Thursday, February 17, 2011

what becomes of science when the wells run dry?

The Scientist | The practice and funding of science may change drastically when humanity enters an era of energy crisis, in which cheap oil is but a distant memory. While the most hyperbolic doomsayers posit catastrophic scenarios of oil shortage, global conflict, and severe deprivation, the truth is that long before society downsizes in the face of energy scarcity, climate change, resource depletion, and population growth, the way science is done and the role of research in society will likely change drastically.

One of the main ways that the average scientist will feel the effects of oil shortages will be as everyone does: by an enormous inflation in the cost of doing business. Most scientific research is expensive not just in terms of dollars, but also in terms of energy. On average, for each dollar researchers spend today, the energy equivalent of about a cup of oil is used. A $1 million grant can consume the equivalent of about 1,100 barrels of oil. In the future, the same amount of dollars will buy significantly less research, and scientists will have to become much more efficient and inventive in doing research.

Far flung research projects, particularly common among ecologists and other natural scientists, will also become much less affordable. Trips to distant scientific meetings will also become prohibitively expensive. Electronic conferencing will become the norm.

The nature of interaction within the scientific community may change as well. Like the competitive atmosphere already experienced in developing countries, limited resources may lead groups to be less open and to actively exclude other groups.

In a time of energy scarcity, societal priorities will also shift, and science will be justified and supported based on the perception of how it is helping solve mounting societal problems. While today basic science is often considered intellectually superior and more elegant than applied science, in coming decades, applied science will become dominant, as research becomes required to preserve the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide.

Natural scientists, especial those in the field of ecology, will have a critical role to play in this bleak future, in which the human economy depends much more on ecological systems. With transport and global trade hobbled, people will have to depend to a greater extent on nearby ecosystems, both natural and agricultural. Highly productive ecosystems have enormous economic value. The natural asset value of the Mississippi delta, for example, has been estimated to be as high as $1.4 trillion. Research on these natural communities will receive more attention, as more food, fuel, and fiber will have to be coaxed from nature in a sustainable way.


CNu said...

Seent it Nana.

What did your coonservative stepchildren say about that? {that is - if they had anything left over after Chauncy de Vega's excoriation of Herman Cain}

SoloInto said...

I hope your wrong about that, for the sake of your family.

SoloInto said...

Have you heard of the Venus Project? No biggie if you haven't, but they outline something called a Resource Based Market.

CNu said...

I had not heard it expressed in these terms Solo, however, a very similar (possibly identical) framework has been outlined here;

After following his discussion groups for the past decade, I was saddened but not surprised by Jay Hanson's throwing in the towel just a few weeks ago, closing his groups and consolidating his sites down to this one with the parting thought that the status-seeking imperative in this culture is too strong to overcome and that these killer-ape humans are going to do what they do without any possibility of a rational or empathetic self-save.

My worst case preparations were begun and have been sustained irrespective of the discourse, I think perhaps due to too much apocalyptic science fiction read as a teenager and lifelong exposure to the prevalent sensibilities of bloody Kansas...,

SoloInto said...

I will check out Jay, and below is a link for people to check out Jacque if they haven't already.

It's gotta get real bad before it get's better (too bad). Status-seeking killer ape fucks run this shit.