The Week of Strings and After Eights

After a semester of classes where we sat in our seats for hours it was nice to start a class where we have to draw posters and eat chocolate! (I think a tin of Roses would be good for next week.)

The most important thing I learned this first week is that it seems like it’s basically impossible to save the world. Fixing one problem only seems to create more problems. For example in London in 1952 4,000 people died because of the smog that covered the city. Britain introduced its “Clean Air Act” to try and prevent this from happening again. Burning smokeless coal became compulsory and the generation of power was moved outside the city. This improved the quality of the air in the city but the longer power lines meant that amount of carbon dioxide released increased. By solving one problem another problem was created. And this seems to be an issue with attempts to solve many problems.

Here’s a map of the current energy consumption per capita.

As countries develop they are going to be using more energy. If the whole map turns red then that can’t be good. Non-renewable sources of energy will be used to feed the energy needs. But there just aren’t enough fossil fuels to sustain all those countries. But that’s not the biggest problem. As a former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani  said “The Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of stones and the oil age will not end because the world runs out if oil” Greenpeace believes that if we burn more than a quarter of the fossil fuels that can be recovered cost effectively we will not be able to stay in safe climatic bounds. Fossil fuels can’t be the major energy supplier for much longer without causing irreversible climate change. This means that we will have to change our energy use whether we like it or not. And we can’t be waiting around until we have no other choice.

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