Will The Environment Even Matter One Day?

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So it has come to my attention that you can win a Ben and Jerry’s Party for your halls by saving energy over the year. Great! The fact that we’re unsure about where our power is going to come from in the next few decades is a good motive to use what we have now more sparingly (the lure of ice cream is equally enticing).

Another possible source of motivation is the positive effect that turning off all those lightbulbs will have on the environment.

But this article isn’t about how we’re going to meet future energy needs nor is it about how we should go about protecting the environment in the present day, it is instead about what happens to the environment when we no longer have to worry about where our energy will come from.

So let’s set the scene: Nuclear Fusion has come up trumps and is now supplying the world with an endless supply of energy. We could fill every inch of the earth with things requiring power and not have to worry about it ever running out. We don’t need to buy energy efficient light bulbs or worry about whether we should drive or cycle somewhere. The energy is dirt cheap too, so we don’t even need to worry about saving money on our electricity bills.

In this world technology has advanced by miles, as R&D is no longer undertaken on energy savings and is instead more rescources are put into making more and more useful things. The poor can heat their homes and street lights stay on for the entirety of the night (as opposed to turning off at around 3am).

To sum up, the world is much improved thanks to this cheap, infinite source of energy.
But what of the environment? What state is that in?

On one hand it may be a lot better; we’ll no longer need to exploit the arctic for oil, fracking won’t be a thing either, nor will there be wars over oil and gas that in turn have their own maleffects on nature. With all our extra energy we could more effectively support the environment too.

But then again, why should we care for the environment? We could synthesise our own food, change the planet’s temperature all we liked to counter climate change, build huge flood defences to protect us from a rising tide. All in all, there wouldn’t be a use for nature any more. I know this sounds pretty odd at first, but the strongest reason I see for protecting the environment and its resources now, is so that 40 years down the line we’re not all dead from some terrible self-inflicted natural disaster. Without that reason, there are few others.

But what of that other alternative future, you know, that one. The one where everything is pretty much the same as it is now, with some people caring about the environment and some not. Because as much as people seem to ask for change an awful lot, we don’t half complain when it comes.

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Discussion1 Comment

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    Isabella Hunter-Fajardo

    I think some of the main reasons around today for conserving the natural environment are not just energy-based. Most activists have genuine passion for nature, be they tiger conservationists, anti-poaching organisations, anti-logging lobbyists or meerkat enthusiasts. You don’t need to be a zealous tree-hugger to care: I’m a 100% city person but there’s nothing like going out to the country for an escape, with fresh air and beautiful scenery, and I do care a lot about protecting the environment on moral principle.
    Also, there’s only so much humans can do against natural disasters – no matter how high the flood barriers are (which are not cheap!). Climate change and environmental destruction can contribute to their occurrence. Simply out of preservationism people should be made to care about the environment!
    You raise a valid point, but I think the fundamental human appreciation for, and fear of nature won’t just die out the moment our energy needs are met.

    Thanks for writing!

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