The End of Carbon
EcoWorks Executive Director, Justin Schott, envisions a carbon-free future while keeping equity and justice front and center. In grappling with our climate reality and what’s needed, we value aspirational visioning as a source of motivation, an antidote to despair, and our north star...
Every internal combustion engine will be retired, its sputtering exhaust replaced by a pleasant electric hum.
There will be fewer cars and our streets will instead fill with people on foot, bicycle, stroller. People will live closer to where they work and telecommute more. Rail, sleek and swift modern buses, and rideshares will provide for the majority of our miles.
Air travel, too, will slowly convert to run on non-fossil fuel-based energy, but it will be more expensive and less popular. Vibrant, equitable neighborhoods and cities will enrich our sense of community and belonging, and our longings for some faraway paradise will wane.
Every coal and gas fired power plant that energizes the grid will be retired. Mountain top removal and fracking will be distant memories. Wind and solar generation will continue to proliferate exponentially, paired with a form of energy storage for when those sources aren’t available. We will finally breathe clean air again. We will spend less time in hospitals and lose fewer children and elders to respiratory illness.
The conversion of forests and farms to less productive lands will cease, but traditional and indigenous uses of these lands will flourish.
Animals, eggs, and dairy will make up a small minority of our diets. We will discover both the joys and better health found in the cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Some of the land we have used to grow food for animals will be used to grow more food for humans and some will be returned to natural ecosystems.
Restoring ecosystems will increase carbon sequestration, buffer us against climate impacts, reduce global conflicts over resources, and offer secure access to water and healthy food for all.
To see the end of carbon, we will have to fiercely dismantle and uproot racism, white supremacy, and all of their cousins that marginalize the majority and concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few and the privileged.
We will have to remember and look to the wisdom of our ancestors, of First Nations, of the Earth. There will be no pipelines constructed on indigenous lands in violation of their sovereignty. Our remaining rainforests will be left standing and under the care of the people who have long been their stewards. Lands that have been plundered or desecrated will be rehabilitated. The polluters will finally pay.
We will not trade one problem for another or sacrifice one community in a false “trade off” for the greater good. We will not see the end of carbon by displacing people, by poisoning our water or our soils, or by generating new forms of toxic waste.
Our communities will become refuge for many. We will mourn stories of loss as people from islands and lands ravaged by drought, wildfire, and storms make their way to our shores. We will make space for them to celebrate and share what they have lost of their homelands with us. We will be open-armed, confident that there is plenty of abundance to go around if we are committed to our collective well-being.
An economy once rooted in extraction will become unprofitable, leading to shifts in how we spend our time. Our labors—investing in raising and educating our children and caring for our elders—will be recognized and valued.
Developing and selling products and services for the sake of profit only will become uneconomical as the full costs and benefits of all of our actions are finally accounted for on balance sheets. We will discover that less is more and our satisfaction does not lie in acquiring more stuff. Living well, eating well, having high quality homes and mobility and schools and natural beauty will be our sustenance and relieve the anxiety and despair that have burgeoned from our false hope in materialism.
All will play a role in the transition from carbon. Those who insulate and solarize our roofs, yes, but also those who teach our children and cook their lunches, those who own barber shops and host live music and art exhibits. Every livelihood will find a niche to contribute.
More people and communities will be directly involved in energy generation and storage and own some or all of their energy infrastructure. Energy generation will be a new source of financial security while providing more reliable energy sources in the face of increasing climate impacts.
Even our spirits will shift, uplifted with hope and generosity. Relief from the existential threat of climate change will bring a collective sense of purpose and unity. As with the threat of imminent nuclear winter, we will look back on a time when we were certain the earth would go up in flames and be thankful that somehow, we found solace in our organic collective wisdom, that our belief in harmony and justice triumphed over prejudice and inequality. That somehow we learned to listen to each other, to care for generations not yet born, to value our existence as if we were huddled together on a brilliant blue-green sphere, millions of miles from anything, with only our thinnest film of atmosphere to keep us safe.