Words from the Edge

2013, Environment  -  49 min Leave a Comment
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For many years the environmental movement has assumed that if you want get people to do something, if you want to engage people, basically what you have to do is to make as efficiently depressing film or write as sufficiently horrific and miserable leaflet and get that into their hands and they will simply act. "Oh my God, that's terrible, I'll go and plant some carrots." Actually it doesn't work that way. You can look people at different stages of change. There are people who are just about ready to make a change, there are people who are aware of the issues but not really interested in taking any actions, and there are people who will not even admit that there's a problem.

The last couple of hundred of years have been absolutely unprecedented in the norm of human history. Population has grown from under a billion to seven billion, the rates of consumption of natural resources both on absolute and per capita basis have grown enormously. But the cause of this enormous change in terms of inventing new technologies, using more stuff, and increasing global trade, has been energy. Two hundred years ago we gained access to an enormous treasure trove of cheap concentrated energy in form of coal, oil and natural gas. And having this energy enabled us to do all these other things. We invented automobiles and airplanes so that we can use this treasure of resources, to transport ourselves, and transport our goods, and so on. We built the whole modern world on oil, coal and natural gas.

Before, we were using sunlight indirectly through green plants and animals, but with fossil fuels we have energy sources that were created by nature over the course of tens of millions of years and we didn't have to put any effort into making them. All we've had to do is to dig them out of the ground. It's not that we're going to run out of fossil fuels completely anytime soon, but we've extracted them in the wrong way. Initially we've extracted the highest quality, easiest accessed resources, and we left dirty, hard to get and expensive stuff for later. Well guess what? It's later.