Our wonderful Earth provides environments of great variety and extent. We’ve made our homes nearly everywhere with research stations in the Antarctic, shelters in the high north and hotels underwater. We’ve even built accommodations well above Earth’s surface with Tiangong and the ISS. What is special about all these? We have ensured that their temperature and humidity remain amenable to us, i.e. controlled environments.

What do we mean by controlled? It means we negate weather’s discomfort whether rain, snow, heat or cold. With it, we can focus upon contrived activities, e.g. designing or shopping. However, we need energy to maintain the artificial environment. Without it, the weather directly affects us and we cannot focus on our contrived activities, e.g Arsal. We could say that losing climate control would diminish the gross domestic product (GDP).

Is there a limit to the area with controlled environment? We now maintain about 178 billion square meters, larger than the area of Cambodia. Energy for this artificial environment accounts for nearly 50% of annual global CO2 emissions. We expect to add 230 billion square metres of floor area by the year 2060. Is this enough or too much? When constructing, should we account for energy usage and emissions? Do we reduce the area as our population diminishes? Do you see a future for yourself living in nature or living in a controlled environment?



Henry Ford built cars. Many cars. And these cars needed roads so roads were built. And these cars needed petrol so petrol was refined. Presently, the Earth has over 64 million kilometres of roads. Transportation uses energy; over a third of all energy consumed or about 1.7e20Joules annually. By design, roads stop natural processes; roadways have no vegetation, no natural capturing of solar energy by plants. Almost all fuel comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. We know Henry Ford’s world of cars is not sustainable.

We have learned much from the Covid pandemic. One important piece of knowledge is that we can undertake beneficial work, even when working remotely. We don’t need to commute every day to an office. At least we learned this is possible if we have competent managers.

We have also learned that there’s much to enjoy in our local environment. We don’t need to travel halfway around the globe for a vacation. Rather, simply spending an hour walking in a natural environment of woods and glades recharges our spirits.

From an overarching view, today’s service economy is replacing the production economy emphasized by Henry Ford. The Internet is the backbone of the service economy. As showcased during the pandemic, we don’t need ready, personal transportation for each of the 8 billion people on Earth. Isn’t it time to reduce the unnecessary energy spent on transportation? And return roads to nature?

Tipping Points

Let’s view life as consisting of many systems. A system gathers inputs, processes them and emits outputs. A stable system continues unabated. A stable system can also accommodate occasional, small, acute divergences. That is, a momentary disruption of inputs, some stoppage of processes or a slight prevention of emissions will disrupt the system but not remove the system from its stable state. The system will overcome the glitch and continue.

However, most stable systems do not accommodate large, acute divergences or chronic divergences. These push the system to a tipping point. That is, the system tips from its stable state. Churns for a bit. Then, returns to a new stable state that does accommodate the divergences. If you know all about a system, all its inputs, processes and outputs, then you can predict its future state after the divergences.

We do not know all about our Earth system. However, we have identified 9 critical boundaries that correlate to processes of the Earth system. We know that we have passed 6 of these. We expect that their passages will tip processes toward a new, unknown stable state. In consequence, no amount of available energy returns the Earth system back to its current stable state. Are you ready as life plunges into this new Earth system?

War in Europe

A critical, non-renewable resource should be safeguarded. Wisdom recommends it be used only as necessary. With the ongoing climate crisis, there’s also greater cause for safeguarding non-renewable fossil fuels due to their noxious by-products. And we can use the energy contained in fossil fuels only once; thereafter, it’s gone forever. Hence wisdom dictates restricting it to essential usage.

Yet folly has replaced wisdom as war returns to Europe. War, as typical, serves to destroy. In effect, combatants use large amounts of natural resources to ruin their opponent’s infrastructure. There’s little regard for the attendant loss in nature services or the commensurate loss of nature. Presumably the combatants assume that they can easily rebuild infrastructure and that nature regenerates itself. This isn’t wisdom given the constrained availability of energy and the finite ability of nature.

Let’s remember, non-renewable fuels can only be used once. As we use natural resources to build and rebuild infrastructure, we take more of nature for ourselves. And release more noxious emissions for future generations. Let’s also remember that when a species goes extinct, we’ve lost its service forever. Can we accept war as common in the future? Assuming not, how do we end war?
Fire at Chernihiv oil depot. Credit: nexta
Oil depot burning. Photo Nexta_TV

Future Population

Have you ever wondered how many people could fit on Earth? Likely there’s more now than at any other time in Earth’s history, almost 8 billion. Yet what of the future? The World Bank predicts a peak of about 11 billion sometime this century. Or, there’s talk of a human population crash with the total dropping greatly. Yet, the population might just keep climbing to some, eventual maximum. That is, we don’t yet know how many people could possibly fit.

Let’s say the population remains the same as today. If so, then we certainly know the problems and for the most part the solutions. Such as, we’re on track to addressing climate change. We understand the importance of biodiversity and the value in preserving it. And, we realize that finite fossil fuels need be replaced by renewable energy sources. That is, the Earth might sustain the current population.

However, what of a population that continues to climb? A consequence is increasing pressures on Earth systems as people demand more energy, more food, more resources. That is, instead of solving problems, we’re exacerbating them. Climate change is quicker and greater. People use more land for themselves thus allocating less for biodiversity. And, we need all sources of energy even those not sustainable. This lack of sustainability means that Earth systems fail and eventually fewer people could fit on Earth.

Is there value in setting a maximum to the number of people on Earth? How would you calculate this value? And more important, how would you enforce this value?
Great Bear Lake