Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Rosy Future

I’ve been doing some utopian reading.
Propane is a by-product of natural gas production. Although 30,000 gas wells were drilled in the United States last year, domestic production has fallen since 2003. The question of how best to heat buildings is destined to be a big topic in decades ahead. Those towering skyscrapers in big cities? The truth is that no one has any idea how they will be heated in 2050. – Home Power magazine # 123, February/March 2008
It’s unlikely I’ll live to be 104 so, in all probability, I won’t be alive in 2050. That’s a disappointment. I’d like to know what happens. Not how skyscrapers are heated but how we humans adapt to the inevitable changes.

An article in another magazine summarized estimates of remaining reserves of oil, natural gas and coal at current consumption rates. My memory of the article is 41 years of oil, 63 years of natural gas and 147 years of coal. Probably as oil becomes scarce we’ll turn to natural gas and coal in an attempt to keep business going as usual so those reserves will be depleted more quickly. Then there’s nuclear. Somewhere I read that it’s estimated there are about 60 years of uranium available. I don’t know if that’s correct but there has to be some limit since we live in a finite world.

Forty-one years of oil? Obviously – I assume it’s obvious – things will change several years before the projected end of the oil supply. Prices will increase as the supply declines and will set off a chain reaction of social events. New technology designed to solve problems created by old technology will be marketed as providing a better future and will create new problems. With a little luck I’ll live to see some of these changes.

To be honest, I don’t have much hope for all of mankind. Our collective actions haven’t given me reason for hope but I’m not negative about the future. There are some good things to the end of oil. Without oil the US won’t have an easy means to invade other countries – nor the motivation to invade them to take their oil. That’s a positive. Without oil people will have to walk more. That will have a positive health benefit. Walking can contribute to a reduction in the number of obese individuals. Without the pollution of millions of autos the air will be cleaner contributing to more positive health benefits. Without oil families won’t be able to own several cars and scatter at any whim. Parents and children may be forced to spend more time together and family life may be strengthened.

As I think about it I see a rosy future for a portion of mankind. Without the ability to commute in one occupant vehicles, towns and cities will change. We many go back to communities where schools, stores, services and parks are within walking distance. We may get to know our neighbors as we pass them while walking. Mass transit may increase but once again we’ll wait for the train or bus with our neighbor and have the opportunity to engage him or her and create a sense of community.

I like this future!

I tend to think this is part of nature’s way. In our evolutionary past some groups of hominids adapted, survived and flourished. Others couldn’t adapt – or didn’t – and the groups died. Just as the bones of Napoleon’s armies and enemies were collected from European battlefields, transported and ground up to become fertilizer for the fields of England so some of us will become nutrients for nature’s next garden of Eden.

Yes, I turn a deaf ear to poetic doomsday stories of the extreme environmentalists and to the soulless frankenstinian lyrics sung by corporate R&D. I accept the beauty and artistry of Nature as she rakes the ground clean of litter, takes hoe and begins a new rose garden.


Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

As pessimistic as I am about our future, I still appreciate those like you with such optimism in the face of such harsh truths.

Without the likes of you there IS no hope.

1/13/2008 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

I've said it before and will undoubtedly say it again and again, "as a species we surely ain't much to brag on." I'm not quite as pessimistic as Michael, but darned close. If there is any salvation for us it will be initiated by folk like you.

1/13/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/13/2008 06:12:00 PM  

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