First, industrial society was only possible because our species briefly had access to an immense supply of cheap, highly concentrated fuel with a very high net energy—that is, the amount of energy needed to extract the fuel was only a very small fraction of the energy the fuel itself provided. Starting in the 18th century, fossil fuels—first coal, then coal and petroleum, then coal, petroleum and natural gas—gave us that energy source. All three of these fossil fuels represent millions of years of stored sunlight, captured by the everyday miracle of photosynthesis and concentrated within the earth by geological processes that took place long before our species evolved. They are nonrenewable over any time scale that matters to human beings, and we are using them up at astonishing rates.
Second, while it’s easy to suggest that we can simply replace fossil fuels with some other energy source and keep industrial civilization running along its present course, putting that comfortable notion into practice has turned out to be effectively impossible. No other energy source available to our species combines the high net energy, high concentration, and great abundance that a replacement for fossil fuel would need. Those energy sources that are abundant (for example, solar energy) are diffuse and yield little net energy, while those that are highly concentrated (for example, fissionable uranium) are not abundant, and also have serious problems with net energy. Abundant fossil fuels currently provide an "energy subsidy" to alternative energy sources that make them look more efficient than they are—there would be far fewer wind turbines, for example, if they had to be manufactured, installed, and maintained using wind energy. Furthermore, our entire energy infrastructure is geared to use fossil fuels and would have to be replaced, at a cost of countless trillions of dollars, in order to replace fossil fuels with something else.
With US equity markets on a 7-day roll and excited TV anchors proclaiming the worst over and new all-time highs must signal recovery as they 'celebrate' five years on from Lehman, the following two charts of the state of real America should open a...
Our mono-cultural worldview is literally preventing us from understanding the deeper causes of our multiple crises. Author Andreas Weber, in the below essay, gives us a glimpse of the different scientific paradigm now coming into focus. He calls it “Enlivenment,” because the new sciences are revealing organisms to be sentient, more-than-physical creatures that have subjective experiences and produce sense. Weber sees Enlivenment as an upgrade of the deficient categories of Enlightenment thought – a way to move beyond our modern metaphysics of dead matter and acknowledge the deeply creative processes embodied in all living organisms. The framework of Enlivenment that Weber outlines is a promising beginning for all those who stand ready to search for real solutions to the challenges of our future.
"We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals," according to John Hawks -University of Wisconsin anthropologist. "Five thousand years is such a small sliver of time - it's 100 to 200 generations ago. That's how long it's been since some of these genes originated, and today they are in 30 or 40 percent of people because they've had such an advantage. It's like 'invasion of the body snatchers.'What's really amazing about humans," Hawks continued, "that is not true with most other species, is that for a long time we were just a little ape species in one corner of Africa, and weren't genetically sampling anything like the potential we have now."
In a finding that countered a common theory that human evolution has slowed to a crawl or even stopped in modern humans, a study examining data from an international genomics project describes the past 40,000 years as a time of supercharged evolutionary change, driven by exponential population growth and cultural shifts. The findings may lead to a very broad rethinking of human evolution, especially in the view that modern culture has essentially relaxed the need for physical genetic changes in humans to improve survival.
RICH LEE IS PART OF A NEW GENERATION OF BIOHACKERS, HOBBYISTS WHO EXCHANGE DESIGNS ONLINE IN THE HOPES OF CREATING A HYPER-DIVERSE, SENSORIALLY-ENHANCED HUMAN RACE.
The human body doesn’t do upgrades. Take poor care of your machinery, and there’s no reboot, no system overhaul, no virus software that can come to your aid. In terms of the basic sensory apparatus and what it offers, you’re pretty much stuck with the equipment you’re born with. At least, until now.
So we have the people for whom collapse is a means of claiming unearned power, the people for whom it’s a blank screen on which to project an assortment of self-regarding fantasies, and the people for whom it’s an excuse to do nothing in the face of a challenging future. All three of those are popular gimmicks with an extremely long track record, and they’ll doubtless all see plenty of use millennia after industrial civilization has taken its place in the list of failed civilizations. The only problem with them is that they don’t happen to provide any useful guidance for those of us who have noticed that collapse isn’t merely a rhetorical gimmick meant to get emotional reactions—that it’s something that actually happens, to actual civilizations, and that it’s already happening to ours.
In a series of three lectures over three nights September 10-12, 2013 in Santa Fe, SFI’s Stephanie Forrest revealed surprising commonalities between computers and networks and organisms and ecosystems, then described new research that blurs the distinction further.
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