Deindustrialization . . . now there’s a word . . . and no one talks about it. It definitely needs to happen to address the climate crisis . . . to really solve the climate crisis. I realized this when I had an “embodied energy” moment some years ago. Once you get on the train of reducing your carbon footprint . . . or water footprint . . . or zero waste . . . embodied energy is not far behind.
For anyone not familiar with the term embodied energy, it is basically all the energy needed to produce a product or service. It could be anything from a house to snacks you buy in the grocery store and everything in between.
Let’s take a box of raisin bran. Innocent enough. First, a field had to be plowed to grow the wheat to make the flakes, then trees were cut down and processed to make the box, oil was extracted for the sleeve and all the transportation for all of the ingredients, grapes were grown and dried into raisins, the wheat was milled and processed to make the flakes, a printing press was used to get the graphics onto the box, and it was all brought to another facility to become raisin bran. All in all, there were about 8-9 manufacturing plants to make that one item on the grocery shelf. That does not include all of the conveyors and machinery in each of those factories. Those factories needed to be heated or cooled and all have electricity.
And, what does that mean? Tons of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere from all the fossil fuels needed to get that one product manufactured and transported to the store.
That is what is necessary for one product. Now go through that process for each and every item in a grocery store. Yes, my head wants to explode at the thought. No wonder China is so polluted. And before we blame China, that is where the majority of our products come from.
And, at the end of it all, let’s ask ourselves if we really need that raisin bran? If we are really concerned about the climate crisis we are in, can’t we all just have oatmeal for breakfast?
So, back to deindustrialization. Just switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind is not going to cut it as a climate crisis solution. We like to focus on the energy we use in our homes and buildings, along with the transportation we use. We never look at the energy we use to make products.
Besides all of the CO2 emitted from all the convenience products we use and consume, we must also remember we live on a finite planet. Read Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse.” He reminds us all what “carrying capacity” is all about. Some societies made changes to survive and some did not. Will we?
Richard Smith’s article in Truthout in November 12, 2014 titled, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. the Environment Dilemma” talks about what Naomi Klein did not in her book, “This Changes Everything.”
Granted, it takes guts to talk about what really needs to be done, and Richard does it. I highly recommend reading that article. Eliminating all the products we don’t really need will create millions of unemployed people. What type of economic system will we wind up with? Not a comforting thought without something to replace our capitalist/consumer economy. But, what choice do we have if we want to survive? We may end up with a better standard of living by growing our own food and creating community with a local economy. There are solutions if we look at things in a new way.
Deindustrialization . . . try that out as a topic at the dinner table.