The Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System

renewable energy, carbon dioxide sink, biodiesel, and food from the ocean

Fracking Our Way to Mass Extinction

Posted by on Friday, April 27th, 2012

In the last few years new fossil fuel technologies such as oil shale and oil sand energy extraction, and more importantly fracking, has quietly opened up vast reserves of energy to nations all over the globe. It is rewriting the economic futures of countries like the United States, where access to cheap energy is making manufacturing competitive with the cheap labour in China.  This fiscal brightness shouldn’t blind us to the imminent danger that continuing the increase in carbon dioxide emissions creates. Building greenhouse gases, leading to increased global temperatures and ocean acidification, will impoverish humanity in the long term and short term.

We have been here before. In 1970, the American economy was cruising along as it had done since WWII: on cheap energy. The price of a barrel of oil quadrupled in 1973 and this lead to inflation spikes in any nation that did not have domestic supplies of oil sufficient to meet their economic needs. A series of causal relationships created the rust belt in the United States and the current economic/sociopolitical paradigm. The West’s need for cheap energy drives its relationships with the Middle East and this has been merely a bandage to stop the economic haemorrhaging that is masked by the euphemism “trade imbalance”. However, it didn’t need to be this way. The hard choice, the long term choice, would have been to vigorously pursue the technologies that we were investing in at the time. But we didn’t; wind, solar, OTEC, biomass, tidal – all were for the most part shelved for two decades and now are slowly being invested in and investigated. One can only wonder what the world would look like if political leaders had chosen to make energy security a national priority like food security once was in the cold war, and in any case, uncoupling the relationship between fossil fuels and the food we eat is pure fantasy as I wrote about  in my post Water and Soil -not Just Oil.

National, globally, we face a crossroads: We can choose to continue to invest in renewable technologies such as the Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System or we can consume the non-renewable energy reserves. If we do choose to go the easy route, the cheaper route, the short term route, humanity will face catastrophic climate change. There will still be jungles and swamps and forests but they will be in new places. Thousands upon thousands of species that can not adapt fast enough will disappear as the climate changes. There will still be creatures like rats and sparrows and anole lizards but specialist or those in isolated populations like the Ethiopian Wolf will be gone.  Many of our cities and much of our farm land will be underwater in under a thousand years. Recent research has discovered that phytoplankton can adapt to higher concentrations of CO2  and that some corals can too but many species of plankton and shellfish seem unable to thrive. However, it is certain that the productivity of the oceans will decrease in a world with high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And ALL of this will be for the meagre benefit of a century’s more use of fossil fuels. The switch to renewable energy and bringing humanity’s carbon emissions in to balance with absorption by the environment will eventually need to happen and it can – it is a goal within our collective reach. However, it will take social movements and political leadership, otherwise the fossil fuel industry will exploit the resources that lie in the ground and leave our future with fewer species, less land and much of our past underwater. A poorer world it will be.

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