Thursday, June 23, 2005

Basic observations on our Dilemma

If you have been a regular reader of the Unplanning Journal, you were probably aware that the past few weeks I have been on vacation from work (the first such vacation since 2003). Now I am back with several observations:
Most people take for granted the continued existence of the most fundamental resources
Most people worry about the least worrisome details, while completely ignoring the real problems.
Most people fail to accept and plan for changes, even if they accept their validity
Most people assume that someone will take care of it for them
I could go on, but these four capture the essence of our collective ignorance. But here is another obvious statement.
Everything will change.
Given enough time, the environment, natural resource availability and even climate will change, sometimes drastically. Changes that will almost certainly come as a shock to those who will experience them. I am sure that somewhere in some civilization long ago there must have been a Greek, Roman, Anastazi, Mayan or Easter Islander that must have thought: “Wow, what a great place we live in. Surely nothing will come and mess it up…”
And yet—without fail—things do change and inevitably result in that civilization’s downfall. In each instance, the civilization took steps to expand and preserve its own existence. And yet, in each instance those steps never did manage to solve the pressing problem (be it food availability or fresh water access) or actually made it worse. At best, it merely postponed the inevitable day of reckoning. All the while, the inhabitats surely must have been placing their collective hopes and beliefs that their leaders, thinkers, priests or Gods would rescue them.
Now here we are at that point when somewhere out there in our fossil-fueled global empire there are people thinking, “Gosh what a great time to be alive. Never again will we have to be concerned about our basic survival needs.” As in the past, many people are placing their collective hopes (and ultimate survival) in mankind’s newest religion, technology. Some rely on the belief that when tough gets going (Peak Oil induced chaos) the Rapture is a comin’. Others are content to live their lives with out questioning their own existence within the context of modern civilization.
Still, it cannot be overstated;
a change is coming.
My own experiences this trip and at work places a human face on the dilemma posed by our collective amnesia or indifference to energy. I have family members that question or reject the possibility of civilization-ending energy crisis. Others remain skeptical that the implications will be that dire or simply prefer not to consider it at all. Friends and acquaintances of mine are busy planning their next home, SUV or business investment. Some colleagues are busy planning for non-emergencies and reacting to “genuine crises.” Others anticipate that the second coming of Christ will save them from any earthly tribulations.
All clueless.
And yet a change is coming…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it fair to call the bad stuff "mankind’s newest religion, technology?"

I think "technology" fairly covers every tool and technique mankind has developed, from the chipped rock or pointed stick onward.

I think you've made a good post in general, but rather than fall into a "technology bad" trap (maybe that paragraph contained just a stumble), it is important to emphasize that this (peak oil, global warming, or general environmental protection) is about choosing technologies wisely.

At this point, energy guzzling technologies are probably not appropriate.

And sometimes all you need is a pointy stick ;-)

6/24/2005 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Rajiv said...

My take on the "mankind’s newest religion, technology" is that this religiosity is typified by people who have no inkling of how science, technology or innovation work. These people say "somebody will come up with a solution" or "technology will come up with a solution" while simultaneously excuse themselves from performing any actions that may ease the current situation, or get us to a possible solution.

6/24/2005 12:54 PM  
Blogger odograph said...

"by people with no inkling" ... maybe, but this could also be a different kind of dysfunction. Rather than a general techno-religion, it could just be that society has semi-broken ways of advancing "candidate" technologies.

I guess to illustrate that, I could point to the way scientific data bleeds over into the public space on the subject of wind or nuclear, and how the perception of "good" or "bad" technology rises and falls.

6/24/2005 1:29 PM  
Blogger UNplanner said...

Mea Culpa...

To clarify myself, I am most certainly not anti-technology. What I was getting at was the blind faith that mankind would invent a solution from today's problems, just as we have from every previous problem, real or perceived.

This blind faith is most exemplified by idiot economists that attempt to deal with the coming oil crisis by repeating that stone age mantra.

You know that one..."the stone age did not end because of a lack of stones." I'd like to smack that fool with one of our apparently still abundant stones.

In any case we do still need technology. We just need to get a true understanding of what it can--and should--be able to do.

6/24/2005 3:20 PM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

The age of whaling did end because of a lack of whales.  The age of cod fishing on the Grand Banks ended because of a lack of cod... and they were both renewable resources.

6/27/2005 4:44 PM  

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