Friday, March 27, 2009

Optimistic Thought For The Day

I have a professor who once said, "We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stone."

His point, was basically, that we, as human beings, have a long history of adapting and coming up with new forms of technology.

Of course, I think it's arguable that we've never had to adapt in such a pressurized condition before. While we might have innovated our way out of the Stone Age, no one was holding a gun to our heads and saying, "Adapt, damnit!!"

So here's the million dollar question. How adaptable are we, exactly? How innovative? Can we build a world based on renewable carbon-free technology? Or is our modern way of life doomed when the oil runs out?

I don't know the answer. But we live in a world with 6.7 billion people on it. And more than I believe in anything else, I believe in human beings, and our capacity to innovate and adapt.

10 comments:

Beany said...

I was thinking about human adaptation recently because San Diego is having some sort of drought and the mayor's office/city is urging water conservation efforts. While mellow if yellow is not listed as a suggestion, many others are. So maybe this is how we're adapting?

Mouse said...

I think without question, the world could instantaneously run out of oil, the species would adapt, and life would move on. There would be rioting, bloodshed, and starvation. but the species would carry on.

The issue is really "How much suffering do we want to endure in order to adapt and do we want to adapt on our own terms, or as dictated by events?"

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

While we might have innovated our way out of the Stone Age, no one was holding a gun to our heads and saying, "Adapt, damnit!!"

Well, no, but there were lots of other pressures that forced us to adapt and move on. Weather, predators, sickness, etc... (says the ex evolutionary biologist)

It's a very interesting question. I shall have to give it some thought...

Crunchy Chicken said...

Can we build a world based on renewable carbon-free technology? No, not unless someone figures out fusion power.

Is our modern way of life doomed when the oil runs out? Pretty much. People will adapt to living with a lot less. We've (well, those in the first world), have gotten spoiled and fat over the last 100 years. I'm not saying we're going to return to pre-industrial age living since science has contributed a ton to allow us to do some things, but energy costs will be too high to afford a lot of the conveniences that we rely on all too much.

Ha! My word verification is "MyStalin" What does that say about me?

ruchi said...

Beany, yeah, I think that is definitely one way we're adapting. I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing more of that in California.

Mouse, absolutely. I agree with you. I mean the species would survive, I probably wouldn't!

I agree, basically that the sooner we begin to adapt the more we will be doing so on our terms ... let's just hope it actually starts happening.

Cath, good point. There were other pressures forcing us to adapt. I guess I'm just thinking timeline. You would know more than I would as an evolutionary biologist, but I'm guessing evolution used to take centuries, whereas right now we're looking at adapting over one maybe two generations tops.

Crunch, I think it suggests that you support terrifying command and control policies to get everyone to live sustainably!!

Crunchy Chicken said...

ruchi - No, I don't support that kind of thing. I think humans need to figure it out for themselves. We really are all just a bunch of glorified apes who are shortsighted and self-obsessed, which makes it difficult to change our behavior.

I don't think anything we do will cause our demise (short of blowing up the planet with an ill-thought out bioengineering scheme), we'll just continue to squander what we have. I hate to even mention it, but have you seen Idiocracy? It's far fetched, but it hits a little too close to home.

Anyhoo, behavioral adaptation can occur rapidly, unlike biological adaptation, so I think people will figure it out pretty quickly when the well runs dry. What that means from a global climate change perspective doesn't exactly bode too well, however.

ruchi said...

Crunchy, I was joking about your "stalin" word verification. I know you don't support A Crunchy Reign of Terror ;)

I haven't seen Idiocracy though someone, I'm pretty sure it's Mouse, has told me several times to see it!

I think I basically agree with you. I think how we adapt is going to depend on when we're required to do so.

Oldnovice said...

Bummed me out when Crunchy went over to the Oil Drum, simply because I've seen a lot of people get sucked in to "doomer" thinking through the years (for one reason or another including Y2k, birdflu, and a host of other scary thoughts). I'm more inclined to JD's thinking over at Peak Oil Debunked, myself.

Absolutely NOTHING wrong (of course) with preparing your family for whatever you feel might come down the pike, but (I'm repeating myself) I've watched people lose themselves to doomerism and tend to remove myself from situations that appear to be repeating that phenomenon because it really isn't at all pretty and could be avoided by just entertaining a balancing opinion.

ruchi said...

Old Novice, I have to admit, I could stand to do some more reading on peak oil. I don't really know much about it.

I still believe climate change is the graver problem (though maybe its because that's what I know!) mostly because I think we CAN switch to another form of energy.

On the other hand, if we don't do anything about reducing emissions fast, we can't refreeze polar icecaps. :)

Rosa said...

I'd worry more about Peak Oil if we didn't keep having historic flooding and/or drought every year.

I *wish* we were actually gonna run out of oil and coal before we acidify the oceans and fuck up the climate beyond every critter's ability to adapt.