It’s exciting whenever two experts working in different disciplines discover that they have reached parallel conclusions about a new field of inquiry; the pursuit of new cultures.
In the past weeks Fergal O’Mahony and Anne-Marie Twigge have been sharing their thoughts on cultural values that arise from the energy that makes them possible. Following historical shifts related to energy provides one with an already interesting narrative.
The Industrial Revolution is the result of coal and steam accelerating human effort and changed the way we work and live. Coal-based manufacturing required a disciplined work force; inspiring class consciousness and an emphasis on self-discipline, which in turn inspired universal public education. At the same time romanticism and realism form the arts and the culture of production is born.
Then electricity brings us the Culture of Transformation. Electrification everywhere inspires millions with confidence in our ability to change the world. The arts too evolve internationally connecting cultures and differing ideas of development producing the modernist movement as well as other `isms` in politics
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only pass from one form to another”. Albert Einstein
The Culture of Consumption is paralleled with oil and natural gas. People are seen as consumers and widely explored by various post-modern artists like Duchamp, Warhol and Rosler. Shortly after the roaring twenties nuclear energy was being applied in the efforts of war and shocked the societal system as we are addressed by instant mass mortality.
The Culture of Anxiety has set in through the fear of atomic weapons and nuclear fallout helped carve the dread of cancer deep into our hearts, and they put a man on the moon. This culture however helped launch environmentalism, and laid the foundations for the anti-Vietnam war movement.
The cold war framed the phobia about nuclear power, leading to a coal-based energy policy that has killed hundreds of thousands of people from air pollution and threatens the very climate on which life on earth depends. Nuclear fears even gave birth to the modern skepticism of technology and industry, and of science itself.
With these notions in mind it would seem logical that society would be embracing renewable energy at large. However the economic downfall has only further fuelled anxious behaviour and a Culture of Stewardship still requires efforts in education.
Every day we are plagued by synthetic needs and instant gratifications, no longer taking extra time to think about the resources that fuel these items of desire, the
objects that construct our identities.
The changes in our cultural values that arise from the energy sources that make those cultures possible are fundamental, deeply rooted in how we see ourselves and others.
The term Engineering is derived from the Latin ingenium, meaning “cleverness” and ingeniare, meaning “to contrive, devise”. The concept of engineering has existed since ancient times as humans devised fundamental inventions such as the pulley, lever, and wheel.
Each of these inventions is consistent with the modern definition of engineering, exploiting basic mechanical principles to develop useful tools and objects.
As detailed previously mankind has devised new technologies with each passing century and continues to push the boundaries of possibility. Today in the world of energy exciting innovations are being advanced to radically alter the way energy for power, heat and transport is provided and consumed by the world’s population.
Renewable energy has muscled in on its big brothers in the fossil fuel industry and is a disruptive actor looking to create a cultural change in how we perceive and cherish the energy available to us. It is a fight for position and influence and big brother won’t give up easily!
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” Mahatma Gandhi
In January 2012 outside a village in southern Honduras, Central America at the site of a proposed wind farm we at Forte saw the potential culture changing effects of Renewable Energy. Instead of anti-wind lobby protesters we were greeted with great enthusiasm and smiles by the locals as they welcomed us to their area. They knew what the wind farm would mean for them – a brighter more independent future with better roads and ready access to electricity and purified water for the first time.
Fast forward a few years and now the San Marcos de Colon Wind Farm is complete and operational. The wind farm provides energy to 100,000 homes in Honduras and the locals are part of a significant movement in Honduras away from thermal and fossil fuels.This has changed their lives and is part of a greater goal to allow one of the poorest countries in Central America break free from dependence on imported fuels. That is good for the locals, for Honduras and the environment.
Investments in grid-connected renewable energy will reduce Honduras’ dependence on imported fossil fuels, reduce the country’s vulnerability to market shocks and free up government resources for alternative development priorities. Shifting from reliance on traditional fossil fuel energy generation to renewables will reduce local pollutant and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improving quality of life and lessening the drivers of climate change. Furthermore, investments in renewable energy have the potential to unlock job creation.
Here at Forte we are proud and excited to be part of the pursuit of significant cultural changes related to the field of energy.
Anne-Marie Twigge obtained her BA Business Administration with a focus on commerce commencing a professional career in business working in the fields of marketing and brand communications. Whilst residing in Shanghai, China, she expanded her professional career as creative consultant and researcher with an artistic practice attending residencies across New York, Mumbai and London before obtaining her Masters degree in Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Art. Dealing with cultural and ethical representations; the process of valuing from the emotional to the economical form the vocal point of Twigge’s practice.
Fergal O’Mahony is a civil engineer with 15 years’ experience in the design and project management of water treatment, land development and renewable energy projects. His first renewable energy project was a wind farm in the south east of Ireland in 2006. In 2012 he founded Forte Renewables as a freelance consultant and since then the company has grown so that it now has team members in Brazil, India, Taiwan, France and the Netherlands. Forte offers services to developers and investors across the project lifecycle and caters for the commercial as well as the community energy sector.