Re: Fw: Energy article from BBC news

From: Al Koop <>
Date: Mon Aug 02 2004 - 13:44:45 EDT

wallyshoes <\ wrote:

I would like to take the position (for a 4th or 5th time) that we cannot solve
the long term problem with energy type solutions. Our basic problem is that
there too many people for the earth's resources to accommodate. If not energy,
then water, food, pollution or some other factor will harm us in the near
future.. Energy may or may not be the most imminent problem but we must address
the real problem of overpopulation.

Everything else is just a Band-Aid solution IMO. It will work for a while but
two decades will tell a different story. Nature (human or other) will provide
solutions in terms of massive deaths by starvation, disease, war or other forms
of extermination.


How is that for out-glooming Glenn Morton?


I don't think that there are too many people who will disagree that as we procreate more and more humans, there comes a point when some resource necessary for growth will become limiting. This became an issue in the 1960's with the publication of Paul Ehrlich's, The Population Bomb, and the essays of Garrett Hardin, including The Tragedy of the Commons. In 1972 there was a book published, The Limits of Growth, based on computer simulations, at least to some extent based on models from MIT, that concluded we had less than 100 years before the human population suffered a catastrophic decline unless we took sweeping steps to limit human population. This book is still influential and soon to be reissued in some form or another, I believe. The Wall Street Journal and other cornucopian publications still do hatchet jobs on the book today, more than 30 years later.

For a comparison of optimistic and pessimistic views see:

But for every gloomy article published there are two more that claim that we can grow like we have been for millions of years more. Talk about widely divergent opinions. Who is right? Well the average person does not have the skills or time to come to their own conclusion, so they tend to side with the view that they are the most comfortable with and that causes them the least angst--namely, things are going great and will continue to do so¯why worry?

So far of course, the optimists have been pretty much right. The question really is: When will human population growth stop, what will stop it, and how bad will that process be? It could be that a financial catastrophe will really send the world into a tailspin, it could be some pandemic like the Spanish flu of 1918, it could be weapons of mass destruction, or it could be some really unlikely thing like the Earth getting hit with an asteroid or some incredible plate tectonic upheaval. Given that things go on more or less like they have been for the last 200 years, people like Glenn and myself think that limits in human population growth will be caused by the depletion of petroleum resources and that this is highly likely to happen at anytime in the next 20 or so years. Getting a fix for this will require tremendous amounts of energy assets and there are legitimate questions whether we have passed the point where a reasonably satisfactory solution is even possible.

In today's New York Times Bob Hebert has an interesting column about the politics and the candidates' promises. He ends with these paragraphs:

These are incredibly difficult issues and an honest search for solutions can only come from a sustained effort by the broadest array of America's brightest and wisest men and women. What the U.S. really needs is leadership that could marshal that effort.

Unfortunately, we've become a society addicted to the fantasy of a quick fix. We want our solutions encompassed in a sound bite. We want our leaders to manipulate reality to our liking.
So there was President Bush in a hard-hit industrial region of Ohio over the weekend telling voters, "The economy is strong and it's getting stronger." And the Kerry-Edwards team is assuring one and all that "help is on the way."
The voters may deserve better, but there's a real question about whether they want better. It may well be that candidates can't tell voters the truth and still win. If that's so, then democracy American-style may be a lot more dysfunctional than even the last four years has indicated.

I do not think most voters want to hear a speech about an energy crunch that is coming soon because there are more people than there is the energy for their wants. Therefore nobody with great influence talks about this topic.

We'll see, I guess.
Received on Mon Aug 2 14:07:30 2004

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