We’ve built a set of living arrangements that relies on infinite access to a finite resource. That set of ill-conceived living arrangements is comprehensive, including capture and delivery of water, production and delivery of food, construction of shelter, the systems of health care, education, and finance, our sense of community (or absence thereof), and thousands of attributes we take for granted on a daily basis.
I’m not happy. The latest projections on climate change from the Hadley Center indicate we’ll not voluntarily power down quickly enough to save our species. Seems even if we reduce emissions to 47% below 1990 levels by 2010 (yeah, right) we’ll still warm the planet sufficiently to destroy all planetary ice by century’s end, and therefore ensure the extinction of our species. No surprise there, of course. When the Nobel committee gives away the Peace prize to the gutless (but “pure”) scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you know we’re screwed at our own hand.
I used to talk, and write, about peak oil with considerable urgency. But my enthusiasm is waning. Perhaps it’s time to throw in the proverbial towel, give up the proverbial ghost, switch proverbial horses, or … well, insert your own tired cliché here.
Will we transform immediately and totally into ill-behaved rats, clustered in a cage without food? Perhaps, at least in the cages known as cities, particularly when the food runs out, along with the water. But people in the “tribes” known as neighborhoods and communities will try to get along, at least for a while, at least while we’re all suffering more-or-less equally. Small communities will be particularly well-suited for the hard times ahead. The neighborhoods of suburbia, on the other hand, are particularly poorly suited for neighborly behavior of the Mr. Rogers kind. Indeed, sprawling American suburbs seem to have been designed specifically for anonymity and therefore uncaring, unfriendly neighbors.
The Judeo-Christian tradition approximately coincides with the birth of civilization: We got serious about agriculture some 6,000 years ago. I am not suggesting evil arose with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Only the most evil of structures, agriculture.
Here’s the agenda, to be completed within a year or two: (1) find, develop, and distribute an energy source too cheap to meter, and (2) overcome evolution.
When you’re on a cruise ship, and you have the only window, and you see a tsunami headed your way, what shall you do? “Good” scientists would plead for research to verify the existence of tsunamis. And they would be rewarded for this action with research funding from fellow scientists. The wonks at the Oil Drum, for example, will be trying to access the internet to argue about whether we’ve passed the oil peak long after the electrical grid fails. On the other hand, I believe informed people — even scientists — should sound the alarm when a threat appears on the horizon. I believe we have an obligation to work toward solutions for individuals and, when appropriate, for society. If that makes me a poor scientist, I can live with it, bearing in mind the famous words of Albert Einstein when he found out about Hiroshima: “If I had known they were going to do this, I would have become a shoemaker.”