Freedom from fossil fuels

No idea is more fundamental to Americans’ sense of ourselves as individuals and as a nation than freedom.

The idea of freedom has always being a powerful mover of humankind: freedom from religious persecution, freedom from oppressive regimes, freedom to follow your own dreams. This is especially true for the United States of America, which includes “land of the free” in its national anthem. Correspondingly, in an op-ed in the New York Times by President George W. Bush in 2001 on the first anniversary of 9/11 titled “Securing Freedom´s Triumph,” the words “free” or “freedom” were used no less than 18 times. Finally, the girl group Freedom Kids performed their song ”Freedom’s Call” at a Donald Trump rally in January 2016 during his presidential campaign. (Kenneth E. Morris, On American Freedom: A Critique of the Country’s Core Value with a Reform Agenda. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014, 1).

Matthew T. Huber, however, argues that this powerful notion of freedom has also provided a large contribution to the current climate crisis, especially trough oil fueled mobility and the costs of preserving this. A quote attributed to American minister, author and receiver of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Norman Vincent Peale argues however that:

 Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.

Correspondingly, I argue that the notion of freedom could be the seed for solutions to the climate crisis. The same crisis that with an Business-as-Usual emission path will take away the freedom of future generations to pursue their own dreams. The solution is a reconsideration of what we mean with freedom. I will corroborate my point with some examples:

Freedom to walk!

Antonia Malchik argues that: ”In Orwellian fashion, Americans have been stripped of the right to walk, challenging their humanity, freedom and health” Adding that: ”In 2013 more than 4,700 pedestrians were killed, and an estimated 66,000 injured…”

Freedom of movement regardless of income levels!

What if city planners and authorities would re-create walkable and bike-friendly communities with good access to public transportation, providing freedom of movement also to those who cannot afford buying a car? This would also generate substantial economic benefits; under a substantial mode-shift scenario, where a quarter of trips would be made by bicycling or walking short distances, the economic benefits from fuels savings, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and health care savings related to increased physical activity could rise to $66 billion annually.

Freedom from queues at gasoline pumps!

What if the consumers would use their IMG_2767purchasing power to buy electric cars freeing them from queues at the gasoline pumps forever? A notion of freedom that will be accessible to an increasing group of consumers as the price of electric cars drops and their range increases with development in battery technology.

Freedom from imported fossil fuels!

What if farmers would reframe the notion of freedom as a freedom from imported oil, and would power their tractors with biogas produced from agricultural waste, while the remaining product would serve as an effective fertilizer freeing them from the need to buy energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizer?

Freedom from landfills and waste transports!

What if cities would free themselves from landfills and waste transports by turning into a circular economy? Following the example of the Swedish capitol, Stockholm, theygasbus could, for example, use sludge from waste water cleaning and food waste to produce biogas trough anaerobic digestion, and use that to fuel public transport. An additional bonus is that gas buses emit less noise and particulate matter than diesel buses or automobiles they could replace.

Freedom from oil dependence

It has been estimates that the cost of Americas oil dependence, including the deploying the military to protect and secure the flow of oil from Middle East, was $700-$800 billion in 2008 alone. Not to mention the humanitarian costs of these military interventions.

Freedom from trade deficits!

All together these acts of freedom would improve the balance of trade as the need for imports of fossil fuels and related product would diminish. For example, in 2009, the oil imports and net imports of vehicles and vehicle-parts represented 87 percent of that year’s $381 billion trade deficit of the United States.

Conclusions: Freedom of future generations

According to English philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill, “The only freedom, which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” Following this thought, the examples of freedom above deserve the name, as they would be in concordance with our need to combat climate change in order not to deprive forthcoming generations their freedom to pursue happiness, a good life and their own good, or impede their efforts to obtain it.

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