Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Real Human Energy Crisis

Yesterday evening I plowed through piles and piles of web pages on the subject of Zero-Point Energy. (Well, actually, only the first 200 or so of 25,000,000 hits on a Google search ). For a number of years now, Zero-point energy has tantalized me. Possibly it's because I have been a life-long addict of intelligent science fiction, and resolving the riddle of 'just what wave are all those light beams from the stars riding on through the vast limitlessness of the void, anyway?' is tantamount to explaining how a lowly human life form could possibly travel from star to star.

But Zero-point energy (ZPE) has sparked a number of closer-to-home brainchildren, too: ranging from visions of free access to unlimited, renewable, non-polluting energy at bargain basement prices; via cult-like claims of direct spiritual access to ZPE through chanelling and meditation; through to paranoid conspiracy theories involving UFOs, Roswell, Ari., Area 51, and alien ZPE technology being evilly sequestered by the military-industrial-complex ... just to mention a few.

Luckily, it isn't only the quacks, the hacks, the paranoids and the schysters that are working on ZPE. Some quite sober scientists, too, have been making steady progress at harnessing ZPE, and that gives me some hope.

For decades it has troubled me that with all our brainpower, science and technology - and living within an ecosystem just teeming with unharnessed energy - we cling so desperately to total economical dependecy on combusting fossile fuels -- As though we all are sleep-walking under a malevolent spell that collectively keeps us from grasping that viable alternatives are, in fact both possible, plausible and necessary.

Yes, we have been sleepwalking ... and no, there is no evil game-master ... the only place to put the blame is on ourselves ... as individuals, as nations, as societies, as cultures and as a species.

My contention is that there has been one, fundamental, all-prevading idea that keeps us in this global trance: Increasing wealth
All our vast science and technology has developed hand in hand with our increasing wealth. Our advances have been continuously motivated and stimulated by increasing our consumption of fossile energy and thereby improving our "standard of living" - read: increasing wealth. In our greedy little heads, the very thought that energy should and can be dirt cheap (there is just so much of it lying around, unused) is a threat [to increasing our wealth].

You can dig up fossiles, or uranium ore, or thorium ore, or build a hydroelectric dam ... and get very rich selling the energy they produce at a profit.

But how in the world can you sell something like ZPE that simply is everywhere? And who will get rich if it's gratis?... And that's what scares us more than all the doomsday predictions of ecological collapse, war, famine, pestilence and abrupt climate change put together.

The human energy crisis is and will remain a truly human crisis ... until we learn how to shake the monkey of individual and collective greed off our backs.


No comments: