Energy to Survive

We’ve already noted that we live on a finite world. When people use its resources, regardless of whether renewable, the resources are not available for anything else. Our current use of energy enables both our numbers and our technology to flourish. A growth economy assumes this approach is without end. It assumes we live on an infinite world.

As you can well imagine, eventually the energy supply will not meet the energy demand, as our world is finite. How do we address this? In a market economy, if a product or technology is unsustainable, then it disappears. Will we hold the same principle to life? When the energy supply to support life proves inadequate, then people disappear. Perhaps we let people choose for themselves. They may choose between either technology such as a cellphone or food such as bread. Those who choose badly will disappear and, eventually, energy demand will equal supply.

Should we extend this same logic to all life? Wildlife needs both energy / food and space to flourish. Sometimes numbers explode as for mammals after the Cretaceous-tertiary extinction event. And we see numbers crash as with reindeer on St Matthew Island. Logically, if people consume most of Earth’s energy resources then wildlife numbers will crash. With the continual rise in our energy consumption, are we unknowingly planning a future Earth that will sustain life only for some humans together with their chosen support creatures?

Peak Population

We’ve all seen the curve showing human population growth over time. Some suggest it looks like a hockey stick. Pundits say the population will exceed 8 billion by the end of this year. But they say also that we are approaching peak population. With this, the population will peak near about 10billion people some time later this century and decline. This population decline may be the first in over 10,000 years.

I don’t expect to be around to see this decline, but it is relatively soon. In fewer than 80 years or within the lifetime of a human in developed countries, this decline will occur.

What does this decline say about world economics? Perhaps with the shrinking population, we will have less need to add infrastructure. Though perhaps there will be a greater need to maintain existing infrastructure. And, with less emphasis on production, then there will be a greater emphasis on the service economy. In any case, we can expect and probably demand a change in the world economics of the future.

As 80 years is not that far away, what type of Earth do you plan for your children and grandchildren? Or, what will remain of Earth for them to enjoy?

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promote equality. They also promote economic growth together with the preservation of the Earth’s ecosystem. The goals are admirable. Are they achievable? Let’s consider.

People who are rich consciously act to maintain their status. Certainly they’d be OK with everyone else being rich as long as they remained rich. This all inclusiveness wouldn’t be likely for two reasons. One, many people don’t care to be materially wealthy. Two, the Earth’s ecosystem can’t support an infinite number of wealthy people. Thus, we expect to always have a wealth disparity between people.

People who are poor don’t want to be poor. They may not realize that they are poor, as with some indigenous people who maintain a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. But, there’s a global expectation on child survivability, education and security. These expectations promote fairness. Achieving this requires the continual application of significant resources, such as energy. However, the Earth’s ecosystem can’t support the advancement of an infinite number of poor people.

Last, our current economic system could enable all the poor to be rich. The system enables us to transfer resources to any location on Earth and perhaps even off of Earth. But the Earth has finite resources. Also, our utilization of resources, such as fossil fuels, comes with detrimental pollution. Hence, while the system is capable, the result is unattainable.

Yet, the SDGs are our only blueprint for the future. And it is a good blueprint. So, what’s the best future? Do we control the number of rich? How many poor can the Earth accommodate? How do we preserve the Earth’s ecosystem while continually drawing down its capital? Perhaps most of all, what degree of achievement is optimal for each goal?
Chipping sparrow

Did You Look Up?

Weather forecasts enable us to choose appropriate clothes for the day or to optimize activities for the upcoming weekend. Smart people make financial plans for their retirement. Robust organizations establish risk strategies to ensure continued operations. Each of these show planning for an optimal future based upon today’s knowledge.

Similarly, our species can plan and progress on a global scale. For example, under the Montreal Protocol, we protect the Earth’s ozone layer by managing chlorofluorocarbon emissions. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons aims to prevent worldwide nuclear holocaust. And, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals serve as signposts to continually guide actions toward a mutually prosperous future.

The recent film Don’t Look Up adds to the urgency of planning and activities. In the film, a mass-extinction-level asteroid will strike Earth. Yet, warnings are ignored or dismissed. The obvious question arises as to its allegory to the current crises of climate change and biodiversity. Have you watched the film? What was your response? Did you make plans or take actions?

Ignorance is an option. As much as we can wear a bathing suite for a walk in the rain, we can have a world without wild flora and fauna. But is this future we want? Or, will we plan and work toward better?
Looking Up


Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space plane recently flew 85km up from the Earth’s surface. An incredible achievement for a private citizen. Even one who is a billionaire. Sadly, some (?many) people pooh-poohed this event as another rich person running amok. We disagree with these naysayers and we hope the future leads to more human adventures in space.

Let’s first recap. Do you know of the space race of the 1960s? This pure flag-waving exercise saw the government of the USA put a human on the Earth’s moon. And after a few more landings, humans stopped going. Afterward, many governments from around the world aided the construction of the International Space Station, an artificial Earth moon. It’s still up there. Humans have continuously inhabited the station since year 2000CE and performed a great number of experiments there. But governments haven’t taken up anything grander.

Now it’s interesting about democratic governments in that they are in place to lead today’s voters. And voters continually say that the future is much less important than the present. Anything that doesn’t provide an immediate return on investment is not palatable to them. Sadly, this means that governments typically sacrifice the future for a better today. Thus, even though we have solutions for so many of the ills which ail us, governments fail to effectively implement them because we the people don’t want them.

Hence, with the average person focused upon personal improvement then the future becomes solely the purview of the rich. And there are many rich, over 2700 billionaires. Sure some of them are more interested in corporeal pleasures. But others have shown particular concern for the future as with the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation and its progress in countering malaria. And with Richard Branson and his space plane. And with Jeff Bezos and his space rocket. And with Elon Musk and his space company. We should be thankful to them in their pursuit of a future for humanity that could entail vast opportunities for the next generation while both we and our governments remain perhaps too focused on the day to day.

Virgin Galactic