Thursday, November 20, 2003

No 28.

If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Don't be surprised if a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet.

Song: The Thin Ice
Album: The Wall

The human race has been using the natural resources of this planet at an unsustainable level and damaging the environment for so long that we are in danger of doing some irrevocable damage.

Emissions of 'greenhouse' gases increased enormously after the Industrial Revolution and have continued to rise ever since so that we are now at the point where an unnatural global warming is a very real possibility. And yet huge swathes of rainforest, the lungs of the planet, are being destroyed every day. Maybe we've even damaged the Earth's ability to protect and heal itself so much that there's nothing we can do to stop it any more.

The consequences could be enormous. Global warming could, in theory cut off the Gulf Stream, which would not only plunge us into a much colder climate than we currently enjoy but would also wreak havoc around the rest of the world.

An increased threat of natural disasters isn't the only danger, either.

We extract coal, oil and gas from the ground in a tiny, minute fraction of the time it took to form in the first place and think very little of it. Global reserves of these resources may effectively run out at some point later this century, maybe within our own lifetimes and yet governments seem to pay little more than lip service to the search for viable alternatives for generating power and driving our cars.

And this will get worse before it gets better. There is a lot of money to be made in the supply of oil and as supplies dwindle prices will rocket, pricing humble car-owners out of the market well before stocks are completely exhausted. If there isn't another option available when that happens then everything will grind to a halt.

Yet there is still hope. The Kyoto Treaty, targets for using more renewable energy and the development of cars that can run on hydrogen cells, for example, are all causes for optimism, if they can be made to work. Then there are companies like Blacklight Power that believe they can produce energy on a large scale from new sources at virtually no cost. Maybe one of them will actually be successful and solve all our energy worries at a stroke.

But we can't rely on governments and industry to do all of the work. We need to keep on putting pressure on them and, at the same time, do all we can to reduce the amount of energy and resources we use. We can make a difference. We need to make a difference.

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