Perhaps many of you reading this watched the CBS 60 minutes show last Sunday on cold fusion power and its renewed potential. If not, you can view it here. I must admit I am still pretty strongly among the unbelievers.
One reason I am still not convinced is that any fusion reaction leaves different chemical elements than what it starts with. So if you have D2O and you process it through cold fusion then you must get some form of helimu (He). Why they did not look for the helium in addition to the excess heat is surprising.
But for the sake of this essay, let’s suppose that they have found the key. Then like they state in the 60 Minutes piece, it is a very big deal. Because it represents a rather limitless source of power that is both clean and plentiful and potentially very cheap. Wow.
Such a discovery has very deep importance to steps that we are taking as a world now. The mutiple threats of global warming, CO2 build up, rapidly declining amounts of fossile fuels, rapidly developing new large population nations. All of these could be solved by this single discovery.
One problem that this presents is that we are investing in some very long term strong alternatives to carbon based power – wind, solar, geothermal – to name a few. And also we are investing in changing the energy usage equation by increasing efficiency of everything from motors to lighting. Those investments could be curtailed if we have this different future. Do we want that?
What has me reflecting is the idea that with this “flick of the technology magic wand” we eliminate the problems to all visible extent. But most likely not for very long. The fact is we are now living at a time when human interaction with the earth happens on a global scale. We light it all up, we have explored nearly all of its surface and waters, we routinely do terraforming projects that are visible from space.
So if we are able to use technology to once again remove a limitation we face, won’t there be more. And aren’t they likely to come up pretty quickly? If we were to record moments in time when humanity faced limits that required care on our part for survival we would see, I suspect, that these are occuring with ever greater frequency and with shorter time spans between them.
For example, there were –
- a crisis of food and pollution that came around the time of the industrial revolution. The one was solved by better farming technology. As we also built factories so we could all have better underwear, towels and such, we ended up polluting the cities of that time so bad that people were sickened from the dirt in the air and water (let’s date this one at 1850)
- a crisis relating to the scale of war that occurred in the 2nd World War from both the atomic bomb but also the ability to deliver mechanized killing anywhere in the world through the use of airplanes and rockets. (date – 1945)
- a crisis relating to feeding the world’s rising population occurred again in the 1950-1960s but was solved through better chemicals, better genetic strains of crops and better. (date – 1965)
- combination of oil, climate change, loss of biodiversity (already discussed) (date – 200x)
So my question is if we pull this one out, do we really solve anything unless we deal with the long term fact that humans are dominating the planet. Is this fact something we can deal with and pull back from, live in harmony with the rest of life and the planet’s resources?
How does this really change anything?