Regrettably, I won’t hear Patrick Leach (see May EXPLORER) speak at the DPAAWG luncheon in Pittsburgh, but I am happy to see someone share some of my thoughts: Societies unsustainable by available resources must change or collapse.
Anthropologist/archeologist V. Gordon Childe argued in “What Happened in History” that powerful, resource-limited empires appropriated land, water, etc., from their neighbors until they reached the limits of the then-developed world and thereby their own viability as well.
The historical norm was collapse, in part because there was no further opportunistic loot with which to pay soldiers.
The lesson from science, as I see it, is two-fold. Thermodynamics teaches that real processes are irreversible (can’t unring the bell), all such processes consume energy and raise entropy (polluted air and oceans are global aspects of entropy), cannot reach equilibrium and both intensive parameters (temperature and other climatic variables) and extensive parameters (ores, energy sources, etc.) can be limiting.
The conservation laws of physics (“some of it plus the rest of it equals all of it”) set inviolable limits. I conclude, as Leach seemingly does, that the current world economy violates these constraints. Indeed, as Leach implies, human centuries are short in the context of societal problems, but long enough to eradicate essential resources (a healthy environment is one such resource) before humans learn to pause and reconsider their situation.
An ex-mother-in-law argued that “somebody will invent something.” That’s the technology argument. But technology is only a tool; by itself it’s no better than Midas’ gold.
A VP of my old company argued (evidently seriously) that we’ll colonize another planet.
Earth is still the most hospitable planet we know. If we can’t make it here, I doubt that we’ll do better elsewhere.
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