Is it bad that I’m basically unwilling to read the news these days?
Looking out at our future, there are two HUGE problems that are tightly linked:
1) The coming Energy Crisis
2) The Middle East as a whole.
I read The Oil Factor and it brought to light several challenges we’re going to face. The real problem is that every form of energy has its drawbacks. And barring any unforeseen technological breakthrough, we’re going to have a REAL problem on our hands. My personal nightmare is that the so called ‘tipping point’ for oil will trigger the first salvo of World War 3.
The tipping point is when the ammount of oil on the planet is half gone. Since our use of the oil is expanding, we have a problem. And since the ‘barrel per day’ output of a given oil field follows a bell curve, the sum of all oil field production the world over will also resemble a bell curve. Once that tipping point is reached, less and less oil will be coming out of the ground per day. The key questions are ‘Who gets what portion of the oil?’ and ‘Who determines who gets what portion?’
These are very scary questions. China currently has the largest army on earth. China is also doubling it’s oil consumption each year. China also is a LOT closer to some major oil fields, both politically, and geographically than we in the US are. Europe also has a large need for oil, as does any other developing country.
Do we in America just blithely assume that we’ll be the only world power forever? We’ve been the only ‘real’ world power for barely 15-20 years. We’ve been A world power for less than 100. Europe has some claim to being world powers for longer, but in real terms, they don’t wield a very big stick any more.
The other world power that is in ascendancy right now is China.
That’s not earthshattering news to anyone who’s been paying attention. Their economy has been growing by leaps and bounds, their military is disciplined and huge. It only lacks the technological subtelty that ours has. They have nukes. What do they lack? Well, historically the Chinese have felt that anyone not Chinese is a barbarian, so they lack something of the western assumption that humans are worth something (which itself is an outgrowth of the last 100 years for the west).
I’m not quite sure how this turned into a post on China, but oh well. They’ll be a huge player in how the two problems up top play out.
The second problem is the middle east as a whole. 4 generations ago, most of the middle east was mostly nomadic in existence. There were a few cities, but not much else. Oh, there was one thing: Oil companies had started drilling in the area. It’s an unfortunate reality that our first ambassadors to new countries have almost invariably been companies… From the East India Tea Company, to British Petroleum, these companies deeply influence how peoples feel about people in the ‘west’.
From around 700 AD until, oh, 1300 AD (give or take), while the west was reeling from the fall of the Roman Empire, and the dark ages, the Arab civilization were FAR more advanced than its western counterparts. One of these days, I need to dig into what caused these fantastically rich, famously intelligent, and powerfully wise civilization to disappear into the mist of history.
So, the arab peoples have a history of ruling with power. The notion of a golden age lives for a very long time in the hearts and minds of people… look at the Greek… some of them STILL have a chip on their shoulder from a civilization that disappeared 2300 years ago.
So the arab people have gone through a time of darkness and weakness. And now they feel (somewhat rightly) that the west is taking all the profit out of their soil.
And some of them are bitter.
And don’t get me started on the Israeli problem. That’s an historical knot that’s so messy it’s not even funny.
And they’re sitting on the reserves of energy for the next 20 years… and then it’ll be gone.
What will happen to them now that they have money? What will they do when that magical source of cash dries up?
I don’t know.
But these are some questions that will define our generation. And answering them we must, but I can’t bear to watch the news because this kind of thinking can’t be found there. The news doesn’t think about solutions… as soon as a solution appears, it’s the last thing they cover, for a new crisis which is ‘more interesting’ will have appeared somewhere else.