The Three Bears


Within the eight mega-drivers of change listed in an earlier blog, there are three of major current concern. They are capable of bringing our relatively ordered world to an end if we humans don’t change our ways over the next decade or so. They are, of course, global warming, population growth and fossil fuel use. Because of their outstanding importance, let’s nick-name them, The Three Bears.

Global warming has long been denied by many, but increasing mention of it in all media around the world, suggests it is increasingly being seen for the monster it is becoming. For those who still doubt the now very large scientific  verification of the phenomena, you could well read “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum”, by Richard Ruddiman, first published in 2005. For those who say “global warming is nothing new, it’s happened before,” Ruddiman is able to demonstrate with solid, verified information, that you are right. Looking back over millions of years using ice-core data,and using information about how the earth’s tilt and passage around the sun change over time, it’s clear the earth has been through hotter times than the present. However, using  more recent ice-core data, and equating the changes of carbon in the cores with known changes in human activity over the last ten thousand years up until today, Ruddiman is able to demonstrate unequivocally that we humans are now causing the earth to warm to dangerous levels, and if we don’t put a stop to it soon, we wont be able to stop much of the globe becoming uninhabitable.

That’s pretty heavy stuff, but it has been proven to be true.

The second bear is population growth. A Google search will provide all the credible data you need to show that the number of people in the world today at 7.5 billion, is close to, if not over in many areas, the number that can be well fed, housed and looked after in what we now regard is a reasonably civilized manner. Simple arithmetic shows that all families should not have more than an average of two, at the most, three children, if populations are to  keep themselves in livable order.  Since the start of the industrial era, and associated increased affordable food production, the world’s population has exploded to, or possibly already past the stage where everyone can be properly fed. Humans have to become more disciplined in the number of off-spring they give birth to. If our various laws, cultures and religions do not adapt to take overpopulation into account, this Bear will bite.  In some countries, it already has.

The third bear is energy availability and cost. Since 2005, when the supply of cheap conventional crude oil plateaued, the world’s energy markets have been in turmoil. New, unconventional oils using fracking technologies, deep-sea drilling and oil from oil-sands have kept supply up, but at increased cost, both environmentally and financially.  At the turn of this century, conventional crude was being obtained from the ground at about $7/barrel, mainly in Saudi Arabia.  Then the financial  markets panicked, and at one stage the market price rose to over $130/barrel. Since then, it’s been all over the place, currently in the mid $40’s.

Notwithstanding financial shenanigans, there are two fundamental realities, however. The first is that supplies of cheap fossil fuels are ecologically limited.  An example is the increasing cost of ever-deepening and reduced quality coal mining which has become uneconomic in most traditional mining regions, leading to coal production ceasing in most of the developed world. All forms of oil appear to be facing the same situation over the short to medium term.

The second reality is that the industrial age in which our societies have evolved and grown over the last two hundred or so years, depends on cheap fossil fuels as the basis of its existance. Without them, the the world’s entire economic, social, and possibly political structures cannot continue to exist in their present forms. The USA and Britain are currently demonstrating that with full force. As with the other two Bears, the Energy Bear has already started to bite.

Many of you reading this blog, will now be convinced I’m a ‘Doomer’.  I’m not wholly an optimist when considering the Three Bears and their inter-relationships, but there are ways our societies, (especially our New Zealand society), can adapt, if we’re smart enough, so future generations can all lead reasonable lives.

Keep watching,there’s plenty to talk about.



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