Monday, July 31, 2006

The future according to the futurists

So, after 3 days of discussing the future at the futurists conference, what does the future look like? Well, not too inviting, I’m afraid.
I’ve been looking at the future for a couple of decades now, and I can’t recall that there has been such a sense of gloom concerning the coming years. You can go to session after session and people will be discussing global warming, epidemics, singularities leaving us in the dust, terrorism... You are incessantly confronted with exponential curves leading us to what looks like hell on earth – at accellerating speeds.
The only hopeful scenarios – those where continued technological progress manages to stave off the various problems of ressources, environmental degradation and health– all seem to take us into a very different existance as radically enhanced fusions of man and machine in societies with very different values. And that doesn’t look too tempting either.
Worse of all; all the well meaning solutions that people suggest; global governance, legislation and treaties, a new consiousness, various think tanks... it all sounds so totally inadequate, naive and somehow just plain boring. Maybe we can dampen things a bit by holding back, but frankly I doubt that you can get sufficient traction among the global masses of consumers and corporations.
I find that the things that do offer hope tend to be very concrete, practical action-based projects that prove that it’s possible to live a fullfilling life outside the logic that we seem to be stuck within. Often they are very local projects, but something like GEs Ecomagination efforts are inspiring too.

In conclusion: The shits seems to be hitting the fan for real – but, a lot of smart people have become acutely aware of this recently.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

TV crap

Sorry to drone on about energy, but:
Just happened to see this ridiculous TV ad for the Hummer.

It starts out with a healthy, green-clad young man in a supermarket checkout, buying tofu and other deplorably bland, veggie stuff.

Right after him comes another guy who gets loads of meat, a bottle of alcohol and other tempting goodies. Our young green protagonist grows VERY frustrated.

So he runs out and buys himself a hummer. Yeah! So finally he can eat a carrot with a smile. The caption reads: Restore the balance.

And of course it all ends with the Hummer logo over a shot of mother earth seen from space.

Wow! I guess I should start saving up for one too.

Sleepless in Toronto

5 AM saturday morning, the view from my window is a wall of offices, almost half of them have the lights left on for the night – and in this case, the entire weekend. No sign of anyone working in any of those many rooms.
Canada seems as determined to waste energy as anyone else. At least, you can take comfort in the realization that there are plenty of easy ways to reduce the energy-load considerably. Just turn the light off when you leave.

The future is un-predictable

I’m at the world future society’s annual meeting – this year in Toronto. And boy, does the future ever look un-predictable. Seems we’re going in many different, mutually exclusive, directions at once.
Just to name a few: Turning back the burning of fossil fuels to anything near sustainable levels looks rather unfeasible on a 30 – 50 year timescale – So, we’re cooking the planet, with a lot of ensuing suffering in all kinds of ways.
Or: Will nano and bio-tech combined instead lift us out of the mess, make us capable of creating anything we like at low cost, solve the energy crisis, make everything recyclable, and change us into a new species of super-smart cyborgs in the process – in pretty much those same 30 – 50 years. Or less.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Major mindless damage

The Herald tribune has this amazing article about how wasteful the Russian energy production and distribution is.

In the article the director of the International Energy Agency, Claude Mandil, specifically critizes the widespread practice of gas flaring - that is, burning off gas at oil wells.

"Between 40 billion cubic meters and 60 billion cubic meters a year are being burned in Russia," he said. "That is about a quarter of the 200 billion cubic meters of gas Russia exports to Europe a year."

According to the World Bank, each year about 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas is flared off - equivalent to 30 percent of the European Union's gas consumption.

Developing countries account for more than 85 percent of gas flaring and venting, including Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Angola and Qatar.

In Russia, "gas flaring exists because today Gazprom is the only one that can buy this gas," Mandil said. "It buys this gas at such a low price that producers do not see the reason to build a small pipeline that could bring this gas from the field to the trunk line."

So much for avoiding the greenhouse effect...