Saturday, June 26, 2010

The era of wastefulness

It is early on a Saturday morning.  I went to bed around midnight and the earth alarm (the sun) woke me up around 5:30AM.  That's the story of my life.  If I can't sleep because of work, I can't sleep because the sun got up too early.

Anyway, in this half stupor, I was thinking about the BP oil spill.  I was alive and remember quite vividly of the Ixtoc 1 oil spill in the late 1970s, where oil drained into the Gulf for about nine months before being capped.  I lived in Texas and I remember walking on the beach with tar balls.  Nasty, but hey, such is life.  Anyway, I am digressing...

So I was thinking about the world's use of petroleum products.  How we are wasting oil like we have an eternal supply of the stuff.  Then that got me thinking about other things.  Computers.  Cameras.  Furniture.  Cars.  Toaster.  Dead portable DVD player.  What do we do with all this stuff when it wears out?  You got it.  It gets tossed into the garbage can.  If it doesn't work or is outdated, it goes out the door and into the land fill.

As I thought about the prospects of what that means, I realized that in 100 or 200 or 500 years, we will be labeled "The era of wastefulness".  And that will probably be a kind label.  We could also be labeled, "A generation too stupid to realize what they were doing".  I think the era of wastefulness will really be what it is all about.  We are wasting and squandering our natural resources.  We make stuff that is way freaking toxic.  We use resources that are dirty.  We are selfish and we don't think about the future.  In 500 years when all the oil is gone, what will humans use to power their (insert some cool sounding name for futuristic item here)?

I'm not a big fan of electric cars and such.  Why?  Because it doesn't solve the energy problem.  You have to get your electricity some how.  And in the US, a lot of that energy comes from burning coal, another depleting natural resource.  So you shift the pollution to where the electricity is being made.  What about nuclear?  Too dirty.  Still have to clean up after it when the fuel is spent.  To be buried by Energy Solutions out in the Utah west desert.  "Welcome to Utah.  The nation's nuclear dumping ground."  About the only "clean" alternative that I can think about that can realistically give us some needed power is geothermal.  It is clean.  It is efficient.  It is renewable, as long as the ground stays hot.  If the thing breaks, what happens?  You've got some water in the ground.  Wow.  Now that's toxic.  Geothermal is probably the cleanest way to generate power.  I wish we would get more geothermal plants up and running.

So the next time you're out doing something fun, just think for a minute what kind of a label those that come after us will give us...  I bet it won't be pretty.

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