Saturday, January 7, 2017

Photovoltaics: cultural rape?

Those of you who can read French may be interested in this rant by Nicolas Casaux at…/le-desastre-ecologique-renouvelabl…/

Apparently, the government of New Zealand financed a large PV installation in the Tokelau island, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The plant is backed up by lead batteries, so it can provide 24/24 power to the islanders. (some 1400 people). That allows islanders to have TV, high-speed Internet, and mail ordering from Amazon and Ebay.

Casaux takes all this as the reason for a screed in which he rants against renewable energy for several paragraphs, then compares PV-ization of the islands to their conversion to the Catholic religion. Basically, it is a "cultural rape" that has left the islanders dependent on a sophisticated technology of which, according to him, they had no need, having been self-sufficient for centuries and happy to bake the fish they capture wrapped in bamboo leaves, rather than in aluminum foil.

I don't say that Casaux is wrong; on the other hand, I am a little uneasy at a Westerners who claim to be sure that those islanders were happier before having PV without having asked for their opinion (It doesn't appear that he asked). I find also objectionable to use the title "renewables ecological disaster" when clearly there has been none.

On the other hand, the piece is interesting as evidence of a widespread negative attitude against renewable energy (at least in the West). It raises also a legitimate point: how is renewable energy going to affect our lives? My impression is that most of what's being said about this matter simply derives from the refusal to accept change, of any kind. But it is clear that the diffusion of PV is going to bring many changes - and big ones. And these big changes won't take place only on the island of Tokelau. 

So, take a look at Casaux's post (maybe with the help of Google translate), and maybe you can comment on it on the Cassandra blog.

Que vous vous intéressiez de près ou de loin à l’écologie, vous avez très certainement déjà discuté de ce que l’on nomme les énergies "renouvelables", notamment du solaire et de l’éolien. Symptôme d’un diagnostic mal établi, cette…


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)