NOTE: Make sure you read the first three posts (in order!) before tackling the rest, or it could be confusing: Post 1 is Designing the future, Post 2 is Setting up the problem, and Post 3 is Estimating basic requirements.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Peak Oil dividing lines

The Peak Oil community is divided into three main camps: “doomers”, who anticipate devastating and total collapse; “optimists”, who believe technological breakthroughs will mitigate most of the crisis; and “cornucopians”, who believe any potential peak is decades or centuries away (or non-existent altogether).

Personally, I would fall somewhere between doomer and optimist. After analyzing production and usage data for energy, getting a good grasp of the physics of energy usage, and obtaining a limited education in the world’s complex economics, I’ve concluded that a major energy and economic collapse is inevitable in our near future. (This is even with excluding the converging crises of water, global warming, and pollution from the discussion.) I have no confidence that an energy alternative capable of approaching our increasing demand will magically appear.
However, consider these excerpts from this article in Counter Currents yesterday:

A community may not have enough foresight, labour, tools, or funds to create alternatives to whatever their members use now for heating, lighting, cooking, refrigeration, water collection, water pumping, and disposal utilization of gray water and human waste.

There may be pockets of survivors who will be able to harness wind, water and sun using civilized technology for a while, but eventually the machines will wear out.
Where do you buy replacement parts, how do you make parts without plastic or wires?
How do you refine the metals needed to make circuits and transistors?
Those who know, no longer do; those who do, no longer know. How much knowledge will manage to survive the post collapse period, for the time that comes after when it may become useful again?



The author paints a dreary doomerish prospect for the future, but for me it reinforces my belief in careful engineering design. I have no illusions that life for isolated communities will be difficult. I do have faith, however, that we will have the capacity to engineer novel methods to capture solar, wind, and water energy, if not sustain our existing equipment. Yes, manufacturing wires and silicon panels is difficult without an industrial infrastructure, but I believe we can find alternative (if less efficient) processes to do so.

Such is my faith in the power of technology – innovation won’t allow us to live beyond our available energy, but it will enable us to find sustainable solutions to continue a reasonably energized life.

6 Comments:

At 3:20 PM, Blogger DJEB said...

"eventually the machines will wear out."

Precisely the sort of thing http://www.rainbowvalleyfarm.co.nz/Joe Polaischer tries to avoid.

"[I was] always playing a little game here saying, "Ok, what happens if the power goes out? What happens if I get no diesel?... Don't just rely on these gadgets that we buy that have an in-built breakdown time, and you have to throw it away or you have to wait for parts from Japan or Sweden or Germany."

 
At 4:08 PM, Blogger Jon L. Picard said...

I'll be devoting more articles to this - Conserver Technology...

Imo...we have to look at the past and fit the technology to regional resources...

For example - with education - a rebirth of the Guild System from the middle ages...

Look at technologies just before the oil age - say 1890's to 1920 and adapt them towards sustainability...

A good place to start is http://www.lindsaybks.com/...

This is what i'm trying to do...

A longer term project is to create a 'low energy' internet using ham radio...

I guess the best way to look at it is to fit technology to renewable energy cycles - and that means a fundamentally different kind of capitalism - instead of overshooting natural capitals ability to recycle and recover as is presentaly done...

No more built in obscelesense (i think i spelled that correctly...) - some core technologies - such as computers - will have to be built for a 50 to 100 year product life...

The perspective must shift - and life will go on....

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger DJEB said...

I'm suddenly having C. W. McCall flashbacks...

'Cause we got a great big convoy
Rockin' through the night.
Yeah, we got a great big convoy,
Ain't she a beautiful sight?

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

I like the guild idea -- I've actually been thinking about the same thing for a while now.

And I like the rainbowvalley farm link.

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger DJEB said...

I posted a response to your questions on mycelium. The Blogger servers are a bit screwy today so it is not showing up on the main page.

 
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