viniketa wrote:There is a big difference between facing reality and "abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
A new take on "green building":
Lovely, but that doesn't address the fact that almost our entire global industrial infrastructure depends on finite fossil fuels which are disrupting the climate and killing off plenty of species.
The first world greenies think recycling or gardening somehow makes it all better, but it doesn't. All the hidden energy expenditures we indirectly make use of in daily life (think of the street lamps and asphalt roads for example) which are necessary for our standard of living are still there regardless. The trucks which transport your organic vegetables still need diesel.
Self-declared environmentalists like recycling, but never mind that their standard of living is already propped up by massive amounts of energy and resources obtained from fossil fuels. You might ride your bicycle, but think of all the carbon expended to build and maintain a city's streets. Multiply that by tens of thousands of cities.
If you want to know what a low energy lifestyle looks like, you need to look at the rural third world where the average person uses a fraction of the energy first world citizens do. That is akin to what life was like in much of the west a century ago. Local seasonal foods, no A/C, limited electricity, a lot more manual labour for daily chores (washing clothes by hand for instance), etc...
So how many people are willing to sacrifice to that extent? Almost none. This is why even environmentalists are guilty of the same sin they condemn others for, although to a lesser extent of course.
The problem really lay in the fact that as a society adds complexity (=increased energy consumption), it becomes impossible to voluntarily simplify because the system becomes locked in place and social structures around that energy become ingrained in people. If the powers that be for whatever reason need to decrease energy consumption, you have social upheaval, increased suicide rates and the risk of revolution.
So, by whatever means possible the complexity must be preserved and as energy becomes short there is increasing strain leading to additional policing and legitimization (nowadays this is propaganda about freedom, progress and the free market, etc...). It is a quite organic process that has unfolded with past societies as well. You can discern the same patterns in the rise and fall of the Mayans, Rome and even various Chinese dynasties. They overshot their resource bases and unable to curtail energy use started to falter.
In our case we are unfortunately dependent on energy sources that are also harming the planet to a considerable degree. What we can expect is two things:
1. That every ounce and gram of affordable fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) will be used as there is no other alternative that packs the same type of condensed and easily stored energy. Not just our technology and infrastructure, but our levels of social complexity likewise depend on it (fossil fuels enable most of the population to be engaged in activities other than producing food). The outcome of this will be a much warmer planet, death of vast amounts of megafauna and possibly areas of the planet uninhabitable for humanity. This places additional strain on societies and their food production.
2. As fossil fuels become a lot more expensive there will be conflict over them. Domestically as the pie shrinks a lot of the working class and middle class will be tossed to the sharks to prop up the lifestyles of those above them (in most of the west the working class was already sacrificed by using overseas labour which conveniently gave the middle class a nicer, cheaper lifestyle). This will alienate people from the system and as they gain little benefit from such a system they will turn to alternatives be it religions, fringe political ideologies or crime. The system reacts by using additional policing, but this requires more energy in the long-term and the staff who run such a system likewise need to be reasonably treated and compensated, otherwise they'll turn corrupt or just rebel.
So, we can expect environmental destruction to occur along with the related social and political degeneration as well. In due time our modern industrial civilization will simply die and our species will revert back to pre-industrial population levels. No doubt this will entail much suffering and hardship during a period of dark ages while we adjust to radically different climates and ecosystems.
I don't see any alternatives to this short of some miracle technology giving us the same energy on return that fossil fuels do.