lecture4-09 - 1 H A&S 222d Introduction to Energy and...

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1 H A&S 222d Introduction to Energy and Environment P. B.Rhines spring 2009 Lecture 4 I. INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN ENERGETICS We will encounter several very different views of the environment: McNeill’s history (which has considerable sociology and philosophy built in) which though inspired still leads to gloomy feelings; the up-beat can-do environmentalism of Amory Lovins (the book Natural Captitalism, www.rmi.org); the skeptical conservatism (hey, no problem) of Bjorn Lomborg (the book The Skeptical Environmentalist, www.lomborg.com ) and the opposing views of scientists (www.anti-lomborg.com). The early part of McNeill’s book (up to p20) briefly reviews the historical trends that lead up to today. The combination of great increases in population , economic activity (related to ‘wealth’ or ‘ affluence’ ) and level of technology all multiply together to define the impact…the ‘footprint’… of mankind on the environment. This trio of effects has often been described, for example by Paul Ehrlich in his early books, The Population Bomb and The Population Explosion where it is called ‘ PAT ’ as an aid to memory [McNeill only mentions the first two of these]. McNeill is one of a growing number of scholars trying to put both ‘the planet’s history’ and ‘the people’s history’ together, with the aim of improving our (and its) future. We will talk this term about some deep problems relating to life on Earth, and in the grandest notion of all, the life ‘of’ the Earth, described as a problem of evolution. McNeill talks about ‘rats’ and ‘sharks’: versatile adaptability (rats) vs. supreme adaptation to exploit one particular environment (sharks). 20 th C. humanity is more shark-like: stable climate, cheap energy, but this is dangerous strategy. “In the 20 th Century, societies often pursued a shark strategy amid a global ecology ever more unstable—and hence more suitable for rats….The same characteristics that underwrote our long-term biological success—adaptability, cleverness—have lately permitted us to erect a highly specialized fossil-fuel based civilization so ecologically disruptive that it guarantees surprises and shocks…we have created a regime of perpetual ecological disturbance. .” (McNeill p xxiii). “ The human race, without intending anything of the sort, has undertaken a gigantic, uncontrolled experiment on the Earth. In time, I think, this will appear as the most important aspect of twentieth-century history, more so than world war II.” (McNeill p 4). This ‘experiment’ has many aspects. One is global climate: the temperature, rainfall, winds, soil moisture, Arctic ice and so on. We will consider the greenhouse ‘experiment’ in the Air and Water units. Another is the development of diseases and epidemics: the combination of individual health and transmission and evolution of disease in crowded, fast-moving global populations. While we cannot study health issues in detail, they are much in our minds. However, it is the health of the planet and all its creatures that should concern us. Human beings are just one, dominant species.
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This note was uploaded on 03/08/2012 for the course H A&S 222b taught by Professor P.b.rhines during the Spring '09 term at University of Washington.

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lecture4-09 - 1 H A&S 222d Introduction to Energy and...

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