Spare Change, Acceleration & Limits

Wildman Steve Brill
Wildman Steve Brill.
A Slashdot post reports that Space Energy, Inc. claims to have a rock solid business model for their plan to beam down power via microwaves from solar energy collectors in space. I’ll get to survivalism and foraging in a minute, stay with me.

In a page linked from that article, at Universe Today, “aerospace engineer James Michael Snead” provokes a pet peeve of mine.

“. . .even if the US were to build 70 new nuclear plants, add the equivalent of 15 more Hoover Dams, expand the geothermal capacity by 50 times what it is today, install over a million large land or sea wind turbines covering 150,000 square miles, build 60,000 square miles of commercial solar voltaic farms, and on top of that convert 1.3 billion dry tons of food mass to bio fuels, still only 30% of the power needs would be filled by 2100.

And just to annoy me further, Mr. Snead writes in a white paper titled “The End of Easy Energy and What Are We Going To Do About It” as a free PDF downloadable from that Universe Today article, “The proper reader perspective, therefore, is to not become comfortable with the notion that we have over 90 years to solve the immense challenges inherent in the transition to sustainable energy sources.”

Don’t get me wrong. Quantifying problems to see if proposals measure up as real solutions is vital. My problem is with the phrase “in 2100.” If there are to be limits to consumerism, sprawl and personal greed, there should also be limits to our far future doomsday scenario responses.

The change rate is much faster now in 2009 than it was in 1909 and change continues to accelerate. If you doubt it, off you go to Wikipedia’s entry on The Singularity Is Near, soon to be a movie later this year.

But even given the slower pace of the 20th Century, what should someone back in 1909, in a time when hooved animals pulled carriages, have done to solve the problems of the year 2000? Make the buggy whip more efficient? Anyone believing the Singularity prediction wouldn’t attempt to solve 22nd Century energy crises.

Some of us look back to the early 20th Century to glean the origins of forest gardening and other proto-permaculture ideas, but even Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture wasn’t published until 1929, two years after Lucky Lindy flew across the ocean. But it would be nice to know what the average American did about off-grid homesteading in 1909.

No interstate highways, radio, TV, trans-Atlantic planes, nukes, moon rockets, Internet or cell phones. What persons other than H.G. Wells or Jules Verne were in the forecasting ballpark, and would their neighbors have followed any specific action plans? The feds just came in and classified cavorite’s anti-gravity properties in 1901 and, oops, you’re not supposed to know about that yet. Sorry. Never mind. Heh, it was just science fiction. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Seriously, I wish solar power from space well in its fundraising and operations, and I look forward to the wonders of superscience to come. But I wouldn’t presume to govern the world of 2100 with my buggy whip or ipod.

Most authorities and big business leaders seem locked into the failed “solutions” of the past that brought us to the brink of tougher times ahead. I suggest you get some prepper skills (hey, there’s no “preppers” page at Wikipedia!) or at least do some internet research on foraging.

Urban Dictionary “prepper” entry:

“Someone who focuses on preparedness, generally for various worst-case scenarios like peak oil or armageddon. Sometimes used to avoid the more loaded term survivalist. Some preppers focus on guns, others on sustainable agriculture.”

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