In summary, the global economy and biology have very parallel growth patterns relating energy consumption to size.
The impacts of ‘dangerous exponentials’ – that even some in the finance world now seems to accept might be unsustainable – are an issue that the environment movement has failed to address.
In 1969, the late Professor Albert Bartlett famously delivered a lecture, entitled “Arithmetic, Population and Energy”, which begins with the observation that, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” The truth of this is profound and irrefutable…
How do economic analyses account for the roles and impacts of both the cost and quantity of natural resource consumption?
This question has been debated perhaps as long as there has been the profession of economics. Before the use of fossil fuels, early “classical” economists knew that most products of interest, such as food and building materials, came from the land as it harnesses the energy from the sun. Thus, land as a natural resource was front-and-center to economic thinking.
Any gains in technological efficiency must be accompanied by an economy built not on growth, profit and self-interest, but care and responsibility if they are to be effective. This, not hipsterized eco-efficiency, is where we should channel our desires for sustainability—something that so many of us are so dearly committed to, and something that we all urgently need.
In a report I co-authored, Towering Excess, I examine the perils of Boston’s luxury building boom in terms of its impact on inequality, affordable housing, and the increasing risks of illicit funds and money laundering.
If you were to find yourself huddled with a small group of people in a post-crash, post-internet world, hoping to recreate some of the comforts of civilization, you’d do well to have saved a printed copy of Vaclav Smil’s Energy and Civilization: A History.
I’ve never been enthusiastic about reducing my carbon footprint or energy consumption. It would have real effects, I know, and you can make extreme reductions, as the Riot 4 Austerity folks and others have demonstrated. But I can’t help saying to myself, “Unless everybody does it, the effects are marginal.”
The notion of “decoupling” energy consumption from economic growth has become vogue in policy circles, but how much evidence is there that it’s really happening?
What will consumerism be like in a post fossil fuels future?
To understand the trajectory of the world’s energy transition effort, we have to understand what’s happening in China.
Why should we care about a 100 kwh/person/day energy diet?