After a long weekend of family and sun, centered around our annual rite of Americana, I've been thinking about what a modern declaration of independence would look like. What is the modern tyranny that controls our lives?
I looked back at the actual Declaration of Independence to spark my thinking. After laying out our "unalienable rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our founders declared...
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..."
I can think of no greater form of control and "destructive" practice than our utter dependence as a country and species on fossil fuels for our energy. We rely on fuels which come, in large part, from parts of the world that fund actual tyranny (of women in particular) and religious fundamentalism that creates a true security threat (see this report from retired generals and admirals about how climate change and energy dependence threaten our security).
Substitute our dependence on these fuels for "government" in the Declaration. Reliance on fossil fuels dirties our air and threatens our health and life (and those of our soldiers forced to defend oil stocks around the world), it reduces our liberty, and let me ask this: how happy are we with this dependence?
Consider also this passage from the Declaration that appears during the litany of complaints against the King.
"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people."
What is the BP oil spill if not a "plundering" of seas and destruction of coasts and economies? If we were not dependent on these fuels, we would not need to dig in such hard-to-reach places with such high risk of failure.
Energy is not the enemy. Energy is the foundation of our lives. And just as the colonization and support of the British empire allowed the formation of a new nation, we have used fossil fuels to build our society and raise the standard of living for literally billions of people. And we should respect that.
But it's time for us to throw off our bonds and pursue new, cleaner forms of energy as fast as possible. The same companies that have helped create our modern energy-rich society can play a critical role...or not. It's their choice.
Imagine how it would feel for an individual, home, or business to get all the energy it needs from local, free sources -- the sun, wind, wave, and heat of the ground below us.
That's a form of freedom and prosperity we have not known...but we will.