“Mira! Mira la tormenta!”


Sarah Connor: “What did he say?”

Old man: “He said, ‘There’s a storm coming.'”

Sarah Connor: “I know.”

The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg

I remember when I first watched the movie, The Terminator, back in the mid-80’s and thinking this was a great ending for that film. Knowing what the future holds, the pregnant Sarah Connor heads off to Mexico in order to survive the nuclear war and to prepare for what follows. After reading Richard Heinberg’s Book, The End of Growth, I’m left wondering if I will need to employ a similar strategy at some point.

Our planet has a finite size. That is a fact. It is also a fact that, relatively speaking, it’s a very BIG place, which is insidiously deceptive to the humble brains of humans. Heinberg’s basic premise is that continued growth is impossible due to decreasing resources and increasing demands, particularly for energy. Cheap energy, in the form of fossil-fuels, in fact, is what he argues has “fueled” growth in the modern era, and an effective substitute is yet to be discovered or developed.

Those who expect a return to growth are counting on technological innovations and increased efficiencies (indeed, in my former, casual ponderings on the future, I must admit that I staked my hopes on this as well) are doomed to be disappointed, in Heinberg’s opinion. Years ago, my dyed-in-the-wool conservative older brother recommended the book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist” by Bjorn(?) Lomborg to me in order to assuage my fears. Maybe I need to revisit this one now. Who knows, though, if the material in it has already become somewhat outdated…

This book also does speak a little about the boom-bust life cycle of technologies and uses the “fad” about corn ethanol (once known as “gasohol” I think) as an example. I’d always wondered exactly who it was who EVER thought this was a good idea. I mean, with exponential population growth, “yes, let’s set aside huge swaths of arable land to grow more fuel!!” Something seems to me to be obviously wrong with that idea…

The ideas in is book will keep you up at night, and, sadly, not much of the book is devoted to potential solutions to all the dangers described therein…