From the Global Classroom
We cannot escape the fact that fossil fuels, being finite resources, will run out! Our society depends on oil, natural gas, and coal, non-renewable sources of energy created thousands of years ago. The end of supply, and more than likely society as we know it, is inevitable. The question is not 'if' but 'when'. Current controversy about increasing consumption to meet our insatiable need for growth is ridiculous. Eventually we will have to accept the fact that the way we are currently living will have to change. The changes required will not be easy.
A comprehensive book on the subject "The Long Emergency" (James Howard Kunstler, 2005) details the decline of fossil fuels on which every aspect of our lives is based. In particular, the author predicts what our lives will be like without cheap energy, oil. This decline is already upon us though society chooses to deny it. The U.S., once self sufficient in oil is now dependant on imports, primarily from the very unstable far east.
The crisis is also close to home. Negotiations (in secret) between NAFTA partners, U.S., Canada and Mexico about S.S.P. (Security and Prosperity Partnership) are being debated currently. Read guaranteed security for the U.S. pertaining to Canadian supply of energy in perpetuity. The goal, "to integrate Canada's health and safety, environmental, defense and foreign policies with the whims of the Bush administration". (Canadian Perspective, Autumn 2007 issue) The guarantee is of current and increasing supply of fossil fuels to bolster the insatiable requirement of the U.S. economy. Under NAFTA rules this will be a legal obligation beyond any control of Canada's parliament, even if exports supercede the needs of Canadian society.
The world of oil has considerable potential for global turmoil and violence, primarily between east and west. Even internally, we can expect confrontation between urban and rural, between industry and society in general. In a food context, conflict will involve local vs. imported, both based on cheap oil in production and transportation.
No single alternative energy resource currently under consideration, can replace the oil which fuels industry, home heating, electricity and transportation. One massive source of energy currently underutilized is solar. Radiation reaching the earth's surface, exceeds many fold the total energy from all sources currently consumed. To date we have harnessed only a tiny fraction of this fabulous potential.
An indication of such potential is described in a brief article in "State of the World, 2007. (World Watch Institute). In Rizhao, a Chinese city of 3 million people, "99% of households in the central districts use solar water heaters, and most traffic signals, street lights and park illumination are powered by photovoltaic solar cells. More than 60,000 greenhouses are heated by solar panels
To even attempt to maintain our current life style, we must start now exploring each and every alternative energy source as a means of avoiding catastrophe. There are 3 most promising large scale initiatives (beyond the most obvious, solar panels, wind, tides, etc.). Whether we like it or not, the first is conservation. We will have to learn to exist on less. The second, being promoted by government and industry is nuclear energy, a source which is also dependant on a finite supply, uranium. (It will also take many years to get new infrastructure on line)
The biggest potential in my view is finding ways and means to capture and store solar energy. Through photosynthesis, green vegetation utilizes radiation from the sun. In particular, increased development of forest cover will help moderate the need for heating and cooling energy. Storage the form of forest biomass, can provide the same energy created in the form of fossil fuels many thousands of years ago. Recovery of stored energy to serve societal needs would be through controlled harvesting of wood for cogeneration such as central heating and steam generated electricity.
To achieve this moderated environment will require tremendous increases in forest cover. Look to the future for massive reforestation projects world wide if we are to have any hope of sustaining life as we currently know it.