Category Archives: sustainability

Hope for Future Housing


I just read an article on the Empowerhouse, a Habitat for Humanity project in Washington DC that may show the way to the kind of housing that we need now and will need in the future.  This house has a greater potential than any I’ve ever heard of to use zero externally delivered energy and still be affordable.  If it is durable enough to last at least as long as ordinary homes it represents the kind of hope we need for a future when the fossil fuel we use so much of now will cost perhaps ten or twenty times as much as it does today.  And here I’d been wishing for solar shingles for the last decade or so and yet not seeing them anywhere.  The Empowerhouse doesn’t solve all our problems – many  existing home will need to be retrofitted and moved closer to self-sufficiency – but I hope it will drive more innovation and reduce the sense of hopelessness many people feel when they consider the future of overpopulation and the exhaustion of fossil fuels.

As always, I welcome your comments.  Thanks for reading — Tim

NOW I Understand the Danger in Genetically Modified Organisms!


For years I have watched the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO), predominantly food items, with interest but not been sure where the problem was.  Recent news articles have given me some new thoughts on the matter and a real cause for concern, however.  Current genetic modifications, predominantly created and promoted by Monsanto, make food crops resistant to weed-killing chemicals so that more of those chemicals can be used without harming the crops.  The higher yield of those crops is offered as reason enough to use these genetically modified seeds.  The GM crops are generally tougher to kill and that, while it has benefits, presents the real problems. Continue reading

Humanity Almost Vanished 70,000 Years Ago, and Can Again


A number of studies described in a recent NPR article agree that slightly over 70,000 years ago, after a supervolcano eruption much larger than any we’ve seen in recorded history, total human numbers were reduced to a few thousand or less.  Now we find ourselves in a heavily overpopulated situation where we may surpass the Earth’s capacity to provide food and energy within the next few decades, and we need to think ahead as to how to survive the coming period of extreme volatility.  Still, there are supervolcanos in the world that are centuries and millennia past their normal eruption cycle, just ready to blow.  Surely we are smart enough as a species to think ahead and prepare for such calamities, aren’t we? 

I leave this as an open question.  It has meaning well beyond the immediate topic.  Thanks for reading – Tim

Important Question for your Legislators: Can Growth Continue Indefinitely and, If Not, What Follows It?


Hindsight is golden – no question about that.  All through the recent election season I pondered what the right question was to ask legislators and, of course, it hit me days after the election: “Do you think population and economic growth can continue forever and, if not, what do you think will happen when the trend reverses?”  This and similar questions should be at the top of everyone’s list, not just today but every day for decades to come. Continue reading

Organic Farming Will Replace Current Farming Methods as the Population Peaks


Food systems are going to be of primary importance as population peaks.  If, as the UN says, population will reach more than 9 billion in the 2040’s before beginning a steep decline, the causes of that decline are important to consider today.  A historical review of population reductions shows that neither war nor the natural disasters we’ve seen so far make a noticeable difference, but suggests that famine and possibly disease have the potential to make major reductions in the population.  Decades ago I expected that we might pollute our world so badly that average lifespans would fall, but there has been some progress on preserving the environment and it appears that energy and food shortages created by overpopulation are bigger concerns.  (Of course, the primary concern SHOULD be overpopulation itself, as these other problems are results of it.)  If organic food and farming methods are more costly than agribusiness’ methods now, why would they replace the hugely productive methods used to produce most food in the developed world today? Continue reading

Are We Lemmings?


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Are we smarter than lemmings?  It’s time for humanity to prove how smart we are.    We are faced with the biggest crisis we, and perhaps any species on the planet, has ever faced: our own overpopulation.  But are we going to continue to grow our numbers until the massive and complicated systems by which we sustain ourselves collapse, essentially “marching off a cliff” as lemmings were once said to do?  Or are we smart enough to curb our population growth and find a way to a sustainable world situation? Continue reading

The Quality of Future Life on Earth Depends on Changing the Way We Think


Are we reaching the practical limits of our intelligence as a species?  Looking around at our world it seems obvious that we are making huge problems for ourselves by growing faster and more numerous than our environment can sustain.  Politically and economically we appear to be functioning more and more in a “thrashing” mode, where our actions are not well-considered or coördinated, the outcomes fail to reflect lasting or meaningful improvements, and we fail to reduce the risks of big problems that are becoming more obvious every day.  It seems we need to become smarter about ourselves and our world, and take a more realistic view of our global problems. But what factors are preventing us from doing this, and what improved understanding must we gain to make improvements?  We can’t all be experts, but in the United States we all can vote and need to do so intelligently to ensure our leaders are capable of solving the big problems we face.  Can we learn and change our thinking and voting in time to avoid ever larger problems in the future? Continue reading