- Site summary
- Energy is our biggest problem
- Environmental challenges are also critical
- Economic and population growth
- The 3 E’s have mostly been ignored by governments
- Doomers & the suicide that changed me
- There is hope if you get involved
- The Eclipse is Now
- Solutions page
- About me
1. Site summary
The 3 E’s of Energy depletion, the Environment and the Economy are 3 interacting systems that will challenge national security and world peace this century. I am technically optimistic about what we can achieve to provide everyone on earth by 2050 with all the energy and food they need. But am not sure that as a culture we are prepared. There is just too much ignorance and fear of the necessary solutions the experts propose. In a small way, I hope to change some of that. We live in interesting times!
2. Energy is our biggest problem
- Oil production is about to peak and begin a long and permanent decline.
- The Australian Senate investigated it and found there was no silver bullet to replace oil (back then). They found that if there was even a risk of it happening in the decades ahead, we should be preparing for it now.
- Oil discovery has dropped for 50 years, and we’re now burning oil our grandparents discovered.
- It took me years to come around to this position, but wind and solar cannot replace cheap fossil fuels for our civilisation.
- They are intermittent and unreliable and storage systems are vastly too expensive to make them viable sources of electricity for our modern economies. Trying to do so would have us living more like the Amish but with some daytime power. We cannot afford it, and
Even climatologist Dr James Hansen said believing in renewables is “like believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”
- Public opinion is biased by the media news cycle which does not reflect the scientific debate. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio popularise the latest study into an all renewable grid, but they don’t recant their endorsement when the National Academy of Science debunk the very same study. The public are left with a sense that wind and solar offer a rosy secure energy future, when they still face enormous challenges.
- Our economy runs on cheap coal fired electricity to run factories and produce goods and services, and then we move these goods and services around with cheap oil.
- The very food we eat depends on cheap oil, as it takes 10 calories of oil energy to grow 1 calorie of food energy. As the wiki says:-
- “Since supplies of oil and gas are essential to modern agriculture techniques, a fall in global oil supplies could cause spiking food prices and unprecedented famine in the coming decades. Geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer contends that current population levels are unsustainable, and that to achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster the United States population would have to be reduced by at least one-third, and world population by two-thirds.”
- Peak oil will be here soon, then peak gas and peak coal.
- We urgently need abundant clean energy to replace all fossil fuels anyway, as from a climate change point of view we shouldn’t burn the remaining oil let alone the gas and coal!
3. Environmental challenges are also critical
- Industrial agriculture kills 100,000 km’s square farmland a year
- Scientific American warns world’s farmland topsoils could be gone in 60 years.
- Underground water aquifers (bore water) are running dry.
- 75% of fisheries are on the verge of collapse.
- Forests and other habitats are under stress as we use half the land surface of the earth for grazing and farming. (Cities only take up 3%.) We have introduced pests, hunted the apex predators, and polluted with plastic and other toxic wastes.
- This creates biodiversity loss which in turn threatens ecosystem services.
- We will mine most conventional metal ores by 2075.
- Increasing use of fossil fuels will — by 2028 — commit us to 2 degrees of warming.
- Climate change accelerates all these bad trends and attacks us in four main climate FOES: Famine, Oceans rising, Extinctions and Storms – with crop yields cut about a quarter as the human population rises about a third!
4. Economic and population growth
- Exponential growth is accelerating many negative trends. If the human population grows by 1% per year for a human lifespan of 70 years, at the end there would be twice as many people. 2% growth over 70 years is 4 times, 3% is 8 times, all the way up to 6% growth per year being 64 times! This basic maths works for anything whether population or economic growth.
- The human population grows by 75 million annually. It’s like adding a new United Kingdom every year.
- Economic growth usually means more goods and services and these require more resource extraction.
- If you hear about 2% economic growth per year it usually means that over a lifetime of 2% growth that’s 4 times as many resources consumed and all the associated environmental impacts.
- Putting it all together, for the first time we appear to be sailing into a comprehensive range of resource and environmental threats on a global scale.
- Previous civilisations rose and fell as they used up local resources and environments, such as when Roman topsoil washed into the Mediterranean, shrinking the supply of cheap food. These civilisations sometimes took decades or centuries to unwind. Once the environmental damage was done, the outcome was inevitable. We are about to crash into a number of global resource limits, all at once, on a warming and overpopulated planet.
5. The 3 E’s have mostly been ignored by governments
As Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond said, “People are worried now.” Hardly a year goes by without a careful scientific organisation sounding the alarm. We read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and watch Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth“. Governments pay lip service with a few rebates to renewables. But sadly, my Limits Page documents a growing list of papers from the classic and disturbing 1970’s Limits to Growth (which is still on track 40-something years later) to more recent work by other scientific panels.
6. Doomers & the suicide that changed me
- Many peak oilers become doomers, depressed at the potential for anarchy
- Some even rejoice in the ‘inevitable’ collapse of civilisation, and become Doomsday Preppers that feel they have the edge on everyone else.
- One specific doomer meme is a technical argument that nothing can ever replace the energy density of fossil fuels. As I investigated their claims, they convinced me of two points:-
- Were we bound to live like a bit like the Amish — with only a little electricity during the sunlit hours of the day? And how would society transition to such a low energy system? Would farming adapt in time? If I abandoned my car and managed to cycle to the store would there be any food when I got there?
- How many regions would collapse into anarchy during this unpredictable time?
Sadly, these doomer arguments and memes proved deadly to one young man on a peak oil forum. He cycled out to his favourite tree and hung himself.
7. There is hope if you get involved
- That suicide changed me. I became appalled at the Malthusian prophets of doom gloating on their internet forums like so many campers telling ghost stories around the campfire. It robs young people of hope. I took another look at the 3 E’s above. Slowly, over time, this blog became a collection of existing, established technologies that could solve our problems. I’m now convinced there is no technical inevitability of a worldwide collapse. That’s just a myth. However, the problems with renewables and storage remain. So what’s the answer?
- The main solution is abundant clean energy as we navigate so many other challenges ahead. It’s not a mix of wind and solar and storage as so many believe today — remember Dr James Hansen’s Easter Bunny quote above! Instead, it is nuclear power — essential, safe, fast, abundant, safe, fast, abundant renewable nuclear power!
- ESSENTIAL: Nuclear is necessary because important energy analysts have calculated that renewables are too unreliable and storage is too expensive.
- SAFE: Nuclear is the safest form of large scale energy we can deploy — coal kills as many people as about 650 Chernobyl accidents a year!
- If we scaled rooftop solar power up to the same enormous power output as nukes, more tradesmen would die accidentally falling off solar rooftops than have died in nuclear accidents! (And those nuclear accidents involved outdated old technologies we would never build again!)
- FAST: Dr James Hansen says the world should build 115 GW of nuclear reactors each year. Once the industry is scaled up, nuclear power can deliver fast climate fixes. 115 GW provides clean power for everyone on earth by 2050 (including population growth). If counted as on a reactor to GDP ratio, this is slower than the French already achieved in the 1970’s. We know we can do this, because we’ve already done it.
- Yet it gets better. Cleaning the grid will also clean much of our driving as we move to Electric Vehicles. Indeed, it turns out that if we turned all today’s baseload plants up to full we could charge about a third of our cars on today’s grid without adding any extra capacity to the grid!
- ABUNDANT: New breeder reactors eat nuclear waste, getting 90 times the energy out of uranium! America already has enough nuclear waste to run her for 1000 years! In other words, nuclear waste isn’t a problem, it’s the solution!
- RENEWABLE: Fresh uranium particles from the Earths’ magma gradually make their way up into new mountains and the earth’s crust and rain erodes them into the oceans. Uranium from seawater is renewable, and with breeders that get 90 times the energy out of it, could run the world for billions of years.
- COST: Nuclear is affordable. Indeed, if Germany had poured their money into nukes instead of wind and solar, they would have weaned off all fossil fuels by now, including oil! The image of nuclear becoming ever more expensive is based primarily on bad American policy.
- In other words, everything I used to fear about nuclear power was exactly back to front and wrong!
8. The Eclipse is Now
I originally used the symbol of an eclipse to promote the meme that “We must eclipse ourselves or be eclipsed.” But now I see that as too melodramatic, too life or death, too all or nothing, too binary.
I can now see a thousand ways we might succeed in some areas and fail in others. While we might not “be eclipsed” and collapse back to the stone age, we risk being stuck in the twilight. Unless we accelerate rolling out the solutions available to us, our children will inherit a planet we hardly recognise, with half the biodiversity extinct by 2050 and possibly billions living in poverty, hunger, and war. There are enormous challenges ahead. I hope you will study the solutions summary page, read further, and find at least one cause that might resonate
Please browse my solutions summary page.
Click the links, read the pages, watch the videos. You might not agree with all of the solutions, but if just one resonates with you google it, join a local activist group or facebook group, and you may just have an impact! You’ll learn more, make friends, and possibly help put things back on track.
10. About me
My name is Dave and I live in Sydney, Australia. You can contact me at:Qualifications: First place: Advanced Diploma in Social Sciences, so I approach these questions from broad societal issues and yet try to condense the science down into easy to remember English sound-bytes. My concern is for the overall shape of the trends threatening society, and the overall shape of the solutions. I provide links to experts and articles where you can read further for more details.
I’ve had many different careers and a broad life experience, from time in Survey Corps in the Australian Army to working as a Child Protection Officer with the NSW Department of Community Services. I am now the Director of our family design studio and do administration at a major telco.
I love blogging which is like a slow-motion conversation. It has changed my politics and understanding of the world, people, and the economic and environmental drivers of many geopolitical issues around the world. More intimately, it also explains why some cityscapes feel right and inviting and some wrong, and why some energy systems are clean and working, and others are not.
I have a wife, 2 children, and a Russian Blue cat named Darcy.