Friday, June 24, 2005

Absolutely Brilliant Point in Hard Green

So I just started reading Hard Green. I struggled through the intro which waxed poetic about the great Theodore Roosevelt and ol' T.R.'s love of the wilderness and his idea to start conserving areas untouched by the hand of man.
Anyway, pretty dry stuff. Mr. Huber then goes into computer technology and I was lost. I had no clue where he was going with it, then he made it all crystal clear and I laughed out loud.
Standing shoulder to shoulder all the people on Earth would scarcely fill Delaware. All our copper, zinc, tin and deuterium could be culled from one billionth of the Earth's oceans. All our energy requirements for two thousand years could be supplied by one-quadrillionth of the thermal energy produced by radioactive decay in the core of the Earth. Suitably stacked and compressed, all our trash would fit in a pyramid just two miles high in southern Connecticut..
Mr. Huber goes on to list other illustrative figures meant to dillute the arguments from environuts. Then he slams the hammer down.
Where did I get all these numbers? I made them up. I could have dug up real ones from the extant Hard Green literature, and they would have looked much like the ones I invented, but why bother? People aren't going to live shoulder to shoulder in Delaware, or build pyramids in southern Connecticut. Exxon knows how to find gasoline, not deuterium. Annaconda knows how to extract copper cheaply from a mine in Utah, not from the sea, so forget about it. So that is what Forrester [a pioneer in computer modeling the environment] he forgot about it... He based his models on known technology, known mines, known reserves, known quantities of land...
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Basically what Huber is saying, and what I assume much of his book will focus on (I haven't gotten past this fantastic tenth page) is that current environmental doomsday theories base their outcomes and messages on current technologies, without allowing for advances in not only technology but in efficiencies and alternative uses that may be developed in the future. It is conceivable (to me at least) that someday there may be a contraption that turns automobile emmisions into usable energy that can automatically be sent right back to the cars engine thus creating a constant, automatically renewed source of energy for that engine. I have no idea how that would work, but that is why we have teams of 40 year old virgins with pocket protectors locked to their desks crunching numbers. Thank you engineers.
The point is that we have no clue, literally no clue, what types of innovations the human mind will come up with. Undoubtedly these innovations will stretch oil further, or perhaps invent cars that use zero oil. Personally, as long as I can slap on some dubs and hit my switches, I don't care what my whip is runnin on, just keep me bumpin.