jueves, 16 de enero de 2014
The biggest question always in my mind was how to understand the Industrial Revolution—because everything up to that point is pretty easily comprehensible. We figured out agriculture ten thousand years ago, and gradually the population increased as we spread out across the planet and spread agriculture with us, and so on. But then, two hundred years ago, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, it's like everything goes haywire. The human population goes from fewer than one billion to six and a half billion, and the scale of the human impact on the environment increases exponentially as well. So, again, how to explain that? Well, I tried looking into the history of capitalism, and looking into our mythological, psychological interaction with nature, and so on... But then, finally, in 1998 I read a paper (...) titled "The End of Cheap Oil". And for the first time I began to understand the role of energy in human social evolution. And for several years I studied this and read books. And I realized that this was the key to understanding everything that's happened in the last two hundred years—that fossil fuels are the essence of the Industrial Revolution. So, that creates a problem, because fossil fuels are inherently finite.
Oil was created in a 90 to a hundred fifteen million years ago. And we are drying down the stock of highly concentrated fuel in an amazingly short period of time. What's two hundred years, compared to a hundred and fifteen million years? And that oil is going to be gone virtually by the end of this century.
So—the twentieth century was about using more of the stuff. And it was the great petroleum fiesta. One time only, in the history of our species. The twenty-first century is going to be all about how that party winds down. This is the most serious problem to face the human race since we've been human.
We, above all the other cultures in the world, are to be most challenged by the necessity of transitioning from the fossil fuels to renewables. And we will transition, either on our timetable or on geology's timetable. In the five thousand years of recorded history, the age of oil will be just a blip—about three hundred years, more or less. Then what? —then what? We are enormously smarter than we were before and I think we can live happier and more of us than we had living before the age of oil, but...
"Look, you've got a choice. You can either fix it, or I can fix it.
Except you're not going to like it—because I'm going to throw everything away."
And everything means most of us.