A Brief History and Future for Alternative Energy
by Amy Mann
The Transcendentalists of the nineteenth century recognized the complex relationship between man and nature. Man has always relied on nature to provide plentiful resources without reciprocating the same consideration. Thoreau’s encouragement to “live deliberately” embraced an appreciation of and respect for nature and warned of the accelerated materialism of society, but the cautions have not stopped there. Rachel Caron’s Silent Spring revolutionized the 1960’s by depicting a dystopia that foreshadowed America’s bleak future if environmental preservation was not made a priority. However, man has continued to exploit and abuse nature to the point of debilitation. In the twenty- first century man is scrambling to clean up repeated spills of the past, but not with the determination necessary to create change. An energy crisis plagues America and the time to confront it is now. Americans must accept, understand, and begin taking responsibility for the world that has provided them so much. A reform in American energy needs to replace damaging fossil fuels and importation of foreign energy sources with alternative solutions, such as wind and solar power, to reverse and prevent economic, environmental, and health damages.
Fossil fuels are mined or drilled, then transported and burned to produce energy. This cycle repeatedly releases toxins into the environment in the forms of hazardous spills, acidic rain, and water and air pollution, all of which contaminate separate ecosystems; spills and acidic rain poison the plants and organisms that rely on natural water sources, while air pollution releases chemicals that increase the effects of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders. Also, the cost and availability of imported fuels are manipulated by the countries who produce them. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a cruel solution to this importing predicament; the pipeline would destroy clean water reserves and natural land that is sacred to those who call it home.
Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectricity, all of which are dependable and have low environmental impacts, have only recently become serious resources in American energy sourcing. Cost is a major concern when considering renewable energy. Solar energy is undoubtedly an expensive investment, making it an unrealistic priority for lower or working class families who are preoccupied with meeting basic needs. This makes solar energy and its benefits only options for the wealthy, meaning that government must take the necessary and active role in instituting more federally funded solar energy. More superficially, wind energy is criticized for its appearance and sound, making it less of an option for those who could afford it. What this ultimately symbolizes is America’s dependence on ease and convenience; we are willing to perpetuate damage to our natural homes because preservation requires a more committed effort. We are giving up the pure responsibility of caring for our Earth, but more importantly we are giving up on each other by allowing social constructions to dictate how we preserve our future.
One cannot deny that strides have been made in improving America’s energy crisis. In 2009 President Obama made it a part of his agenda to correct America’s environmental crisis. Departments and boards were established to monitor and create new outlets for renewable resources, while the Recovery Act also pushed for an insurgence of clean energy. However, in 2017 a new president, who rejects climate change as a “scam,” possesses the power to erase any progress that has been achieved, by promoting systemic oppression. Enforcement of environmental protection needs an executive hand in order to create change on an extensive scale, but until this happens our future will only grow more pollutedly uncertain.