By Kyle Hayden, Columnist
The Student has won another award for its reporting on the university’s energy purchasing and use.
To be clear on the source of our energy: Energy Information Administration reports indicate that Miami University purchases coal-fired electricity from Dayton Power and Light.
This was reported in the December 4th 2015 issue of The Student.
The electricity powers our lights, projectors, computers, Internet, refrigerators and air conditioners, among other things.
Electricity is categorically different from heat (but cooling is done through the use of electricity), which is produced at the steaming plant on Western Campus. That plant now runs on natural gas, though a reserve of coal is kept.
The Physical Facilities and the Sustainability Committee have reiterated they have a plan to “stop burning coal by 2025.” That is all well and good for the steam plant, OK. The geothermal plant is fine, it’s there, it exists. The next step is to divest from all sources of fossil energy and I would caution the sustainability committee to not get too comfortable.
Unless the university also divests from electricity producers (DP&L) who burn coal, this promise (to stop burning coal by 2025) will be a lie.
The coal, burned in these faraway plants comes from Appalachia. There, The Student visited Kayford, West Virginia. If you want to know more about this, I suggest reading the December 4th issue.
We received another award, with national recognition this time, at the Pinnacle college media awards in Atlanta last week. I wish, however, they would stop awarding us things and listen.
In regions where mountain-top removal mining is practiced, incidence of cancers, poverty and infant mortality are higher than where it is not practiced. Mountain top removal (and coal mining generally) has been causally related to the rise in these maladies. Junior Walk, whom The Student met with, provided an anecdote to support this research: 3 people from his high school class had contracted cancer by the time
There has yet to be an institutional response to our reporting, which I take to mean they read it fully (and we have received emails about it, but no solid response) but no divestment from DP&L or talk thereof. In short, utterly ignored. Business as usual is too easy, the public schools are too underfunded — it goes on.
I don’t think, however, these are good enough responses. I want to talk in this essay about pushing further, about opening up the questioning of more than just “energy.” Rather, I want to bring into question the shape of the entire institution.
The truth of the matter is that we can’t run everything we have, at the speed that we currently do, on any combination of “renewable” energies.
The fossil energy is potent, it is powerful (which is why it has thus been so popular for so long) and it cannot be replicated by the wind or by capturing sunlight on photovoltaic screens.
What’s needed is a reduction in the activity itself.
Less electricity, fewer lights, less cooling and heating generally to start.
It seems to me that people don’t want solutions; they want to keep living exactly how they are living today, but just with a green sticker on it. A LEED (Leadership in Engergy and Environmental Design) emblem glued with a toxic epoxy to the wall in Armstrong and a handful of other buildings on campus.
Well, everything is just getting so green. Then why are emissions in total still rising?
Why is the temperature still going up? Each month has been on average warmer (globally) than the previous year’s average. Earth’s climate is in a stretch of over 360 consecutive months of warmer-than-average global temperatures: 30 years of above-average temperatures.
I am advocating of course for a reduction in the total activity of not only the university, but of everyone in this civilization, in every city, in every place.
I am not unaware of my contradictions. Opponents of my ideas are quick to point out my computer, my artificial lights, my word processor, the huge network of factories that make the paper and the ink this newspaper is printed on twice weekly. I say to you with my hands raised: woohoo, you got me!
Mind you, I have no control over the industrial infrastructure I was born into; I am caught up in a lifelong contradiction like everyone else.
More complex rejoinder: if there wasn’t an environmental crisis to speak of, I wouldn’t have to flip open the computer and write about it. If I didn’t feel like there was something deeply wrong with the dominant culture, I wouldn’t have gone to school to try to figure out what the source of the crisis is.
You may be thinking: but what about renewable energies, aren’t they going to solve our environmental problems? My immediate
No. I support neither fossil fuel nor renewable technologies. Renewable technologies aren’t made out of nothing; they exist on the background of the extractive industries we currently associate with fossil fuels. Mining for rare earth metals and industrial production (factories, global transport network) are two main requirements renewables share with fossil fuels.
For the longer answer I defer to my friend Derrick Jensen, who writes:
“This material comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is always someone’s home, someone’s sacred site, someone’s source of food and water and air. We just don’t hear about them, because if they are humans, they are usually poor and brown. This is where racism, colonialism, environmentalism and extractive economics come together.”
The people want solutions; they so badly want to know if their way of life can be sustainable. One major casualty of this hysteria has been the word “sustainable” itself. Emptied of meaning, we paint it on just about anything. It’s not long until we have talk of sustainable wars, eco-friendly jets and aircraft carriers, biodegradable bullet casings and ecologically sound “liberation” practices.
They don’t want their lives to change — they are very comfortable. This is a sign of addiction. It has been diagnosed again and again in environmental literature. David Watson’s “Civilization is like a jetliner”; James Kunstler’s “Too Much Magic”; Joyce Huesemann’s “Techno-fix”; Ozzie Zehner’s “Green Illusions.”
It doesn’t particularly matter how many books and researchers I cite, how many reports are released, the psychology of “business as usual” is built into the laws, the schools, the state houses and city council meetings.
The nation-states of the world and their subjects, people living in cities, ask for one more: one more year, one more decade of growth, one more trillion dollars, one more shopping mall.
This is a sign of insanity, a deep pathology among members of this culture.
I think most easily this disturbing trend is revealed in the desperation of the corporations to make everything appear green and sustainable when inside they know very well it’s more of the same. Mind also that these same corporations are responsible for the ongoing environmental crises.
They made money going up, destroying the environment. Now they want to make money going down: “fixing” the very thing they made every effort to ignore for about 60 years or more.
Today, environmentalists, liberals and most on the left think renewables are A-OK in this fictive equitable world. They fail to begin by questioning the industrial infrastructure and the power relations that create them. In the pre-theoretical they assume progress is good, the dominant culture is headed in the right direction — if it only could be under the direction of a different set
This is why the anti-globalization movement failed for instance, which is why it ultimately dissolved and disappeared.
The protestors and the activists weren’t against globalization. They said they wanted the “bottom-up” kind. Not realizing that technological systems at the global scale, to recall Jensen again, will always require force or violence.
To say it plainly, globalization, industrialism, mass-production et al require violent subjugation of humans and non-humans the world over in order to secure the resources needed to keep the infrastructure running for a very small number of people who make all the decisions and keep almost all of the money.
All because we’ve built myths around the idea that we need them in order to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
This essay is additionally an admission: I am complicit in the everyday violence of this culture. I am not exempt from being held accountable for these crimes. I am both detective and criminal.