Another Civilization Gone

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein-writer

A once-prosperous metropolis of over a million inhabitants came to end recently, allegedly due to global warming. It was a sad demise for a well-organized center of civilization, which started out very, very small in a corner of the Serengeti desert.

During its genesis, there was adequate water for a large population, so the population grew. Thousands of farmers collected the crops for a hungry population, a standing army protected the city and employment was near 100%. No one could have predicted the disaster ahead.

Everything seemed fine until a few years ago. Atmospheric testing was done around the city, testing revealing extremely high CO2 levels, but CO2 had no meaning to the uneducated masses. They ignored it—at their own peril.

As time went on, the water supply began to dry up. Even then the residents stuck stubbornly to the only city they had ever known, but as the water level went down, the effects became apparent. The birth rate dropped off. Lower food availability placed a stress on the weakest. Workers would go out into the countryside and not come back. It quickly became an empty pile of mud, just like many of the other termite mounds in the Serengeti.

The saddest part is that the rains came after the last termite had died. Even the Serengeti gets occasional rain. It is a normal cycle of the climate. The CO2 the mound gave off had nothing to do with it.

There is a lesson that can be learned from this loss in the insect world: adapt or die. If it gets hot, find a way to get cool. If it gets cold, find a way to get warm. If it gets dry, drill for water or move to where it is. The one constant is that all survival strategies require the expenditure of energy, and when speaking of billions of people, massive amounts of energy. Without the energy, we become the insects, waiting to die because we do not control our destiny. With the energy, we shape the earth to our needs. Adapt or die.

Now tell me why we are working so hard to avoid using the cheapest, most abundant forms of energy available; instead favoring the most expensive, ineffective, intermittent forms. At best, the alternative forms of energy will allow the prosperity of a small fraction of humanity.

As it says in the song, “Something’s happening here.”

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Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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