Richard Nelson Turning Point 911
9/11 message By Richard Nelson, 21/11/2001
I invite you to take some time to look at this reference: http://www.dieoff.org/page224.htm - a paper titled the Olduvai Gorge by Richard Duncan.
I had come across it before, but found its message very unsettling and I was entirely unprepared deal with its conclusions. But now, in the dark shadow cast by 9/11, I find its message extremely important. We have seen the faces of the terrorists - THEY who want to bring down world civilization right in front of our eyes. But what if, as suggested in this paper, this event and this war are but indicators that our civilization is now sliding along a slope that will bring us - sooner than we think - to the brink of a greater disaster? This great disaster, not even one generation away, is oil resource depletion bringing about the destruction of civilization and global environmental collapse. Are WE to face our children's questioning: Why did we drive blindly ahead and destroy their future?
Energy supply collapse within ten to twenty years is the fuse that will set off these explosive changes in the world. Energy scarcity will lead to the loss of supply of every other essential resource. Vast populations may perish and wars will breakout in all parts of the world. How do we avoid this well documented forecast of ultimate disaster? (Who else agrees with this forecast? See: WORLD SCIENTISTS' WARNING TO HUMANITY at http://www.dieoff.com/page8.htm)
If one of the present energy supply candidates could step up to fill the huge energy gap that will result from oil resource depletion, or if global civilization began to actually reduce consumption - that would change these projections and "assumed trends" into a scary story that may never come true. The value of such well-presented analysis must be to mobilize any and all of the future energy industry contenders (as alternatives to oil) to get off the starting blocks - or else the future generation may live our worst nightmare. War, starvation, epidemics and a struggle to just survive will be the future we leave to our children. The previous Gulf War and now the disaster of September 11 and resultant war are products of our dependency on non-renewable oil energy. And it is a wake up call.
Although I am a "green" proponent I am not one of those who would blame the Oil Industry for this situation. I do not believe that you bite the hand that feeds you. However I suspect that large companies and organizations that are entrenched in the oil business will not be the source of the innovation that is needed to divert the course of our headlong rush into disaster. The thing is we are all passengers on this runaway train of civilization. We are headed to the cliff (as described in the Olduvai Gorge, Fig. 4) and there will be no station stops - nor will you easily survive an attempt to jump off (i.e. hide out in your solar/organic home in the woods). Also, there is no other viable track at present. And all our communities are gaining speed and momentum heading to the cliff at an accelerating rate due to population growth and an exponential growth in consumption per capita.
The last thing we should do is to ignore these trends, hide them or confuse people about the projections with hopeful but ignorant statements that will lead some to apathy or a false sense of security. What we need to do is to take the few years ahead, when we can hope that the disruptive forewarnings of impending tragedy will still be manageable, and get out ahead of the train and build an alternate track and switch station.
I am sharing this message with you because I feel that we must redouble our efforts to provide families and Communities with solutions immediately. Some of you have not bought into the idea that we could "save the world" by our own actions and intentions. But I hope you will become convinced of the danger of deferring the problem to others - governments - universities - business or NGOs.
One of the factors that could alter the Olduvai Gorge prediction is the synergy and know-how that could be generated by a www collaboration to build the "alternate track" to a sustainable future. In this alternate future scarcity of energy (as well as scarcity of water and food resources that are NOT addressed in this paper) never emerges as a problem. In this alternate world of future abundance everyone can participate in a peaceful and prosperous global community. I see an abundance of knowledge to be the best of resources to use in building such a future. Knowledge is never depleted by its use and sharing. And in addition we need the work of many hands - the creativity of many minds - the experience of many joint efforts openly sharing these knowledge resources is what will get the job done.
That is why I have begun the Grass Roots initiative. I want to Team-Up with a worldwide movement and, as the inventor of Sola Roof technology I am throwing in the solaroof concept into a wider Grass Roots collaboration to build (with appropriate technology) sustainable homes and communities. My assumption is that a DIY (Do It Yourself?) and a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard?) approach will be empowered by enlisting the volunteer efforts of millions of individuals and families. Our collective goal is to build a "right of way" that is wide enough and accessible enough to turn many of our "trains" away from the cliff and to safety.
I believe that the Grass Roots initiative needs to function similarly to the Linux development project that has received development input from more than 40,000 individual programmers worldwide. Behind this volunteerism, that has encouraged such level of "giving to build a common good", is the Open Source Definition (the "OSD") , which needs to be interpreted in terms of non-software technology (See: http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.html an understanding that maintains an "open source" environment for the computer software community). We "Green Technologists" must work together in an "open systems" framework to build the "kernel" (or seed, or heart) of what is sustainable technology. We in the Greenbuilding (dare I say) Movement should take center stage because it is our HOMES and our COMMUNITIES that generate the largest ecological impact and therefore must reflect an ecology conscious lifestyle.
And it is how we BUILD our communities that will determine how we address other technology sectors' problems. Within our "Blue Green" communities we can source water, food and energy in a sustainable manner and greatly reduce the demands for transportation. Communities by their design can encourage and make practical the use of walking, skating, riding bikes, and using electric vehicles and motor vehicles that consume biofuels that are derived from sustainable biomass production. Electrical energy production can be produced on a distributed basis in communities and be largely generated by Microturbines. Solar, wind and other alternate energy resources can be part of the energy-use/supply mix. Hydrogen and Advanced Flywheel technology can be used for energy storage (as well as pumped ocean water in the Blue Green concept). The Blue Green methods work right now and can reduce the (largely electric) energy consumption for controlled environment buildings in warm/hot climates by a factor of 30x (as compared to the projections assumed in the Olduvai Gorge paper). Ongoing gains in efficiency and conservation can move us back from the cliff and lead to the "soft transition" to a sustainable civilization.
Surrounding the kernel of our Open Source sustainable construction know-how will be many "proprietary" add-on and plug-in products that will be needed as productivity tools. However, as an "open systems" project the Grass Roots initiative will establish collaborations to "hack" the way forward if need be. So that we BUILD a complete technological solution that is debugged and made available to all - with all permission to use, make, copy and improve (continuous debugging) at no IP cost to our Grass Roots people, worldwide. Concurrently, there will need to be social, economic and spiritual progress that will support the implementation of sustainable communities worldwide. Sustainable community design will provide the means to bring an end to hunger, poverty and homelessness.
This is my reaction to the danger that we feel around us and that is forecast to overwhelm our civilization and bring it down. TAKING ACTION together with others this is the practical way to a secure future. Working in our homes and building authentic communities in which we can practice sustainable development this is a challenge for the developed (western/northern) countries it cannot be achieved by the developing world. Imagine the enormous fund of experience we can share for the purpose of solving problems and creating successful models that others in the developing world can replicate. Everyone can be both an innovator and end-user. The Grass Roots initiative will have the power to create Internet-based buying co-operatives where business can compete to supply the goods that we need to build our sustainable homes and communities. Also, picture the large variety of designs that will be forth coming, which will provide many avenues for using conservation, efficiency, environmental safety, low eco-impact and "green" (or Blue Green) technology and for the development of new appropriate technology. This means that almost anyone/anywhere will find something that suits his/her possibilities to live a sustainable lifestyle.
Others are serious about the tools and methods of war and we will count on their courage to protect us from aggression and terrorism. But I believe we have a serious responsibility to proliferate a powerful weapon for peace sharing it with every nation: the know-how to BUILD a sustainable future.