Six Arguments against Alternative Industrialism
<table><tr><td>by Mikko Virtanen
Almost everyone from capitalists to mainstream environmentalists and anarchists are proposing a massive construction project of alternative industrial infrastructure, replacing the current high emitting infrastructure, to solve the problem of global warming. These people say we need more wind energy, solar energy and ocean energy, a new electrical grid, electric cars, and even energy efficient household appliances. If critique of capitalism is uncommon these days, then critique of alternative industrialism is even less common. Here are some arguments often left out of the debate.
1. To build a new green infrastructure of such a massive scale would require a lot of energy and materials, which can only be provided through the use of already existing fossil fuel based infrastructure. Inevitably this would lead to a lot of net greenhouse gas emissions, in a situation when we need to start reducing them quickly.</td><td><img title="The question is not what are we going to do but what are we going to break..." src="files/pictures/2010/civilizationisacarcrash.jpg"></td></tr></table><!--break-->
2. The production of this new infrastructure will require a vast amount of raw materials, much of which are not renewable themselves, and are environmentally destructive to obtain. Alternative industrial technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars require a lot of rare earth metals that are already in short supply from the current alternative industrialism boom. It has yet to be proven if we even have the raw materials available to make enough wind turbines and solar panels to keep up current levels of energy consumption or any significant level of industrial production at all.
3. The new surge in green manufacturing puts a lot of pressure to open new mines and to build new processing plants. These new mines and other methods of resource extraction will inevitably destroy and poison local communities around the source of extraction. Even Jana Hartline, Toyota’s environmental communication manager admits: “Mining in any way, shape or form is never an environmentally friendly process. That’s the nature of the beast.”
4. If industrial production were to be ecologically sustainable, it would have to be a closed loop when it comes to non-renewable materials. In other words 100 % recycling. With current technology, this is impossible.
5. A question that shouldn’t be underestimated for anti authoritarians is whether or not it is possible to sustain the large scale co-operation and deep specialization necessary for running any type of industrial production, without falling into hierarchical ways of organization. This should not be taken lightly: the organization of CNT, the anarchist labor union which controlled much of industrial production in some areas of Spain during the civil war, had at least six levels of hierarchy.
6. It takes time to build new infrastructure, time that we don’t have. There are diverging opinions whether any kind of alternative green infrastructure could be built quickly enough to be any kind of replacement.
What all this means is that if we want to halt global warming, we need to start questioning our dependence on industrial production and infrastructure. We need to put wind energy, solar energy and other alternative industrial solutions on the list of false solutions along with agrofuels, nuclear energy, and clean coal technology. As soon as possible, we need to start doing the only thing that can halt the destruction of our life supporting systems: reducing our industrial production and consumption to the absolute minimum.
-Sharon Astyk: <a href="http://sharonastyk.com/2008/11/11/a-new-deal-or-a-war-footing-thinking-t... New Deal or a War Footing? Thinking Through Our Response to Climate Change</a> (Casaubon’s Book, 11.11.2008)
-Jeff Vail: <a href="http://www.jeffvail.net/2009/07/renewables-hump-8-concluding-thoughts.ht... Renewables Hump</a> (2009) and <a href="http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5588">Renewable Transition</a> (The Oil Drum, 2009)
-Stew Cowans: <a href="http://treo.typepad.com/raremetalblog/2009/08/media-rare-earth-supply-cr... earth supply crimp could derail expansion in alternative energy industry</a> (RareMetalMedia, 27.8.2009)
-Steve Gorman: <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE57U02B20090831">As hybrid cars gobble rare metals, shortage looms</a> (Reuters, 31.8.2009)
-Damian Kahya: <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7707847.stm">Bolivia holds key to electric car future</a> (BBC News, 9.11.2008)
-Bradley Berman: <a href="http://www.hybridcars.com/news/shortage-rare-metals-hybrids-overblown-26... of Rare Metals for Hybrids Is Overblown</a> (Hybridcars.com, 4.9.2009)
-I.Wernick and N.J. Themelis: <a href="http://www.seas.columbia.edu/earth/papers/aree98.pdf">Recycling Metals for the Environment</a> (1998)
-Robert U. Ayres, Leslie W. Ayres and Ingrid Råde: <a href="http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/G00740.pdf">The Life Cycle of Copper, its Co-Products and By-Products</a> (2002)
-Robert U. Ayres: <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/89/3/815.full.pdf">Toxic heavy metals: Materials cycle optimization</a> (1991)
-Bob Black: On Organisation (Chapter 4 in Anarchy After Leftism, C.A.L. Press, 1997). See also p. 14-5 in Murray Bookchin: <a href="http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/bookchin/sp001642/overview.html">To Remember Spain</a> (AK Press, 1994) and “<a href="http://www.infoshop.org/library/Daniel_Guerin:Anarchism2#CENTRALIZATION_... and planning</a>” in Daniel Guerin's “Anarchism - From theory to Practice”.
This article was first published in "Dealing with Distractions - Confronting Green Capitalism in Copenhagen & Beyond". That pamphlet can be downloaded from here: <a href="http://dealingwithdistractions.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/readablezine/">h...