Puddle Jumpers

Enjoying life, off the hamster wheel

How far off is the future?

I came across a video from 1978 featuring Jack Nicholson demonstrating a “new” and environmentally responsible car fuel: Hydrogen produced by solar energy. This time last year I put up a post Habitat and Humanity in which I talked about the experience I had in 1976 as a youngster at the Habitat ’76 Forum where it was envisioned a future powered by the sun, winds and oceans – these sources would sustain our modern needs – and we would no longer rely on fossil fuels. There would be lots of green space, peace, and no poverty or hunger. I’m currently in the future Habitat spoke of in 1976, but I don’t see any of these concepts coming true, at least not to any great extent. Nor have our cars gotten significantly more fuel efficient in their use of fossil fuels. Over the past 15 years, we really haven’t seen big changes in fuel economy at all, according to the Energy Information Administration of the US Government: EIA.

Thirty years ago, Jack Nicholson was promoting hydrogen as a viable alternative to fossil fuel. Here’s the video:

What’s happened over the intervening years? Was it “too good to be true”? Why hasn’t the future imagined by the organizers and participants of Habitat in 1976 materialized yet? What is driving humanity to its own demise? Why are the most powerful leaders, and people, of the world perpetuating the things that are killing us and them?

I’ve just finished reading a book called “A Short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright. He looks back at humans’ progress and draws unpleasant conclusions for our current and future outlook. Even so, it’s an extraordinarily interesting read, and one I highly recommend. He suggests one of our (human’s) problems is evolutionary, that we’re really no more evolved than we were when we first came together in societal bands, say 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Greed and competition drives us, and for some reason, we don’t learn to conserve. Yet, we survive. There are now more than six billion of us on this planet. However, there are limits to our planet’s resources. And we’re depleting them.

One of the examples in “A Short History of Progress” of a civilization that went awry is Rapa Nui, otherwise known as Easter Island. Eventually the people on that island over-forested, and without the forest came soil erosion, and with that poor crops and depleted seafood around the shores of the island as a direct result of soil erosion. Eventually, a once thriving, prosperous civilization died out. And, it all happened quite quickly, as chronicled by explorers from Europe who sailed passed the island in their tall ships.

Will our planet Earth, like a solitary island in our solar system, become a desolate wasteland like Rapa Nui, with only our material culture left behind to stand as testimony to our once thriving species? To think of it in terms of thousands of years is daunting, but when I think of my nieces and their kids, and the children who are yet to come in the not too distant future, say in the next 50 years, I wonder what they’ll inherit. Wouldn’t it be nice if they inherited a healthier planet than the one I foresee them getting? I certainly hope so. And hey, maybe they’ll be powering their vehicles with hydrogen. Jack would be proud.

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One comment on “How far off is the future?

  1. barbro
    July 26, 2008

    Thanks for posting this. “When will they ever learn” Marlene Dietrich sang a long time ago. The words still come to mind./ BKR

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This entry was posted on July 23, 2008 by in Main and tagged , , , , , , .

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