After three years of debate, in 2008, the State of Uruguay decided to start diversifying the energy matrix by increasing the share of renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar. Although this process has been introduced as a paradigm for the region, the plan implemented for the development of “clean energy,” far from reverting the inequitable tariff model where those with lower incomes pay more, it actually deepened it. In addition, it favored the private companies’ advancement in the electricity sector. The State is committed to buying all the energy generated by private companies at a higher price than that of other sources.
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Less of What We Don't Need
Stories about Less of What We Don't Need.
Nine months have passed since Indigenous human rights defender Sebastian Alonso Juan was shot and killed at a peaceful protest in Guatemala’s Ixquisis region, and communities are still waiting for justice.
Though Washington has been mired in gridlock over the past few years, work sharing is one policy that has enjoyed the support of Democrats and Republicans alike. And with good cause. Estimates suggest that work sharing has saved over more than half a million jobs since the Great Recession and is still a good policy to keep people in their jobs instead of getting laid off.
Work sharing, also known as short-time compensation, is a policy that lets employers adjust to slowdowns in business demand by reducing hours for workers rather than laying them off. This is accomplished by allowing workers to put in fewer hours while having much of the difference offset by unemployment insurance.
It is late in the rainy season, and two community water defenders and I stand at the edge of the Río Bolo in coastal Retalhuleu. Above us tower the remains of a concrete bridge where people from the community of El Rosario used to cross this once tremendous river. Today, the water flows barely two feet deep. Campesinos easily cross the river on foot as we talk, the water barely reaching their knees while the watermark of the former river sits a good ten feet above their heads.
The potential and limits to renewable energy are hotly debated, and far from settled. Many people take it for granted that it can meet all our energy needs, and numerous impressive agencies and technical reports say this. However until the last few years when simulations based on detailed weather data have become available nearly all pronouncements have been little more than speculation and most have simply selected bits of evidence to confirm preferred beliefs. I have examined about ten of these and have published various analyses showing how unsatisfactory they are.
"The ‘eco-’ prefix refers to their recognition that 'humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature.' Here, they seem to align with the direction of travel of the wider environmental movement. Yet the ‘-modernist’ half of their name firmly asserts their belief that if this is to happen, it will not come about through any slowing or reversal of the modernisation process but only through greater energy use, urbanisation, technological innovation and agricultural intensification. In this they seem to set their trajectory at an angle nearing 180 degrees to the usual orientation of the environmental movement, which would more usually call for degrowth, ecological agriculture, contraction of energy and resource use and more ‘natural’ lifestyles. The ecomodernists believe that there is no contradiction here: anti-technological sentiments and romantic ideas of pristine nature were always stowaways, illicit passengers that did not really belong in the environmentalist package."
News reports tell of the devastation left by a direct hit from Category 4 Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans already coping with damage from Hurricane Irma, which grazed the island just days before, were slammed with an even stronger storm on September 20, bringing more than a foot of rain and maximum sustained winds of at least 140 miles per hour. There is still no electricity—and likely won’t be for weeks or months—in this U.S. territory of 3.4 million people, many of whom also lack running water. Phone and internet service is likewise gone. Nearly all of Puerto Rico’s greenery has been blown away, including trees and food crops. A major dam is leaking and threatening to give way, endangering the lives of tens of thousands. This is a huge unfolding tragedy. But it’s also an opportunity to learn lessons, and to rebuild very differently.
Renewable electricity is booming. Wind electricity is now the cheapest kind there is. Solar power, even when combined with storage batteries to function when the sun doesn’t shine, can be had on the wholesale markets at a price competitive with natural gas, the cheapest fossil fuel.
At the heart of America’s mainstream climate movement lies a contradiction.
To a certain extent, Aung San Suu Kyi is a false prophet. Glorified by the west for many years, she was made a ‘democracy icon’ because she opposed the same forces in her country, Burma, at the time as the US-led western coalition that was isolating Rangoon for its alliance with China.
Aung San Suu Kyi played her role as expected, winning the approval of the Right and the admiration of the Left. And for that, she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; she joined the elevated group of ‘The Elders’ and was promoted by many in the media and various governments as a heroic figure, to be emulated.