Friday, September 30, 2005

Interview with Heinberg

Stuart Staniford over at The Oil Drum interviewed Richard Heinberg at the recent Peak Oil and Community Solutions Conference. Heinberg said:

...I'm not a trained ecologist, but I do teach human ecology, I managed to educate myself in the science of ecology over the years. I see the energy problem, the problem with fossil fuel depletion, in the larger context of the ecological dilemma: the poplulation pressure, resource depletion, habitat destruction. The only way to solve that ultimately is to scale down the human project. You can't solve it by simply replacing one resource for another that's becoming scarce [nuclear power]--you can ameliorate the problem temporarily, but it will only come up in another guise.

Maybe oil or natural gas is the first resource to be depleted, but what's next? Will it be topsoil or fresh water or copper? There's a whole list that's depleting quickly. The only answer is to reduce the per capita rate of consumption of resources and reduce the population. We can't do that in an organized way, and I think we've shown that we can't, with a few exceptions. China has experienced less population growth than it would have otherwise but the population is still growing. If we can't do it in an organized, cooperative, deliberate way, then nature will do it for us.

Okay maybe I've quoted the heaviest part of the interview, but it seemed like a good bite.

I talked to Heinberg myself when I was wrestling with the question of going back to school at New College, where he teaches. He sympathized with my "freaking out about peak oil" as I put it. His feeling was that its easier to bear when you are not alone. In his interview he explained:

Students come into New College and usually within the first month or two they become extremely depressed because they had no idea that things in the world are nearly as bad as they actually are. Then usually by the end of the year they're, if not hopeful, then highly motivated because they've been given the tools to actually do things in their lives.
When I talked top him, he noted that he wasn't among those who were going the survivalist route, explaining that he had had a good life and was interested in passing the torch to the next generation.

He has a new edition of The Party's Over:

It's substantially revised and much improved. All of the data is updated, there's some spiffy new graphs, and an afterword. The first edition came out before the Iraq invasion had occurred, so the timeline is updated.
When he puts this months Museletter on line I'll be sure to let you know.


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