A German Solar Hero's Sustainable Business/Renewable Energy Lessons

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The 'home of the free and the land of the brave' is behind in everything but bluster and anxiety and the multifaceted machinery of mass collective suicide: obviously, this means that we're way behind in renewable energy policy. Thus, when a true hero, an honest-to-God visionary, a people's champion of solar and substance, passes away, Americans are going to misinterpret his legacy.

scheer2 While Hermann Scheer has inspired American audiences on the basis of a passionate commitment to the sun, this commitment was not his primary motivation--technically, politically, or socially. At the very least, several other priorities predated and formed the bedrock for his long standing advocacy of renewable energy.

Two points are apt in regard to a recognition of this point--which we might summarize as, "Hermann Scheer was a human hero of social democracy and community power." First, one misconstrues his life, which of course is just what propaganda always seeks to do, to create a purposeful partial understanding. Second, and likely more important, one may altogether miss the consequential connections between Scheer's earlier stances and his success in what appeals to petty bourgeois Yanks, i.e., sun power.

A combination of self-sufficiency and democracy provides this unifying thread in Herr Scheer's life. As a student activist, as a community organizer, as a professional politician, and as a creative and tireless proponent of renewable energy, the foundation of his efforts remained democratic forms, methods to engage a majority of citizens in regional and local autonomous collectives.

In making this lifelong focus concrete, in giving democracy its tangible shape, Hermann Scheer married one political formulation, without straying. He was a complete political monogamist. Social democracy was the only pathway that permitted him to accomplish this commitment, or, at the least, for this energetic and brilliant champion of the sun, a social context that included a robust component of social-democratic forces and dialog was inherently necessary for any democracy that he was willing to buy.

Moreover, a grassroots vision of democracy, in which empowered and networked communities become the source of policy, actuated his multiple commitments. On the picket lines, on the rooftops with the installers, in the hamlets and urban locales where his policies met their real test, Scheer was ever present at the junction of theory and practice, walking the walk as easily as he talked the talk.

A recognition that no technical fix exists outside of a social context is absolutely fundamental in his thinking. A reading of the prolific texts that he produced graphically illustrates this point. Thus, Hermann Scheer did not merely position himself as pro-solar: he called for dismantling the present power supply infrastructure, specifically calling for the shut-down or phase-out of nuclear reactors and fossil fuel plants; he rejected 'gunboat diplomacy' and the politics of empire; he always supported the economic seeding in the context of a social base first and an industrial base second.

When we begin to weave together these sorts of ideas, we can begin to appreciate the meaning of this great man's life. What we also learn is that, thus far, practically every memorialization on this side of the Atlantic has yet to grasp why and how this estimable friend-of-the-earth and collegial-comradely-cousin matters so much to us now, even though we remain and he has passed on.

INTRODUCTION

The story of Herman Scheer inflames the mythos of how modern Germany emerged from the ashes of fascism. That story, of course, near and dear to the hearts of all manner of observers whose understanding is so weak and paltry that they could no more prevent a recurrence than they could fend off nuclear power with witchcraft, continues to play a ruling role in many policy spheres, particularly in regard to militarism and empire.

germmapsAt its most fundamental level, this narrative deals with the patterns of empire since the unification of Germany, which in many ways is the prime inception point for contemporary Europe. So many people find shocking the fact that Germany will only next year celebrate its 140th anniversary. This illustrates the artificiality of the construct, 'nation,' of course, but the congruence of that memorial with the conquest of France and the routing of the Paris Commune anchors Germany's initiation with the advent of modernity.

The snarling combativeness of Germany and France, obviously, did not end with the crushing of the populist uprising in Paris. Thus, a basic grip on the function and outcome of WWI is critical is coming to terms with what Germany is today. Many is the erstwhile scholar who wants to account for the first global bloodletting in the name of peace by reference to mistake or miscalculation or some similarly random social source, as if the carnage were simply "an unexpected storm."

Such a view will not do for this humble correspondent, who would insist on a thesis that shows the powerful connecting points between imperial agendas in conflict, economic relations in crisis, and working class leaders considering revolution. Under such circumstances, a war might seem a useful diversion indeed, to parties with plenty at stake.

After a hundred million cousins had bit the dust, all sorts of sages warned of the likely meltdown that would follow punitive reparations against Germany. In the collapse of the Weimar Republic, something like the National Socialists was quite likely to arise. Moreover, an admission that Adolf Hitler was a fundamentally international phenomenon, and that capitalists everywhere supported him, is fundamental to any capacity to comprehend a contemporary reunited Deutschland.

Similarly, any down-to-earth understanding of the German present necessitates some basic capacity to follow the reconstruction and reemergence of Germany--in a way that is socially, economically, and politically real--from the Marshall Plan through the Cold War through the rise of the German economic colossus through reunification and crisis. Both the 'miracle' that resulted in the mushrooming of the world's third largest economy, for a time, from a crushed husk in 1945, and the present pass of troubles and crisis, connects directly to these earlier developments.

Of course, all of these topics concern history. As I wrote to one of my correspondents today, "My experience is that, more so than in any other area of understanding, U.S. citizens are ignorant of history." Of course, one can take a view that the past doesn't matter, but that seems tantamount to saying that atoms of hydrogen and oxygen don't have to make water or one of its analogs, if we wished hard enough that a different outcome would come to pass.

Those citizens who can see the point that I make here may continue to probe, of course. 'What's all that stuff about the Paris Commune and European empire and World War and Hitler and so on got to do with this guy Hermann Scheer?'

He and his life came from that; Bismarck's initiation of social security has a linear connection with the current success of the Social Democratic Party to which Scheer belonged. If one wants really to 'grok' what this fellow's passion for solar was all about, then one has to be able to struggle through such a connection's existence and ponder what it might imply or mean.

Similarly, Scheer's lifelong and thoroughgoing critique of interventionist policies, and of imperial perquisites generally, also connects directly with Germany's dialectic of conquest and resistance, so that a Red like Uncle Karl is as German as Kaiser Wilhelm himself, the same sort of 'Kraut' as Baron von Krupp. This fellow's renewable energy advocacy came from and existed in relation to that anti-imperial thread which has been one pole of 'German' thinking since at least 1848, when Uncle Karl put out The Communist Manifesto.

But only a relatively small slice of the citizenry here knows much about all this, as I said. I understand that it's all connected and important, though. So I provide some background, some links, some ideas and hope for the best and otherwise just let nature take its course.

This magnificent man was one year old at the end of World War Two in Europe, fifty kilometers outside of Frankfurt. He went to primary school when people were still close to starvation, when most of Germany was still rubble. He graduated High School when the 'miracle' was just taking off. He joined the Socialists before he was 21.

Folks can just look at the surface; Hermann Scheer was a solar hero, designing Feed-in-tariffs and speaking volubly about how dandy the sun is. Insodoing, however, the onlooker misses a lot; it won't be as interesting either, as seeing this amazing life as having a line of descent from Uncle Karl and Otto von Bismarck both, and from all the twisted tales of cousins in conflict trying to figure out how to make ends meet over the decades.

A MAN & A COMMUNITY & A POLITY THAT FORM A THREAD

Up to this second, Germany has at least its fair share of problems. Today's Atlanta paper carried a syndicated column, for instance, in which Angela Merkel appeared, basically suggesting that any interlopers into the Central European behemoth that Germany has once more become ought to consider leaving unless they can get along well with Christians.

According to Leonard Pitts, Merkel contends that "multiculturalism has completely failed." Were he alive today, Hermann Scheer would laugh or spit at such nonsense, perhaps both. For all of the mad devolution that seems ever nearer the horizon in contemporary Germany, something also appears there that represents the best potential of the human condition, which is not so easy to say about, oh, Arizona.

"The Renewable Energy Act was one of (Scheer's) initiatives, together with only a few colleagues in the Parliament. And it was not a draft of the government, because the government was against it. We mobilized the measure—it was the Parliament—against the will of the government, to introduce this law and to adopt it. It is a law which gives investment autonomy for all who want to invest for renewables. Without any obligation for them to ask the power companies if this is, let’s say, compatible with their energy investments... . The full name of this law is the Law for the Priority of Renewable Energies."

These interests, both iconoclastic and broadly technical, date from his years as a young officer in the 1960's when he garnered an against-the-grain reputation. Immediately before running for Parliament for the first time and winning, in 1980, Herr Scheer worked as a nuclear plant systems analyst, where he not only further amplified his skepticism about dangerous centralized technologies, but also became an adept student of technology and society.

He maintained both the joy-of-learning and the sharply critical stance to his final day. "The tragedy of our present civilization is that it became dependent on marginal energy sources. The marginal energy sources are fossil ... resources and nuclear, based on the raw material uranium. The gigantic energy potential is the renewable energy potential always coming from the sun, including its derivates, like wind and the ...photosynthetically produced materials."

His work has contributed to Germany's now representing nearly half the world's installed solar capacity, without, as he points out, Germany being a particularly sunny place. Its manufacturing base in both wind and solar has led to the country's outstripping growth of any other nation or region in this key technical area.

Amy Goodman, in a September satellite interview with Scheer, lamented, "The US is losing its manufacturing base, yet Germany is perhaps the leading country, if not the only one, that has increased its manufacturing base."
When his response was a simple affirmation, she implored him for an answer; "How have you been able to do this?"

He began by noting the grassroots support for the political stand, the combination of democracy and local strength.

"(T)his enabled the industrial bases for that, growing industrial companies for the producing, for the protection of these technologies. Therefore, one element pushed the other. One element pushed the other and widened it up. And a new move started, ecologically, economically, a new democratic move, and a new enthusiasm, because the perspective of going to 100 percent renewable energies is motivating many people, because as long people think—as long people think nobody can overcome this power structure, nobody can do it. They lose their hope."

Dear heaven, may the spirit of this recently departed cousin enter into our hearts here. We need some of this. Of course, being a Social Democratic politician in a nation that is comfortably, often majority, socialist, makes this sort of consciousness easier to adopt. Early in his career, he gravitated to the radical wing of the party. "A Social Democratic Party member, Scheer, 58, began as a disarmament expert and became convinced of the need for nonfossil alternatives to potentially dangerous nuclear energy." After all, he had worked in the industry.

Deconstructing the political economy of energy came naturally to this fellow who collected honorary Ph.d.'s the way some people collect old Mercedes. He found himself driven "to identify the global destruction of the environment primarily as being a consequence of the use of fossil and nuclear energies and the global inequality as being a consequence of global dependences on exhaustible resources."

The solution to this irresponsible inequity seemed patently obvious to Scheer. "To unlock the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy, dismantle the conventional power industry!" For the past thirty years, that was what Hermann Scheer was revealing to be a part of the 'art of the possible,' at least in Deutschland.

In her interview, ever the mild-mannered journalist, willing to pitch someone a softball if she thinks they can whack it over the fence, Amy asked equably, "Why was the government so opposed? Why did you have to take on the corporations and the government?"

Scheer responded straightforwardly.

"The government behaved like all the governments behave. They feel themselves and they act as partners and assistants of the conventional power structure. This has many reasons. Some believe—some politicians believe that there would be no alternative. They believe the arguments. Others are very closely linked, personally linked, with the power companies and in different ways of corruption. The most comfortable way to corrupt a politician is the method, illegal method, to pay them later, after office—after office, after leaving government, then hiring him for the board. And this is very popular here, a very usable way of, let’s say, legalized corruption. And the thinking of all governments that they are dependent from the work of the energy supplier, because no economy can work without energy. And the monopoly of the conventional power, even in the thinking that there would be no alternative, this monopoly gave them so much influence, so much influence, that many governments are puppets, governors are puppets in the hand of these power companies."

Reconstructing community capacity, one can tell from Scheer's intense boosting of his dream, the tenor of his wording, remains an exhausting struggle. But it must begin with consciousness. Attempts, Scheer argues, to develop worldwide strategies "for energy" too often "begin with the wrong premise, that the introduction of the clean energy economy is a painful process. The right premise is: The shift to clean energy has great economic advantages. It will bring big macro-economic benefits to all countries who embark on the journey. Arguing from the right premise, there is no need for a global contract. It is the wrong premise that leads to the whole discussion and to the big bazar about burden sharing."

He continues that the core "challenge is how to overcome the vested interests of energy suppliers. Renewable energy requires a highly distributed approach—each consumer is potentially also a producer—while also affording wholly new opportunities for agriculture (biomass), construction (energy-efficient materials), engineers and manufacturers (wind turbines, solar panels, biogas plants, fuel cells), the electricity industry (no more need for ), and many others besides. Properly followed through, this would be an economic revolution of the most far-reaching kind. It is fear of revolutionary change that motivates widespread resistance to renewable energy."

But, smiling reformer and indefatigable campaigner that he is, he asserts the necessity "to overcome this resistance. There can be no environmental revolution in energy supply without creative destruction of the existing conventional energy industry. In the end, this is a question for politicians elected by the people." Social and democratic methods are at the foundation of building 'business better' in other words.

Feed-in-tariffs and other specific manifestations of inventive genius not only show the clever fellow but demonstrate why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

"In 1991, he sponsored legislation opening Germany's grid to renewable-energy producers and setting a generous fixed price for their power. Today a third of the earth's wind energy is produced on German soil. In 2000, another Scheer-sponsored law increased the price for solar energy and launched the installation of 100,000 solar panels on homes and businesses. In June he orchestrated a law eliminating taxes on bio-fuels, such as gasoline substitutes made from plants. That's a significant benefit in a nation where gasoline costs about $1 a liter. Meanwhile, it was Germany's example that inspired the European Parliament to mandate a doubling of the use of renewable power across the Continent."

Seeing a leadership role for Germany inside of a vision of a cousin-collective encompassing the earth seems so simple in the context of socially democratic creative politics. "The success of the German renewable energy policy proves that. Germany has shown that it is easy to create the awareness that it’s better for society and future generations to have clean energy. And it constituted a special renewable energy market with priority and with three elements. ... guaranteed access to the grid—for each kilowatt hour produced by renewables... . a guaranteed...very precise fee for that, because without that...there would be no investment security. ...and (n)o cap for" the amount of 'feedback power supplied from the local level.

This cousin, Herr Hermann Scheer, was such a miracle. He saw the necessity of community-led and local efforts. He understood the way that socialist thinking fit with this technology, but that being all ideological about it wasn't even necessary. He saw that democracy could work and figured out how to make it work to accomplish what had always been technically feasible.

And we can add to all of this personal contribution to the arsenal of democracy that Scheer was a prolific mediator and communicator, without a doubt one of a handful of community leaders capable of such informational and persuasive legerdemain. Clear and potent and factual, The Solar Economy, The Solar Manifesto, and Energy Autonomy alone would yield a munificent contribution to humanity's potential to thrive.

Another book is due soon, on energy and ethics, a continuing posthumous legacy. That doesn't count the articles, the conference papers, the speeches, the presentations. Nor does it include "The Fourth Revolution," a recently released film beautifully conceived and composed to provide probative evidence that a human future is not out of reach, that the sun and rain and wind will provide if only we manage to get along with each other and take apart the power structures that practice divide and conquer and oppression with imperial impunity.

And there's the rub. 'Taking power' away from rulers is easy like wrestling alligators while blindfolded and naked is easy;' 'just rub their tummies.' Scheer first gives another plug to the economic benefits before he plays 'the right thing to do' card.
"I show that their are not only economic reasons, heavy economic reasons, to shift to renewable energies. It is an ethical—an ethical must. An ethical must, if we want to keep human society, human civilization."

One of his final postings on his website summed up for those who would listen what sustainable business sine qua nons include. He "d(id) not believe the world can afford to wait for the market alone to make wind and solar power competitive with fossil fuels. Renewable energy...is necessary for the assurance of life on earth. There is no time to waste."

CONCLUSIONS

solpansThe United States can neither become nor import Germany, any more than Georgia can become or import Vermont. And yet, Americans do long for 'business better, for sustainability, for a social compact that raises renewable energy choices above others; they long, if often in a primitive way, due to their ignorance, for social justice.

Thus, inside of the 'as yet' above, an opening exists. This opening consists of a possibility of consciousness, a capacity for recognition. Here, today, readers have before them, in various URL's that this humble correspondent has provided, what the delvers of the surface would propound about Hermann Scheer's demise, basically that 'our solar hero has died.'

Such a view, while not false, is weak and limited. This humble correspondent has proffered a different prospect. 'My goodness, look at the world that this cool solar proponent grew up in; check out the background that his whole life comes from; examine in some small detail the other aspects of Hermann Scheer's choices and experiences.'

Henry of Occam came up with an idea that he didn't have the math to prove, but which has subsequently entered the canon of really useful theorems. "Occam's Razor" works something like this: in general, Occam hypothesized, the explanation for any complex occurrence--like sixty six years on earth on the part of Herr Scheer--that most simply accounts for all the facts is the explanation most likely to be correct.

Here's a pretty simple account. Henry Scheer's long term backing of renewable energy resulted from his evidence-based belief that this would be good for him and people like him in the communities where he lived; in turn, this orientation grew out of an early choice to become a Socialist in a land where Socialists were pretty potent, a choice that in its own manifestation connected in identifiable ways both with the tumultuous history of his native land, a history of which he was aware and which he studied, and with his own predilection to choose democracy, which fits neatly with socialism in the first place.

Nobody, 'nowhere that I've discerned anyway,' is telling this story. The litany that is available is even simpler: 'he liked solar because solar rocks.' Unfortunately, that just doesn't account for huge parts of Hermann Scheer's life--why he became a socialist, why he opposed the Wars in the Balkans and in Iraq, why he so fiercely wanted to take apart the present energy system and replace it. Thus, Occam's razor says that my story might be accurate, and the tidy note that currently holds sway must in fact be somehow false, since it can't explain what took place.

Now here's why this could be important. Maybe some of the readers here also think Solar Rocks. Maybe the way that renewable energy continues to struggle here, vis-a-vis Germany, causes heartache and woe. It would to me, if I didn't understand the source of America's backwardness, which has nothing to do with lack of Feed-in-Tariffs, of heroes, of infrastructure, of intelligent people.

Here, for example, are possibilities that might explain why renewable energy struggles here. We don't have as much democracy as was available to Herr Scheer. We have basically zero socialism, compared to about a fifty/fifty split between the admittedly somewhat capitalistic socialists and the on occasion socialistic capitalists of Germany. No people's political party exists here at all, so only inchoate voices speak out against empire and militarism.

And here is how those possibilities have explanatory potential. Socialism makes renewable energy more likely; democracy both makes socialism more likely and renewable energy; democracy and socialism tend to put brakes on militarism and nuclear power; those impediments to the war machine and the plutocrats mean more money is available for renewable-favorable polices that the socialism and the democracy make easier to win.

I hope that this all makes sense, because, if it does, then one has no choice to say, "You know, that could be true." If this reasoning has any substance at all, in fact, then Hermann Scheer's life is worthy of canonization--again, not because he liked solar and talked about it passionately a lot, but because his whole complicated, amazing history can guide us to choose democracy, to choose community, to reject empire and totalitarian technology, and to allow at least a small space for socialism to open up.

Those kinds of choices, that kind of space for the possible, would be revolutionary. And, if we got ourselves organized, paid attention, and thought things through a bit, my goodness, we might not even have to fire a shot. Sustainable business might even survive, even if we'd have to acknowledge the possibility that the socialists would let power go straight to their heads. That doesn't describe Hermann Scheer or the Germans though--the power went to their heads when they loved capitalism and empire--so what are the odds?

AFTERWORD

Useful conversation consists of more than technology. Put more critically and more pertinently to the position of progressive potential in the United States today, far too many Americans are banking on rescue from stuff, instead of insisting on that combination of dialog and reflection and action and community and power that Herr Scheer would encourage us to encounter.

"He was an inspiring man," wrote one eulogist, "and one not willing to accept that renewable energy needs to be shoe-horned into a fossil-fuel infrastructure." Nor was his position merely against something. That's certainly not where this big hearted, far-seeing, affable man started.

On the contrary, he began with communities and with democracy. He entitled his Right Livelihood Alternate Nobel Speech a call for "Globalization By The People."

He reasoned, "The more lopsided and short-sighted, the more absurd and dangerous the course of global economy and civilization, the louder the apodictic statement: 'There is no alternative.' By this statement, the majority of present leaders in the so called 'First World' want to taboo reasoning and want to denounce those talking about - and working for - alternatives: as being unrealistic, not to be taken seriously, or simply ridiculous.

'There is no alternative' - that is the power formula and lie of the neo-liberalistic modern age, the tranquilizer for the public so that they will not put into practice their democratic rights."

A Vermont philosopher in accord with Scheer was a "great believer in Goya’s statement that 'Imagination without reason produces monsters,'" a passive state of awaiting the killing thrust or the terminal diagnosis, after which a fatalistic shrug becomes the only response. Such passivity was anathema to Scheer's passion.

Many thinkers have warned, that, to make the 'tranquilization' process more palatable, and to insure the narcosis of people's minds, 'endless war' will implicitly or explicitly predominate as policy, or further experimentation with 'Global War' will likely pop up, seemingly at random. Andrew Gavin Marshall makes such an argument.

"Further, the prospects of war are increasing with the deepening of the economic crisis. ...as empires are in decline, international violence increases. The scope of a global depression and the undertaking of restructuring the entire global political economy may also require and produce a global war to serve as a catalyst for formation of the New World Order."

For instance, he notes that, "(t)he National Intelligence Council document, Global Trends 2025, stated that there is a likely increase in the risk of a nuclear war, or in the very least, the use of a nuclear weapon by 2025... .(as well as) a resurgence of mercantilist foreign policies of the great powers in competition for resources, which 'could lead to interstate conflicts if government leaders deem assured access to energy resources to be essential to maintaining domestic stability and the survival of their regime.'"

Scheer, in an interview with Amy Goodman just a few weeks prior to his death, laid out an answer to Marshall, and a challenge to the rest of humanity.

"The big mistake in the energy debate is that most people think... the expertise for all energy activities is in the hand of the existing energy players. Many people, including governments, including many scientists, who get their orders for studies from them, they believe ... the present energy trusts... should organize the transformation. And this is a big mistake—a big mistake—because this part of the society is the only one who has an interest to postpone it. ... All the others have an interest to speed it up."

The only way that this vision of human possibility will lose, according to Scheer, is if we "lose the race against time." And that could happen, unless majorities discover the capacity to embrace and mandate more socially democratic forms of governance. "Thus we must give new thought to how people might live peacefully together in the one world instead of being played off against each other. That is only possible by a regeneration of regional economies, so that people in their surroundings get a chance for an independent development, right where they live."

For anyone with the wherewithal to pay attention, the formative period of the Tennessee Valley Authority may come to mind, though war and radioactive big business overturned that potential. As well, of course, William Appleman Williams' work, The Great Evasion, is literally one hundred per cent congruent with Scheer's imprecations to transform our communities' and our own relations with energy.

The resonance of that thinking equates with 'business better;' one way to name such a relationships is with a word that makes all too many Americans cringe, socialism. Without needing to call it anything, of course, people can just accept, 'that's what we want: that's it!' This is what Scheer's film production, "The Fourth Revolution" was expressing, even to one with the limited German of this humble correspondent.

A much more rigorous radical in his ideology, Murray Bookchin nonetheless echoes much of what Scheer, the careful student of U.S. history, resounded to the four corners of the earth from his perch in Central Europe. Bookchin's book, The Third Revolution, shows up in plenty of Vermont's community activists' work and thinking.

"A pioneer in the ecology and conservation movements, Murray Bookchin was also a libertarian socialist whose ideas on the social role of anarchism put him at violent (at least verbally) odds with a new generation of anti-capitalists who focused more on personal rebellion than social action. ... a retreat into a bourgeois self-absorption that absolved anarchists from responsibility to enact change. ...(causing him increasingly to) fram(e) his ideas within communalism rather than anarchism."

Not once does Scheer give up on the potential for peaceful transformation. So long as communities, and even entire regions and countries, find the fortitude to stand for themselves, nothing can stop the potential power that renewable energy will deliver to the surface of the earth, whether we use it or not.

He does see an insidious and perverse ability that capital has manifested for several generations now to win, in the cultural arena, what once could only be the laurels of physical combat. "Once upon a time, countries were conquered and their governments stripped of their power. Today, markets are conquered and democracy is being stripped of its power by transnational ... business decisions." Attendant media campaigns contribute to this, of course.

Yet, intones Herr Scheer, "the sun offers to our globe, in eight minutes, as much energy as the annual consumption of fossil and atomic energy. That means to doubt... if there would be enough renewable energy for the replacement of nuclear and fossil energies... is ridiculous. There is by far enough."

But the clock is ticking, Hermann Scheer told us. "(W)e must recognize, we have to replace the conventional energies' consumption not only in the future at a specific time, we have to recognize it in the run of the next twenty to twenty-five years. This is the main challenge of civilization, to do that."

He will not be here to watch his prediction come to pass; or miss the mark. But we have a choice. Ethically, economically, socially, environmentally, and politically--Scheer labels it 'ethicenergetic' thinking, the choice for citizens who do not belong to the Plutocracy is obvious--renewable energy in every electrical production area is unbeatable. Thus, even if Herr Scheer was, uncharacteristically, pessimistic in these estimates, we ought to move toward solar and wind power anyway. And, clearly, he could be right--human survival could be on the line.

"Societies have to take the political decision to create a new order. That is not a global mission; it is a national choice. It has to become a self-evident fact in the culture of our societies that we cannot continue polluting our environment with fossil fuels and radioactive nuclear waste when we have better and cleaner alternatives available. ... The new order begins with a priority for renewable energies."

Whatever our commitment to peaceful action, however, Scheer has warned that we must be willing both to insist and resist capital's attempts to manipulate decision making in its favor. "The more contradictions become obvious, the louder becomes the call for consensus. Consensus is to send critics to sleep, get them adapted, and suffocate their alternatives. Consensus is to generate conformity. The one who agrees will have a more comfortable individual life-style, whilst living conditions for an increasing number of people are becoming more and more uncomfortable, ending in intolerable poverty."

'Business better' is utterly impossible in such a context; sustainable business is also out. And, quite likely, the human genome will unravel in a radioactive death cycle. According to this socialist saint of community solar power, people "have to decide what is more important: Take care of the future interests of the conventional power business or take care of the future of society."

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