A CHALLENGE TO ANDREW REVKIN
(and the readers of Dot Earth)
Covering the protest march at the climate talks in Copenhagen (credit: Andrew Revkin)
One of the persistent themes at Andrew Revkin's NY Times Dot Earth blog is that a new non-fossil fueled, non-polluting, affordable energy is the essential necessity for making our civilization's tenure on earth sustainable. Revkin has given the theme the tag-line of ENERGY QUEST.
Many scientists and no-lesser a techno-light than Bill Gates support this view. Nevertheless, I would like to challenge it. Energy demand is a derivative of both our needs and desires for more and more consumption multiplied again and again by more and more people. Energy facilitates consumption and development; the more it facilitates, the greater the cumulative impact. More energy often exacerbates the problem as in the Jovens Paradox.
The basic Paul Erhlich equation -- PAT=I -- Population times Affluence times Technology equals the Impact on the earth system is firm. Yes, technology can offer cleaner energy or more efficient processes but, like the new lane the the freeway, the benefits are short-lived. The march of more humans wanting/needing more stuffs is inexorable until reaching limits that cannot be transcended. Science and technology can tweak the variables but they can not change the equation. New energy forms are needed, especially as oil peaks, but the techno-optimism that seems as a sub-text of the "energy quest" simply is not justified. We are still analogous to bacteria growing in a test tube (even in the event that new test tubes are discovered).
[Note -- December 16, 2010. Exponential change is real. The Antarctica ice sheet is disintegrating much faster than almost anybody imagined. There's a recent report and full discussion at Climate Progress.]
David Suzuki has portrayed the dilemma brilliantly in a very short video called TEST TUBE. Please take a minute to view it.
Here's my challenge: Please show how the quest for energy can change this. Is not believing that new energy solves issues of sustainability similar to trading in derivatives? Can we wiggle around the limits to cumulative consumption? Who, how, what sets the limits? And when?
At the end of the day, there's only one way...
Photo via Sand in the Gears