In the deep green view, the process of change must happen soon, ideally voluntarily, and anything that offers alternatives that seem to avoid that are dangerous illusions and diversions. So renewables are sometimes portrayed as ‘technical fixes’ avoiding the need to reduce energy use, while possibly creating new eco-problems, especially if introduced in unchanged social and economic contexts. Even energy saving technologies are sometimes seen as illusory: we just need to use less. That’s not to say that such things will not be valuable in the steady-state, balanced and decentralised society they look to, but on their own they are not sufficient- we need radical and global social and cultural change. To a small degree that has happened: green values are now quite widespread and some of that is due to the emergence and adoption of new eco-technologies. But in the main all they do is enable life to go on much as before, with the new technologies in the main being produced and sold in the same old way. Some market relations may have changed, challenging some parts of the supply/retail system (the big utilities), but PV solar domestic ‘prosumers’ are still consumers, buying in PV kit probably manufactured in sweat shops in China!
Can we do better? What tools do we have? In the energy context, the basic technologies exist now, or are being developed, but we are only just starting to put them together in ways that challenge the old economic model, via grass roots initiatives, energy co-ops and community owned distribution grids. It’s patchy. Germany is a leader, and local Transition movements are spreading. But its huge task. Though they can challenge rapacious competition, these local initiatives don’t really tackle the key issues of production and consumption-led growth. To take this all on fully would require a wider movement for social, cultural and political change. A big project.