Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Running the Wrong Way

Bonneyville Mill near Bristol, IN.   Built in the 1830's and still operating
Engineers and inventors the world over are hunting for the holy grail of clean carbon-free energy that will "save the world".  Hardly a week goes by when I don't read about some amazing new technological development which will revolutionize the way we generate energy and allow us to continue our happy motoring habits without guilt.

Everyone assumes that all will be well if we can find a source of carbon free energy.  Never mind that we had carbon free (or neutral) energy for thousands of years, and did just fine with it.   For reasons I can't fathom, it seems as if we're wanting a *new* source of energy that doesn't exist yet (and probably never will).

Or, perhaps we should focus on increasing our efficiency?   What about that 100mpg car?   Installing CFL lightbulbs?   A high efficiency furnace, or a newer, more energy efficient refrigerator?  Never mind that a more efficient device becomes a cheaper device to operate -- thus *increasing* our energy demand.  How many times have you decided that it was okay to leave a light on, justifying the action because it's an efficient cfl instead of an energy sucking incandescent?

I've advocated for many of these solutions myself at one point or another.  I've been wrong on many if not most of them.   The fact of the matter is that we don't need more energy, nor should we strive to meet our current energy wants.   If our goal is to ensure the survival of the human race, we need *less* energy, not more!

Carbon emissions -- and their unfortunate side effects, aren't the only problem excessive energy has brought us.   Like pouring a bag of sugar into a vat of yeast, too much energy is exactly what has enabled the continuing explosion of the human population.   It's enabled our vacuuming of the ocean, leveling of the rainforests, blowing up mountains for coal, plowing of the prairies, and thousands of other activities which threaten the life support systems we rely upon.  What happens to an overextended yeast population once all the sugar is used up?

Instead of exploring new ways to render large portions of the globe uninhabitable with nuclear energy, perhaps we should focus on resetting our expectations.   Maybe the scope of our travels should return to historical norms.   Instead of worrying about the efficiency of our lights or air conditioners, we should worry about the fact that we "need" them at all.  

1 comment:

Alexander said...

Q: "What happens to an overextended yeast population once all the sugar is used up?"

A: Rot and wretched smells.