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Jeff Gibbs: «There will never be green technological energy»

La Città Futura

August 16, 2020

By Simone Rossi

 

Planet of the Humans asks hard questions about failure of environmental movement to halt climate change and save the planet. To answer them, we asked its writer and director.

Released on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Planet of the Humans takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and by giving in to the corporate interests of Wall Street.

Thus, no surprise that the film has generated controversy. It has been criticized as partially outdated and misleading and some accused it of skewing renewables and delivering “Anti-Human Malthusianism”.

To dispel any doubt we decided to interview the film writer and director, Jeff Gibbs.

Born in Flint, Michigan, Jeff has served as a long time collaborator with Michael Moore. The first film he ever worked on was “Bowling for Columbine” producing many iconic scenes including “the bank that gives you a gun,” “dog shoots hunter,” and the “Michigan Militia.” Following the success or “Bowling for Columbine” Jeff became co-producer for “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the largest box-office documentary of all time. Jeff also wrote the original score for both films. Since “Fahrenheit 9/11,” though taking an occasional break to produce other films including the Dixie Chicks documentary “Shut Up and Sing,” Jeff has been singularly obsessed with the fate of the earth and humanity.

QuestionHi Jeff. Thank you very much for this opportunity. First of all, the documentary is based on scientific data. How long did it take you to collect them and how reliable are they?

“Planet of the Humans” is a story of discovery, not merely a collection of data, which without context is meaningless. The bigger picture portrayed in our film is that civilization is hitting many limits, including resource depletion, soil depletion, deforestation, overexploitation of the oceans, biodiversity collapse, and, of course, climate change. Solving climate change alone will not save us—especially when the so-called solutions involve ramping UP technologies that are decimating the biosphere and adversely affecting humans around the globe. Worse, these supposed green “solutions” involve getting into bed with bankers, industrialists, capitalists, and their “foundations.” Indeed nothing can make a difference unless we find a way to end our fatal addiction to economic growth while taking care of those who need it the most.

I began my journey exploring the mess we humans have created, and what might be the way out, over a decade ago. As I realized that the so-called “renewable” solutions were neither renewable nor solutions, I began documenting what I was experiencing. Therefore most of what you see in “Planet of the Humans” are real world examples, as well as interviews with experts. All of the data in the form of charts and graphs are from the most recent year available, typically 2019 or 2020.

We stand by every fact in the film, and have extensive documentation on our website. For instance critics say we should not have shown a historical scene with 8% efficient solar panels because efficiency has doubled since then. That’s not true. More efficient panels were available at that time, just like today, but they cost twice as much or don’t last as long. Solar efficiency hasn’t doubled since 2008. Tesla’s new solar shingles are less than 8% efficient today.

But the more important point is that it’s not the EFFICIENCY that matters—it is the INTERMITTENCY, which you see in the film. Intermittency means so-called renewable cannot directly replace fossil fuels without a vast amount of energy storage which does not exist at scale, and if it did would add tremendously to the environmental and energy impact of so-called “green” energy.

Question. You criticize some of the most important and popular renewables. Is there any form of real green energy nowadays? Do you think it is possible to produce real green energy regardless of the mode of production?

“Green renewable” energy is neither green nor renewable. Sunshine and blowing wind might be renewable, but giant technological machines made to harvest the wind and solar are the opposite. That technology could ever be “green” or “renewable” is one of the greatest illusions ever. Technology comes from digging, blasting, mining, burning, smelting, refining, and manifold industrial processes. Technology consumes non-renewable resources, and emits toxins and pollution. No other options exist. There is no free pony for everyone. Switching from carbon based energy sources to so-called “renewables,” even if it was possible, INCREASES our dependency on, and consumption of, non-renewable resources, hastening the demise of industrial civilization. The sun will keep shining and the wind will keep blowing long after our futile attempt to harvest them with hundreds of thousands of square miles of “green” technology collapses. There will never be “green” technological energy and fantasizing there could be says something about our desperation. And keep in mind that the majority of what’s defined as, and gets subsidized as “green” energy, are biofuel and biomass — burning what remains of the living planet to fuel our lifestyles.

Question. What do you think about nuclear energy?

Though nuclear provides more reliable energy than solar or wind technologies, its advocates engage in much of the same wishful thinking that so-called renewable energy proponents engage in. (Of course I was once one of them.) We will be exploring more about nuclear in our future work. But even asking the question “what about nuclear?” belies the erroneous assumption that somehow more energy would help “save the planet.” Unless we humans have an off switch, and begin to power down this global civilization, life on Earth is toast. Given more free magic “clean” energy of any kind, nuclear, solar, wind, tide, moonbeams, whatever—we humans will just use it to keep plowing, bulldozing, logging, mining, smelting, paving, polluting, plasticizing, building, overfishing, overhunting, and in general over-consuming our way through what remains of our living planet.

Question. Your documentary demonstrates how the green movement has been infiltrated by big corporations. Which lessons do activists have to learn? What mistakes did they make?

When you get into bed with capitalists, bankers, billionaires, and their so-called non-profit foundations it is not THEM that changes—it’s you. Your vision gets stuck in time and larger truths get buried. The revolution will not be funded by those who profit from the status quo. When you compromise to get a “win”— you lose. Everyone loses. Slowly but surely the capitalists have turned the environmental movement to a narrow focus on climate change and the supposed solution of green energy because it’s a $50 trillion dollar profit center. And off the table, even as some environmental leaders give it lip service, is ending our addiction to perpetual economic growth (green or otherwise) on a finite planet.

Question. Should the more conscious and radical activists engage in environmental movements to change them from the inside or are there better places and ways to conduct this battle?

Good question. I think the most important thing is to have the correct vision. This is way bigger than a climate emergency, as dire as climate is. Our entire industrial civilization of seven going on eight billion humans is coming to a close. We either get ahead of the now emerging civilization and biological collapse or suffer the most extreme consequences. Non-human species are already suffering the most extreme consequences across the globe.

Question. What do you think about Greta Thunberg Friday for future movement?

I think Greta Thunberg has some incredible insights. That young people are using the word extinction is a real breakthrough. My fear is the same as for all sincere, motivated, authentic activists young and old. When we focus on climate change only as THE thing destroying the planet and we demand solutions, we get used by forces of capitalism who want to continue to sell us the disastrous illusion that we can mine and smelt and industrialize our way out of this extinction event. And again, behind the scenes, much of what we’re doing to “save” the planet is to burn the “bio” of the planet as green energy.

Question. Despite coming out in a supposedly democratic western country, the documentary suffered a coordinated censorship campaign. Can you describe the type of censorship, the role of YouTube and tell us what lessons have you learned?

We have learned that those who are deeply invested in the status quo and who get into bed with capitalists will go to great lengths to attempt to stop those who represent a threat to their story. Though their attempts backfired and drove more people to see “Planet of the Humans,” it is truly frightening how in the year 2020 a few large corporations control what the public sees. Censorship remains a huge issue: both The Guardian and Newsweek refused multiple attempts to print responses to the calls for censorship they published. We have heard from several journalists and academics that their writing in support of “Planet of the Humans” has been turned down for publication.

Question.The documentary received some criticism. What did you learn from them?

We learned our so-called critics are shameless in their dissembling, slandering, coordinated, and apparently well-funded attacks. They choose to ignore the larger truths to keep people distracted. Once people have seen the film, the criticism seems ridiculous.

Critics say EVs charging has shifted away from fossil fuels since 2008. This isn’t the case. The Michigan grid is still 94% conventional (non-solar or wind), like most of the world. Global fossil fuel use has actually expanded in recent years – much of it used to create the materials that go into EVs, solar panels, and with turbines.

George Monbiot said the film is racist for showing the biophysical reality that overall population and consumption are increasing. Monbiot recut parts of the film to say things we didn’t say. He then fabricated highly disturbing thoughts about how to deal with it—thoughts that came from his mind, not ours. We do not subscribe to George Monbiot’s frightening plans. He’s engaging in censorship by trying to scare people from seeing the film, but his efforts have been entirely impotent.

In closing I want to be clear I am a very hopeful person. What hope we have comes from living in reality, not fantasies that giant industrial solar and wind harvesting machines, or “clean” nuclear or fossil fuels for that matter, will “save the planet.” The planet has zero interest in yet one more scheme of domination and control by humans. Now, while we still have blue whales and redwoods, songbirds and butterflies, it is a fine time to come to grips with the only hope we have: either less is the new more, or we’re going on the scrap heap of failed civilizations taking everything down with us.

See the film for yourself at PlanetoftheHumans.com.

Where Social Justice and Environmental Activists Won’t Go

The Good Men Project

February 7, 2016

by Michael Sliwa

 

 

Social and environmental justice are connected and fighting for those requires being against civilization.

 

When I first began writing and speaking about white privilege and systemic white supremacy, I had a group of fellow activists which I shared a common vision with. Today I’ve attempted to go further down my own personal rabbit hole in search of the roots of our societal injustices while some of my predecessors and contemporaries have become critical of such a journey.

Over the years I have tried to make more connections for folks and myself in my writing and presentations. I’ve come to a place where even many of the most steadfast social justice activists won’t go. They have and continue to speak truth to power concerning our institutions and larger systems but when it comes to looking at the foundation of those institutions and systems many fall silent.

Civilization is rarely on the table when social justice is discussed. That’s not to say there aren’t those talking about the connections between justice and civilization but they are few and very far between. When I began to connect civilization to social justice I lost some folks completely. This could be due to the fact that I may not have presented the material clear enough or well enough, but over the years something tells me there’s more to it. I began to challenge our living arrangement and that for some is not up for negotiation.

 

 

When I say civilization I mean the importation of our goods and services. I mean a division of labor to do so. I mean a hierarchy that requires oppression, violence, killing, environmental degradation and progress to be maintained. I mean the global industrial economy which requires infinite growth on a finite planet to be maintained which of course is impossible.

What I see from many social justice activists is a perspective that views the world through a strictly reform based lens. They want to improve the system. Improving the current state of affairs makes sense. Folks need justice today. What must be considered is a pursuit for the root of our social inequalities and travesties. To pursue the root is radical by definition and therein lies the rub.

Reformists aren’t radicals. They often demonize radicals. They tend to focus on pursuing reform solely within our institutions and systems. Institutions and systems that are the foundations of a hierarchy that requires oppression, violence, killing, and environmental degradation to be maintained. There’s nothing wrong with fighting for change within the status quo but if that’s all we’re doing then we are clearly not trying to find the root of our societal and environmental issues.

 

 

Civilization and in particular, industrial civilization is that root. After all civilization today requires massive hierarchal institutions and systems and they are the pillars of police brutality, incarceration rates, preferential hiring, housing inequities, and an endless list of other discriminatory practices. Some will point to capitalism as the culprit but capitalism and yes even socialism are the children of civilization.

Now one might argue that all of this infrastructure that supports our lives exists because of civilization, to which I agree. There in lies the predicament. If we call for the dismantling of the very infrastructure that promotes and perpetuates massive oppression then we also should sever the head of all we know about living in the world. Being dependent upon civilization is keeping billions of us alive and it’s killing and oppressing people at the same time. What it’s also doing is devouring the very diversity that creates all diversity, biodiversity. This point further cements our predicament.

As activists and as a civilization we are stuck. We want solutions within a framework that is killing the life support systems which provide for our own existence. We want justice in a framework that requires injustice. We want our cake and eat it to. The trouble is the cake is poisonous. It tastes great going down because we see gains in the fight for justice but it also reinforces a system and perpetuates injustice by reforming it instead of dismantling it. We never consider dismantling it because we are fully dependent upon it. We never consider dismantling it because we believe this is the only way to live. Our dependency upon it has taught us that we can solve the unsolvable. Like I said, we are in fact stuck.

 

 

The question of solutions for a predicament has been going on for all of our civilized existence. Predicaments of course have no solutions so civilization is our predicament. How then to proceed? There are plenty of options but they all end badly for not only civilization but for all of humanity. There is no way to maintain an ever growing global economy on a finite planet and therefore there is no way to save 7 plus billion people. Our massive hierarchies have put us into population overshoot. We add almost 238,000 people per day (births minus deaths) and the strain is felt well beyond our own species. Our growing economy grows our population which has given us irreversible climate change. Again our options are plentiful but the outcomes remain painfully the same.

Activists are used to long and slow struggles for justice. What they’re not used to are predicaments. I could go into the variety of choices to address our situation like revolution, abandonment, or even the ill fated reforms but I can only think of one option that goes Beyond Civilization as author Daniel Quinn’s book title so eloquently states. This option goes beyond us and more importantly beyond our species. It cuts to the heart of the matter.

You see we can still fight for justice in our daily lives but at the end of the day instead of limiting our scope to only our societal struggles, maybe we can move towards the exit of such inherent civilized privilege by considering our connections to everything that supports our own existence. In other words, speak truth to power but realize we must let go of all we have become reliant upon in order for it to make any difference in our collective planetary community. Being anti-racist means being anti-civilization. Being a feminist means being anti-civilization. Being a proponent of immigrant rights means being anti-civilization. Social and environmental justice are connected and fighting for those requires being against civilization.

If we can leave any legacy maybe it can be an answer to philosopher Alan Watts question, how do we leave the world alone? We can do this by becoming part of the world again but that’s a place most will not go. The trouble is nature doesn’t negotiate so our living arrangement options aren’t really options at all but a predicament we all must face.

Justice awaits.

 

 

 

[Mike Sliwa is a husband and homesteader. He taught high school for 12 years and left his career for a simpler existence. Currently he and his wife are living off grid, perfecting their durable living skills in rural New Mexico. Mike speaks about a wide variety issues concerning simple living, white privilege, abrupt climate change, Near Term Human Extinction, and other consequences of the civilized industrial global economy. He’s also a co-host for the radio program, Nature Bats Last on the Progressive Radio Network (Prn.fm) and co-founder of the social justice speaking agency truality.org.]

 

FLASHBACK 45 Years, 1971 | “Human Nature: Justice vs. Power”

“Human Nature: Justice vs. Power” debate (1971) (Excerpt)

Michel Foucault:

“…It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.”

 

The Lies of Rehabilitation

Wrong Kind of Green Op-Ed

December 2, 2015

By Forrest Palmer

 

obama federal prison 2

Recently, Barry (more commonly known as President Obama) made history in being the first sitting president to visit a federal prison while in office. He received major kudos from some mainstream press outlets and many people on the liberal/left for doing this. During his time there, Barry had a televised conversation with a few inmates that was broadcast on a special for VICE news. In Barry’s dialogue with the inmates, they told him about the particular circumstances regarding their incarceration, which revolved around drugs, unfair mandatory sentences and an imbalanced justice system that wasn’t fair to them because of their ethnicity (foremost) and class (secondary). In order to put a silver lining on the details of these men and their time behind bars, the news special describes how a number of the inmates are learning a trade in prison, with the example of welding being the one focused on in this documentary. To illustrate how these men are being “rehabilitated” in prison, Barry actually visits a welding shop to interact with a number of incarcerated individuals who are working there and discussing with Barry how they plan to be successful after leaving the prison in their newfound trades.

But, here is where the intersection of what the Western world considers a beneficent act meets the delusion of industrial civilization. As these men are learning nothing outside of a few menial tasks for a slowly collapsing society based on manual labor and the products that it yields in a dwindling range of acceptable everyday jobs, the question is never broached by Barry or VICE news or anyone else as to the availability of these jobs in a sustainable, environmentally sound society. So, the assumption is that there will always be a place for these men in society because the continuance of industrialization is a given by those who have a Western mindset, which encompasses the typical person residing in this society.

Industrial Civ 4

The training of these men for jobs such as this without giving them a true sense of what is happening outside of said training is the height of deceitfulness. They are not taught to think critically. During the advent of Western educational system, the basis for it was from ancient Greece. This meant that the focus was on building an individual who had a classical education based on a vast array of topics. Although this was only wholly available to a white, male of privilege in the initial stages of this particular country (Amerikkka), the foundation itself was correct in asserting that teaching the individual a wide breadth of topics is what spawned an informed person. But with the beginning of the industrial revolution, the emphasis devolved from that of a well-rounded individual with an understanding of the world based upon a myriad amount of subjects and topics, both mental and physical in nature, to just a perfunctory task maven who possesses only the delusion of thinking that the individual is well-rounded based upon the financial success regarding this specific task. For example, this is why Uncle Ben Carson, one of the current frontrunners for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, can be a successful brain surgeon, yet know pretty much nothing outside of that particular task and be wholly ignorant on almost everything else in this world while at the same time considering himself an expert and/or genius on the topics of which his ignorance is glaring. This present mindset which is typical was impressed upon the culture because it was the most expedient way of progress for an industrial civilization. Economic growth by way of technological progression can most quickly be achieved by those who don’t question the legitimacy of these advances no matter the detrimental results. This is all due to the collective ingrained ignorance that is prevalent in Western society.

As a way to illustrate this and also turning back to the men in this snippet of prison life of which Barry was privy to view for a short period of time, their entire training in this one task will ultimately lead them to be no better than a soldier who kills for no other cause than the word of his superiors with a totally absent understanding in regards to a valid reason why he or she is killing. It is the absence of this classical knowledge base outside of the technical trade aspects of their tutelage, be it blue collar or even white collar in nature, that will disable them from confronting the ignorance this society instills in the individual which causes them to adhere to the same social principles that are destroying the Earth.

Industrial Civ 3

Case in point, once these people do enter back into civilian life from being incarcerated for whatever period of time with only this one bit of training for a trade that is based on the continuance of industrial civilization, then their entire fixation will be on the continuance of this culture. Therefore, the ongoing climate negotiations in Paris, France during COP21 will not only be of no use to him or her, but he or she will have no choice but to be an enemy of implementation of anything that falls out from it, be it useless bullshit legislation (assuredly) or actual worthwhile mandates (impossible). In essence, whatever global legislation that will be agreed upon must inherently be against his or her ability to survive once he or she is no longer incarcerated but possessing only a skillset learned in prison. Hence, the individual’s only option is to be opposed to any and all legislation that curtails his or her ability to survive since the daily survival of the person will always supersede the long term survival of man as self-preservation of the individual supersedes that of the group at an emotional level if not a logical one.

It is for this reason that the AFL-CIO supported the Keystone XL although supposedly an ally on the front of climate change. As the AFL-CIO is a trade union whose entire existence is due to its accepted role as the protector of the presence of manual labor for industrial civilization in a capitalist society, it is useless as an ally regarding climate change or peak oil or water scarcity or anything else that is a BYPRODUCT of the aforementioned industrial civilization. Outside of a few people, these are the types of jobs for which these prisoners are being trained almost entirely.

So, as much as the trade that these men are being trained for seems like a good thing to those that reside in Amerikkka or Western society or even by those who possess a Western mindset yet not inhabiting this society (which is sadly all too many people residing in the Global South who trade subservience for tacit acceptance), the fact is that they are really being trained to do things that are almost certainly much more detrimental to all societies and the world as a whole than any “crime” that they committed on the outside of the prison of which they currently reside.

Industrial Civ 1

We have reached a moment in time that as the sun sets on this particular civilization and another set of social circumstances will dawn on us for however long man exists, people must collectively discuss things like this which are totally detached from the indoctrination of this society that sadly enables us to adhere to a set of failing living circumstances without questioning anything. The only other path is to continue to prepare people for an existence which is utterly impossible. Yet, be it the prisoner untrained to think external of a single task or the ones on the outside that more easily live every day in this way, the end result of a change in circumstances is inevitable.

The state of the conditions is no longer in our control. The only thing we control at this juncture is the response.

 

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

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