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It’s Not “This Or That” — It’s “This And That”

traffic cars

When I started blogging on CleanTechnica several years, I didn’t have a background in solar energy, wind energy, or electric vehicles. In fact, I wasn’t a “tech guy” at all. As I started getting into this space, I remember reading articles from Alex Steffen of Worldchanging and others arguing that a simple swapping out of our technology and energy sources to cleaner alternatives wasn’t going to solve the world’s energy, pollution, and livability crises. The argument made sense to me, but I also felt like the anti-cleantech portion of it got overemphasized a quite bit.

The opposition to that overemphasis wasn’t due to a dislike for the things Alex and others were pushing for — more sustainable and human styles of development, lifestyle change, and culture change. These are all things I had spent about a decade working on. The solutions weren’t anything groundbreaking where I was coming from — they were the norm.

However, coming from communities and professions in which those were the solutions that were most commonly and most strongly pushed for, I also knew how slow and challenging those solutions are. I do think they’re needed. I do think they can greatly improve the quality of our lives. But in order to address the massive global warming crisis and pollution/health crises we are facing, we also need a cleantech revolution, including a very important electric vehicle revolution.

TreeHugger, a great site that I’ve followed for years, recently ran an article essentially arguing that electric cars were just going to make it harder to fix our cities, and that they are essentially counterproductive. With the assumption that we would simply drop the use of cars if we didn’t have electric cars to turn to, that would be a valid argument, but there are various reasons why, in my eyes, attacking the transition to electric cars is actually counterproductive.

I wrote a response to that article and posted it in the comments, and I’ll repost that on the following page. But this is actually a point I’ve been planning to write an article about for a while. The bottom line is that we need people to bike more, we need cities to be developed in a more human and sustainable way, we need solar energy, we need wind energy, we need more energy conservation, we need more sustainable methods of agriculture, we need to waste less, we need electric vehicles, and we need more than that. We need a huge variety of green solutions that appeal to people with different desires and interests. Otherwise, society is going to get hit with a massive climate hammer.

Transformation of cities and transformation of cultural ideals take time, time that we don’t have in order to address this crisis. Much of the United States (as well as other countries) has been built around the automobile. Automobile ownership is an ideal engrained into the minds of people the world over — the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, Poland, China, India, and pretty much everywhere else. The automobile industry is not going out of business in the coming years, but it definitely needs to get a lot cleaner. And it needs to switch to electricity in order to do so.

There are billions of people who are not going to decide that they hate (or at least don’t want) cars. There are many people who are going to come to the conclusion that bicycling is a much more enjoyable way to transport themselves around a city, and that cities which prioritize bicycling and sustainable development are far nicer than cities which don’t. But there are many who simply aren’t going to travel that route. And we really need those people to get out of gasmobiles. The only way you can deny that is by being extremely idealistic.

If you want to read more along these lines, but in a slightly different style, jump on over to the second page of this article to read my comments on the TreeHugger post, which seem to have been caught in the Disqus spam filter or something for some reason.

Image: traffic via TonyV3112 /

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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