Human history shows that with civilization came a continued quest for improving living conditions. As we developed more sophisticated and effective tools, our impacts on the world around us increased. Along with the discovery and exponential growth in use of the fossil fuels came an exponentially growing world population. For much of human history growth seemed to be good, but now we find ourselves facing real physical limits to population growth. Florida's growth through the decade of the 90s rivaled that of many third world countries and has brought with it environmental problems threatening to diminish the environmental values making Florida such a desirable place to live. Driven by this population growth urban sprawl has assumed gigantic proportions and is bringing concerned citizens to question the State's current and previous growth policies. A short history of Florida's growth management plans was presented, along with a number of possible strategies for reignning in the excessive and unplanned growth the State is now experiencing.
25th Anniversary meeting of the Florida Native Plant Society, Melbourne Hilton hotel
The Race Against Time: Humanity's Enviromental Dilemma
In its continual quest for improvement in living conditions, humanity has increased its reliance on the natural resources of the earth and has vastly increased its adverse impacts on the biosphere. Over the last couple of centuries, thanks to exponential growth in the extraction of fossil fuels and a concommitant exponential growth in human population, the Earth is reaching saturation. We have become far too numerous and our impacts have reached devastating proportions. A brief historical survey was presented, with emphasis on the current peaking of world oil production and the steady decline to come thereafter. The environmental consequences of this devastation of our life-support system are forcing us to re-assess our very belief systems and to search for alternate operating principles for the industrial human enterprise. Key is getting the world's rapid population growth under control, reducing that growth to zero, and learning how to have a truly sustainable society.
For the second part of this talk, Dr. McCluney invited Joyce Tarnow, President of Floridians for a Sustainable Society, to speak on Florida population issues. Her presentation elicited spirited discussion and included the showing of an FSP-produced video on Florida's linked water/population problems.
Energy/Environmental Awareness Day, NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center
Energy, Environment, and Humanity's Future
Images from our astronauts, on their way to the moon and back, make visual what we learned in school: Earth is but a tiny speck in the vastness of space. We can see our planet as a totally self-contained space voyager. It contains everything we need to live and prosper indefinitely--except energy. For that we need our Sun. We know how precious is the life-support system our Earth provides, in the form of a thriving biosphere replete with a stunning array of diverse life forms. In spite of this, our life-support system is in danger. Headlines spotlight the daily damage being done to Earth's life support system by the industrial growth society, by humanity itself. The causes can be found deep in our history, stretching back to the beginning of time. This presentation sought to reconnect us with our past, as a way to understand how we came to the point of systematically taking apart our own life-support system. It also pointed the way to reverse the terrible trend, hopefully leading us into a future of environmental stability with a sustainable human population.
Brevard County Democratic Party, Agricultural Center, Cocoa
Energy, Environment, and Humanity's Future
This presentation covered the same topic as the morning one at KSC, but offered time for more detail and more discussion afterward.
Earth's Energy is Our Energy
“We are taking apart the life-support systems of Planet Earth!” So writes Dr. Ross McCluney in his new book published in April this year, Humanity’s Environmental Future. “Without a major change in direction, we may be the first species to extinguish itself,” he says. Central to our problems is the current high dependence on fossil fuel energy in nearly every aspect of modern life. As we approach the peaking of world oil production later in this decade, we are facing an energy crisis of monumental proportions.
McCluney presented his views on this subject at Leu Gardens during a 15 September Sierra Club meeting. He described 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. 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.”
But all good things come with a price, he said. Following the
recent very rapid growth in world population-coupled with powerful new
technologies for exploiting and altering nature-Earth is now giving signals
that it’s had enough: global warming, stratospheric ozone depletion, fisheries
nearing exhaustion, soil erosion and depletion, and growing resource shortages.
“There are real limits to growth,” he said, “and we have reached
them.” He discussed some of the inhibitors blocking effective action by
humans to design a sustainable society. Suggestions were also be provided for
new policies and actions we can take to hasten progress toward true sustainability.
Justifying Energy Efficient and Renewable Energy Technology
Energy saving technology offers many environmental, human health, national security, and comfort benefits. Protecting the future for a viable human culture while improving comfort and security (saving money in the long run) are additional benefits to which nearly everyone subscribes. In spite of this, energy-saving technology is not widely enough used. The main apparent drawback is that nearly all energy-conserving systems require you to pay more upon installation while reaping savings over time, with a few notable exceptions. Unfortunately, there seems to be but one dominant criterion for most purchase decisions in an industrialized world: narrowly-defined monetary benefit. Non-monetary benefits (other than aesthetics, functionality, and other personally observable qualities of the product) are rarely considered, especially in consumer markets—except where government-imposed energy standards are in place and enforced.
The last century and a half has seen an exponentially growing exploitation of inexpensive fossil fuels. This has made life much better for large numbers of people, but at the same time natural limits to growth are being approached and exceeded. World oil production is expected to peak before this decade is over. Rising prices for oil and all other fossil fuels, coupled with a growing worldwide demand for this energy, mean that more aggressive measures are needed to force stronger energy standards and accelerated market penetration for the better technology. If we are to achieve a truly sustainable society, we need to stop population growth, implement radical increases in energy conservation, and pursue a massive switch to renewable energy. The survival of humanity may be at stake.
Through its power to fund studies and publicize their results, and to pass laws and assess taxes, fines, and tariffs—as well as provide a variety of financial and other incentives—government can force the massive changes that are needed. Education and information dissemination are also critical. For if the people do not see the value, it is difficult for government to support the needed changes. Extensive public education is therefore an essential prerequisite for strong government action. All levels of public and private education must be involved, and the mass media (including the corporations owning them) have important responsibilities to participate as well. These actions must be coupled to a larger transformation of societal beliefs and a restructuring of our systems of government and commerce toward the new beliefs. It is becoming clear that these are necessary components of any effective program aimed at saving humanity without massive loss of life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness in the process.
"The Most Amazing Solar Systems the World has Ever Known"
“It is a miracle of the universe that we thrive on deadly powerful nuclear explosions constantly taking place, 93 million miles away.”
So writes Dr. Ross McCluney in his new book, just published by SunPine Press, Humanity’s Environmental Future.
The source of this energy is our sun. McCluney writes that “We are protected from the deadly, high-energy particles streaming from those nuclear explosions by our protective atmosphere, which shields us from most deadly forms of that radiation, and by our huge distance from the sun.” “It is a miracle that some of the energy from those explosions finds its way into our bodies and makes possible such delightful human activities as dancing, singing, running, painting, reading, hiking, sailing, loving, playing sports, and writing books!”
Before that energy can power us, McCluney points out, it is collected by nearly every plant form on earth, is stored in their bodies (and, for the carnivores among us, also in the animals eating those plants), and is delivered to us in the food we eat. Living plants use the solar energy collected by them to create complex molecules bursting with biochemical energy. The energy of these molecules can then be released in a variety of ways in the bodies of animals eating those plants—including humans. Biochemical reactions turn this stored solar energy into the energy needed to live and breathe and move about. “Plants run on solar energy, and so do we,” McCluney says.
In a presentation to the Native Plant Society Thursday evening August 26th at the Agricultural Center on State Road 520 in Cocoa, McCluney described the roles which solar energy and plant life have played throughout Earth and human history. He described the steady advance of civilization and two very important turning points along the way. First was the invention of agriculture. The second came when we learned to exploit the plant energy stored for us over millions of years in the fossil fuels. The coupled exponential growths in world population and fossil fuel use have led humanity to produce Earth’s “sixth great extinction spasm” as scientist E. O. Wilson calls it. Humanity now finds itself on a precipice, potentially being the first Earth species to cause its own extinction.
With many other scientists around the world, McCluney is raising an 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. “If the process continues,” McCluney says, “there will be nothing left for us to eat but each other!”
In his presentation, McCluney described how we came to this dangerous place and suggested some remedies to 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 elaborated on these themes in his presentation, which was followed by a discussion period and book signing session.
The conference was held the weekend of June 25-27, 2004 on the campus of Midway College in Midway, Kentucky. The main speakers were theologian Diarmuid O'Murchu and naturalist Connie Barlow. Dr. McCluney presented “Earth’s Energy is Our Energy” during a 2 ½ hour Saturday afternoon breakout session.
Summary: The role of energy in the formation and operation of planet Earth was examined from a historical perspective. Energy flows in Earth systems and in human systems were described. The expected impacts of declining fossil fuel availability was also described, and the signals Earth is providing through resource depletion to humanity were discussed by participants. Energy conservation and renewable energy utilization were assessed as options for improving the viability of the human species during a time of declining resource availability and increased energy demand. The inhibitors blocking effective action by humans to design a sustainable society were described and suggestions provided concerning actions we might take toward breaking the “circular chain of failure.” See the slide presentation at: http://www.futureofhumanity.org/SlideShows/EarthsEnergyOurEnergy/index.html.
For conference information, visit http://www.earthspiritrising.org/
Dr. Ross McCluney, spoke to the Space Coast Audubon Society in Rockledge, Florida. His slide show on this topic began "at the beginning." The creation of the universe was described in graphical terms, and used as the starting point for a survey of the evolution of the universe, the Earth, and human society. He pointed out the wonderful accomplishments of civilization, followed by the great feats of the Industrial Growth Society. Some serious problems we have recently encountered as we struggle toward sustainability were then detailed. The presentation addressed the root causes of the failures of our current paradigm and offered a variety of suggestions for reform.
He also spoke on this topic to the Volusia-Flager Sierra Club June 2004.
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