Sunday, March 08, 2015

Chicken Little Comes Home to Roost

Over-concentration on climate change as the greatest challenge to human civilization obscures the fact that humans have been operating unsustainably since fossil fuels were developed as the basis of human population increase and industrial production.

Fossil fuels are a temporary energy source, based on accumulations of millions of years of solar based photosynthesis. We are using up these energy reserves in hundreds of years, 10,000 times faster than were originally produced. We are now well into the end of the Age of Oil, the energy source of choice for Western civilization.

It’s just a coincidence that we are also discovering that our energy choices are influencing naturally occurring climate variation in ways that make our global environment less well suited to the patterns of development of Western Civilization. We are producing wastes, in this case carbon dioxide and other gases, faster than they can be assimilated in the biosphere through natural cycles.

This deadly, to humans, combination of borrowing energy from the past and limiting human energy choices in the future, in resulting in the unavoidable demise of our way of life, Western civilization. In order to significantly change the outcome we face, we would have to stop all greenhouse gas production, stop all burning of fossil fuels and reduce human population by a third. Even then, atmospheric and terrestrial processes already set in motion will continue on their present path.

As a result of our dominant social, political and economic systems, our governments do not have the will to change our way of being by taking the steps necessary to make a significant difference in the outcome. Like it or not, the future will have less energy availability, less food, less money and more and more strife and chaos.

The good news is that after human population and industrial activity decline, things will be better, for the remaining humans and the rest of the living world. Fortunately for all, there will be insufficient energy for our descendants to rebuild the same society we see crumbling about us today. Our ancestors will be forced to live within their means, unlike us, and will return to life as a part of Nature, not apart from Nature.

It’s hard and it’s fair.