Monday, June 26, 2006

The Long View: David Price

To pull back from our at-the-moment perspective, the essay of Dr. David Price on Energy and Human Evolution, although now clearly dated, begs our attention. Since the "reality-based" life forms among us have already embraced the process of the Origin of Species, a remaining question is why? Price provides the answers here: our species, the most efficient user of energy on Earth, evolved in response to the vast amounts of energy (carbon) stored on the planet. Humanity's use of fire and fossil fuels has accelerated this use of energy. As the energy is consumed, human populations have exploded; overshoot and dieoff is now inevitable, much like the behavior of yeast in sugar or the reindeer of St. Matthew Island. Fossil fuels are now being used up 100,000 times faster than they are being formed. (Perhaps this is why talk of "sustainability" makes Chaos uncomfortable...) Similarly, the decline in human population given this context is evidence of eventual collapse, since per-capita energy growth has now come to a standstill. Price believes that the collapse will be marked by havoc caused by starvation, social strife, and disease, all of which interact in multiple and complex ways to cause dieoff of most, but perhaps not all, of the human population. Have a nice day, gentle readers.


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