Monday, May 3, 2010

Alternative Energy: after the Gulf of Mexico, what next?

With the world watching events unfold in the Gulf of Mexico regarding the British Petroleum oil spill - from threatened wildlife, shattered shoreline economies and fisheries to a flotilla of agencies involved in confining, dispersing or arresting the oil leak - we are reminded in a very upfront and real way the price both society and the earth pays for our dependence on fossil fuels.

These are the occasional slaps to face that remind us of the risks. Unfortunately, the CO2 emissions and other pollutants that this energy source unleashes on the planet are much more subversive and subtle, at least to most of us. We live with the belching exhaust, the brown haze, and the more and more frequent fluctuations in temperature and weather until the accumulation reaches a critical point wherein the effects are definitely quantifiable but the consequences may be long-lasting even with our best remedial efforts.

Singular profound events have a way of grabbing our attention. And not all policy makers or business leaders have a deaf ear to the problems we face.

My friend and fellow diver, Patti Balian, sent me a link to a video on CNN where a discussion panel is talking about the critical need for alternative energy sources (click on the image below). Included on the panel is the president of the Maldives, an island nation that is literally faced with extinction because of rising sea levels (the islands are less than two meters about sea level); the CEO of Puma; and a representative of The Climate Group from China. Also included in the group is an appearance by Avatar director James Cameron. It's an interesting brief discussion that focuses attention on the future needs for alternative and/or renewable energy.

As the video reminds us, while our attention and emotions are fixed on the Gulf of Mexico, our minds and our actions must be fixed on the future. In the Gulf of Mexico, eventually the oil spill will stop, the shorelines and the local economies will recover - although it will take decades - and the lawsuits and liabilities will all be resolved.

But what next? Will we learn anything from this or slip back into the status quo, only to await the next re-run? I hope not.

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