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Thread: This guy says it all

  1. #1 This guy says it all 
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    here is an article that is on the same wavelength as i am:

    http://www.technologyreview.com/arti..._earth.asp?p=1

    thoughts?


    i found my calling today. it was in my pocket.
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  3. #2  
    Forum Freshman Xerxes's Avatar
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    Its all musing, so how could one refute the article?

    1) Catastrophic war. Most people on the planet die. The few that do survive have many pieces to pick up.
    2) Orwellian Nightmare. Corporate feudalism takes hold of the world
    3) 'New Climate'
    4) Disease kills off billions of people
    5) Killer GM fruit
    6) Nothing changes

    I'll be happy if we can avoid #6.


    where oh where is sciforums?
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  4. #3  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    -Population decrease

    Yes, populations that were once thought to be exploding are leveling off and decreasing. But, what that article fails to point out is that the total population is still far greater than the carring capacity of the earth- without fossil fuels.

    -Cities

    Yes, cities are more environmentally friendly than suburbia, but in their present state, they are still engineered around cheap fossil fuels. It would be impossible to incorporate all the citizens of suburbia into cities in their present form.

    -biotech

    Certainly GMO's offer some benefits, but the author still doesn't take into account that modern farming depends on fossil fuels, everything from the farm machinery, to pesticides, to fertilizer made from natural gas, not to mention that they depend on fossil water. Aquifers around the world are decreasing rapidly, and not being replenished.

    -invasive species

    The only hope the author states to reduce these is to fight them with other organisms, perhaps engineered ones. This is ridiculous, the organism you bring in to fight the undesireable one often turns out to be a greater problem. The same mistake has been made over and over. Invasive species are inevitable, and will cause more forest fires, habitat destruction, etc...

    -climate change

    I agree with the author here, nuclear power offers the only viable alternative to petroleum, but it won't replace petroleum, nothing really can. Airplanes, for instance, don't run on electricity, neither do many industrial processes. Once oil runs out, globalism will too.

    -cars

    I'm not sure what the author is getting at here, cars are certainly capable of being more efficient, but the whole system of infrastructure built on cars is untenable without cheap fuel. Hybrid cars still require an industrial base that is petroleum intensive, as does road building machinery, even asphalt. Electric cars that need to be recharged would stress an already unstable electricity grid. The idea that technology will take us seamlessly from car culture to something remotely like it without fossil fuels is just a fantasy.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Freshman kestasjk's Avatar
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    Yeah it's all going to hell, you might as well kill yourself now spidergoat.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    It is going to hell, Mr. Cornucopian, but I'm not going to kill myself about it. Your ridicule is based on about 100 years of prosperity based on the stored solar energy in petroleum. This creates a false sense of security in most people that technology is sufficient to solve any problem. For my own security, I'm planting a garden, setting up passive solar systems, capturing rainwater from my roof, learning Korean martial arts, gathering antique woodworking tools, and raising chickens.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    so you agree with the author for the most part, but you insist that there will never be a technological Rennaisance because we will never be able to overcome our reliance on fossil fuels?

    i respectfully disagree. something better will replace oil. tougher to harness, maybe, but something better will come along. not sure if it'll be fuel cells, but it will happen. there may be a bit of disarray if we wait until the last minute, but the global economy will switch gears and on we will go.

    good luck with the attempted self sustainence. you going for tae kwon do? 8)
    i found my calling today. it was in my pocket.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    There will be technological innovations, and we can overcome reliance on fossil fuels, there's little choice about it, but nothing will be as cheap, or as versatile as fossil fuels (with the exception of synthetic fuels derived from coal). This means that the present lifestyle and organization of society will need to become more local and smaller in scale. This effects everything from agriculture to the very layout of suburbia.

    Another point is that we will still have to rely on fossil fuels in order to develop alternative technology. In addition to alternative technology, we also have to develop alternative manufacturing techniques, since such processes as making plastics and smelting metal are all fuel intensive. We can't produce wind turbines, for instance, using wind turbine technology alone.

    I'm going for Hapkido, since I can get free lessons from a very experienced instructor, who happens to be homeless and jobless, and a good friend of mine.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    i agree that fossil fuels will probably be more easily displaced as an energy source than as a resource for raw materials. but there are non-petro plastics and other materials out there, they just need to be developed. and nuclear power would do for smelters and the like.

    and bioengineering can do in the short term what true nanotech promises to do some day. while using engineered organisms to stamp out invasive species may be a little heavy handed, steps could be taken to diminish their footprint, such as making native species more resistant, or reduction of the invader's reproductive ability.
    i found my calling today. it was in my pocket.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    Nuclear power can replace certain types of electric-based tech, but what about mining equipment? I have read only about 30-40% of our energy usage is electrical.

    Hey, if technology can help our situation, I'm all for it, but I wonder if it's enough.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    i'm sure that figure isn't far off the mark, but new battery technologies are making electrical storage devices increasingly practical. also new fuel cells can use ethanol and methanol in place of gaseous hydrogen for power. both can be obtained from renewable biomass production.

    but as i said before these are all just stepping stones to some as of yet unrealized source of reliable power. perhaps mini nukes, or even zero-point energy... who knows?
    i found my calling today. it was in my pocket.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    Biomass isn't a good replacement for fossil fuels. It takes more energy to convert biomass to other fuels than it takes to grow and harvest it. Besides, large-scale agriculture is based on the heavy use of fertilizers, again- made from fossil fuels. Industrial scale agriculture won't even be possible in the future, much less growing enough to satisfy all the country's energy needs. Remember, the ancient aquifers that the midwest depends on for irrigation are losing several feet every year.

    Paradoxically, the Islamic fundamentalists who's technology is stuck in the middle ages are better adapted to future conditions than we are.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    two words: weather control :wink:
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  14. #13  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    Chaos theory shows why the weather can't be controlled. It has to do with the butterfly effect. Even tiny changes grow to effect large scale processes in unpredictable ways.
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  15. #14  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    fine then... large scale hydroponics.

    wait... what were we talking about?
    i found my calling today. it was in my pocket.
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  16. #15  
    Forum Freshman Xerxes's Avatar
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    Its possible to control the weather locally (we have the tech to form/dissolve clouds). Not on a world scale though.
    where oh where is sciforums?
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  17. #16  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    We are talking about the ability of technology to bail humanity out 200 years of addiction to cheap energy.

    I think the answers lie in small scale farming, and going back to using horses.

    Think about it, horses are much better ecologically. They can reproduce themselves, eat renewable grass, and produce manure for fertilizer. They can work all day and not complain about trade unions.
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  18. #17  
    Forum Freshman Xerxes's Avatar
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    I think you're basically right.

    'Torniamo all antico, e sara un progresso'
    where oh where is sciforums?
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat
    I think the answers lie in small scale farming, and going back to using horses.
    Both bad and ecologically unsound ideas:

    Small scale farming is far, far less efficient than large-scale farming. So you'll have to get rid of a few billion people before switching, or switch and let a few billion starve... Not to mention the increase in farmland you'd need. So you'd have to cut down more forests to make room for the less efficient, small-scale farms.

    As many horses as it would take to replace all our cars would destroy the environment much more quickly than the cars ever will. Equines, in fact all herbivores, have terribly inefficient digestive systems. There go the rest of your forests and natural ecosystems, turned into more small farms to make hay and grain to feed all the horses. Don't forget the methane (a greenhouse gas) produced by all the manure (cows and pigs are major global polluters already, each cow produce around 280 liters of methane per day). And don't forget all the runoff from the manure polluting our waterways and causing algae blooms from all the nitrogen.

    Sorry, no. Unless you're willing to reduce the human population by several billions your solution would put us in a worse position, not a better one. As I say to the "organic foods" people, "Sure, just as long as you volunteer to die first."

    ~Raithere
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  20. #19  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    Of course, oil is the only reason the Earth can support so many people right now. Without oil, people will starve. I'm not happy about this prospect, but we won't have much choice about it, unless we raid the oil or food supplies of other countries, or unless the population adjustment happens slowly by attrition. Large scale farming will not be possible without machines and the fertilizer and pesticides which are derived from petroleum.

    I'm not suggesting we replace our present scale and lifestyle with something equivalent using horses, you are right about this, it's not possible, but saving slave labor, horses are the best alternative to a tractor. Horses were used to work farms even up until the 1960's.

    Native Americans have been here for about 20-30 thousand years, ever wonder why there weren't so many of them? Their population self-adjusted to the carrying capacity of the land, taking into account the labor, technology and resources available for agriculture (and food preservation).
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat
    Of course, oil is the only reason the Earth can support so many people right now. Without oil, people will starve. I'm not happy about this prospect, but we won't have much choice about it, unless we raid the oil or food supplies of other countries, or unless the population adjustment happens slowly by attrition. Large scale farming will not be possible without machines and the fertilizer and pesticides which are derived from petroleum.
    I find your fatalism a bit troubling. Of course there will be a period of adjustment (we've already started) as oil becomes more scarce (and expensive) and we transition over to alternative fuels. There's no shortage of available energy, it's just that oil has been a cheap and easy source. It's really just a matter of economics, as fuel prices rise and technology advances alternative energy sources which were once prohibitively expensive will become practical and eventually economical.

    Native Americans have been here for about 20-30 thousand years, ever wonder why there weren't so many of them? Their population self-adjusted to the carrying capacity of the land, taking into account the labor, technology and resources available for agriculture (and food preservation).
    Nothing special in that, you've described all pre-industrial civilizations. Actually, since you mention technology and resources you've described our current situation as well. In some ways those areas that are not currently using 'modern' farming techniques are in a better position than those that are. Many alternative technologies are easier to apply to small scale operations than large ones. For the rest of us there may still be a benefit as laying down the infrastructure for large scale operations will open new markets and new jobs.

    Really all it comes down to is change. There only issue then is how we manage it. Luckily even the politicians can't screw it up too terribly as it will mostly manage itself.

    ~Raithere
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  22. #21  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    I think that many years of cheap energy have created a false sense of optimism. It has given us a faith that free markets will magically come to the rescue and serve up the same benefits we have enjoyed with gasoline only in a different, perhaps more technologically complex form. It's pure delusion. It is a matter of economics, but the equations might never work themselves out. Look at the stock market crash of the 1920's. It all happened on paper, but people really suffered as a result. Considering that our economy is still based largely on the hope of increasing growth made possible by cheap fuel, when that's gone, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards. Any corporation that manufactures overseas won't be able to survive. People will get laid off in the millions, and they won't become farmers overnight.

    No alternative energy will offer what we have now, at the same scale or ease of use. You think hybrid cars are expensive now, what if mining equipment can't get the fuel it needs, do we mine iron ore by hand? Can we run steel smelters on solar power? Could industrial enterprises get the parts they need on time (or ever) to continue running? Can communities in Arizona and Nevada exist without air conditioning?
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