Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Rant: Myopia on a Grand Scale

William of Ockham (circa 1285-1349) theorized that the simplest explanation is often the best one, a theory known as "Ockham's Razor." Sadly, it's all staring us in the face.

Amidst out-of-control spiraling of oil prices on the verge of destabilizing the global economy, people don't seem to realize that our current lifestyles of consumption and greed are simply not sustainable. Peak oil theories notwithstanding (dictating the end of low-cost crude oil, not necessarily the bottoming out of oil supplies), it's clear that our drive to consume has gotten us to this predicament. That and economists link it to ongoing conflict in the Middle East, political pressures from all sides, growing demand in emerging industrial countries. Add that to the fact that, and our environment is a complete mess, with global warming causing extreme weather patterns, but for some odd reason, there are some who still push the global cooling theory and say that it's all a big cycle.

What upsets me more is the fact that the technology is in place to lessen the impact of an energy crisis and has been for many years. Biodiesel could go a long way to mitigating our dependence on foreign oil supplies, and it could have, as the first diesel engine actually ran on peanut oil. Thermal depolymerization could be used to recycle municipal trash and sewage into useful hydrocarbons and chemicals, yet there is only one plant in existence. Bioplastics derived from actually break down unlike regular plastics and contribute significantly fewer greenhouse emissions. But these simply aren't profitable enough. Contrast this with the energy conglomerates that make a killing whenever the price of oil jumps a few bucks.

And then there are other social problems. War against drugs? It could've been a simple matter to focus on rehabilitation rather than criminal prosecution, which is ridiculously expensive and wasteful. Plus, it would cripple revenue streams for organized crime, which relies on the proceeds of the illegal drug trade. But doing so would upset the current status quo.

Sadly, "simple" and "easy" are two completely different things. Herd mentality dictates that we cannot make decisions without meetings and bureaucracy, and by the time that happens, it's often too late to do anything about it, or the problem has gotten larger. Change is tough when things are easy the way they are. But it's not going to be for long.

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