Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Real Limits of the Earth

Scientific American Blogs presents Part 1 of a disappointing two-part post on limits to growth: The Limits of the Earth, Part 1: Problems.

Part 1 begins with an explanation of human innovation, by the author of a book, of course, about how human innovation can overcome limits to growth.

"Ramez Naam is a computer scientist and award-winning author. He believes innovation can save the planet and lift billions into prosperity, but only if we make the right choices to embrace it. His next non-fiction book, The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, lays out the path to harnessing innovation to maximize our odds of overcoming climate change, finite fossil fuels, and the host of other environmental and natural resource challenges that face us."

The remainder of Part 1 is a laundry list of some of the problems facing humans due to resource limitations.

I can see where this is going. This is yet another unscientific, anthropocentric paean to technology, human economics and the mythology of perpetual growth in a finite world. This is another young man who has yet to feel his mortality, who thinks that humans with computers can overcome all obstacles, and who is largely ignorant of basic biology, ecology, earth sciences and natural history.

There really are limits to human growth, hard limits that cannot be fantasized away with unreasoning belief in human innovation. We can't invent our way into a rosy Star Trek future with unlimited energy and natural resources. We can't turn the world into computer-managed agro-business to feed 10 billion people. We can't convert all natural habitat into solar and wind farms for human energy demands.

Like it or not, humans are but one species of life on this planet. Humans must relearn how to live in
cooperation with, not at the expense of, all other species. We can do this. We just put away the toys of youth and start acting like responsible adult residents of the planet that sustains us.

And discontinue our subscriptions to the pseudo-science rag formerly known as Scientific American.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Myth of Economic Growth

I've written about the myth of economic growth quite a lot on Hayduke Blogs. Us the search bar in the lower right for a sampling. I've held for many years that growth is not the solution to our economic, social and environmental woes, growth is the problem.

Today I found an interview on Truthout: Power Shift Away From Green Illusions, with Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism.

They're not really secrets, of course. We've known for a long time that alternative energy sources are dependent on fossil fuel energy sources, that our present level of energy use, consumption and economic growth cannot be sustained in a world of finite resources. We've even known that solar and wind power are not amenable to centralized collection and distribution and there is no way we can sustain our present society on renewable energy alone.

The future is not more. The future is less.

Less energy. Less growth. Fewer people. Less consumption.

It's inevitable. That which cannot go on forever, won't.

It's good to read a book (a free chapter is available on Zehner's web site), that lays this all out very logically, in a readable and entertaining volume. He also makes the case for a rational, science-based approach to moving toward a steady state economy based on a smaller population and reduced per capita consumption.

My wife and I lowered our standard of living and increased our quality of life over ten years ago.

The Myth of Economic Growth stops right here at home.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Report: Global warming didn't cause big US drought

Report: Global warming didn't cause big US drought | Business & Technology

"Last year's huge drought was a freak of nature that wasn't caused by man-made global warming, a new federal science study finds."

"This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event."

"Other scientists have linked recent changes in the jet stream to shrinking Arctic sea ice, but Hoerling and study co-author Richard Seager of Columbia University said those global warming connections are not valid."

And one more time, with four-part harmony and feeling:

"Hoerling noted that in the past 20 years, the world is seeing more La Ninas, the occasional cooling of the central Pacific Ocean that is the flip side of El Nino. Hoerling said that factor, not part of global warming but part of a natural cycle, increases the chances of such droughts."

Thursday, April 04, 2013