The prosecuting modernity the end of cheap energy interview with Tara Vaden episode 69. Welcome to the My energy 2050 podcast where we speak to the people building a clean energy system by 2050. I'm your host Michael LaBelle. This week we speak with Tara Vaden, a philosopher in the BOC Research Unit in Helsinki. Both society in nature moving past the age of cheap fossil fuels, when coal, oil and gas can take pick, could be taken out of the ground and burned for the high calorific content to power our world. Now, we have to contend with putting all that co2 back into the atmosphere, and the growing power of nature with which threatens our climate. And this interview, Terra provides us with a perspective through philosophy and humanities, to understand the deeper meaning of what it actually means to release so much co2 from fossil fuels. Humanity released the co2 by assuming we had power over nature. But the sad fact is nature has the power over us. And now we are just beginning to pay the price. As we see a great humbling is now occurring based on our hubristic use of natural resources. One of the key words for this episode is hubris. So pay attention. The pace of this episode speaks to Tara's in depth thinking about the inter linkages between societies governments and nature. If you enjoy a more business or market perspective on the energy system, then this episode delivers on these points. We started off our discussion from understanding current affairs and climate negotiations, and the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. From a Finnish perspective. Later, we delve into a more philosophical discussion about energy is not just the outcome of processing raw materials, but rather a source of power and control over both society and nature. That is, we discuss common understandings of how power can be seen through government actions. But we also get into how nature holds power over humanity. And this is one of the key lessons society has forgotten. It is it was us that puts so much co2 into the atmosphere, and is now us that have to deal with nature's changing ways. Each episode of The my energy 2050 podcast is unique and different. This episode is a great representation of that one of the main joys of doing this podcast is to find new people to talk to you about energy. And here's a great example of me meeting Tara in Helsinki and gaining a greater understanding of both fillings approach and perspective on energy, and also a deeper philosophical understanding. The mini also brought about a deeper discussion discussion about how philosophy can inform our understanding of energy, more specifically how we use and perceive energy in our modern society, and the greater awareness of the downsides. As you'll hear, there are so many new ways we need to explore to expand our thinking on conceptualizing the energy transition, in fact, is hard to see how we can have an energy transition. We don't have new conceptual framings to understand what we have done in the past. What are we doing now like now, and what we need to get done in the future, all to get off fossil fuels. And I would just say to just be more sustainable. A final note, this interview was done from my current role as an open society University Network, senior fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The funding was generously provided to produce the podcast until the end of 2022. The intent of the my energy 2050 podcast is to spread the knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future. The content of each episode is great for teaching research and identifying how you can assist this energy transition. And check out the transcripts. And now for this week's episode. I'm here today with Tara Vaden, a philosopher and member of the BIOS research unit. So Tara, I just want to welcome you to the My energy 2050 podcast. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks. And we have I have a lot of questions, but I'm mainly really excited that you do philosophy and energy. And one of the things I'm joined on is your co authored book with Auntie Salminen which is called energy and experience an essay in NAFTA ology. So I really want to get into some of the issues you raised in the book. But before we do that, I want to maybe ask about your background and how did you become interested First, I would say in philosophy, and then second, how did you become interested in energy?
Okay, yeah, so the story is I was I've always been interested in many things. So Oh, studying philosophy was one way of delaying the disease and what, what, what I want to be when I grow up, so okay, because in philosophy you can do pretty much I'll be interested in so many things. So that's why philosophy. And yeah, I did, I did sort of philosophy of mind philosophy or cognitive science, my dissertation was on, on the philosophy of ai 9096 95, something like that. And I continued on that, that line, but then just by accident, somehow, early 2000s I happen to serve on peak oil sites. And I started reading about the, the idea of peak oil and and the phenomenon of peak oil. And for years, I just sort of like read about it, and was so amazed, why didn't nobody Why didn't anyone tell me about this possible that there is this this thing that we are so dependent on, on oil especially and and the other fossil fuels and, and nobody mentioned it anywhere, at least in my study. So, in our studies was what we did and and then sort of out of that sort of cool first day sort of like philosophical theoretical conceptual site, Geist thing, interested in in oil, and fossil fuels. And then that will be what wrote that book and wrote some other stuff and, and then now sort of it has more also this kind of empirical side, but now in the bias research unit. So I concentrate a lot on the energy. So some resources, you will start phase Finland now with, with all with all the ecological and energy and whatever crisis poly crisis that that we are facing.
And for you, how does philosophy bring in? Like a new, a different perspective? So you saw this gap? But what does it bring? What is it? How does it educate? Or how does it expose new things in the energy system?
Oh, that's a that's a really, really good question. I think the sort of like, the first thing that that was amazing, so auntie, my co author in the entire book that you mentioned, so we had a, we had a common hobby, we were shooting bows and arrows, and we started discussing about this peak oil question, and, and, and so on, and the first sort of thing, really there is that, why, why is there there's virtually no sort of philosopher that has said anything interesting about energy, and that that is a symptom in itself. How is it possible that we are so reliant, or that especially this kind of modern, high energy use lifestyle is solely dependent on fossil fuels, and nobody has said anything about it. So that itself is a sort of like, thing, very interesting thing. And like any, any kind of sort of basic? Well, let's put it this way. Philosophers has had philosophers and other critical critical thing, as I've said, a lot of things about the ownership of stuff, and my society and technology and these kinds of things. But they are all dependent on energy. So that's sort of like to take the philosophical concepts or maybe phenomenological analysis, how the fact that we are dependent on our own energy and don't notice it, what kind of structure of experience what kind of structural feeling that sort of implies, or what is what is sort of hidden, hidden, hidden there in the in the black in the black spot on the black swan of oil that we don't know this.
I like the black spot. Right, we don't notice it and you bring out structuralism or the structure of it, and I'll just say structuralism because that's kind of my perspective on the energy system as well. It's, it's, yeah, it is structure. It's a structure that shapes society, and society operates within that structure. But okay, that's my view. May I ask you how, from a structural perspective, what is the interrelationship between the energy system and society?
Well, yeah, the structure is quite sort of, for me, one, one of the crucial, crucial points when I started, started sort of understanding something or at least got some insight was when I was already like 10 or 15 years ago. So I'm very in in social media, I was sort of trying to get people to sort of be be aware or be angry about the fact that we are reliant on Russian oil and Russian Russian gas that is mostly produced in in areas in Siberia where they're also sort of thin, thin, nowclick people that we should sort of feel sympathy with, and they are produced under circumstances that are not so beneficial, either for nature or for the people that are living there. So I wrote that. Okay, did you know that Today when you went to the gas station and filled up your tank it was coming from Siberia from and then somebody just float underneath it that's filled the car doesn't care where the oil comes from. And then I was sweating. Yeah, well, that's that's kind of true, the car doesn't, the car doesn't know, and even the consumer, and even the oil company, that's what the oil companies are telling us now that they don't know, they can know their source, which is, of course, partly a lie. But it's partly true that that is so standardized. So So homogenized and the structures, the structures are built so that you don't have to know where the energy is coming from. That's, that's a crucial, crucial spot part of the structure. But you don't have to know like, for this room, this room is here somehow. But how do I know how it is heated? Where does the heat come from? Well, it's probably coming from burning wood now in the Helsinki Helsinki central heating system. But what anyhow, sort of oil especially is this kind of thing that structurally, my we even sort of use a neologism in the book, sort of con distancing, but it sort of connects us by keeping distance. So my car use here in Finland is completely connected to Siberian oil fields in a way that gives this distance that I don't know this that I can't even sort of know it, or I would have to use half of my life to find out what kind of oil went into my car yesterday.
Do you think so? I really liked this term called distancing. Because it's it's about it's so far. Yeah. Like you said, if it's in Siberia, which for anyone in the world, although you're closer to Siberia than most people like in Siberia is so far away. But still, this code doesn't seem so it's it's so far away, it's remote, we don't worry about the environmental impact, we don't see the environmental impact, we don't see the human impact and the social impact in those regions. And I think it's quite interesting, then how you framed it in this finish finish? way this is I have to be careful. I know, I finish a territory in Russia with Finnish people and I guess, people, you know, people, and you know, I'm Hungarian. So I'm also really concerned about
linguistic relatives. Yes,
yes. So. But but but, but so it's just a way, but do you think, and maybe I'm gonna jump ahead to current issues, but then we'll go back again, but with climate change, and we can call it climate emergency, but certainly everyone's aware of of global warming, climate change. But how does? Don't you see that? Okay, when you started talking about this a few years ago, maybe there was less awareness or some awareness, we can argue about this, whether it's growing or not growing, but we have climate change now. And this awareness of climate change and the impact of cutting the rainforests for example. Do you think this distance this code distancing is maybe decreasing?
Yeah, it's, it's decreasing. Now, we're sort of starting to notice what happened with with all the burning, but of course, they sort of, it's relatively sort of, in terms of historical time, of course, it's quick, in the sense that like, like, you know, most of the Burning has happened since the 80s. or so, because we also so many now on the planet, and, and, and the use is so, so massive. So now we start noticing, noticing it, even though of course, in some sense, it is obvious already, in the end of the 90s. And tourism scientists were were calculating, saying that this kind of greenhouse effect is going to happen if we burn a lot of this stuff. And that's, I think that's part of also of the of the sort of black spots are the blackness of oil that it makes realizing and sort of actually acting on an understanding these phenomena. Like now we know that climate change is sort of at least a civilization threatening sort of thing. And still, we are sort of still there. Still, it's sort of hard to take on a steel it's hard to be conscious and and and act on it. And and sort of like nanoplastics I think the plastic thing is going to be probably even even sort of bigger thing than then climate change. Now it's, it's already everywhere. And again, that is something that you don't really need. Of course, it's good that we do scientific investigations about Climate Center now plastic and so on. But if you just sort of use your common sense, it's clear that if you produce Giga tons of stuff that it's not going to decompose then it's going to be everywhere.
It's gonna be everywhere. Yeah, but this in they go back to the oil question because the And wouldn't it but people know it's happening. Climate change is done by fossil fuels. So that why don't they just make a decision to give up their cars live in cities. And yeah, not rely on fossil fuels for just transportation,
or some some people are doing but I think that comes back to the structural point that you mentioned that the, the sort of, like the arteries of the arteries of the system are built, so that it needs a certain amount of of oil. So if it just would sort of cut it cold turkey, that would mean a lot of deaths and a lot of all kinds of misery. So that's, that's the public about the metabolism, the system is built so that it doesn't run. That's also an interesting, interesting sort of, sort of semi philosophical thing about our fossil fuels and society that society doesn't run on any energy, it needs specific types of energy. And now, obviously, with natural gas, and Germany and Central European heating and an industry, but but in the case of oil, sort of all the cars need something liquid, they, they, they can't run on something solid, or something gaseous or whatever. So the there's a huge infrastructure that is built on particular types of energy carriers, like like, oil in this case. So even if you would have a lot of electricity, or even if you've had sort of, in abstract terms, the same amounts of kilowatt hours or whatever, it wouldn't fit the system. And that's, that's the sort of big thing that we have to do is sort of rebuild a huge amount of infrastructure to fit with other forms of energy production
for a different energy, but in this is in the book too. And maybe you can expand on it, because you talk a lot about oil, like like we have been talking a lot about oil, but before that there was coal, and and then now we have gas, maybe maybe you could talk about why these fossil fuels are so important. How do I, I would say power in control or the regime that's in place, but and you bring out Timothy Mitchell's as well.
Yeah, I think sort of the oil is, in some sense, the king it's sort of best it is best suited with the sort of for capitalist, hyper hyper consumerist sort of society, in that it is produced in in specific places, that can be controlled in terms of sort of power and power politics and geopolitics. And it can be transported for long distances, it can be stored, nothing happens to it, when you when you store it, you can store it in, in huge amounts, which is more problematic. Again, when it comes to gas. Now we maybe with LNG, we are coming to the point where we can store store all also gas, but that's sort of like the arteries, their spots where it is produced, and the arteries through which it is produced, can be controlled, and and can be in few hands. Also something we sort of understand with Russia nowadays. Energy Weapon, and like the ultimate sale points out that sort of goal was different in the sense that still sort of at that point, they were unions that controlled like coal mining and coal, coal transport, like rail unions, and that sort of made it possible in the early 20th century to get these concessions for for the workers by stopping coal production. But oil production has always been done in a sort of, like segregated manner, in the sense that maybe sort of like manual workers in the oil fields, they are local, but then all the management is flown in. And there's already segregation on that level. And also in sort of, if it happens in some place, that that sort of worker start to own oil fails, then they are just killed simply and and, and the oil fields are taken into into sort of company custody. Again, so that's that's what has happened several times not not all, not universally but several times. So that sort of has been the mode of oil production for
so this goes to multinational companies and their their parties going into a look yeah,
but also sort of like nowadays sort of the big the so called eight sisters, the big multinationals Of course, they are only maybe 10% of the of the international oil market and the big, big companies are the national companies. So it's more like they are like like Like sometimes it is said about rock say that that is a gas station with a state or gas station with a meter army. So that's that's the thing that the oil countries are gotta are now looking at what's what's happening there. So it's a big sort of for sale state a single entity that sort of also masquerades as a sort of national state or
okay. Yeah. Because it has oil as well. Cool. Even. And gas as well. And so it's a fossil state, or it's a fossil company with a state within a state
Yeah. And with with the army. So that's that comes also this sort of like coal, oil gas, they have different properties even as fossil fuels in sort of how how they structure society or how society is structured around them. Like for gas, you need to meet need the pipelines oil, sort of easier to easier to utilize to tankers and so on, and also the bulk of gas and oil is somewhat interchangeable. But but sort of different from from coal.
Yeah. Could you expand on that? What is the role because gas now that we see with this crisis, and particularly the I would say the general assumption, for example, Germany was that, oh, they're switching away from from fossil fuels. And it's agreeing with the energy vendor. This is wonderful. But in reality, it's like, oh, wait, they're really rely on on gas. So is gas the new energy carrier that could be more dominant in the future? Or there's also a role? Well, I hope
it won't be because, again, we are sort of already already so close to the limits on the carbon budget. So even even though gas is somewhat cleaner to burn, and oil and a lot cleaner than coal, but still, still, it will prompt my produce too much in the climate, climate sense. But I think one one thing there is that sort of gas is is needed not only for inaccuracy, but it is a raw material. It's a raw material stock for German chemical industry. So that's, that's one one. And that that was one of the sort of biggest surprises for for, for me that it was said aloud one of the senior, senior C CEO, something of boss, the big chemical company said sometime last last spring that well, our competitiveness, actually, that is based on cheap Russian gas. So he didn't say that it's based on our sort of exceptional skills and knowledge and tradition, he said that it's based on cheap gas, the raw material that they that they need. So that's that's one part of the sort of fertilizers plastics, those are made out of out of gas, not out of oil, again, you could maybe do them out of oil, but there's a sort of one step, more work and labor, so it's more expensive. And so yeah, so they're gone. The sort of like the transcript, basically, sort of gold, oil and gas are the same stuff. But nature has done some transformations for them, so that they are different. Of course, we can do the transformations ourselves. But then there's an added step and only cost and added energy use.
But in terms of, I would say state and social relations. You have you have in the book there, for example, that Russia is still in control of the oil, right, like Europe thinks it's free from this Russian influence, or whatever. And how does the gas situation? I mean, now, maybe we can shift a little bit to understanding the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine and the reaction of the European Union, we could say Western countries against Russia and attempting to limit and cut off gas and oil exports and coal exports from from Russia. What did what did the crisis and the reaction show about Europe's dependency on Russian fossil fuels?
I think for many, many people who had followed followed the energy an energy world and entities situation, it wasn't so surprising that in activity Oh, that Russia will use the energy, but when I remember already, again, in maybe it was 2006 or 2005 something I read a report by a think tank that is close to German army bear market and they did a report on on energy and there was a sentence there already that said that okay, we have to tone down the criticism of the human rights situation in Russia, because so on and so forth. So it has been been clear in that sense that there is this dependency and it has been there have been some some people who have been sort of pointing that out and, and sort of criticizing that and in fact It sounds sort of it was obvious that Russia is going to use it in some way. Of course the how sort of how total Anna Anna and how sort of massive this both the Boer war in Ukraine itself and and then the then the embargoes and counter embargoes also how big they were, that's maybe surprising, but but the fact that they are going to use it in some way that was that was obvious. And in that sense sort of it is a little bit hard. Of course, I've read a lot a lot about sort of what the explains the naivete in Germany, for instance. And there are good reasons, but it's still hard to understand how it was possible.
But doesn't this this exposure then isn't as good for moving away from fossil fuels? Because it shows
hopefully, hopefully, yeah. But of course, we are seeing things now. Like of Germany doing a 25 year deal with Qatar on natural gas? Of course it is it is also true. Like, I was listening to one of one of the podcasts assessment that you did with this. I don't remember his name for the French gas.
Terry, bro study process? Yes,
he was saying that it is it would be sort of like irresponsible now to just cut all fossil fuels, we did something before we have enough wind and so on, and so on. So maybe this and that. That's something that phenol is also doing together with Estonia building LNG terminals, and, and and that sort of capacity. So yeah, probably be needed. But but then the thing to take care of is that that doesn't produce sort of like long term batch dependencies. Yes, yes. So that we can then move away from from the LNG.
But, Tara, you're kind of middle of the road here. I'm getting disappointed. I know. As a philosopher, I was thinking, more radical position, but maybe we will delve into the philosophy because because, yeah, we so essentially you by you accept that we have this energy transition from fossil fuels. But is there a danger? And maybe this is what I see, just talking to some people on this on this trip is that it really seems like the companies that are in control now the gas companies, oil companies, state companies, private companies, are having a hard time letting go. And when it comes to like energy communities, we can define that, however, in different ways. But I would say maybe the democratic democratization of the energy system that renewables allow people to do in society to have and not be so reliant on a centralized system, is there is there how do you see this interaction? Because you talk a lot about capitalism and with Marxism, and and the labor, for example, with cold and switch to oil is how, what is the cause? There's this natural tension, particularly in a neoliberal market system that we have of large companies or governments want you to stay Central, you talked about arteries for oil and gas, but what about the arteries for like, controlling the energy system and influencing society through the structuralist approach? Is there a danger that the energy transition remains like a centralized system, rather than a more democratic or decentralized system,
there's a big big danger of course, the hope is that pain product wind power production, solar production, so and they are by their nature. So again, like physical nature, physical structure, they are more distributed, the wind towers are where they are, and they can be, they can be put in in many places, and not sort of like more. So concentrated as the as the fossil fuel wells, and so on. But like you say, like, again, I know the situation I'm based in, in in Finland, because of the studies and research we do in bias with regard to Finland. So a lot, a big part of the wind power parks are owned by in German and French company. So there is the danger that of course it is, it is good from the climate change perspective, if it changed from fossil fuels to the so called renewable sources, but not from the Democratic point of view, if it is the same companies and if it's if it is centralized like that. But I think it I think I still sort of hope that it won't be again, just because of the physical material structure of the of the production, that that the sort of if a company owns wind parks all over the world It is still going to be harder to control than owning, owning sort of fossil fuel wells, just because of the distribution and, and, and so on. And so the I mean, it's more like having to do with how much energy do you get from a specific area of land. If you have like a sphere squat one square kilometer of oil? Well, that's a huge amount of energy that if you get a square kilometer of forest, that's a little event get to the board to burn, if you have been inside our stairs, then you get a little more energy. But still, it's sort of like hundreds of 1000s of times less than you would get from an oil well. So that's sort of what I think it's the physical thing that is hopefully driving a more sort of disability than and hopefully also more democratic sized energy system.
But you raise a great point there. So I'm a geographer. So by then it's the concentration of energy within a given space space. Yeah,
that's the thing sort of fossil fuels have been sold sort of for, I don't know, I'm just looking for the English word, I can be stuck in my neighborhood. Feeling finish? Well, but it's so so concentrated in that and the NSC con that is so so big, yes. That anything else is going to take more space.
Yes. And so there's a you have more stakeholders, you have more just the natural environment to account for. This is maybe why planning and regulations are biggest hindrance for renewable energy. And that's,
that's why white like in in Finland, where forest and bioenergy is a big part of the rainy renewable thing. There's already now sort of problems between forest owners and been power companies and so on, because of the land use issue, land uses is going to become a much bigger, bigger thing because of the energy transition.
And when I really liked your book, and I know I read it too fast, but I'm gonna definitely go back through and reread it, and also have my students read parts of it. And but one of the issues or cultural aspects you bring up is indigenous communities. And this is also something I think, is really informative, because they certainly have a different worldview than us and different background than I would say, just Western civilization, I'll just put it like that. And their connection to the land is much, much tighter, or historically, it was much tighter. And what can we learn? Or how does it perspective that accounts for indigenous communities and their involvement in the energy system? How can that inform us going forward? Well, from
the, again, sort of very abstract, or sort of high level or sort of conceptual level philosophy, I think it didn't think about it in terms of knowledge and skills. So we know from research that, what is it 80% of all biodiversity is on indigenous lands, and so on. And we also know that there are indigenous peoples who see us using oil and our lifestyles and sort of material culture and they decline, they don't join the train, they they do something, something else. So I think the sort of skill thing, is there something crucial my sort of, for example of this is that what if there was an indigenous people living outside of this modern trappings, and somehow they, they by mistake, they somehow spoil their environment. And then they come to us into universities and so on. And, and they ask, okay, we want to live in a sustainable life, how do we do it? So can we teach them? Well, we could give them reports and sort of articles what we couldn't give them an example how to do it, yes. Whereas just sort of purely empirically. So as a Martian looking at Earth, there are some examples of people who live sustainably. And they are not Western modern, they are not Western civilization, people they are other other kinds of other kinds of people. So they have the skills to live sustainably. Yes. So if it's just talk about the skills from from this kind of Martian perspective, then it's clear where do you go to ask Yeah, not not to those who don't live sustainably from those who do live a sustainable and have those kinds of worldviews and I think that this sort of connected to there again, sort of philosophy comes into picture that technology is one thing we can sort of change my ice car to electric car, but this really has to do. It has to do with values and desires. What do I want out of life and then become even to the unconscious thing? How do I change what do Want, how do I change what I desire? Well, I'm gonna have to ask Dr. Freud and those those people, how do I change what I decided? And it's, it's in that sense, it is sort of like reading something like civilizational psychotherapy to change how we feel and what we want and what satisfies us. And so,
but don't, don't we need that to really tackle climate change? Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Absolutely. Yeah. The thing, the problem, I see, the biggest problem is that it's coming so fast, that that sort of like, yeah, changing one's mind or changing the mind of our society or culture takes time, it typically takes a couple of generations or so. And we don't have that time. And that is that is one of the sticky things that that even sort of rational thinking doesn't act fast enough in this kind of situation.
You wouldn't use it, how can we use the current crisis as essentially the scene or pressure on not using Russian oil and gas as an example of what can happen during a crisis period? Well,
that's a good a good example of when it's concrete enough, and when again, because I think it's not only that it's concrete enough in the sense that, that gas prices are high or, or that there might be cuts in electricity provision, or so on. But it's also concrete enough in that people sort of sympathize with they'll cry Ukrainians, and an unseen but those with the Russians, and that sort of produces a desire to get away from the fossil dependency. And, and that sort of, again, sort of like deep enough together that the price signal and and then also the sort of ethical signal of what happens when you are dependent on fossils, that that might be enough to sort of drive this kind of transition?
And push it, then what would be the as a philosopher, then, so what you bring to the table? And? And yeah, because there's there's limited amount of, I would say, a philosophical perspective on the energy system, and how maybe this is something that you probably should go away and think about, okay, but if you had a research agenda, for philosophy and energy, what would be some key areas to hit on that, that you feel are lacking that philosophy can contribute towards understanding this energy transition more deeply?
I think the the sort of the thing about desires and unwanted that would be one, how they sort of like, how, because energy is a strange thing in the sense that even sort of physically, energy, you can touch energy, it's, it's sort of like, it's a quantitative thing that you can measure in very different places. But it's hard to say what energy in itself is. But in some sense, we ourselves know what energy is because we are also part of energy, sort of, from renewable energy from the inside, in some sense. So in that sense, what what is the sort of connection of energy and good human life or, or, or, or, or even experience and consciousness, so on that, of course, that well, that goes to the eastern Eastern philosophy quite quite quickly, because they have studied that a lot. So that that would be would be one thing. And then the other thing would be sort of like this, I think there's a lot of a lot of sort of interesting things to think about societies and energy systems, in terms of, of sort of, like wealth or metabolic ism idea, sort of like, just to compare them to animals basically. Okay, and sort of learn from the sort of four kinds of mutations and structural things that, that energy systems, energy systems are comparable, in which energy systems are comparable to biological systems and so on. I think that's that's the level of complexity and sort of for how to put it now in sort of like synchronous change that changes that have to happen things have to happen in certain rhythms. When you change one thing you have to change than others. And so this kind of systemic or metabolic or whatever, kind of view on on energy and energy systems
and, and for example, in your book, you write about NAFTA gas, or NAFTA, NAFTA guess not looking at my notes.
Not enough is the old Greek word for oil. That's why we that's why they use the word NAFTA. As philosophers you of course want to Go the Gold Creek or universal.
Okay, so So but you have in there that this NAFTA replaces God or God dies with now yeah, maybe you can explain that because I think that then talks about the rhythm of society and goes yeah, I
think it has to do with the with the thing that sort of since the late 19th century first in some places in the world and then in many more places we have used every decade almost every year, we used more energy than the previous year. And that creates the kind of for structural feeling of sort of acceleration of everything getting better, year by year of progress of technological progress, that progress, medical progress, all kinds of progress is and and there's the, again, the sort of like the black, black swan of oil in the sense that it had this, this sort of feeling of utter acceleration hasn't contained the understanding that it's dependent on on fossil fuels. So if we have, we can have all kinds of technology. But if you don't have an accident, nothing, nothing happens. And we have assigned praise, or blame, if you will look at from the clinical perspective, too many things that that actually don't carry the praise or blame, they will praise or blame should go to the use of the of the energy. So I think that, in that sense, when people sort of think that okay, technology is going to save us or that we are very, we are very sort of for I think it's fair to say that contemporary, sort of Western people think that we are most sophisticated in terms of knowledge and skills, and so on. But they vie to sort of cut the fossil fuels. Let's see how, how knowledgeable and how sophisticated, sophisticated we are that we can again, give the sort of forget to material and emphasize the sort of immaterial, and concentrate too much on the sort of, suppose the materiality. So we call it NAFTA Summit, this this phenomenon where people think that something something is independent from nature, when in fact that very illusion of independence is dependent on the fact that there happened to be a huge amount of high quality hydrocarbons. So it's actually the nature itself, that is sort of feeding this illusion that we are independent of nature. And what's happening now is that slowly, but then quickly, this, this dependency is starting to reassert itself, the material, material connection is starting to reassert itself. And that's sort of where we have to can recalibrate, also the ideas that we have about knowledge and our skills and technology and medicine and
all those things, like we begin to see it now because of climate change,
change and also sort of the energy crisis. Okay. I think that the sort of peak point of energy use per capita is already maybe in the past. So okay, so when we move to to solar and wind energy from fossil fuels, I think the energy use per capita is going to go down somewhat. And that already 10 changes again, things how much we are now we are leaving almost like in a fog of war or fog of oil off of fossil fuels. Now we're living on the top of the world, hand of the hand of humanity is the longest right now. Okay, which means that many of the things that we see are sort of like, it'd be phenomenon not not really real. here just for a couple of decades, and they are going to go away.
But maybe I go back to this invisibility of nature. And so in one sense we take from nature in the form of fossil fuels, and lots of lots of ways we take from nature. But but the way societies organized I would say, with the professional or I don't know what the industrialization of fossil fuels, basically, we go to the gas stations, all very clean. coal power plants are outside the cities, so you don't see it in the city. So somehow this energy conversion process is separated from our daily lives are done in a clean manner, like inside the car engine, so we don't really notice it too much. But, in fact, that's actually we're borrowing from nature because now we put so much co2 into the air that it comes back in a different form in like less snow in Helsinki, as we were talking about or, you know, we start to see the effects of climate change around us. And so now this use of fossil fuels isn't So invisible to us every day now, but rather, it's directly affecting how we live,
we have bought energy, we have used a lot of energy. And in a second book, we call this the sort of energy that now now is coming back to bite us, we call it on energy with with the A, in the beginning, sort of like the, there was intermediate, something that we thought that it could not do. Like now we have the energy provided some useful things, some things that we wanted, but it now, it's now also providing more energy to the sea currents, for instance, and to the better systems, and so on. That's what climate changes, is doing sort of these topics. Stabilization has a lot to do with the fact that the climate system has a lot more energy
now how we've transferred the energy.
He did oceans and the increased moisture, moisture in the air and so on. That that has more, again, just physical power and physical NLC. And that that's a big part of, of the problems that climate change is bringing. So the energy that we took from nature was sort of big enough to, in some sense, break nature, or break the sort of stable nature that we were used to, for, I don't know, 10,000 years.
Right, right, right. But in way, it's its nature, right? So nature will lead you into the metabolism or the natural system and how it goes, and this is the natural system, more co2 creates this natural process. Yeah,
more energetic storms, and so on. And again, they're I think, one important, important sort of perspective, maybe also sort of connected to some entity in his perspective, is that we are actually quite small, when he starts to do stuff, then then we are not so no, so not so brilliant. anymore. We are relatively small
and hairy. Maybe we will get back to how people live and just the urban environment, because I think you people are so disconnected from the natural world because they live in cities not and not everyone, of course. But maybe there's this urban rural divide because of this where those that live in cities are less aware of nature, or the role that nature plays in our lives were those that are out in nature, every day experience and have this connection to nature. I'm not sure what my question is, but something like that.
Yeah. Again, I think it's it's a structural thing that, that people, people learn all the time. And what cities teach us is the distance from energy and distance from food production and distance from nature. That's what they teach them deeds, us. And if we live in cities, then of course, we learn it because we are good learners. And if you do live on in the continent, and you are, job, your own food and heat your own house with the border, so then you have a different type of understanding and sort of for concrete experience with with energy, and appreciation of energy and, and so on. So it's not that strange, I think that this, this happens, it's a sort of for how how cities are organized, how our lives are organized, that sort of, again, coming back to the point that it's almost impossible for the consumer to know, maybe plastic things are even even sort of the best example that plastic things, it's impossible to know where they come from, and it's impossible to know where they go to. Yeah, basically, plastic comes from petroleum. Yeah, yeah. And natural gas and sort of, and they are sort of almost like non identical, these these plastic things. Also, they are they they are replaceable. You can't, you can't they don't have uniqueness. You can't really get attached to them because they they break down and you can't fix them and you throw them away. Yeah. And so unlike, again, made people aboard anything or even a metal or whatever. So again, they're there. There's something of the black blackness in plastic things that they are not really here they are they always sort of here, but
not really. They have a temporal temporality to them.
Yeah, the temporality is very different. And they come from an obscure place, and they go to an obscure place.
And how do you so I'm not very good at philosophers and their different positions and what they contribute. I haven't read that much like with Heidegger that you use. I was just wondering, and so one of my questions is, could you maybe explain? Yeah, just maybe informed me. Actually, maybe the question is, because I'm ignorant of this is why should I read Heidegger to understand Energy? Well,
well maybe not not even not even Heidegger. Heidegger actually has maybe a couple of lines very well, he talks about energy and work, but he's more sort of interested in, in technology. Actually, we say that we think that I'm not using the royal way. But it on TV think that that that Heidecker is is also makes this enough this mistake, because Heidecker says that that modern technology sees everything as raw material that it that is the modern understanding of being like Heidegger says that everything is raw material for something even I myself and raw material for my success or for my flourishing, and so on, that's Heidegger's view. But that contains an artist mistake, because of course, material can be raw only in the eyes of energy. Only if you have energy and work, then you can do something the material and then it is raw. And then. So he also forgets that behind this technological, technological society, there's their energy. But But Heidecker is good in the way that he sort of describes the well, he describes how this kind of modern understanding of being has developed, historically, and so on. But really sort of for me, yeah, it is. It is strange that well, there's there's thoughts but die is a one French philosopher who wrote a lot about energy. Okay, several books about energy. And, and he's, he's interesting, but other than that, it's really hard to find modern philosophers who have written now of course, with the with the so called energy, humanities and so on that is that is starting to happen a lot.
So could you expand on energy humanities,
well, into humanities sort of combines energy studies, and then sort of, well, classical humanities, you look at how energy is portrayed in literature, you know, how painting popular culture but they were sort of how you see actually the traces of the NFC system, in how people have written about, I don't know, marriage, or life in the city or whatever. So so in the humanities, look, looks at those things. And also in sort of, like, you can analyze contemporary culture and contemporary sort of cultural phenomenon from different perspective of how they how enter to us is, is sort of prominent in them.
And how do we how have we gotten to this point now, because I think there was a lot in my book, I bring in this German philosopher. I forget his name now. I keep repeating it over anyways. But he talks about energy culture. So this is where I kind of draw on energy culture. And it seems in the 1920s 1930s, when there was a lot of this electrification coming out motorisation the switch from, yeah, horses, for everything to the car, that that energy was dramatically changing society, and how society, just culture culturally, and just everything. And maybe we went through this period where we didn't realize it or under, perceive this role the energy plays, and now, but do think that we're back at another point in time, where we see we actually see and feel the impact of the energy system has on our daily lives. And this is why, for example, energy humanities comes about or the term energy justice is so widely used nowadays,
I think increasingly so. And it's driven by this fact that the net energy that we gain or the sort of energy per capita that we can use is decreasing. So that that's the point that makes it possible to, to start noticing those things. I think the sort of actually the, how we got here, the creek, the old Creek notion of who plays who brace that sort of fits, almost sort of like to well, to describe how this happened, like when they all the classical, classical Greek from from the time of Aristotle. So the idea of who please it was not that this is a offense to Gods, it was it was a sort of common common criminal offense where you're treated somebody or something, not with the respect that they deserve. And if you need it, then you put would go to court and enforce sort of publicly, publicly prosecutable offense in increase. And the idea is that sort of like you take in hula hoop ballistic bursts and takes pleasure in offending someone or somebody or something by using too much force or energy or power to do something so even something like suicide could be a follow up stick deed because you you'd sort of leave the mess to the clearing up to other people and and so on suicide by sort
of friends yeah it's poison and so yeah,
okay it goes because the mess okay of the mess and then the sort of non respect to to people who are left left after you but it's typically things like he thinks something or a boss X Huawei lots of other vibes that power that are you please stick and then then the critics also started say that it's very hard not to be here ballistic if you are young or if you are drunk or if you are eat. And and that's that's what fossil fuels sort of made made both for the civilization civilization became became rich and drunk. And in some sense because of the X rays and also young, this this sort of valorisation of being young that happened also in the same same. So it's very hard to sort of pay attention. Why would you pay in maybe, again now too soft? To sort of middle of the road? It's hard not to be not why would you pay attention to energy if you don't have to pay attention to? And yes, it's a cheap, it's a it's everywhere, we can use more and more of it. Like the motive, Mitchell said that you can count on oil not to count that, okay. It's the sort of like, there's so much of it that you don't have to worry about it, then the system in its equation is solved. Yes, like previous in previous interest, you had to work a lot and so on. But now it's solved, we can we can worry about other things. So of course, that's in some sense, natural that that happens. But it's also now we know, it's also hubristic in the sense that that sort of we don't give bill in this case, nature, that sort of respect that it would deserve, for the sort of one time endowment of fossil fuels that that happened to happen to be there. And I think you can also say that there is also sort of almost like a willful Lee in sort of leaning over nature and overpowering nature. It's an it's not not just about survival. It's also sort of wanting to wanting to hurt and hit back at nature.
But maybe maybe, let me take Cha this connection between the death of God, the and the hubris, hubris. And but maybe now we're coming to this time, I don't say a reckoning, but maybe a de hubris period, where it's not unlimited anymore. So we actually do have to count how much oil we have. And fossil fuels we have.
Yeah, and like some people call the Great humbling, or I think that's a good, good expression, good expression for that. And then the creek Creek solution or otter Creek votes, the opposite of oppressive is called soft rasuna. It says, traditionally, it's translated as prudence or sufficiency or meekness or all those kinds of things. But it really sort of means having having good lungs having good breath having having a whole sort of being being whole, in, in the, in the sense of, of not not being broken and being whole in, in an in a sort of circular way that takes takes also in, in the sort of for others. So something like that,
but it's almost like a, I don't wanna go down a Greek tragedy route or anything. But but it's it's, you know, with climate change the storms, the seas, it's almost this Greek mythology of nature, coming back and giving it back to us after we took so much from nature.
Yeah. And to God's Awakening. So, in some sense, yeah. I think there's there is some symmetry, unfortunately. But that is the thing that cliche is often sort of, they are cliches, but they also true.
Yes, yeah. Right. This is what the way these Greek tragedies or Greek stories have lived on for myth has lived on for so long, because they describe the situation the human nature and yeah, interactions basically.
Yeah. So it was the fossil fuels for were too good. In some sense. The they were too good to the temptation was too big to be able to resist the temptation.
Yes. And now we have now yeah, we have to moderate ourselves. We have to pull back. Yeah. And say, we're not going to be using so much anymore. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
I think that that's also one one big thing with regard to energy, transition and technological, technological issues and hydro origin, economies and all that, the main thing is to got back 10s of persons of energy. That's the only only possibility is huge. And really, yeah.
And I just have a few more questions to finish up. And one is the area of justice. So the center, the topic of energy justice is out there. And I'm not sure if you've written on it or not. But do you have a perspective on the role that energy justice plays within the energy system? Or?
Well, there is no justice? Well, I think it's sort of like, it's even sort of painful to think about sort of the situation, how it has been, or how it is now that now that Europe wants the LNG, then that means that Bangladesh is without electricity, because Europe buys the LNG from the international markets. And so on the film, there is no justice there, or the effects of climate change, or really like, like the saying, used to play that? How has it happened that our oil is under their sand? Or in Finland, our oil is under their tune? Tra? Or whatever? So there hasn't been any, any source design? Of course, there should be.
Yes. But do you think, okay, then maybe. I want to put in maybe current policy context, because it this term energy justice is so big, right. It's an EU terminology, we have a just transition fund all this stuff. So do you see the efforts in the EU of making the just transition as possible? Or does injustice still just keep going, it's
possible and, and, of course, some of the some of the things that have happened, or sort of like, marginal steps to the right direction, like, like, helping my coal miners to find other employment, and, and so on. So that's good. But again, sort of, like from the bigger perspective, they are still, of course, marching steps. But But well, maybe that doesn't doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to take the market marginal step steps, but they are not, you know, and sort of fall in that respect. Also, the Green Deal, things sort of, there's a lot of a lot of go, good marginal steps there, then there are some steps to the wrong direction. And and then a lot of indifferent stuff. So so it's, it's a mixed bag.
It almost comes full circle to what we talked about the very beginning in your interest, the Finnell gric. Region, are people in Russia then and how they're living through this oil we call oil landscape, then, and the protection of nature, then, do you think then, we're putting too much emphasis on society, rather than the environment in nature? Or how I guess it goes together? But how do you
like my city, it's very much sort of like, together, it's sort of almost impossible to sort of, again, that's, that's sort of like the animal perspective or metabolic burst, because the list that they are, they are coupled, that society is always sort of dependent and coupled on environment and nature. And when it is, when it is like this, like it is now that it sort of takes more than it gives back then, of course, then it's unsustainable is going to going going to change. And, yeah, I think that comes back to the problem of of speed, that, in some sense, we know what, what to do. And in some sense, some people are already doing it. But it would have to happen so fast that it is hard to or to the environment will take care of itself. Of course, the planet is going to be fine. Life is going to be fine. The problem is for societies. Yes. Yeah. And they're also sort of like between different societies. It's it's a sort of like, it's a so interest interest on just that. Few societies have have you so much of the energy and raw materials, I think, not only current sort of populations, non western populations, but also future popularizers are going to be pretty, pretty angry about what we did for the hydrocarbons because they are good stuff. Yes. And burning is the last thing you should do with them. Or this
is the big debate around the cops basically is through the western countries transfer money, for example, or pay for restitution for past practices. But the intergenerational aspect of it is even more important. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Good to hear. Okay, we're at one hour. So I don't want to take up more of your time. But thank you so much. This is excellent discussion. Thank
you. This was this was great fun.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for joining us. For this episode, we produced the my energy 2050 podcast to learn about cutting edge research and the people building our clean energy system. If you enjoy this episode or any episode, please share it. And remember, each episode is equivalent to consuming 10 journal articles one book and 500 charts and how to implement the energy transition. And you get it all in less usually than 60 minutes for each podcast guarantee. I can actually say no other podcast makes this guarantee. The more we spread our message of the ease of an energy transition, the faster we can make that transition. You can follow us on LinkedIn where we are most active on the My energy 2050 page or on Twitter and Facebook. I'm your host Michael LaBelle. Thank you for listening to this week's episode.