There are a lot of voices in the climate and sustainability discussion. I’ve been thinking about where in the spectrum I fall, and why. Who are the people I’m trying to convince? What camp do opponents imagine I’m in? Even amongst those of us who agree that the energy and climate problem is enormous, there’s disagreement about whether change in our daily lives is necessary, desirable, or acceptable.
Below is a list of people I’ve personally been influenced by. Everyone here agrees that the current system has to change, that the magnitude of the required change is large, and that the direction of the change is unequivocally away from fossil energy sources. Where we differ is on what part of the system needs to change, and why. In particular, there seems to be a range of positions taken on the issue of social change. The Pessimists think that no technical solution comes close to being adequate, that large social changes are thus obligatory, and that they will be interpreted negatively by most people. The Optimists think that the best solutions include both technical and social components, and that the required social changes are relatively modest, and not necessarily negative at all. Some Optimists advocate for social change overtly, while others imply that purely technical options look implausible without it. The Cornucopians discount the need for social change, and are thus left with the technical task of supplying virtually unlimited carbon-free energy.