At least not if we continue to solve our transport as we currently do
It is clear by now. Our planet is screwed. The global war for the remaining raw materials has begun. And we are starting to feel the effects of it. I lamented the german government’s lazy response to rising fuel prices. It was not because of the prices per se. It was about the fact that our politicians use tax money to prop up the fossil fuel industry. This money would have been better invested. In real, sustainable alternatives. Alternatives that lead us on a path to independence from fossil fuels. That aside, we have to be careful not to repeat the same mistakes of the past. The promise of switching to electric vehicles is one of those mistakes.
The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a famous poem. It is called “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. It tells the story of a young apprentice. He seizes the opportunity to bewitch a broom, so it will fetch water so he does not have to. Only, the apprentice does not know how to reverse the spell. So, the broom continues until the workshop gets flooded. In the poem, the master sorcerer returns in time to save the day.
From “The Sorcerers Apprentice”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Und sie laufen! Naß und nässer Wirds im Saal und auf den Stufen: Welch entsetzliches Gewässer! Herr und Meister, hör mich rufen! – Ach, da kommt der Meister! Herr, die Not ist groß! Die ich rief, die Geister, Werd ich nun nicht los.
Off they run, till wet and wetter Hall and steps immersed are lying. What a flood that naught can fetter! Lord and master, hear me crying! – Ah, he comes excited. Sir, my need is sore. Spirits that I’ve cited My commands ignore.
Our relationship with fossil fuels is the same. It enabled us to create massive growth and advancement in every area of society. With minimal energy input. But we have become used to the idea of continued growth. We no longer know how to stop. This growth is threatening our very existence. The only difference is, that there is no master wizard that will come and save us. There is just us.
The Hype for Electric Vehicles Embodies Our Addiction to Growth
Here is a view from my balcony. I took this picture in the late afternoon. Many households on my block own 2 vehicles. For the most part, there is easy access to public transport and shared mobility services. Yet, people buy plenty of cars. Not necessarily out of need. But because we bought into the idea of owning a car. It is a symbol of freedom and self-realization.
Electric Vehicles will not change that.
There is a fundamental problem with this idea. It rests on the assumption that we can grow and produce an infinite number of vehicles. Yet infinite growth is not possible on a planet with finite resources. Every product that gets produced has a production chain. At every level of the chain, we use resources and impact ecosystems.
Exchanging our current fleet with Electric vehicles is a dead end. There are many hidden environmental costs in the production chain of EVs.