Good news: We have the renewable energy if we would just harness it. An article from the Land Art Generator website includes a very nice numerical analysis of how much energy humanity needs, how that has changed over time, and how we might provide for our needs using solar (and wind and wave) energy. It sets some goals that could be achieved within a couple of decades and allow us to provide practically all the energy we use from strictly renewable sources. This is great information, but how do we go ahead from here?
Learn what you can do, and then do it. This, I believe, is the beginning of a much-needed process of breaking down our global problems into smaller and smaller chunks, until we can identify specific activities and goals for each of us: things we can do or use individually to achieve a sustainable world situation. Information is released by the mass media in small, misbegotten chunks, apparently because the media are too tied to short-term profits and political expediency to address our real, fundamental problems, but a great deal more could be done if the will were there. We can instill that will by communicating with media companies and demanding that they modernize their outlooks and practices. And, of course, we can work to understand how we can conserve and save resources and money in our daily lives, and communicate with like-minded people to share information and further refine what we know and can do. The media should be providing us with the appropriate techniques and related information as well as hope that we can avoid a cataclysmic decline of civilization in this century, but since they are not, we have to demand it from them and fill the gap ourselves as best we can.
A lot of us are already doing what we can for our children’s future. I personally write emails and sign petitions urging the population explosion be addressed by governments. I donate money appropriately to organizations such as the Population Connection, who work to bring attention to the population problem. I also try to make as little impact on the planet as I can (while still keeping my much-needed job, even though that requires commuting). I recycle, minimize my driving and use of electricity and water (especially hot water), and eat a lot less meat these days, to mention a few of my personal initiatives.
Sustainability will require maximum efficiency from all of us. One example of maximized efficiency is in the way we manage our homes. I always do home repairs so as to make them last as long as possible. For instance, why pay $6,000 for a 20 year roof when I can pay $8, 500 and get a 30 year roof? In general, we can ease the impact of the inevitable changes we will face this century and reduce our energy and resource usage by “building to last”. If we would build like the Romans, many of whose buildings are still in daily use in Europe, we would save ourselves a lot of expense in the long run. This is just an example of the kind of thinking we need to adopt to protect our children and grandchildren.
The journey to a better future starts now, but needs government support. We need a lot more of this sort of information, and our governments should be funding serious research in these directions so we can read about their progress instead of reading independent analyses that point out what they should be doing. Please ask your government representatives to read this and the linked article, and to take the population explosion very seriously. For now we need to each keep doing what we can to move the world towards sustainability, but we’ll be able to do more as we learn more. Meaningful knowledge we can use at an individual or group level is badly needed, and no organization is better positioned to create and provide that knowledge (nor has an implicit mandate to do so) than government.
Conservation and invention without decreased birthrates will inevitably fail. As always, anything that reduces birthrates and slows population growth is a win since it addresses the cause of the problem and gives us more time to build windmills and install solar panels before we incur more severe hardships. Without a focus on reducing the global birthrate, however, any headway we make on conservation or producing more energy, for example, only enables the population to become even larger and result in worse catastrophes. The root cause, birthrate, must be addressed effectively or all other efforts will just make the population peak higher, and the inevitable decline harder and more catastrophe-riddled. We need to raise the consciousness of this for everyone, but especially for our media and government, and I hope you will help me in this pursuit at every opportunity.
As always, I welcome your comments — Tim