I opened this series on the note that an individual who once wasted a fair amount of my time actually had something interesting to say. We both have concerns regarding how reliant our species is on fossil oil, coal and gas. His concern was that taxing carbon will take us back to pre-industrial societies and famine. My concern is that doing nothing about our addiction will take us back to pre-industrial societies and famine. His argument is that climate change science doesn’t merit concern. Mine is that it is too troubling to ignore.
To explain my concerns, I chose to avoid the IPCC and hockey stick graphs as there is small yet noisy group that obsess over these, climate models and Al Gore. I’m not sure when these individuals decided that they were climate experts let alone even scientists – largely it seems that they read a few books on some “swindle” and figured that paraphrasing facelessly would earn them respect (more a question of their character and personal needs rather than adding anything beneficial to science). As I’m not a climate scientist and have seen many excellent blogs and web sources out there to explain much of the climate science (better than I ever could), I chose to avoid much of the depth others have provided, simply to provide concise snippets with a number of references included to give an introduction to a much larger associated problem (than just anthropogenic global warming).
In that way, I provided some physical responses of a changing world; temperature trends, ocean acidification and sea levels. The world is warming, oceans pH is decreasing and sea levels are rising. We may be discussing small changes so far (as some try to use to wave off such concerns), however, I then I went on to show some evidence in biological indicators of change; species distribution, timing of biological events, de-calcification, and a look into this continuous change into the future.
With all this in mind, I talked about peak oil, gas and coal and how over the coming century, regardless of all else, oil will become ever more expensive, with gas to follow and coal left, not only to provide an important role in steel production but also to pick up the pieces of business-as-usual mentality. This view, I hoped to make clear, is not a sustainable future and will only increasingly become difficult to maintain.
Looking at the consumer, I’ve tried to explain what has happened, largely since WWII, on the back of cheap and abundant energy; developed nations have become fatter, used energy inefficiently, population has exploded, the need for “stuff” has ever increased, sprawl has taken ever larger areas of land, congestion has meant copious amounts of emissions are wasted crawling along free ways, and, food increasingly comes from poorer nations at the expense of the local environment and exploitation of cheap labour (and at the cost of farmers closer to home); waste of useful material is a prevalent part of a complacent lifestyle. Whatever the new source of energy is, if it is as abundant as nuclear advocates assure us, we need to be wary of how we manage such energy – especially in relation to landscape and natural resources.
However, I truly believe that an answer can be found that allows for; species resilience to changing climate; open space management and increasing population; agriculture on low oil and gas; better waste management; fitness and social health; and an ever increasing standard of living for all of our species while protecting biodiversity. It all starts with thinking differently. A changing world needs changing ideas. For governments to first invest in nodal TODs infrastructure, business and personal investment can follow to make the most of a bustling multi-use metropolitan. To encourage an upward growth can allow for a disintegration of sprawling areas, which can then be redeveloped into working farms, rehabilitated native bushland, stylised parks and other open space entertainment. It should be achievable to have all the wealth of inner-city lifestyle, minus the chemical and noise pollution, cheap food and a quick and easy ride to a number of open space activities. You should be able to walk to work and have a short bike ride to somewhere open to kick a ball with the kids.
It’s not about regulation and condemnation, but encouragement and investment. It’s not about killing industry and a reduction of money flow, but changing industry and developing cash flow never before seen. It’s not about tapping off all fossil fuel use tomorrow, but using it where we need to and preserving supplies for industries that don’t have an immediate choice (ie. flight, shipping and steel). It’s not about telling people what they can’t have, but showing them how they can have more by doing things differently.
We have the chance for a much more prosperous society; but only through innovation.