A wide variety of difficult environmental and socio-economic problems face humanity as it struggles toward a sustainable future. The issues involved are imbedded in the industrial world’s economic and business theories, lifestyles, development policies, and educational and political structures. The term “sustainable” is used to describe many proposals and programs aimed at patching up the unsustainable practices of the industrial growth society. In most cases these practices are not sustainable. This talk begins with McCluney’s definition of sustainability. The critical importance of stopping, and reversing for a while, population growth is emphasized. Dr. McCluney then describes the basic features of a truly sustainable society. 45-55 minutes.
In order to achieve sustainability, the industrial growth society must be transformed to a stable, non-growing, new one. To make changes of such magnitude, positive visions of the sustainable future must be available to us. This is an addendum to Dr. McCluney’s “True Sustainability” talk, added when time and interest dictate. The additional material offers some word pictures of several new sustainable visions that have been suggested. Additional 20 minutes.
Earth’s human population now exceeds Earth’s carrying capacity, in the absence of supplementary energy inputs–currently provided in copious quantities by the fossil fuels. As we reach and pass the peak of world oil production in the next couple of years—and a peaking of coal and gas production years later—humanity is being forced to make changes which will rock our worldviews and force major realignments of philosophies, value systems, and religious beliefs. The changes being forced upon us will shake the foundations of the industrial growth society. One would expect to see this important news story featured on front pages around the world. But the media avoid it like the plague, in spite of warnings of impending doom from our most respected scientists and scholars. This talk examines some of the reasons for the lack of coverage and suggests citizen actions to place it on the media’s radar screen. 45-60 minutes.
Humanity has exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity, in the absence of adequate supplemental energy inputs from the fossil fuels and other sources. As world petroleum production reaches a peak and then declines, there will be increasing pressure on energy prices to soar, possibly causing serious adverse economic consequences, and certainly stimulating major shifts in worldwide energy production and use. Major lifestyle and other changes are likely to result. This talk briefly addresses the history of fossil fuel production, describes the predictions of oil geologists concerning the coming peak in world oil production, and postulates some of the societal changes likely to result as we enter the downslope, the new era of declining petroleum availability. Dr. McCluney calls for an increase in gasolene (and other energy prices), explaining that such increases will promote a switch toward much more energy conservation and renewable energy use while forcing shifts away from unsustainable agricultural and transportation practices. 50-60 minutes.
The paradigm being followed by the current industrial growth society presumes that the environmental and other growth-related problems we face can be solved by technology, coupled with mild governmental incentives. As we run out of fossil fuels, so goes the story, we’ll turn increasingly to energy conservation and increased use of renewable energy sources such as direct solar utilization and wind, waves, tides, and ocean currents. To support the current and growing world population, at the increasing levels of material affluence planned, will require gigantic increases in our use of renewable energy sources. Such a switch will have many important consequences, not all of them good ones. This talk describes the rosy picture painted by unlimited renewable energy advocates and offers some cautionary notes concerning the environmental and other consequences of massive renewable energy use. 50-60 minutes.
Powerful forces are driving us to degrade Earth’s life-support system—the biosphere. These assaults are taking their toll, resulting in a daily barrage of news reports of environmental decline and ecosystem breakdown, all of which threaten Earth’s ability to support its growing human population. The future of that population is increasingly in doubt. This talk describes the major threats facing us, offers an assessment of the changes required to avert disaster, and concludes that only a major transformation in the structure and organization of industrial society can save us. A sustainable society is a better society. Once we achieve true sustainability we’ll live better and longer, and with much greater psychological health and happiness. This talk describes both negative and positive visions for humanity’s future, concluding with a brief question and answer session. 40-70 minutes.
Fate of Humanity Slide Show
“We are taking apart the life-support system of Planet Earth!”
So writes Dr. Ross McCluney in his 2004 book, Humanity’s Environmental Future. “Without a major change in direction, we may be the first species to extinguish itself,” he says.
McCluney will present his views on this subject at ______________________________________. He will describe civilization’s steady advance over the last several millennia as a natural expression of humanity’s genetically based drive toward improved living conditions.
“In the early days, Nature was considered an obstacle to overcome, so we worked hard to build protections from the perceived dangers. This included advanced weaponry and strong buildings to protect us from predators and the vagaries of weather and climate. Along the way we invented writing and the printing press, so our new knowledge could be safeguarded in detail over the centuries. We invented new medicines to prolong life. And energy-intensive factories for manufacturing the amazing variety of products we feel are essential for life in the twenty-first century. Our development of these technologies, coupled with the very recent discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels, has made possible our very advanced civilization. It also made possible profound new works of art, science, and literature.”
But all good things come with a price, he says. Following the recent very rapid growth in world population—coupled with powerful new technologies for exploiting and altering nature—McCluney describes the many signals Earth is now giving us that it’s had enough: global warming, stratospheric ozone depletion, fisheries nearing exhaustion, soil erosion and depletion, and the coming peak in world oil production. “There are real limits to growth,” he says, “and we have reached them.”
With many other scientists around the world, McCluney is raising the alarm, pointing to the fact that humanity is extinguishing plant and animal species at the appalling rate of 200 or so each day. He quotes author Daniel Quinn and scientist Alan Thornhill as saying that we are systematically replacing nonhuman biomass with human biomass.
In his presentation, McCluney will describe how we came to this dangerous place and will suggest some remedies we can pursue. “The scientists who have studied these matters carefully have concluded that we have at most a couple of decades to turn things around, to back away from the cliff toward which we are headed, and find a variety of better, truly sustainable ways to live.” McCluney will elaborate on these themes in his presentation, which will be followed by a discussion period.
Bio, Contact, and Arrangements
Biographical Sketch. Dr. Ross McCluney is a
principal research scientist at the Florida Solar Energy Center, where his duties
include research and program management. He obtained a B.A. in Physics from
Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and an M.S. in physics from the University
of Tennessee in Knoxville where he studied the diffraction of light by sound
waves. From 1966 to 1967, he worked as a research engineer for Eastman Kodak
Company in Rochester, New York, where he developed a holographic interferometer
for testing optical systems. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University
of Miami in 1973, where he continued his work in holographic interferometry.
For his Ph.D. dissertation research, he studied the scattering of light by marine
microorganisms using a laser scatterometer of his own design.
McCluney worked as an oceanographer for NASA’s Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, from 1973 to January 1976. He joined
the Florida Solar Energy Center in 1976 following his stint at NASA and is currently
the principal investigator there on a multi-year contract with the U. S. Department
of Energy to pursue research in window energy and illumination performance.
Dr. McCluney was an organizer of the University of Miami’s observance of the first Earth Day Teach-In of 1970 and edited The Environmental Destruction of South Florida, a book published by the University of Miami Press in 1971. He has been studying, writing, and lecturing on energy and environmental policy for over two decades, and currently serves as Vice President of Floridians for a Sustainable Population. Author to over 60 technical papers on a variety of subjects, Dr. McCluney’s textbook, Introduction to Radiometry and Photometry, was published by Artech House in 1994. He is author and editor, respectively, of two textbooks, Humanity’s Environmental Future, and Getting to the Source, the latter being an anthology of essays by prominent environmental writers on environmental values, both books published by SunPine Press of Cape Canaveral in March 2004. McCluney taught UCF course PHI 3033, Philosophy, Religion, and the Environment, based on these books at the University of Central Florida Cocoa campus over the 2003-2004 academic year.
He currently resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he is active with several environmental organizations and continues his technical consulting practice following his 2007 retirement from the Florida Solar Energy Center.
Dr. Ross McCluney
423-821-0981 Cell: 321-917-8292
Dr. McCluney is available for speaking engagements nearly anywhere in the U.S.
For travel beyond East Tennessee, he requests reimbursal of his travel expenses. Honararium is negotiable. Contact him directly to schedule a presentation.
©2008 SunPine Press ===================== Last update: 07/13/11