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Perhaps it’s all too easy for us to miss the limitations of alternative energy as we drop to our knees at the foot of the clean energy spectacle, gasping in rapture. The spectacle has become a divine deity around which duty-bound citizens gravitate to chant objectives without always reflecting upon fundamental goals. This oracle conveys a ready-made creed of ideals, objectives , and concepts that are convenient to recite . And so these handy notions inevitably become the content of environmental discourse. In a process of self-fashioning, environmentalists offer their arms to the productivist tattoo artist to embroider wind, solar, and biofuels into the subcutaneous flesh of the movement. These novelties come to define what it means to be an environmentalist.1 Environmentalists aren’t the only ones lining up for ink. Peer pressure is a formidable power, and there’s no reason to assume that rational adults 8. The Alternative-Energy Fetish The society which rests on modern industry is not accidentally or superficially spectacular, it is fundamentally spectaclist. –Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle  are above its dealings. Every news article, environmental protest, congressional committee hearing, textbook entry, and bumper sticker creates an occasion for the visibility of solar cells, wind power, and other productivist technologies. Numerous actors draw upon these moments of visibility to articulate paths these technologies ought to follow.2 First, diverse groups draw upon flexible clean-energy definitions to attract support. Then they roughly sculpt energy options into more appealing promises—not through experimentation , but by planning, rehearsing, and staging demonstrations. Next, lobbyists, strategic planners, and pr teams transfer the promises into legislative and legal frameworks and eventually into necessities for engineers to pursue. A consequence of this visibility-making is the necessary invisibility of other options. There’s only so much room on the stage. Productivist Porn During the rise in oil prices through the first years of the twentyfirst century, I remained safely in the library. I studied a corpus of thousands of articles, environmental essays, and political speeches staged around energy through those years.3 I found that most writers fell into a predictable flight pattern, confidently landing their conclusions atop a gleaming airstrip of alternative energy and offering a sense that alternative technologies are all it will take to cure our energy troubles. The way to solve our energy production problems is to produce more energy. Why do the options of wind, solar, and biofuels flow from our minds so freely as solutions to our various energy dilemmas while conservation and walkable neighborhoods do not? Why do we seem to have a predisposition for preferring production over energy reduction? The answer is neither straightforward nor immediately apparent. Some claim that modern conceptions of prosperity, progress, and vitality structure our preference for production. Evolutionary biologists point to physical characterFrom Here to There  istics of our brain. Other theorists argue that the productivist spirit rose from Christian values as people abandoned holistic pantheism to worship a creator they understood to be separate from creation. As the natural world was desacralized, it was left exposed to investigation, definition, and scientific manipulation.4 Some intellectuals maintain that the productivist drive should be linked not to Christianity but to philosophical developments in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This is when the mind and body came to be understood as separate, largely due to Descartes ’ dualistic view of the self and Kant’s distinction between active subjects and passive natures. Perhaps Newtonian physics also played a role by divesting the material world of spiritual value—depicting it as a gear set devoid of spiritual value— to be sacrificed and exploited without moral consequence. Was it here, nestled in the bosom of the Reformation and scientific achievement, from whence the productivist penchant hath been spawned?5 The genesis of productivism may forever remain a complex mystery. Religious, philosophical, scientific, and capitalist traditions did not develop in separate vacuum chambers, but in orchestration and entanglement with one another.6 Regardless of the particulars of this codevelopment, one outcome is clear. Productivist leanings have effectively nudged nature to the sidelines of Western consciousness. Whether we are considering energy production, human procreation, the work ethic, or any other productivist pursuit, there endures a common theme: that which is produced is good and those who produce should be rewarded. These values till the fertile soil of an almost religious growthism with invasive roots of techno-scientific salvation .7 Many voices of influence willfully hoist up figures such as Buddha...


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MARC Record
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