The World currently consumes more than 90 million barrels of oil a day and is a major contributor to thegeneral increase in global temperature that threatens the world’s ecosystem. Transport accounts for two thirds of petroleum consumption and the low cost of transport fuel (cheaper than bottled water) is passed off as an essential cog in economic development.
At $90/barrel (as it was before the oil trade wars), oil sales amount to about three trillion dollars a year, a fact that seems to carry more weight than shrinking ice-caps or endangered coral reefs. Profit motivated technologies have recently moved to squeezing oil out of the Earth’s crust at an increased environmental cost that doesn’t get incorporated into market price.
The response from Saudi Arabia has been to maintain its output alongside increased US production resulting in lower prices that will eventually makeexpensive US shale oil unprofitable.
Meanwhile cheap oil has a negative effect on alternatives energy initiatives while palliating the masses with short term personal gains. When shale oil starts to dry up the price of oil will rise again, and although technology has waylaid ‘peak oil’, by the time we get to that point the Earth will be a far lesser place to live in.
NASA scientist and climatologist James Hansen has suggested a gradually rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed directly back to the public as compensation for consequent price rises. A significant rise in the price of fossil fuels would then provide a market stimulus for growing alternative energies.
Alternative energy development has enormous potential for creating diverse business and employment opportunities and with the certainty of global warming and its chaotic affect on rainfall patterns, food production and demographic stability, the task of switching to alternative energy sources should be at the top of any political agenda. Germany has increased its alternatively sourced electricity production from 6% in 2000 to 31% in 2014 with its renewable energy sector currently employing more than 370,000 people. Germany’s edge comes from a government policy that:
‘... gave renewables fair access to the grid, promoted competition, weakened monopolies, and helped citizens and communities own half of renewable capacity.’
Trials in alternate energy production are best exampled by island communities that have, by necessity, reverted to fossil fuels as
an emergency back-up rather than a primary source of power in grids fuelled by solar, wind and bio-fuel energy production - as per
the Caribbean Island of Bonaire, King Island in Australia, and Granma province in Cuba which currently derives 37% of its energy from
alternative energies and is aiming for 100%.
Many of the world’s mega rich have vested interests in fossil fuels and via influential lobbying groups are proposing legislation that makes solar sources more expensive. In bed with these empire builders are media moguls who don’t believe global warming to be a big deal; even though this attitude is against the world’s most authoritative experts. Some are already planning to make profit from global warming!
The influence of climate change on each of us will vary but ultimately it will be universal and may set in train processes that are cataclysmic. It is now official that 2014 was the warmest year since records were kept (1880).
Even though 2014 (2016) was the hottest on record scientist have noted that there has been a slowdown in the rise of global surface temperatures. However recent research has shown this slowdown to be only at the surface since much of the Earth’s heat is being stored deep down in the Pacific Ocean as the result of trade winds that have a cycle of about 30 years. The current trade wind cycle started around 2000 and is due to change around 2030.
Physicist Amory Lovins, energy advisor to more than fifty countries, believes that existing technologies could reduce carbon emissions by eighty percent, with low carbon generating ‘micropower’ currently accounting for a quarter of the world’s electricity.
Others in the scientific community are putting their weight behind developingnuclear fusion which is the way the Sun does it. The giant Lockheed Martin Corporation has made the statement that in ten years time they will have a ‘unit’ that will fit in the back of a truck and power 80,000 homes - although ‘experts’ aren’t convinced - and it may be that Lockheed is just looking for investment money and a future goldmine.
On the more immediate horizon is the development of Thorium fuelled nuclear power plants. Thorium reactors are not prone to meltdown, produce less waste and the waste cannot be used for weaponry; but as with most alternative energies there is little research funding and incentive for investment. India has more Thorium than Uranium and will have a trial 300MW Thorium fuelled nuclear power plant working in 2015.
The brain is where the sensory inputs are synthesised by daily events into the value structures that define our reality, so what could be more natural than learning stuff? The educational guidelines set down by the United Nations are:
‘. . . to develop (our) full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of (our) lives, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning.’
Last century education was oriented towards vocation with adolescent priorities given to reading, writing, and arithmetic which then give way to the sciences, arts and practical trades. Beyond these traditional forms of education a recent study by the multinational educational company Pearson’s, has recognised the emerging importance of socially interactive, non-cognitive skills. The eight main areas of these were: leadership, problem solving, communication, emotional intelligence, team working, digital literacy, entrepreneurship and global citizenship.
A comparison of Pearson’s recent study with the previous survey in 2012 highlights the continuing emergence of East Asian countries, with South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China leading the way. These countries have a great respect for education but do tend to blunt innovation with long hours and a high degree of rote learning.
In large part the individual’s belief in education is related to outcomes in employment opportunities. Unfortunately the tertiary educated of the ‘developed world’ don’t always end up in professional positions (if they can get a job at all), while having to service debts that get larger by the year. In the US, college fees have increased by up to 70% since 2008 while to the contrary a number of other countries – Germany, Brazil, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, Slovenia - have recognised the advantages of education and provide English language tertiary qualifications at virtually no cost.
The situation is no different in my country (Australia) where tertiary education costs are similar to America’s, while a third of young people are virtually unemployed (one hour a fortnight being regarded as ‘employed’), full time jobs are rare and government spending is moving away from education and towards elderly support.
Since the advent of modern contraception most people don’t settle into family responsibilities until their late 20’s or early 30’s so why not create some infrastructures within which graduates can further their interests without the threat of slipping into poverty, brain numbing TV addiction, or mercenary armies pandering to political intrigues.
If tertiary graduates were paid a minimum wage for pursuing their fields of endeavour then education may be viewed in the light of a productive process where opportunities for improving society’s quality of life far exceed those provided by the limited pathways of economic growth.
Research projects are for educated lateral thinkers and their discoveries continue to amaze: doctors in Poland have used olfactory and ankle nerves to enable a man with a completely severed spinal cord to walk again; flesh-eating bacteria have been found to consume cancerous tumors; the Earth’s water has been found to be older than our solar system; the first 3-D printed car has been built from extruded plastic.
Why should governments charge a fee for activities that have social value while at the same time providing a foundation for understanding and discovery? The imperative of education should be its universal nature and the recognition of a need to own and manage our learning environments for the purpose of enhancing our own potential.
Education has limitless possibilities for job creation since we all have the desire to know and the desire to instruct, it’s just the objectives that need to be clarified. Is the primary objective of education - sales retailing and economic growth, or is it about being better people and creating a better world?
Nobel Prize winner and US Professor of Economics Paul Krugman, notes a recent attempt to blame inequality on education
and by doing so avoid focussing on its true cause:
Nobel Prize winner and US Professor of Economics Paul Krugman, notes a recent attempt to blame inequality on education and by doing so avoid focussing on its true cause:
‘...there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education...And the reason this is an evasion is that whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education; it’s about power.’