Unsustainable Ways of Life

This video is terrifying, but not without a glimmer of hope. It's the best video I've seen so far on the peak oil phenomenon, which--and let me go on the record in saying this--I predict will be the first of ATLTHIOL--Awful Things Likely To Happen In Our Lifetime--to profoundly alter our way of life.

The segments of the video on exponential growth are vitally important to understand, because a number of phenomena increase according to this function. In an environment with finite resources, the fall is even more precipitous than the rise is steep. This is a rather unhappy scenario.

But, there's some good news here. Global warming may not be so difficult to handle if we run out of oil before we can sufficiently pollute the environment to raise temperatures--Steven has made this point, I know, and I'm thinking he may be right. Nevertheless, we might still find ourselves facing significant climate change--I'm not sure how quickly the environment would "recover" if the rate of emissions substantially decreased.

Similarly, the problems of overpopulation will likely be pushed off--or, perhaps more accurately, the number of human beings which can be sustained on earth will just drop significantly. This means massive death and destruction, probably hitting the poorest areas of the world the hardest.

China's efforts at population control will probably be a global necessity. Contraception and abortion will probably lose most of its opposition. If we're worried about feeding our children--and ourselves--fetuses go way down on the ladder of importance.

Global economic depression is all but a foregone conclusion. A rise in totalitarian and fascist states, militarism, the threat of nuclear war--all of these loom ominously on the horizon of a time when people become desperate to survive. Technological and scientific progress may grind to a halt, and begin to regress.

Let's see... am I leaving anything out? Oh, yes, hope! It seems to me that energy corporations have impeded progress on alternative sources which might otherwise have become ascendant by now. The potential of so-called "free energy" sounds extremely promising. The video features a couple such individuals who have been working on such things.

And they don't even mention Blacklight Power, the company founded by Dr. Randell Mills, who claims to have found not only a way to generate energy more efficiently than fossil fuels by using water--that's right, our most abundant natural resource--but also an alternative to quantum mechanics in physics. The physics establishment is of course extremely skeptical--and I think skepticism is healthy in a case like this--his work has been replicated by independent groups (see, for instance, this article [pdf] from the Financial Times), so it gives me a lot of hope.

However, and this is key: it takes energy to find new sources of energy. We need to devote ourselves to finding a solution to this problem now. The currently viable alternative sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power probably won't be enough.

Ethanol and hydrogen fuel cells are dead ends--unsurprising, since they're the ones Bush supports--because the latter is merely a way of storing energy and the former requires more energy to convert biomass into fuel than it produces. Ethanol is actually worse to use than gas because of this. (These are claims made in the video, if someone has other information from different sources, I would greatly appreciate it if you shared them here.)

This peak oil thing could result in a slight downturn, a rough patch in the course of human history, or the dawn--or perhaps I should say "dusk"?--of a new Dark Ages. I honestly don't know what's going to happen; no one does. But things will almost certainly change dramatically, at least for a while.

There are some things we can do individually to prepare, like making choices to accustom ourselves to a different way of life: buying a hybrid rather than an SUV, for instance. Nevertheless, this problem will not be solved without extensive cooperation. I hope that we realize this before it's too late.

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