A Democratic Future

Greece claims to be the birthplace of democracy. Democracy is a governing method whereby everyone chooses policies to define their civilization and thus set the future. Ours is a representative democracy whereby one elected person represents many others. In this way, representatives make and vote on choices that (should) lead to better livelihoods.

While democracy seems optimal for shaping a society’s future, it has weaknesses. Principle among these is that a policy choice must be of immediate or near-immediate benefit to the majority. There’s no appetite for a choice that begins by incurring detriments and then delivers benefits much later. Another weakness is that a representative only considers their region of responsibility. Thus, even though a choice may inconvenience people outside an electoral region, the representative does not consider their inconvenience. These weaknesses ensure that democracies can, at best, maintain the status quo. Democracies might have a 4 or 5 year plan, to the next election, but not any further into the future.

Assuming we want better than the status quo, then where do we look to define and to progress toward a planned future? Is there such a thing as a benevolent dictator? Could corporations consider more than maximizing their shareholder’s compensation? Or do we simply stumble forward and react to whatever arises? What do you want in your civilization’s future in 10 years? In a hundred years? In a thousand years?


Hawk

Bankrupt

Spending more than you make leads to bankruptcy. What about energy expenditures? Today, the largest per capita energy consumers use over 160,000kWh/a in some nations. For all 8 billion of us on Earth to consume this amount, we need to produce over 1.28e15 kWh per year. Our current energy production is 627 exajoules; slightly less than a seventh of the desired. This deficit began with the industrial revolution as top consumers continually consumed ever more while every other tried to catch up. In effect, our continual energy deficit has us facing an energy bankruptcy.

Given the climate change challenge and other factors, we expect to never produce enough energy. So, how do we counter this energy bankruptcy? Let’s correlate actions of a business facing bankruptcy to our needs (in italics below):

1. Concentrate Efforts on Best Customers – nurture developed nations
2. Explore Funding Options – look for alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and fusion
3. Cut Costs and Repay Creditors – maximize energy efficiency and rebuild fossil fuel reserves
4. Offer Discounted Prices in Return for Immediate Payment – subsidize renewable energy production
5. Cut Non-Essential Costs That Don’t Contribute to ROI – use energy only where essential

Many of today’s global activities do correlate to an energy bankruptcy. This supports our conjecture that we’re facing an energy bankruptcy.

Can we consider grander actions, including:

6. Revise Business Plan and Budget – have an achievable plan for civilization
7. Evaluate if major stakeholders (nations) will support a restructure
8. Determine if the business (civilization) is worth saving

Is civilization like a business? Can we afford to let civilization go energy bankrupt? If not, how do we recover from our continual energy deficit? Do you agree that our civilization needs a plan? What do you want to see in the plan?

Berry

Akademik Lomonosov

Fire! Controlling this wonderful, exothermic, chemical reaction enabled humans to vault over all lifeforms and become dominant on planet Earth. Some argue that our ancestors had control of fire over a million years ago. Not quite as long ago, we learned to use similar chemical reactions to access the energy stored in fossil fuels like petroleum. Very recently, we learned to split large atoms into smaller ones via controlled nuclear reactions. And we used the resulting energy release to further our domination on Earth.

With nuclear energy, we have controlled, ready access to very, very large amounts of energy. We’ve built large nuclear power reactors beside many population centres for this very reason. We also build floating reactors to bring accessible energy to demanding places. For almost ten years MH-1A supplied 10MWe to the Panama Canal Zone. Now, the floating Akademik Lomonosov ($232M), a brand new endeavour, will provide a similar service in that it can use nuclear fission to provide 70MWe to whichever port it is alongside. Currently it’s slated to replace the Bilibino nuclear reactor (164.8GW.h) nearby Pevek (65°N,170°E).

We recognize that our civilization needs energy to progress. Actually, we need very large amounts of readily accessible energy simply to sustain ourselves as the Akademik Lomonosov demonstrates. Over the last few decades, and centuries, we’ve become accustomed to consuming ever more readily accessible and cost efficient energy. But quantities of fossil fuels and of nuclear fuel are limited on Earth. What becomes of our civilization if the consumption trend continues but the energy supplies fail? Can we rely upon fire to maintain our civilization?

Moscow Times
Akademik Lomonosov