City are trying to make solar power more accessible by doing zero down deals where you lease the solar cells with an option to buy later.

It's very impressive, actually. Solar might soon no longer be a rich person's toy. Get it now before Congress decides not to renew the clean energy tax credit!

It doesn't make much “economic” sense. It's not in our immediate “rational self-interest” to pay a little extra for electricity each month until we can afford to buy the system. (Of course, if we spent loads on energy it would make more sense.)

For many people this realism is entirely “natural.” For them, the “laws” of supply and demand are as natural as green grass.

With “realism” like this, who needs reality? I'm tempted to quote the Situationists here: “I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.

But it's within the bounds of not so crazy. And it is certainly in our long-term self-interest, or in the best interests of an expanded, modified self-interest that includes larger groups. For instance, it will certainly be good to wean ourselves off of carbon and avoid the war and colonialism that it brings.

But just to be honest, there's a purely irrational element to this, or maybe I should say elements.

(1) Feeding the superego beast by assuaging major guilt over carbon usage. The less energy you use, the more you want to save. The more you want to save, the more you enjoy your savings. The more you enjoy, the more you are guilty, so this is a tight little loop. This has nothing to do with sitting comfy in a smug little lifeworld. Kierkegaard: “Against God we are always in the wrong.”

(2) Exorbitant love of actually existing life forms. Love in this sense is strictly correlative with evil. Out of the Universe of things I select you (and you, and you) to love. Nothing to do with holism, then—with upgraded versions of “self” or “self-interest.”

(3) Childlike joy I've had since I was nine over these sparkling polygonal surfaces that absorbed light. There was an exhibition called The Energy Show at Earl's Court in London. I was transfixed by the solar cells. There is no “self,” no “interest,” no “reason” in this.

Clearly this is not a case of thinking globally and acting locally (remember, this is not strictly in our self-interest). We are acting with the planet in mind, by using less of its carbon energy. We are acting globally.

If Nature = the will to exist = self-interest, who needs it?

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