The dawn of the Anthropocene epoch in geological history brings with it numerous challenges and opportunities. In terms of transitioning sweeping economic models and trends to sustainable methods, there is a vast opportunity to expand the potential output of the global economy, but meeting the challenges that create this opportunity will require massive amounts of ingenuity and investment. A group of 21 leading scientists and researchers published its study of the geological timescale topic in the GSA Journal, concluding that the fundamental shift to a human-altered geological environment occurred at the beginning of the 19th century. What is now occurring, however, is that awareness of the potentially severe impact of 200 years of rampant industrial expansion, resource exploitation, urban construction and terrain remodeling appears to have reached a tipping point, after which science cannot ignore the human element in the natural world, i.e. ecological impact.

Our standard model for how to generate energy involves the destructive transformation of matter, the compositional unraveling of what was, to release energy. This model assigns a high value to projects of depletion, and drives our elimination of vital resources and fragile natural systems. 

We should be seeking a model whereby we derive energy, not by the depletion of material resources, but rather by the harnessing, and even amplifying, of naturally occurring manifestations of energy. In the deep green future, we will not require combustion or fission to derive such energy. 

Psychic numbing‘ is a relatively new term, assigned to the phenomenon which shows people tend to feel less urgent compassion, and tend to give less, when the suffering in question is shown to be more systemic and more pervasive, or affecting larger numbers of people. Some psychologists believe it is linked to our intuitive sense that if one suffers alone, the suffering is worse, but if one is accompanied, there might be some security in numbers, not just emotionally, but practically.

Solar Roadways is proposing a long-view paradigm-shift solution to major infrastructure, energy and climate challenges. The Solar Roadways system would might, at present, cost about three times what it costs to install an asphalt road, but would be more durable more easily replaced in modular fashion, and able to pay for itself by generating more electricity than our economy can consume. At just 15% efficiency, far below what is expected, a 100% Solar Roadways enabled driving infrastructure would produce three times total electricity demand.

Scientists at the University of Technology of Sydney, Australia, have established a process for making paper ten times stronger than steel. This innovation allows for the creation of ultra-lightweight portable devices, and for the development of casings and component materials for airplanes, automobiles, and other weight-sensitive transport technologies.

In effect, graphene paper, with a weight to volume ratio only 1/6 that of steel and 10 times the strength, is one of the essential building blocks for major 21st-century paradigm-shift technologies. Among these are certain to be electric and solar-powered vehicles, including not only small personal automobiles, but light aircraft, military transport vehicles and small boats.

Combining the incredible strength-to-weight ratio of graphene with accelerating advances in solar photo-voltaic technology, battery storage-to-weight capacity and computerized processing speeds, will allow for building far more versatile, efficient, large-sized vehicles capable of being powered by solar photo-voltaic power, and/or run further than combustible-fuel engines on a single battery charge.

High-risk, low-yield hydrocarbon fuels not fit to compete over long term

Tar sands, shale gas and ultra deepwater drilling, are high-risk, low-yield energy sources, for a number of reasons. First of all, because they are less energy rich for energy expended and cash invested than previously prevailing hydrocarbon extraction, and they pose elevated risks of accident and/or environmental disaster. But also because the longer the project and the more invested, the lower the energy return on investment.

Clean renewable technologies are the inverse: the longer the facilities are in place and the more invested over time, the greater the yield for energy and cash invested. The energy return on investment actually improves over time, and the resource becomes more reliable and more efficient. Falling behind on that new energy paradigm is a cost we are not presently calculating, and we cannot afford to be left out of the top flight of producers in that new paradigm.

A new Pentagon intelligence analysis of the 21st century landscape of global influences calls for a National Strategic Narrative, infused with our best cultural values and oriented toward a pragmatic expansion of the influence of those values in the world. It places at the top of the national agenda a recommitment to the highest quality universal education possible. What are your top priorities for making our public schools the best in the world? And why?

The conventional wisdom on carbon emissions is that we must emit ever more carbon dioxide, if we are to continue to be prosperous. This is a blatant falsehood rooted in 18th-century thinking about the nature of energy. The conventional wisdom on action to reduce carbon emissions is that it must be expensive, harmful to the economy, and result in less productive power generation. This is a blatant falsehood based on the outmoded idea that combustion is the most favorable way to harvest energy.

All systems of carbon taxation or carbon emissions capping operate on the principle that applying economic pressure in a targeted way can inspire markets to change their behavior. This is the very logic of market-based economic systems. Instead of an authoritarian system of planned economics, consumers, elected governments and market players, compete to influence the direction of economic activity over the short-, medium- and long-term cycles.

But there is one way of steering outmoded, combustion-burdened economic systems toward a healthier state-of-the-art 21st-century energy economy, that will not entail rapidly escalating price burdens on a consumer market economy. With a carbon fee and dividend approach, we can make sure that only those interests that refuse to innovate and to improve their standards of operation for power generation pay for falling behind.

The Usership Society: Decentralized Energy Next Stage for Democracy

Ownership is liberating only if it liberates; the new paradigm has to be a participatory society

In order to push his 2004 bid for re-election, and his radical and untenable economic ideology, George W. Bush touted the need for an “ownership society”. In theory, this meant ordinary people could have access like never before to capital for home-buying, and the paradigm of a privately owned individualist property would be firmly rooted in the democratic ground of American society.

“In theory”, because that never really was the case. There was a massive new flow of capital from financial institutions to home-buying, but much of the capital was illusory, and the motivation was to gather more wealth to those institutions, not to leave it in the hands of homeowners. In practice, most borrowers were in fact falling into a dangerous situation in which they were in effect owned —their homes, their wages, their working lives and recreational time— by the lenders.

When the system collapsed, the same Bush government engineered a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to failing banks, but did nothing to rescue homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The reason for this is that the ownership in the phrase ownership society is not the right of individuals to accumulate wealth, influence and independence, but rather of powerful interests to control ever greater swaths of the American economic landscape.

The dirty energy economy is based on the model where magnates own and control a specific resource that contains a specific amount of energy, which they can offer or withhold from the marketplace. For many who are accustomed to this model, it is unthinkable that energy might not be owned at all, but merely accessed, harvested.

The clean energy economy returns the power of ownership to the natural systems we depend on for everything that we are in this world. The sun, the wind, cannot be owned, only accessed, their energy harvested. To build more infrastructure means to make the resource more plentiful, more affordable, more user-friendly, and a better foundation for ordinary people to take on ever more sophisticated roles in the overall economic landscape.

The ownership model which privileges dirty energy —fossil fuels and the hugely expensive, taxpayer-funded, extreme contamination risk of nuclear power— rests on the power of concentrated interests to deprive the wider marketplace of needed resources, to control supply, to dictate the terms of ordinary people’s freedom of movement, action and enterprise.

The usership model, which must necessarily replace it, leaves behind such feudal dynamics and privileges the right of ordinary people to participate in the shaping of their own destiny. Capital will flow where there is constructive use value, not fortification-concentration value, and the centuries-long process of democratic revolution will reach its next stage, where the planning, the executing of and the active participation in economic influence, are more justly dispersed among free individuals and communities.

This is the logic of democracy: that all people will have the genuine liberty to choose their fate and to be judged only according to 1) their basic humanity and 2) the merit won by forthright exhibition of the content of their character, in collaboration —direct or indirect— with the better interests of others. An economic model that privileges privilege also privileges privation, and the rolling back of most people’s great gains in the way of personal and political agency.

There are feudal interests now, who perceive the democratization of the economic landscape as a threat, just as there we feudal interests who had such views in 18th century Europe and in the slaveowning antebellum south. There is a middle ground between the totalitarian systems of feudal oligarchy and one-party communism, and that is open democracy: where the founding principles and the general interest of a diverse and free people preclude the overweening concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

It does not matter that such interests spend millions to advertise their desire to liberate ordinary people… The Soviet Union claimed to liberate every republic it conquered, but only replaced the feudal misery of their peoples with a totalitarian misery in many cases far more extreme. Advertising is not ample enough information for anyone to make a informed judgment; it is paid propaganda generally directed toward serving the salesman.

The usership model of democratizing capitalism privileges not those who would profit from your persuasion, but those who would gain your support by supporting you, in genuine, measurable terms. There is, as such, a substantial argument to be made for an “open-source” alternative ecosystem to all markets where interest might be concentrated.

The logic of technological development —increasing ephemeralization, combined with increasingly robust capabilities, in service of the ordinary individual’s self-selected interests— here meshes with the principle of continually empowering the individual human intellect to make sound, informed, humane decisions, in service of genuine personal and generalized civilizational human interest.

Lifelong learning becomes the norm, the de fact regime of intellect-cultivation, because the expansional logic of ephemeralizing technologies seeks first and foremost the delivery of information. This has a decentralizing effect on the nature of power narratives, and requires the building of an economic infrastructure that puts the sovereign citizen and the free community of human beings before the right of the powerful to engage in actions that concentrate their power.

Clean energy decentralizes economic power, by undercutting the feudal model whereby the power to dictate conditions of wealth and survival is concentrated in the hands of those least at risk from the tidal effects of supply and demand. Ordinary people, and small communities, can build their own supply of energy, wealth and constructive empowerment.

An economic model based on clean renewable energy resources will undercut the momentum enjoyed by feudalist oligarchs, even as it precludes the rise of planned economies. As individuals, families, small businesses and local communities, take control of the power generation infrastructure, the logic of investment, regulation, taxation and even national defense, will shift, to advantage the methods and resources that most efficiently provide people with energy, information, and mobility.