Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lucy! We're hooooome!

The image is at once unnerving, surreal and calming: coming home to a place you no longer know, and that no longer recognizes you. Walking the dusty ground and the ancient rock of Olduvai must be an awe-inspiring experience for those from a more modern world. The sort of experience a typical American might get visiting some of the very old or ancient sites of Europe, our sense of the age of human kind being so poorly developed by TV, video games, shopping malls and the like. Having seen Roman columns in Sevilla Spain, ancient forests in Costa Rica, stone temples in Korea, and more, I can imagine just a little the awe that might come over one at Olduvai speaking a silent "I'm home" to Lucy.

Going home again tends to be either joyful or traumatizing - or at least stressful. How and why we go home matters. Home for the holidays to a warm and loving family, who wouldn't look forward to that? Home for an extended period after the collapse of a marriage, hitting hard financial times, to care for a sick and/or dying parent... who would look forward to that? The one is full of happy moments (perhaps punctuated with the old bickering that families all do), the other is full of self-doubt, uncomfortable explanations, broken expectations and the sheer difficulty of living differently in a place that is no longer yours. These may be the choices we face as we race towards the end of cheap energy (at least, unless or until we harness solar energy on a grand scale).

In Olduvai Revisited 2008, an update to the Olduvai Gorge Theory proposed by Richard Duncan, Luís de Sousa and Euan Mearns of TheOilDrum:Europe present to us the choices we may face in how we go back to Olduvai Gorge. In a series of scenarios for the end of the Fossil Fuel age, the data suggests we may yet have a choice as to how we go home. We can go home beggers, paupers, broken and beaten, or we can go home with good news of grand new ways of doing things, and maybe a better life for all. They conclude:

According to our analysis, conventional fossil fuels are set to peak in a decade or so and following that, decline will open an ever widening gap from today's per capita energy use. Based on finite FF resources, energy per capita is indeed headed towards a cliff, and this may lead Mankind back to the Olduvai Gorge if action is not taken to address this problem. Many of those who have studied this problem in the past have concluded that the journey back to Olduvai is unavoidable.

The analysis presented here suggests that it is within the capacity of human endeavor to build new energy gathering infrastructure to substitute for the decline in conventional fossil fuels. By combining energy efficiency measures with the simultaneous expansion of solar, wind and nuclear energy Mankind may secure a civilised existence for the XXI century. A tremendous opportunity exists to build a more sustainable energy future and building this future will provide vast opportunity for economic growth and prosperity...

The next two to three decades are crucial, where the fastest build of alternative infrastructure is needed, and when the efficiency wedge will have the slowest effect. But the numbers contemplated here are not insurmountable, and should be tackled with the right commitment and timely action.

Click here for a video presentation of the above.
We have a choice. Do we go home to Lucy for a visit to our ancient ancestral home full of hope, vigor and new ideas for the Old Mother to squint at and whisper small wonders at, or do we go home out of desperation to share what little resources remain, struggling to survive as long as we can before the dust covers our bones and we are dug from the rock in some far future? Are we to be wondered at by beings puzzling at how we could have traveled so far just to end up back where, and how, we began?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments appreciated, but be polite; I like to edit.