Sustainability vs us

Energy transitions are within reach, but we really don’t go for them, do we?

Luca Silipo

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The solution to sustainable energy clashes with our fundamental need for property

We can think of many excuses for why — as a society — we are not pushing for a real sustainability transition, one that could (still) get us out of trouble.

So easy!

Politicians! Duh! They are so worried about big oil votes! They like to boast their green side during town halls, but they have backdoor agreements with fossil fuels’ money: “publicly, I would damn you, but that’s just for the show, don’t you worry.” We hate them, don’t we?

Lobbyist, ugh! They are just parasites and make loads of money against their principles. Wait, did I say principles? Ha! They don’t know what principles are, those people. And with the money they get, they amass properties in the Hamptons while we strive to make ends meet. We despise them, don’e we?

Wait…! What about the fossil fuels magnates. Those who shake Putin’s hand with their right while they bash him publicly, those who source pretty slogans while digging for more oil with their left? They are as phoney as a three dollars bill! We detest them, don’t we?

And, of course, how can bankers escape easy public bashing? They are there with their greenwashed green finance, throwing stones to the totems they idolise because their shareholders silently order them to. We loathe them, don’t we?

Isn’t that easy: we got the perfect evils that Walt Disney can only dream of. But then why don’t we win, like Cinderella, Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi?

The answer lays deep in our conscience of educated Western chaps, in our conveniently sound ethics: our darling concept of private property.

You can own an oil field. You just buy the land or acquire the concession to exploit the oil pond that lies 500 feet below, and whatever you extract is yours. You buy entire mountains that get black earlier than others at sunset because of the coal they are endowed with.

The whole concept of fossil fuels is perfectly aligned with the ideals of capitalism: I own, invest capital on a venture, and reap the benefits, or lose money if the well dries up. Fossil fuels are exclusive goods: if I own a well, you don’t.

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Luca Silipo

I am an economist and author dedicated to finding applicable solutions to achieve social sustainability while preserving economic growth.