On freedom, famine, war, and energy transition

Steven Power
7 min readFeb 17, 2022


What was the point of the modern obsession with maintaining personal freedom more than anything else? It was the recurring thought had during Tuesday night band practice. “Freedom is just another word for nothin left to lose,” the words turned over and over as my fingers plucked the bass strings. Those words were written by Kris Kristofferson and sung so fiercely by Janis Joplin. However, freedom to the drummer and to so many others now was held up high as the holy grail, the meaning of life itself. That which they search for and was valued more than anything else and especially over the wellbeing of others. They will kill for freedom. They will die for freedom. They want it so bad and feared the man was taking it away. A fear amplified by COVID restrictions. And why they expect they will lose it during the energy transition, at first, I dismissed it as a misunderstanding, but soon realized it was a deep moral dilemma that goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being. The passion and emotion they express comes from deep within and from some primal place.

I now offer you a theory. There are two types of people in the world; those driven by their sub conscious mind and those motivated dominantly by the conscious that is the rational and intellectual mind. Those men that are primal the ones that are driven by their subconscious mind, they live in fear of the extinguishment of their fire and then being eaten at night in the dark by hungry wolves. To them electricity is the equivalent of fire. That explains their position on the energy transition, they think that the power systems engineers like me are incompetent, not to mention the green politicians, and will let the lights go out and once that happens the wild nighttime creature will eat them. How else can you explain their position?

Drought and acidification of the oceans is at a crisis point. Drinking water is sparse, animals are dying, and populations are on the move, desperate to find food. That is the complication of death by famine, or a so-called act of God, a natural death. That God was to blame, that was true until this century, now it is a death caused by man, techno man, modern man who is unable, or unwilling to survive without electricity. That is of course an extraordinary statement for me to make and write on the page. However, I feel sad that it is true. How we generate electricity is killing children but only a rational thinker, a man thinking with his conscious mind will interpret the science and understand the link. While the primal man will not and fears instead for his personal safety. Wolves are very scary.

Imagine the death of a child from hunger. Nor is the death of a friend or someone you have loved or even have hated any more pleasant to imagine, but it is not the same, different from the death of an unknown child, that is far more chilling to contemplate, especially if you believe that you are to blame. Death is one of the hardest subjects a man may write about. Not a pleasant subject to articulate and put into words and one may prefer to shut his eyes mentally or physically to death, as one might when reading a scene where a child, one could not reach in time, dies because he has no food to eat. I suppose one may shut one’s eyes and still feel his heart break because the situation is imagined and instead of watching the child die, the experience is amplified when lodged in one’s imagination and is felt even more deeply that way and that worse than facing the event and seeing the child take its last breath. We can wonder is collective guilt already lodged in our subconscious and impacting conscious decision. Deep inside we all know the truth. One might turn away honestly, still knowing the truth, knowing the child which was beyond reach and there was nothing to do is at last at peace and no longer suffers. However, you may regret the decision forever. The subconscious mind is a mysterious place and how what is stored inside may later affect us and that is not likely to be revealed to the conscious mind. How to describe the going under and dying is simple but the impact on the observer is a different matter, how do we know how that makes a person feel and that can never be known fully.

My friend who sings and plays the guitar has a big old utility truck in good condition and because that vehicle burns petrol, he fears the man will take it away, and he will always want to drive it because he likes it a lot and has invested money in turning it into a collector’s item. He does not want to replace it with an electric vehicle, it is not the same thing, and it is a very personal issue for him and being able to keep his car more important than some far away problem and while no government body is trying to take it away now, he fears what they may do soon. Imagine car police impounding petrol and diesel vehicles.

Freedom is their issue these primal men who fear the lights going out. That is the issue not climate adaptation or the energy transition. It is the right to live exactly how you want and say to the world what is in your heart. Freedom they believe is at the core of what it means to be a human in modern society and certainly, it is a modern contrivance and in a tribal society, when we hunted and gathered, the concept of individualism was unknown. To our ancestors only the good of the tribe and survival of the species mattered. In western society now freedom rates above survival. Better to be dead than red. The cry hasn’t been heard much since the 1950’s but remains in the hearts of many. Don’t get me wrong, I love my freedom, I write because it allows you to live alone and independently. I just do not understand the political agenda of those who believe wind and solar farms are a threat to their freedom. That may be because I am an intellectual and not primal.

If you are an intellectual you wonder if they are being brain washed by big oil, the fossil fuel lobby who are not as vocal lately. They are now a subversive underworld organization coercing the gullible into fighting for their freedom by tearing down clean energy generators. They say freedom to speak is what separates us from an oppressed society, we say we are free to say and do what we like, and society says well only if it does not harm me. That is conflict and where the current battle lines are drawn. Does one have the freedom to create emissions and by doing so harm society and make life more problematic for those in the future? Do I sacrifice my rights for the common good? They are life and death questions. I wonder now as the Russian prepare to move west and the Chinese east are we going to war because we can’t resolve our issues.

What sort of people are afraid of the energy transition failing and the lights going out? The idea has fascinated me for years, but I only started to understand the role of the subconscious mind and how it influenced the behavior patterns of these people lately. It was clear there was a type of person that we could categorize and study. And what traits did they have? My instincts told me they liked guns and feared immigrants that they embraced free enterprise and the natural order of life, but did I really know, I wondered and obviously I didn’t. I didn’t have any data or studies to support my instincts, but I thought it was important to know. There is no point getting technology right and politics wrong. Over the brief history of electricity was there a certain type of person who always supported the initiatives, the immense power line towers, the polluting power station, the ugly local poles and wires, the people who proudly looked out the window and said son that is progress and embraced the damage to the environment as the price that had to be paid for progress. Is that a particular type of person that we can study and what role have they played in the brief history of electrification? Did they believe that electricity was their preserve and the tool of the prosperous free enterprise man? And now the hippies have stolen the show with their green energy agenda, and they are angry and want their power back.

War has produced many great novels and the spectacle of violent death in the bullfighting ring. As a writer will I be able to write about a modern war? I know Ernest Hemingway enjoyed the bull fights and wars, and when trying to write well about the violent death, what he witnesses, he felt for the horses, what was comic for the horse tragic for the bull — I am sure he said. I am getting to my point. Is war inevitable? Are we capable of transitioning peacefully, energy and materialism, the circular economy, or must we fight it out? We are now a divided people and that division so fundamental that unfortunately the resolution that follows the turmoil of war may be the only future path for humanity. Think about that world for a moment, but it is so obvious that we cannot resolve our differences and fighting is what humans do when all else fails. I recently authored an article here on a glorious future where we all share resources and honestly and truthfully that is our future and I know we will get there; it is just the road to glory that may be tragic.



Steven Power

Poet, scholar and blues roots music artist