When we realize that something is not sustainable, part of that is knowing that it is, not would be but is, impossible to make it so. So, instead of trying to make our fossil fuel use more sustainable, we transition to a form of energy on which we can rely. Neat.
How long will this take? Everyone wants to know, and to the extent we set about reducing our dependence on the unsustainable, we set in motion all sorts of other activities which in turn effect the overall duration of the transition. With lifestyle changes and altering the modes of transportation in service of the former, we induce, and thus shorten, the latter. To the extent that halfway there may begin to resemble being there, simply because of what else can be sensed, seen or acknowledged from certain vantage points, the transition will appear to have become increasingly easier or less difficult from some points along the way, when in fact it may have always been so. It’s just at the beginning, from here – this point of realizing the unsustainability of our position – the whole idea of doing/living/powering/growing any other way seems so daunting and impossible. When, really, the impossible thing is to continue in this way.
Now, one might think that there would be a distinctly non-ideological flavor to this whole discussion. And one would of course be wrong. Because the transition to other energy sources [on which we can rely] is somehow liberal socialist and must be opposed by the other side. Who is the other side? The suppliers? Well, that makes sense. But so much of the opposition to change comes from those who would ostensibly benefit from the transition, who are, effectively, home grown; what’s their angle, beyond the unsustainable status quo?
In a kind of truth, not having to worry about how long the transition will take, how much it will cost and how much it might disrupt the way things are is a great and wonderful luxury, for as long as it lasts, which is also its major downfall, which is really the point of the conversation. From here, any change looks like the downfall of western society, and will until we begin the transition, which is the only thing that will make the view different. The Saudis know it and also know our transition will destroy their economy. That’s why they counsel against it, even though they know it makes no sense [for us] whatsoever. The strains on all the rationales are showing. Maybe that’s what the beginning of the transition looks like.