Listen to recent debate about the $800+ billion federal stimulus package and you hear two strong underlying assumptions: the economy will recover within a few years, and it will function pretty much the same as today (except perhaps for some more wind turbines, more solar panels, and a dazzling new selection of fuel-efficient family cars).
And yet, the same leaders and pundits that purport to solve the economic crisis with more spending and tax cuts increasingly acknowledge that we face immediate energy and climate crises of monumental proportions. That is, the problems at hand require not a few trillion dollars thrown at them but fundamental changes in how the modern industrial world works.
I think what’s happening is a mental disconnect; it’s a failure to put three things together:
1. Our immediate experience of the current economic crisis. Companies are going out of business, public budgets are being slashed — something needs to be done and soon.
2. Our awareness of impending energy shortages and climate changes. The basic debates about both climate change and peak oil are essentially over, even in the mainstream media.
3. The reality that business-as-usual economic growth completely depends on affordable and available fossil fuels. This is rarely discussed, but it’s hardly debatable.
This mental disconnect means we’re not diagnosing the problem correctly, and we’re not pursuing the correct solutions. We’ve essentially failed to recognize that the game has changed.