Monday, October 25, 2004

News Flash: World to End in Fairly Short Order

Well, that sounds like a joke headline, but I wanted to post this link, which I came across last week:


The title is sort of cryptic to non-archaeology buffs, but essentially what the author is predicting is the inevitable decline and fall of industrial civilization on or around the year 2030. Part of this prediction is based on a fairly arbitrary definition of the term "industrial civilization", but nevertheless, it would appear that there are some fairly dark days ahead, unless we can right fucking now start to figure out ways of generating massive amounts of electricity without using fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, as it happens, are not going to last forever, and the point where their supply decreases rather than increases may already be upon us. This is especially problematic in terms of generating electricity, which requires more fuel to generate a given amount of power than simply burning the coal or oil directly. Demand for electricity continues to increase, but the fuels to generate it will become more and more scarce.

As pointed out in the article, new power plants are being built to respond to the increased demand for power, but these new plants are all gas fired. Natural gas is a really stupid way to generate electric power. Why? Because it takes massive amounts of natural gas to boil the water to turn the turbines to generate the electricity. This is because natural gas burns at a lower temperature than, for example, coal. Gas is great for heating homes and cooking food, because in those uses it can be burned directly. Plus, you don't need a flame burning at several thousand degrees to heat your home or boil a pot of water. But if you have a whole shitload of water to boil, as you do in a large electrical power plant, then it sure helps to have a big, several-thousand-degree heat source. Out of the various fossil fuel options, the best in terms of burning hot is coal. Lots of pollution that way, but then again, if that can be adequately dealt with, there's still an awful lot of coal available. Better would be nuclear fission, which is not a fossil fuel at all, and would last us for quite a long time--long enough to develop fusion power, perhaps. With fission, we'd need to secure the plants, and find a good way of dealing with the waste, but these are not unreasonable problems. Of course, increasing the use of fission would generate massive protest from people who fail to grasp the depth of the hole we've dug for ourselves. If we're faced with a choice of A) Letting civilization collapse, or B) Embracing nuclear fission as our primary means of generating electrical power, which would we choose? I'd go for "B" in a second. But there's no telling how the general public will react. All that's certain is that a rational response cannot be counted upon.

So, in light of all this, now might be a good time to start thinking about moving to a warmer, brighter climate, preferably one where I can grow my own food. And I mustn't forget--there'll be a need to defend myself too, from the billions of people who are going to starve to death.

This really sucks--the whole situation has got me sounding like a survivalist whacko. But, ironically, if what the article describes actually comes to pass, it's the survivalist whackos who'll be best equipped to deal with it.


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