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There are many forces that shape a civilization. I describe these forces in two overlapping groups. In the first group are forces that would maintain a sustainable non-injury producing civilization (e.g. SKIL Note 100) that would provide a constant or improving level of goods and services to each member of the population and leave 98% of the world's environment natural for the years 2100 to 2400.
The second group of forces, somewhat overlapping the first, are the forces that would help our present civilization (the one that is or will be more than 100 times too big to be supported by the energy deliveries of 2100) transition to the new sustainable design in 84 years.
Group 1 -- Maintenance Forces
The first group of forces are similar to the forces created by the operational rules of the international space station; the forces that maintain its tranquility, and sustainability, with some additions to reflect the physical differences between the space station and earth.
1) Maintaining constant Population
Group 2 -- Transition forces
Changing from a large, complex, out of balance, unsustainable, and decaying system, into a stable sustainable one requires additional forces to those needed to maintain sustainability once transition is achieved.
The most critical aspect of the transition can be visualized by thinking of earth as space station with 7.5 billion people living on it. The fuel to create and run this large infrastructure came from storage tanks that took millions of years of to fill by collecting and concentration dilute light energy from the sun.
During the last two centuries we have used this stored energy (coal oil and gas) millions of times faster than it is being created and we will soon run out. We will also run out of the fissile material uranium. Actually we will not be able to empty the tanks completely, we will get to a condition where it will take so much energy to extract the remaining energy resource from earth's crust, we will not get any energy to run civilization.
Our earth will have to run on the much smaller energy deliveries that can be collected and condensed from daily sunlight, for example solar thermal, solar photo voltaic, and it derivatives wind and hydro power.
Today these energy sources require the building of machines and supporting infrastructure to produce energy similar to that which we have been receiving from coal oil and gas.
Today these machines require so much surrounding infrastructure and labor, the entire energy delivery system, over periods of centuries, centuries that will not have coal oil and gas, to maintain this infrastructure, and feed and educate and entertain the labor that built and maintain them, may not produce any net energy. Some renewable energy systems in the long run may not run our present large civilization.
All may not be gloom and doom for humankind. The hydro electric production system, without the energy expenditures used to make the dams, might continue to produce net energy for 400 years. And this net energy might be able to support a small population (50 million) at high enough technology to find another viable energy source after the existing hydro system fails.
The resulting reduction in energy delivery this century means that because each food calorie is created with the use 9 fossil fuel calories (in plowing, planting, weeding, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, processing, and preparing) that a much smaller food supply will be produced.
If we expect a 50% reduction of energy delivery by 2050 and a more than 90% reduction by 2100 then we can feed less than 10% of the today's population. If we don't create this smaller population with a very small number of annual births replacing a normal number of natural deaths, we will starve to death the difference. And since people will fight to eat a conflict will consume food, infrastructure, and energy -- collapsing civilization.
It gets worse, this chaotic downsizing process will use up the remaining recoverable coal, oil and gas in the the earth's crust, and ruins the existing infrastructure, making it impossible to make the transition to my imagined high tech sustainable civilization that can develop a new energy source.
So finding the forces that make the transition, from our present civilization to one that is sustainable, go smoothly is a worthwhile goal. To design these forces we will start with some assumptions.
1) No new dense energy source will be brought on line in the next 85 years.
The most important force in this transition will be the one that produces rapid decline in population. The force limits the number of annual births. The decline results from the number of annual deaths far exceeding the number of births. For example (500,000) annual births and 80-100 million annual deaths.
Population decreases by ~90 million per year. Assuming the average age at death of 80 this means most of the existing 7.5 billion people will die of old age by 2100. The replacement community will total the total number of births - nominally 50 million in 100 years.
While this decline in people will not initially decrease total consumption, (most consumption not consumed by the exiting 90 million will be consumed by those still alive.
What will decrease total consumption will be the decrease in total supplied energy. One would hope that the population would decrease faster than decreases in energy, but most projections see energy delivery falling faster. The projected injuries might be attenuated by a change in consumptive habits of the remaining population, but it is far more probable that starvation and conflict will determine who gets injured and when.
Using these remarks as a starting point for identifying the forces to help plan a transition, let me offer some objectives for the forces.
Remember, we are doing this exercise as a means of writing a social contract that creates these forces. So we have to define the forces carefully enough to craft a written contract containing rules of behavior, that can be chosen as the path forward over all alternative paths.
The forces have to:
10/13/2014 last rev 12/08/2016
|Jack Alpert (Bio) mail to: Alpert@skil.org (homepage) www.skil.org position papers|