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Crossroads

Monday 28th September 2009

I think this is an important time for mankind. We face a variety of really massive problems and the way we deal with these is, I think, going to shape the rest of human history in a way that very little has in the past.

Our lifestyles are a result of hundreds – no, thousands of years of development and progress. We constantly strive to go one better; to do the impossible thing, solve the unanswerable question. In my opinion it’s one of the fundamental characteristics of the human race and probably the most admirable one too. Especially in the last 100-odd years, we’ve developed ourselves and our environments at a dizzying rate, and things that we take for granted today would baffle our ancestors from the early 20th century, let alone anyone older than that.

The problem is that it’s not sustainable. We’re heavily reliant on various depletable resources, and we’re using them pretty damn quickly. What’s more, those energy sources are tremendously flawed and by using them we’re damaging not only the environment but also ourselves. We only get one shot at this; we have one life to live and (currently…) one planet on which to live. One planet for us and – with any luck – millennia of our descendants. To be so accepting of both of them being damaged in such a way just seems so insane.

I have to say that I don’t know much about climate change. We’re told that the evidence really does point towards man-made climate change being a fact, but when I’ve looked at it on my own (admittedly not in massive detail) it all seems so… inconclusive. So I don’t know whether it’s happening and really I don’t care, because it’s irrelevant (and not the point of this post so please don’t try to comment about it). As I see it, burning these things is really harmful even before we take into account any possible effect on climate change. And besides, we really need to find an alternative because the stuff is running out. While we’re at it, that replacement may as well be non-damaging because it makes sense and it’s possible.

We’re being told that the way we live our life is wrong. Our cars are too big, we fly around the world too much, we don’t recycle enough. But really, it isn’t. It’s imperfect, but I don’t subscribe to the view that we should effectively regress in order to reduce emissions by a tiny amount. Our parents got to fly around the world, experience being on the cutting edge of mankind. Who the hell are they to deny us the same priviledge? Yes we should change our lifestyles (for instance more people should use public transport – but first the public transport system should be less horrendously terrible), but there’s a balance to be struck. The big problems arent individuals, it’s big businesses. But I guess it’s bad politics to attack them…

My point is that the issue we’re facing is not climate change. Of course it’s something to be aware of and try to counter, but it’s not the really scary problem. That problem is that we’re going to run out of energy soon and as far as I can tell we’re doing very little about it. We need answers pretty soon, but we’re stuck asking the wrong questions.

Posted at 11:45 pm | Posted In: EngineeringRantSleepTechnology Tagged:

7 Comments:

Dickie

Monday 28th September 2009, 11:53 pm

Two things:
1) I don’t think this conveys my absolute frustration. We’re stuck in an intellectual rut and there’s little sign of things getting better. Just look at the really low number of people (in Britain anyway) doing degrees like maths, engineering, science. Useful degrees, just the skills we need at the moment and so few people are learning them. Mostly down the the poor standard of science teaching in schools and that’s something which makes me angry. I don’t understand how our education system can, as a collective, fuck up science. It’s such an amazingly interesting and inspiring subject that if it’s taught well I don’t see how anyone with some level of basic intelligence can fail to find something to interest them. I digress.
2) I’m not sure I even convey my point accurately! “Idealistic pragmatism” probably sums up my outlook (and no I don’t think those two are contradictory).

Lucy

Tuesday 29th September 2009, 10:24 am

I really need to write the blog which I’ve been meaning to for ages and ages and would at least partially respond to this.

Sustainability « Patchwork Dreams

Tuesday 29th September 2009, 9:44 pm

[…] future holds for us, notably Jenny’s Apocalype or Liberal Democracy 2.0? and Dickie’s Crossroads. As Jenny says, I think the consensus is that the world cannot continue in its current way, and […]

hannah

Sunday 4th October 2009, 3:14 pm

Interesting. I’ve been looking at the way subjects such as Science and Maths have, and are still being taught in schools and the trouble is that it’s taught in a rote-learning style – i.e. method without the reason, more specifically Maths I’ll grant you but I think it’s there for Science also. We’re forced to learn about amps and electrons but not necessarily about why we should know this things which in turn taints other aspects of the subject we may find interesting. As you imply, change the teaching or ‘development’ and knowledge of that subject and you’ll inspire more people to take that degree in it.

Laurie

Sunday 4th October 2009, 11:32 pm

The effects of climate change will be noticed far before we “run out of energy” and will be far more devastating.

Dickie

Thursday 8th October 2009, 4:33 pm

Well you present a really convincing argument there Laurie…

8-)

Jenny

Friday 9th October 2009, 9:41 am

I wish I’d been better taught in maths and the sciences when younger. I shouldn’t have done arts A-levels so I switched to Biology and Chemistry but I have a sneaking feeling I’d have actually been more at home, eventually, in physics, maths, chemistry, and engineering – the ‘boy’ sciences, as it were. hearing the things P talked about used to fascinate me; but I now know nothing about any of those things and it’s too late, and I refuse to start over yet again. But the whole big problem – our lack of resources and the effect we’re having on the planet (personally I think there *is* conclusive evidence for the impact humans have had on the climate and that climate change is somehtng we’ve caused, but I’m an Al Gore Whore (Al Gwhore?) so I would say that) is something that, well, fascinates and troubles me, and something I would like to be able to Do Something About when I eventually get out of university (I am BORED of not being a grownup).

Anyway, yeah. My main point being that I totally agree with you about the lack of inspiring teaching in those subjects and the need to make kids see how very, very relevant those subjects are, and how fascinating, and if all else fails, if you do well enough, the money ain’t bad, so study, kids, ‘because it has to beat local government and definitely teh local Tesco and no you’re *never* going to make it as a professional footballer’ *shakes little kid by shoulders*.

Idealistic pragmatism. I like it.

NEXT QUESTION: Since all of us obviously care so much, what are we individually actually doing about it? And no, I don’t mean ‘well, I get the bus and walk everywhere’ or ‘we’re not turning our heating on until November despite the icicles hanging off my bathroom mirror’, I mean, what can we do in terms of getting things changed? Still at university we most of us may be but it just seems a little embarassing sitting here bitching about it all and gettin the bus if that’s all we’re going to do in the face of, well, apocalypse.

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