I've been thinking about the Gulf Oil Spill, our dependence on fossil fuels for our energy, about overpopulation and resources, and sustainability for the future. 

I'm an American citizen currently living and working in the most populous country in the world, and I have an interesting perspective when I look back at my country.

Apart from the debates on climate change and global warming, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are polluting the air that we breathe.  The Gulf Oil Spill is polluting the ocean, along with our chemical discharges and sewage that we pump into it.  We are cutting down trees in rainforests globally at an alarming rate, without replanting.  And, we are reproducing at unprecedented rates.

Here in the most populous country, I observe that so many people are having kids, and its not just one child per family anymore.  No one seems to think for the future, when asked "what kind of future will your child have?", they haven't even thought about that.  They just have children because it's the "traditional thing to do".  Here, your child is expected to shoulder the burden of taking care of you in your old age.  Okay, that's a cultural tradition, and that is understood.  However, what kind of chance, in terms of success, will that child have when competing with hundreds of millions of peers?  Also, this country is energy hungry.  I can't believe all of the cars on the road here in Shenzhen, the factories whose chimneys churn out smoke, and the general lack of knowledge when it comes to conservation, the environment, and the future.  It's all about money.

Back home in the USA, we have 1/5th the population, and things are a little more sensible.  We have clean air and water legislation, national forests, and sustainability, but not when it comes to energy resources.  In the USA, we need to be looking at investment in renewable, sustainable, non-polluting energy sources.

In this climate of high unemployment, we really need to be thinking about new industries that cannot be outsourced to other countries.  The United States of America is the most innovative country in the world.  In times of need, we have historically stepped up, helped each other out, rolled up our sleeves, and done without in tough times.  If we pull together, invest in our country, and in each other, we can do some good.

In terms of sustainable energy sources, solar power, wind power, some hydroelectric and liquid hydrogen should be the answers.  A possible scenario is to build energy plants in our 'sun belt' states, such as southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  The received power from the sun, daily, is immense, and could go a long way towards creating a situation of energy independence.  Of course, an improved and efficient solar cell needs to be developed.  In the mean time, sea water could be pumped in, and the power to separate the hydrogen from oxygen in H20 molecules would be provided for free by the solar power.  Thus, liquid hydrogen could be produced cheaply and in abundance.  Hydrogen fuel cells could then be mass produced to fuel our automobiles.  An improved energy grid wouldn't hurt, to channel all of this electricity that will be harnessed from the solar power plants.   

A little bit of energy conservation wouldn't hurt, and making more energy conserving houses, buildings, and transport systems would be a good idea too.  Turn off the TV or the lights or the A/C and take a walk.

The carrying capacity of the earth is finite, and we should try to get a grip on population growth.  Instead of having five kids, have two.  If you don't want to have kids, don't bend to the pressure and do what you want to do.  There is only so much food that we can produce, no matter what advances in scientific food production we make, whether it be genetically modified foods that have greater productivity, or an increase in irrigating the deserts.

The resources, in terms of oil energy reserves, are indeed finite.  The resource partitioning of this resource means big countries that are thirsty for oil will compete for these resources, not only driving up the price, but also resulting in risky behavior, in terms of exploration, evidenced now in the Gulf Oil Spill and deep water drilling in general.  Whole ecosystems and regional economies become endangered, with unknown consequences in terms of recovery.  It's absurd.

However, there are bright spots here and there.  The Nature Conservancy's "Plant a billion trees" project is one.  There is an energy company that is going to make huge solar powered plants in the Sahara Desert, with an aim to supply all of Europe's energy needs in the future.  We have a president who can recognize the challenges that we face, and has the courage to look into the future, not for the 'quick fix', but for the long term vision of strategy that will streamline our future, and allow the United States to compete in this global market, if we'd only give him a chance.

Besides, there are some things you can do.  Plant a tree, have a garden, and go a little green.  Get some house plants if you can't do the first two.  Reduce, reuse and recycle.  Walk or cycle to work, or at least carpool or take public transportation now and then.  Support companies that lean toward being green.  Shop responsibly.  Don't buy things from companies that you don't agree with.  If the supplier that makes your iPhone treats its workers so badly that they commit suicide by the dozen, don't buy an iPhone.

And those, my friends, are my thoughts for the day.
 


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