Monthly Archives: January 2014
Paul and Anne Ehrlich recently offered what is likely the latest, carefully considered assessment of our chances of avoiding a collapse of civilization. It began with the publication of their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B with a paper titled, “Can a collapse of civilization be avoided?” A summary of the findings was published on a blog of the Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) hosted by Stanford University. I think you will find this assessment both interesting and sobering. Take a look at it.
 Ehrlich PR, Ehrlich AH. 2013. Can a collapse of civilization be avoided? Proceedings of the Royal Society B http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.
Senator Lamar Alexander was President of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville when I was a grad student there. He served as Governor of the State of Tennessee 1979-1991 and as the U.S. Secretary of Education 1991-1993. In 2001 he was named the Roy M. and Barbara Goodman Family Visiting Professor of Practice in Public Service at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. With such an august background, one might expect the Senator to be fairly literate about the facts of nuclear power in the U.S. and abroad.
In an email to me dated January 17, 2014, he pointed out that “wasteful wind subsidies” by the federal government to promote wind power as an alternative to fossil fuel in Tennessee does not produce sufficient return in Tennessee with its relatively low wind resource to justify the subsidy. He went on to claim that “Furthermore, windmills are destroying the environment in the name of saving the environment. For example, you can see their flashing lights for 20 miles, and you would have to stretch wind turbines the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia, to equal the power produced by eight nuclear plants on one square mile each – and you would still need the nuclear plants or some other form of power generation for when the wind doesn’t blow.” Continue reading
If the Earth were tiny, much smaller than it is, and contained a reasonably small population, say a few hundred people, and were faced with a threat, we can envision how the people of the world would face it: Ten to twenty proven leaders of that population might get together as a group, ask for facts and evidence from the scientists, scholars, and experienced business and other informed people in the population, then put together an action plan they hope will avoid the danger, and finally rally the whole population around the plan and its execution. That is the rational, reasonable, logical way to deal with a crisis.
However, with an Earth as large and diverse as the current one, with huge populations separated by oceans, by races, by tribes, by cultures, and by language, plus variations in natural resource abundance, such a reasonable course of action seems fruitless. The United Nations was created to overcome that difficulty. But it lacks the teeth and coherence to carry out such a plan. It has prepared some good plans, but they don’t go anywhere close to the scale needed to solve the problem. Continue reading