Monday, December 24, 2012

The End of Growth, Jeff Rubin

Mayan predicted December 21, 2012 to be the end of the world.  They were not the first to herald apocalypse.  According to wikipedia there are 150 predictions of the end of the world prior to the Mayan's. Some predict a clash of Earth with obscure objects in the milky-way will end it all others predict that there will be a nuclear war.  Despite radically different ways each predict the world will end, there is one common theme: life on Earth as we know it today will dramatically change. Thankfully none of these predictions have rung true. 
But, we cannot deny the gradual shift that has been happening over the past two decades in the world.  The world reached its 7 billionth inhabitant in 2011.  How can the definite resources sustain the indefinite growth?
Jeff Rubin's The End of Growth explains the changes in the context of oil possession, consumption and acquisition.  The appetite for oil has been on the rise and so has its price, from $20 a barrel to $120, the oil price have been steadily rising.  Rubin argues the world's dependency on oil is at the root of most political unrest, long term wars and foreign interventions in domestic politics of oil rich countries. While we can control the amount of energy we consume or conserve, we tend to see, most governments shift towards consumption of energy.  But, reducing the oil consumption is not an impossible tasks.  Rubin talks about how Danes curbed their appetite for oil and the consequence of that is "rosy-cheeked, good-looking Danes peddling around he city".  What Danes have done is: they have shown to the world that it is possible to reduce the dependency on oil and still have a healthy, prosper society.
Although the book looks at issues concerning energy and economic growth at the macro level, it also provokes readers to think about their own energy footprint.  I know that I will be buying more local food, use more public transportation, and ride my bike more often.
The only thing I wish the book had more of is Canadian content.  There is only one chapter, "Keystone Conundrum", on the situation of connecting the oil in Alberta to refineries.

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