When the solution is part of the problem

In my last post, I described the dangers of assuming a moonshot or Manhattan project could solve America’s energy crisis. The Bush administration, releasing some of their text for the upcoming state of the union address, perpetuates the myth that large-scale projects are effective solutions:

“America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world,” Bush said in the excerpts. “The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”

Not to be crass, but most moonshot projects work because, to be effective, their output (rockets or bombs) requires little to no changes in individual behavior or social values. Changes in energy production or consumption, on the other hand, will require changes in what we buy, drive, eat, etc… The danger lies in believing there is a single technological solution out there which, if found, would make all of our problems go away, because that belief prevents us from making harder choices, and taking on greater challenges at the local levels.

The more we believe someone else will bring us a (technological) solution, the less responsibility we feel for solving the problem ourselves. The real solution, if history is any guide, will come from the emergence and confluence of many local solutions.

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