A Plan

By now, you realize that non-renewable energy sources will be fully consumed. Some suggest that it might occur within 50 years; some sooner; some later. But it will occur and it will occur relatively soon. And yes, their burning will add to the existing noxious pollutants. After, we will have no more fossil fuels and a dirty atmosphere.

What then? We will gather energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar. But, these sources currently amount to less than 20% of global energy consumption. And there’s little to no chance that they can provide all of our desired energy. We suggest that there will never again be a source of energy as utile and promiscuous as today’s fossil fuels.

Let’s look to the future and consider the usage of the finite amount of fossil fuels remaining. Do we continue apportioning energy consumption to maximize the human population? Do we drastically limit the amount used to avoid pollutants and re-learn to live simply? Or do we flame-out and use the remaining stores in one last hurrah? We could settle humans on the Earth’s moon. We could battle each other into extermination. We could build fusion reactors. What is the plan for civilization?
Dead Man Finger Fungi


Let’s imagine how we’d plan land usage for the future. First, we’d set three simple land usages types; urban, agricultural and natural. Second, we assume we could readily change land usage type between the three, though each change requires energy. Third, let’s acknowledge that the Earth’s land surface is finite, so summing these three always results in 100%. With this, we can plan the future.

But before we plan for the future, let’s quickly consider the past. For around ten thousand years, we transformed natural forests and plains into croplands and houses. Effectively, we’ve reduced the amount of natural land cover to less than half of its original amount. And we continue this reduction. So, knowing this, let’s plan.

Assume a ‘business-as-usual’ approach where we continue to transfer the natural land to agricultural usage. With this, we can feed everyone. But, the reduction of natural land surface obviously means an equivalent reduction in nature, in wildlife. If we continue as usual, then do you foresee the eventual loss of all natural land?

Or, we can choose an approach to sustain the current ratios of land usage. But how do we accommodate the expected 2-4 billion additional people in the same urban area as today and with the same agricultural area as today?

Or, we can plan to increase the natural land surface area by re-wilding. But as the urban land area is so small, we could only effectively do this by decreasing the agricultural land usage. How do we feed a burgeoning population with a reduced agricultural area?

Some planners do have a vision. They aim to protect 30% of the land’s surface for nature. Perhaps this means that 30% of the wildlife from ten thousand years ago will survive. What do you think are optimal ratios? What are your plans for the future? And how are you getting them enacted? Is there enough energy available to achieve your plans?

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