Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Forget Sunscreen, Be Resouceful: A Virtual Graduation Speech to the Tufts Class of 2099

Forget Sunscreen, Be Resouceful:

A Virtual Graduation
Speech to the Tufts Class of 2099


YOUTUBE VIDEO HERE

http://tr.youtube.com/watch?v=n-wnrm2jE-E&feature=channel_page



[Editor's note: The following text is a virtual graduation speech
intended for the eyes and ears of college graduates in the year 2099,
and perhaps 2009 and 2010 as well.]


Good afternoon, Class of 2099,

I can't be here in person to address you, since I passed into oblivion
long ago. But as a member of the Tufts graduating class of 1971 here at my own
beloved alma mater in Boston, I wanted to leave you with a brief
message -- from the past to the future -- about global warming and
climate change.

As the class of 2099, you are about to enter the 22nd Century in a few
more months, and you will bring with you not only your university
experience but also your career expectations and personal anxieties as
citizens living on a planet in the midst of a climate crisis. I'm sure
you've heard this term a lot in the past four years -- "climate
crisis" -- but you should know that in my days as a student, we never
used the phrase. Back then, we had not even heard of the term yet!

Back then, of course, we were focused on terms such as Cold War,
nuclear winter, war on poverty, racism, the oil shock, the Middle East
situation, and later on, towards of our "three score and ten" on
Earth, newer terms such as 911, terrorism and global warming.

I'm not around now, but I hope you can read my message online and
perhaps view it on a digital recording in a public library. Before I
continue, I just want to take a few moments here to wish you all the
best of luck in your future life and the best of health to enjoy the
luck that I am wishing for you. May all your dreams come true, and
then some!

Members of the Class of 2099, you are living in a very crucial time in
the history of humankind. Your world stands at the threshold of a
period of human history when very important decisions will have to be
made about the use of fossil fuels and the "consume! slash! burn!"
lifestyle that you have come to expect.

I wonder: do the names James Lovelock or James Hansen or Al Gore still
ring a bell in your generation now, or have new faces and names
replaced these far-seeing men? Is that book by Mark Lynas, titled "Six
Degrees", still in print, or has a new besteller on climate change
become the must-read of your generation? Is that documentary from
2006, "An Inconvenient Truth", still in circulation? And what about
Leonardo DiCaprio's "The 11th Hour"? Have you ever heard of the movie,
or has it been all but forgotten in your day and age?

By the way, have you men and women of the Class of 2099 heard by now
about such global warming adaptation strategies as "sustainable
population retreats" in northern regions, once referred to as "polar
cities"? The terms were coined back in 2006 and some people blogged
them for a couple of years before mainstream scientists and engineers
went even deeper into the concepts involved.

Class of 2099, I want to leave you with seven words: "We must tighten
the noose around coal".

Dr. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University in the U.S. wrote those
words more than 100 years ago, and they were prophetic. Has your world
tightened the noose around coal? Has your world started to tackle the
vexing problems of overpopulation, climate change and the creation of
a sustainable economy? Is global warming something that will shape
your future, or are the denialists out there still complaining that it
is a hoax?

Whatever your own personal views are about global warming, pro or con,
or just sitting on the fence in the middle of the debate, you should
know this: there is not much time left. I hope your generation finds a
way to stop the burning of fossil fuels and also finds ways to
mitigate the impact of climate change on your future world. I just
said that "there is not much time left". Maybe I should have said
"time is running out". Or maybe I should have said: "Time has run
out."

Whatever. Class of 2099, go out and help create your world. Good luck
and God bless!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Danny,

I'm a bit confused. Do you think the class of 2099 will still be using fossil fuels to any extent? Do you think that there will still be time to mitigate climate change by that time if we have not already?

dan said...

Hi Anonymous, above: Thanks for your good comment and keep posting more thoughts. I value feedback highly. Good question: re:

''I'm a bit confused. Do you think the class of 2099 will still be using fossil fuels to any extent? Do you think that there will still be time to mitigate climate change by that time if we have not already? ''

I don't know the answers. I do think that unfortunately unless society makes huge changes SOON, ASAP, the Tufts kids of 2099 will be still using fossil fuels and it won't be a pretty pciture. We must go off fossil fuels NOW. It might already be too late. But let's try. NOW. As for your second question, that is why I wrote that speech and plan to turn it into a YOUTUBE video and a book, because if we do not change our reliance on fossil fueles ASAP SOON NOW......then yes, it might be and prob will be too late by 2099 to mitigate climate change. Your question is right on, and that is exactly what I am addressing in this grad speech, a kind of Jonathan Swiftian modeest proposal thing. Yes. The speech is not really for kids in 2009. It is for all of us, NOW.

Great comment, sir or ma'am. Keep em coming.

dan said...

Another commenter, a Westerner living and working in Vietnam, for a climate group there, said:

Dear Danny

"I wonder if there will be a Tufts in 2099...."

- JS

dan said...

Hi Danny

I am organizing a conference on the psychological aspects of climate change in wash dc on march 19. I am a psychiatrist actively fighting climate change. One part of our discussion centers on "solutions". Tim Flannery long ago said he hoped class action suits would be filed. I would like to discuss this at our conference. Can you help direct me to the right person?
Thanks so much


Lise Van Susteren, M.D.
Director, National Wildlife Federation

dan said...

http://www.rushprnews.com/2009/02/04/we-must-tighten-the-noose-around-coal-is-climate-battle-imperative/

Anonymous said...

Echoes of James Lovelock and Lifeboat Britain!

February 9, 2099

‘Virtual Graduation Speech’ to College Classes of 2099 Pleads: “Tighten the Noose Around Coal’

By Dan Bloom

NEW YORK (RUSHPRNEWS)02/09/2099 – A “virtual graduation speech to the graduating classes of 2099 in the distant future pleads with students to tighten the noose around coal, if the world has not done so already. Echoing the words of Dr Jessie Ausubel of Rockefeller University in New York, who in 1988 wrote in an academic paper that “we must tighten the noose around coal” in order to lessen the impact of carbon dioxide in regard to climate change and global warming, the graduation speech exists only online as a “virtual” text, according to the team of American and Canadian writers who put the speech together as a group effort.

Posting the speech online for free at http://tufts2099.blogspot.com, the team told RushPRnews that they hope the virtual speech “will be read this year and next and for the next 90 years as well, in hopes of trying to put a stop to the world’s addiction to fossil fuels before it is too late.”

“There is no single author of this text,” team members told this reporter. “It was written by a group of climate activists on four continents, each contributing his or her feelings and ideas to the speech. We decided to put the date “Class of 2099″ on the speech in order to draw attention to the fact that time is running out in terms of fighting the very real problems posed by climate change and global warming.”



“Hopefully, the world will have ceased using fossil fuels for its energy needs by 2099, and hopefully even long before, maybe even by 2050, and other energy systems will be in use, such as wind power, solar power and tidal powers,” the team told RushPRnews in a recent email.

Titled “Forget Sunscreen, Be Resourceful,” the graduation speech is said to be intended for the class of 2099 at Columbia University in New York City.

“The graduation speech
intended for the eyes and ears of college graduates in the year 2099, but also for students graduating in 2009 and 2010 as well,” the speechwriters said.

The speech begins like this: “Good afternoon, members of the class of 2099. I can’t be here in person to address you, since I passed into oblivion long ago. But as a member of the graduating class of 1971 at Columbia University, I wanted to leave you with a brief message — from the past to the future — about global warming and climate change.”

The speech continues: “As the class of 2099, you are about to enter the 22nd Century in a few more months, and you will bring with you not only your university experience but also your career expectations and personal anxieties as citizens living on a planet in the midst of a climate crisis. I’m sure you’ve heard this term a lot in the past four years — ‘climate crisis’ — but you should know that in my days as a student at Columbia, we never used the phrase. Back then, we had not even heard of the term yet!”

The speaker adds: “I’m not around now, but I hope you can read my message online and perhaps view it on a digital recording in a public library.”

The speech notes: “Members of the Class of 2099, you are living in a very crucial time in the history of humankind. Your world stands at the threshold of a period of human history when very important decisions will have to be made about the use of fossil fuels and the “consume! slash! burn!”
lifestyle that you have come to expect.”

The speaker says: “I wonder: do the names James Lovelock or James Hansen or Al Gore still ring a bell in your generation now, or have new faces and names replaced these far-seeing men? Is that documentary from 2006, “An Inconvenient Truth”, still in circulation? And what about Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The 11th Hour”? Have you ever heard of the movie, or has it been all but forgotten in your day and age?”

The speaker emphasizes: “Class of 2099, I want to leave you with seven
words: “We must tighten the noose around coal”. Dr. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University wrote those words more than 100 years ago, and they were prophetic. Has your world tightened the noose around coal? Has your world started to tackle the vexing problems of overpopulation, climate change and the creation of a sustainable economy? Is global warming something that will shape your future, or are the denialists out there still complaining that it is a hoax?”

“Whatever your own personal views are about global warming, pro or con, or just sitting on the fence in the middle of the debate, you should know this: there is not much time left. I hope your generation finds a way to stop the burning of fossil fuels and also finds ways to mitigate the impact of climate change on your future world. I just said that “there is not much time left”. Maybe I should have said “time is running out”. Or maybe I should have said: “Time has run out.” Whatever. Class of 2099, go out and help create your world. Good luck and God bless!”

LINK:
http://tufts2099.blogspot.com





About the author: Dan Bloom is a RushPRnews political and environmental news columnist/reporter and a freelance writer from Boston, who has been based in Asia since 1991. He graduated from Tufts University in 1971 and has worked in media, public relations and education in several countries. He is currently doing research on climate change and global warming as the founder of the Polar Cities Research Institute. Write him at danbloom@RushPRnews.com

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Could Energy Success Backfire in the End?Back to Blog Post »
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51.February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
Quite a nightmare, and as usual I learned from the links as well as the thought-provoking commentary above. Perhaps we can take comfort from the fact that history is full of surprises, or that it might be hubris (though only a postulation) to make such sweeping assumptions about our power.

Whatever your stand on religion, the good or the evil that is perpetrated in its name, the comfort or delusion it might provide in the face of powerlessness, I've been thinking that we make a basic assumption that is in many ways at the root of our problems. Humanlike, we've turned it on its head. We assume that god is made in our image, and we assert that we are made in god's image. This enables us to assume rights and powers that do not belong to us. Those like Bush and Bin Laden who externalize the voices in their heads and claim that they are god-given do vast damage. To me, the wonder of creation is to be celebrated and explored, not possessed. Claiming the variety of human experience is consistent with an anthropomorphic god who cares about each of us individually seems to me to demonstrate a narrow and selfish focus which ignores, for example, the 2 billion now living on less than $2 a day on the planet today.

If we listened more and asserted less, perhaps the problems would become less intractable.
— Susan Anderson, Boston

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 52.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
Dang it Andy, please stop writing such interesting and thought-provoking blogs. I am never going to get any work done if I keep getting titillated into writing comments to your fantastic blog :)

I think the paradigm that in a world of infinite energy resources we as a species are still limited to the planet earth as our only environment is flawed. As a fusion energy scientist the main question of this blog is something I think about a lot. Fusion would go far beyond a cheap solar panel in that it would enable the human species to be decoupled from it's home planet. In other words, if we committed ourselves to it, it might be possible for us to leave earth all together and either terra-form other planets or live Death-Star-style in a massive space station. In this respect, there is no known material limit to the universe. Because of this, we could effectively leave the nest altogether and maintain earth as a kind of primitive life reserve. I consider this the ultimate kind of environmental preservation.

I see this future as neither bleak, nor bright. Instead, I simply see it as exciting. I also, think that technological innovation is not a choice. I think our very nature as inventive beings defines us to continue to aspire to greater and greater things regardless of the benefits or consequences of our actions. In the aggregate, I see technology as being somewhat an inert aspect of life, but it sure adds a lot of spice.

Thanks again for such an interesting post. Now I had better try to get some work done.


— Josh King, San Diego, CA

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 53.February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
I would summarize Mr Revkin's question differently, maybe more broadly.

Suppose we could do whatever we set out to do, insofar as it is scientifically possible: would it be wise to do so?

Solar power "cells" (I'd rather say "surfaces") would be covered by the question as phrased above.

"NO! Absolutly not!" would be my response to the question as asked or as I attempted to rephrase it.

#3 (Marcos Neto) commented regarding a purported need "to change theological beliefs". I agree. Doing something just because we can has a sorry history, in more than technology. There are times when we should take off our shoes, we walk on holy ground. All the Earth is holy.

The progress hypothesized by Mr Joy in "Why the future doesn't need us" that Mr Revkin linked the blog to, speaks of software in nanothingamabobs (Grey Goo) and self-replication. Yeah, it's like DNA, and writing sarcastically, the software is spaghetti code, of which DNA is very full, and the programmer will be God, and as He plays dice with the universe, what is writ will, in effect, not be editable:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Maybe Mr Joy would paraphrase TS Elliott: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but sucked under by gray goo" and maybe he'd be right. But more to the point, Mr Joy ends his long essay by observing that humankind should be thinking of what we want.

I come back to an old question: What kind of a world do we want, anyway? Plato ("The Republic") and Sir Thomas More ("Utopia") addressed the question. Not very well, in retrospect. But we should, not limiting participation in the debate to intellectuals like them and their contemporary ilk. We, the lowly, the vulgar and stupid, deserve space at the table. And the world needs us, too.
— David Ocampo G., Chicago IL

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 54.February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
Going a step further then my previous post. I just want to say that fusion energy would enable us (humans) to move not only beyond our home planet, but also possibly our home solar system. This is something that no solar panel, not matter how cheap, can offer.
— Josh King, San Diego, CA

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 55.February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
The hope would be that this kind of technological advance would be a subsequent advance in education, globally, and movement away from uncontrolled population growth...the problem is the length of the lag time. Maybe the amount of time it takes to build schools for that proportion of the 2 billion gutter cookers that are girls collecting fuel.

Dave M.
Global Climate Environmental Change
http://globalclimate.ucr.edu/
http://www.earthscience.ucr.edu/gcec.html
— Dave M, Riverside, CA

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 56.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
Pooh on the wish for cheaper energy. Let's concentrate instead on wiser energy use that leaves time for relaxing with the family in a modestly-populated society.
— Wayne Hamilton, Springdale, UT

Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 57.February 10, 2009 5:16 pm
Link
Of course values will shift. But cheap energy will lead to a more middle-class existence, which has proven everywhere to lead to educated, working, self-sufficient women, and smaller families. The real question is whether, by the end of the 21st century, men will be regarded as superfluous. There's a value shift for you.
— Tom, Ohio

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 58.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 10, 2009 5:20 pm
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Received as email from Carl Safina of http://www.blueocean.org >

It seems clear (to me) that if the goal is to lift people out of poverty so there are fewer poor people, then anything we do that raises the carrying capacity, including the green revolution, will (and has) backfired. This is because: A small percentage of people will always be on the lowest rung, poor and marginalized, and a small percentage of one billion is fewer poor people than a small percentage of ten billion. Even if the percentage of poor people comes down, at current and foreseeable rates the number of poor people will keep rising with population expansion. The result of the green revolution has been far more people and far more poor people. Further, competition for other things like space, water, forests, fish, and beauty gets worse, and natural systems come under assault from the pressures of more people, whether rich or poor. We can debate which end of the affluence scale is worse but no one can deny that more people create more pressure, simply taking space away from other forms of life, from apes on down, making the whole world a poorer place for the living enterprise. My dream has long been a world in which the medicine that alleviates pain and suffering and prolongs life is fully embraced, and by fully I mean it is understood that the medical contract of access to modern medicine involves the responsibility to limit families, by a variety of peaceful incentives such as education and birth control, family planning counseling, taxes for having kids, and scholarships for girls staying in school and deferring childbearing. We need clean energy for many reasons. But we can’t use it to fuel more population growth. We cannot grow our way out of these problems. We can only shrink our way out. I am reminded of coming up against a daunting chain-link fence when, various times as a kid, I needed to sneak onto someone’s land to go camping or fishing. What couldn’t be climbed, we could usually crawl under. So rather than asking how on Earth we’re going to scale the populatin explosion and care for 9, 12, or 20 billion people, we should all be planning to get down under 3 billion who we can easily care for well. If we do, we will reduce poverty, reduce conflict, reduce the money spent on militarization, increase per-capita energy availability, and in all ways be able to breathe a big sigh of relief (which will cause only the briefest spike in carbon dioxide). Best always, Carl Safina
— Andy Revkin

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 59.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 10, 2009 9:38 pm
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More than 40 years ago, Kenneth Boulding recognized we are travelling on board "Spaceship Earth." At the time, this metaphor might have/should have inspired us earthlings to take good care of our natural life- support systems, which indeed rely upon the nearly unlimited power of the sun.

Instead, Spaceship Earth has gradually taken on a more sinister persona (think Batman's Two-Face).

While I hope the optimists among us turn out to right --that we will steer the necessary midcourse correction --it is more likely that our scientific/technological prowess in service to our prehistoric impulses will keep us off course until Earth must become a true spaceship, where life support for those remaining becomes wholly artificial. Pulling this off will make the classic democratic values of civil society largely irrelevant.
— JK, Anchorage

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 60.February 10, 2009 9:38 pm
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It's an interesting and troubling issue to say the least. Will we be responsible with unlimited energy, or will we race to use it up as quickly as we have depleted everything else the planet has to offer us. The answer remains to be seen, but the fact that it's being considered is at least a step in the right direction. There's a section in John Dernbach's edited collection, Agenda for a Sustainable America that also discusses the relationship between population growth and sustainability that's worth reading if you get the chance.
— Ruth, Canada

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 61.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 10, 2009 9:38 pm
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In one vision of the future, every square inch of arable soil is given over to food production for a human population of some 20 billion, most of whom live in poverty on a planet stripped bare of resources and with only a tiny remaining fragment of the original biological diversity. That's implausible, because of rising sea levels and the continuing loss of arable land due to climate change, so a more realistic expectation is genocidal global warfare over what land and resources still exist.

Another pathway is towards a world with a lower global population and an economic system that does not pump gigatons of pollutants into the oceans and atmosphere every year. That would require a quick end to the Fossil Fuel Age, and a transition to an Electric Age, which has already begun - electric cars being the next major advance. For that to be a viable possibility, the level of global education will have to rise dramatically - and there will have to be a voluntary decision to leave most of the remaining fossil fuels, especially coal, in the ground.

In either case, the global climate will be different from the one today - but we still have a choice between bad scenarios and catastrophic scenarios.
— Ike Solem, CA

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 62.February 10, 2009 9:38 pm
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I'm not worried Andy as I'm on the population stabilizing side and our values have already started switching with our youth seeing our mistakes and changing how they live, do things.
I'm one of those already living on low amounts of energy yet still have AC, I live in Fla but my home needs little of it, just 1 window unit rarely on because of the way my home is made, used.
As I use an EV for transport it only needs 35wthrs/mile or about 400mpg energy equivalent and most transport needs could be done in such eff vehicles. And peoples eff home can make their own power and charge their vehicles. Do we really need 4000lb vehicles to move one butt around?
Such eff means one needs little resources after a modest investment for all ones basic needs so one can do with less working time so have time for family, helping others and hobbies, ect. Maybe even growing some of their own food.
And jobs growing food in each community green houses means less resources needed with fresher, better foods. This is all available with better tech most of which is 40-100 yrs old!!
Raising more eff animal protein like Buffalo, deer, elk, alligator, bird ect and harvesting them from the wild in a controlled way would cut farm land needs while making a better ecology than industrial farms/feed lots at much lower costs. Same for the oceans which can be returned to a much more productive state by controlling destructive fishing methods, pollution and increasing habitat like artificial reefs, ect to increase output naturally.
Only electronics, medicine solar cells, ect need new tech, we just need to use, more widely distribute the tech, education to most of the world to slow or even reverse population growth and will great ease our effect on the world.
Our main problem is the greedy, power hungry and religious parasites, but our values and force if necessary can stop them from harming us, the world.
This would allowing a good life, more freedom, time, health at much less cost while making our nest better.
One can even build your own home, RE sources like a 1kw windgen that only costs $300 in parts on the web called axialflux on most RE groups/lists and could supply the power needed for an eff home. My EV 3wh MC cost me just $200 in used parts. New could be made for $3k, 4K with a cabin as most would need.
I do this now working about 10 hrs/week and have for the last 40 yrs. No real reason even for a family needs to work more than 20hrs/week if you don't by dumb stuff and invest in quality things that last.
Life is hard only for those who make it that way. And it doesn't require much resources if you live smart and you can have much more fun with less work.


— jerryd, tampa

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 63.February 10, 2009 10:06 pm
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Mr Revkin asked, above: "Does a shift in values and aspirations have to accompany the technological leaps that will assuredly be made in the coming decades?"

ANSWER: "definitely!" (said with stiff drink beside the armchair).

I am asking the graduating class at Columbia University in the year 2099 to also ponder your question, not only in 2099 but in 2009 as well. This speech is now online and a Youtube video is going up soon.

http://tufts2099.blogspot.com


— dannybloom, Polar City 13 (Fairbanks): 2499 A.D.

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 64.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 11, 2009 7:29 am
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As our international founder Mikhail Gorbachev said over 15 years ago, "we need a shift in values, to reconnect humanity to the environment." this is indeed now our mission as an organization. Technology alone will not save us. We can have every clean technology in the world. But unless we realize that we as humans, that we need shift our thinking and actions along with clean technologies, it will be difficult for future generations to experience - let alone sustain life - an Earth at least close to what we enjoy ourselves today. For the Earth can survive without us, but we can not surive without the Earth.
— ,

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers February 11, 2009 7:29 amMatt is the head of http://www.globalgreen.org
— Andy Revkin, Dot Earth blogger, Reporter
65.February 11, 2009 7:31 am
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A sea change, a profound transformation in the way we think and act will be required if the earth is to survive the onslaught of human being's ravenous and competitive consuming and polluting. Capitalism is a prime example. The wasteful practices of competition will have to be replaced by cooperation. The planet cannot afford such waste.

An example of such a sea change is this: vegetarianism. The slaughter of 9 billion animals in the United States yearly is unconscionable on several grounds: moral, environmental and health. The entire human race would benefit spiritually, benefit in terms of living with less disease and would be able to move forward faster in the area of healing our wounded planet.

The choice is ours. Progress in the form of progressive policies. We know what we need to do. End the wasteful practice of war. All war. Any form of war. That would free vast resources for the tasks at hand.

Grow Up Human Race! Time is running out.


— Julius Neelley, Palmyra, Virginia

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 66.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 11, 2009 7:31 am
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Without claiming that "cheap energy" is some magic panacea, consider some key issues, like farming, energy, and rural-vs-urban poverty & fertility.

1) In 1800, about 80% of USA were farmers, in 1900, it was 40%. Now it's ~ 2%, and one of the main reasons for that was *cheap energy*, first from horses, then from oil & rural electrification. Fertilizer [also energy], plant/animal breeding, better methods helped. The US is rich partly because 2% is so small. It's still about half in China, and two-thirds in India.

2) Worldwide, GDP/capita correlates pretty strongly (Ayres&Warr) with:
work = energy*efficiency

and so do various human development indicators, up to a point where more energy adds little. On the ground:

a) A farmer with a 300HP diesel-powered combine and cheap electricity can feed many other people, and have a TV in the combine's air-conditioned cab, and maybe send kids to college. Iowa:

http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/IA.htm

Farms have grown, rural populations shrank. Rural population of ~1.3M was handling ~27M acres of crops, or about 20 acres/person [which includes many not actually working the fields. Do not do this by hand labor.] Mean farm size is 350 acres, although with right-skewed distribution.

b) A farmer with horses or oxen can do OK - Old Order Amish run fine farms, typically smaller (80-160 acres in mid-West, less back East), but family size is typically ~6-8 kids, and they work, since education typically stops around 8th grade.

c)In many places, even having horses or oxen is beyond reasonable expectation [not just money, tsetse flies). People are subsistence farmers, and they are poor. For example:
"...Malawi. Yet this is a modest figure in a country of 12 million people, 85 per cent of whom are engaged in subsistence farming on plots with an average size of half an acre per typical family of six." and $154 GDP/person.

http://africanagriculture.blogspot.com...

Most the world's poorest people are rural...

3) Rural fertility is usually substantially higher than urban fertility, at least in part because farm children are economically useful, whereas this is not at all clear in an urban setting, especially one in which one needs space in an apartment, to pay for their education, etc. On poor farms, girls work, don't get much education, but have kids early. [Whereas an effective contraceptive is teaching girls calculus.]

4) Everybody know fertility decreases as societies get richer, but that may well be at least in part because richer societies *urbanize*, and they don't do that unless farmers can grow enough food for them. Farmers can grow more food either by having more energy (even if just horses or oxen) or having more kids. Of course, they'd better have other things: see Liebig's Law of the Minimum.

Most richer countries are relatively urbanized, most poorer ones aren't. Australia (at 91%) is one of the more urbanized countries. Averages mask distributions- rich urban areas exist in otherwise poor, rural countries.

http://www.nationmaster.com...

http://www.nationmaster.com...

5) In poor countries, the excess population from rural areas moves to the cities. Even in wealthier countries, people migrate that way. In the US, if oil disappeared tomorrow, many people would have to remigrate back to the farms, i.e., the mid-West would see a big population boost, maybe in horses.

6) So, if there isn't more energy available to third-world farmers, they are going to stay poor, and keep having lots of kids. Oil won't do it, because they're already too poor to bid for it, and the support chain for diesel-powered tractors isn't the same in Africa as it is in Iowa.

Maybe there is hope for solar-powered tractors, which have many fewer parts and don't require oil imports. Or, maybe, if Nate Lewis' direct solar->hyrogen ideas eventually work out (this is ~R2 applied research, i.e., not buyable next year), maybe fuel cells.

Sooner or later, there had better be solar or windpower to replace the diesel pumps widely used for irrigation, like in India, or else there will be serious food supply problems. CA of course needs more energy, since we already use ~20% just to pump water around.

7) Within a few decades, we'll hit Peak Natural Gas, and nitrogen fertilizer is typically made from NG. More energy will be needed to replace that, and that's the tip of the fertilizer iceberg.

8) So, without better, distributed energy supplies, poor rural people will stay poor, and will likely keep higher fertility rates, and keep sending more people into cities. *Maybe* with cheap energy, this could be slowed/reversed to a (relatively) sustainable landing.

9) But without such energy, it's going to be tough, even ignoring the energy it will take to deal with the climate change already in the pipeline.
— JohnMashey, Portola Valley, CA

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 67.February 11, 2009 7:31 am
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In any situation where humans might seek to change their values and aspirations, it would appear that it is easier to change the latter than the former. Basic human values are clear from the centuries of war, greed and environmental degradation that date back to the birth of the species. If one examines how humans have treated each other and nature over the millennia there is little reason to think that we can reject the value system that made early humans successful but not (by today's standards) especially likable. It is the aspirations that now provide the species with hope for the future if only to allow us to contemplate for a short while what we could be.

The voicing of these aspirations is an important part of transition ceremonies in humans and clearly important for lifting spirits. They are what make weddings, commencements and inaugurations so inspiring before the couple, graduating class and nation are sent out to deal with the real world and the behavior patterns of old-world primates that value others and the natural world only to the extent that one can use them to maximize one's genetic legacy.

People cry at weddings, commencements and inaugurations because we are reminded of what we would like to be as a species and how we would like our social and political systems to function. But, if one is old or experienced enough, we know that those aspirations can never be met.

So yes, Andy, I would love to see new aspirations for how humans might cope with the availability of cheap non-polluting energy. It is important to have those lofty aspirations since, given basic human nature, it is almost all that we have.
— gjd, Seattle

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 68.February 11, 2009 7:31 am
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The Earth Matters

"IF SOLAR PANELS WERE CHEAP AS PAINT"?

But gasoline is cheaper than bottled water, now! We have unlimited fossil fuel energy, now. Can we learn to use what we have sustainably, and prosper?

We can build houses and commercial buildings, now, that approach near zero energy use. BANG! 5-10% of fuel consumption is eliminated along with the greenhouse gas. Existing homes and buildings can now be renovated to be near zero energy consumption. BANG!

Passenger cars that get 30, 40, 50, even 60mpg exist now. BANG! 10-20% of the fuel consumption....is eliminated. BUT WE DON"T BUY THEM.

Turn off the lights. Bang! I beg each reader to look around yourself and ask how many lights are burning that could be turned off...now! How hard could that be to do? Flip the switch, please.

For every 100 units of coal that we burn.....some very small percentage does useful work....2-3-4%....if that much. Existing technologies can increase that efficiency by 100%. BANG!

Mass transportation. Trains and busses greatly increase people miles per gallon. BANG! Why are we bailing out Detroit when they refuse to stop building SUVs.

We do not have to wait for photovoltaics to be as cheap as paint to change how we use our precious resources.

Unlimited consumption....not wise.

Sustainable use of existing technology....very wise.


— Christopher Yaun, Portsmouth NH

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 69.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) February 11, 2009 7:31 am
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Even talking about alternative energies as cheap energy seems very far-fetched right now, at a time of rapid population growth in spite of higher energy costs than envisioned in this article.

When I was in Europe, concern over low reproductive rates made it sound as if the populations of those countries were about to go extinct soon.
Now, in China, I am in a situation where admonitions for family planning are everywhere.
Energy does not yet have much to do with it, or if anything, in the reverse of what the article suggests.

Do our values have to change?
Technology certainly does change some behaviors, but basic values are just that, basic. Primal. At the same time, they are always contradictory: we are egotistic and community-oriented; intelligent and short-sighted; a part of nature, and apart.
The question is which values come to the fore in which situation. Or even, if we act in line with our values, or in some ways besides them.

China holds some lessons to the positive, in all the gloom that there is (and rightly so). Government control will hopefully not be the be-all-and-end-all answer to population growth if it could be caused by cheap, abundant alternative energy.

As pointed out before, more life chances tend to result in more appreciation for nature, and fewer children. More knowledge - not just awareness, but also usage - of ecosystem services could also bring about a shift towards more preservation and restoration of environments. Even in the midst of population growth, which we are still in now, anyways. I'd rather worry about how to bring this about soon, than about a technological breakthrough which may or may not come.

http://www.positive-ecology.org
— Gerald Schmidt, Xiangtan, Hunan, China

Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 70.February 11, 2009 7:31 am
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Why do we need cheap energy? we need affordable energy services, but "cheap, clean" may be an oxymoron. And at less than 10% of our GNP, clean, more expensive energy used more efficiently is affordable.
Lee Schipper
UC Berkeley and Stanford
— lee schpper, berekely ca

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dan said...

Dear Dan,

Thanks for this nice speech. But are you sure that there will be a generation in 2099 to hear this message?

Abdul in Dubai

2

As you we can't say whether there will be classes in 2099. We dont have to be optimistic or pessimistic. Its better to be realistic.
and let us try our best to make the world a better place for future generation.

3.

What you said is right..... The people who lived in the 17th century didnt see car and they might not have realised that in few decades the horses and bullock carts will be replaced by some kind of four wheeled metallic objects called 'cars'.

In the same way we cannot predict how the future generation including that of 2099 will live and if we have to stop the usage of fossil fuels, we have to return to horses and bullock carts unless we discover new alternative sources of energy that can drive the different version of the current cars. (-:

Anonymous said...

Dear Graduate
Wear sunscreen. Stretch. Do one thing every day that scares you.

That was Mary Schmich’s famous fantasy commencement advice, falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut in a talk he never gave.

A columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Schmich wrote the piece in an afternoon while high on coffee and M&Ms. My kind of muse. Unfortunately, her words were sucked into the “unruly swamp of cyberspace,” as she called it, and she never got enough credit for pure distilled genius. Take a bow, Mary. Every spring, your immortality is renewed.

I’ll try again: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Yes, I know that’s the “Eater’s Manifesto” of Michael Pollan, but it cries out for an addendum. Which is: Eat a hot dog. With lots of mustard. The kind you can get for two dollars from street vendors just outside the ballpark, a trick I picked up from Ash Green, gentleman editor at Alfred A. Knopf. He passed this wisdom on before the recession.

While we’re on the subject: Learn to cook, something they don’t teach at fancy-pants colleges. Millions for quantum physics and deconstructing Dostoevsky, nothing on how to make enchiladas for 20 people.

At times, your life will have moments, days, even weeks of despair. Trust me: there is no bout of blues that a rich Bolognese sauce, filling every cubic inch of kitchen air, cannot cure.

And that brings me to: Take risks. I don’t mean ski the double diamond runs, ask for a card in blackjack with 15 showing and the dealer holding a king, or hit a high note in a karaoke bar, while sober. That goes without saying.

Fear of failure can be a motivator or an inhibitor. The latter is crippling, and ultimately leads to a life of missed opportunities. That’s why Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous dictum, sadly wasted on the French during a speech at the Sorbonne, was praise for the person “who comes up short again and again,” praise for the man “who fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Avoid phony controversies. Especially ones over religion. Just now, there’s a perfect example of this in the kerfuffle of President Obama’s upcoming graduation speech at Notre Dame.

It is said that a handful of devout Catholics cannot bear to let the president of the republic speak at one of America’s great universities because Obama is pro-choice on abortion. What would Jesus do? Take a seat on the lawn and hear the man out.

One word: plastics. That was the advice given Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate,” circa 1967. Ha-ha.

One word, 42 years later: volunteer. Easy for me to say, I know. It’s not news to the class of 2009 that you’re facing the worst employment prospects in 50 years or so. Who wouldn’t take a job in plastics? Your friends who graduated with honors last year are now competing to be waitresses and nannies. If they’re lucky.

There is another way. As you prepare to shed your flops, as you wade through a sea of rejections, consider the call to service. Even at low to no pay — which won’t do much for those college loans — the dividends later in life are richer than any paper portfolio.

Almost 20 years ago another college senior had an idea, spun out of a last-minute thesis, to get fellow graduates to give up two years of their lives teaching in failing urban and rural schools. Since then, about 20,000 young people have worked with 3 million students as part of Teach for America, founded by Wendy Kopp.

Of course, it’s now almost as hard to get into Teach for America as it is make it to Harvard or Stanford. More than 35,000 people applied for just 4,000 slots in the most recent round, a 42 percent spike.

But other doors have just opened. Earlier this year, Congress passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which dramatically increases the size of programs like AmeriCorps. It was signed into law by that onetime community organizer who left college with a load of debt.

Nourish your friendships, which requires work and imagination. When the late Meg Greenfield retired as editorial page editor of the Washington Post, she returned to her home town of Seattle and promptly held a party for every friend she could find from her first grade class. First grade!

I doubt if anything said to Meg by some of the most powerful people on the planet in that other Washington gave her the joy she got from sharing a memory with a former seatmate of the crayon set.

Finally: congratulations! It took me seven years to get out of college, just like John Belushi in “Animal House,” and he went on to become Senator Blutarsky, don’t forget. (“Might as well join the Peace Corps,” he said, with an unprintable modifier).

You’re finishing in four, on time. Always with the common sense, my daughter the graduate.

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