Just One of Those Things
Just One of Those Things by Hugo Salinas Price – Plata
“It was just one of those things” – Cole Porter
Take a look at this graph:
(The graph says, in Spanish, “Evolution of the human population”, and it only goes up as far as 6 billion humans; the world’s humans number about 7.3 billion today).
The data for the number of humans on this planet in very distant centuries may, perhaps, be underestimated; if so, we shall never know. In any case, as of 1750 the data become more trustworthy.
What is striking about the graph is that demographic growth since 1750 has been explosive.
In the XVIIth Century, the Englishman Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) established the rules governing the scientific method. In the course of the century, the thinkers of the West began to turn from the spiritual teachings of the Catholic Church and of Protestantism, and direct their curiosity to investigations on Matter, through the medium of the Physical Sciences.
In the XVIIIth Century, when the graph already shows a clear growth trend of humanity, the intellectual world of the West was boiling with inventions born of the Physical Sciences. One of the first important inventions was a water pump created by James Watt (1736 – 1819). This pump used the energy latent in coal to create water vapor, which was retained under pressure; the pressure of water vapor moved the water pump.
Very soon, the energy latent in coal was applied massively, to move all sorts of machinery, and displaced the limited energy and limited production that had been provided by human labor.
The trend to an increasing number of humans which the graph shows, which began about 1750, was caused by the injection of energy into human life that was furnished by coal: human productivity multiplied enormously and offered sustenance to a growing number of human beings.
The period of rapid development made possible by the energy furnished by coal, continued into the XIXth Century, and sustained the corresponding growth in the human population of the world.
Oil makes its appearance on the world stage as a purveyor of energy at the beginning of the XXth Century, and takes over the first place, hitherto occupied by coal. Oil possesses a multitude of physical characteristics that make it more useful than coal.
At present, oil injects into the human life of the planet every day, the energy latent in some 69 million barrels of crude oil. (2016, according to IEA, the International Energy Agency).
The explosive growth of the human population of our planet, has been the result of the injection of energyinto human life in ever-growing quantities.
Institutions established in prior ages have been weakened or have become inoperative as a result of the massive injection of energy into human life. The social stability of other times has vanished. Clear reasoning has become scarce. Gold and silver, which served as a means of real exchange, have been substituted by fake money that is issued in unlimited quantities.
Human masses trust their governments, which promise protection from all the problems that used to worry every adult: housing, food, dress, medical attention, care in old age, the education of the young – the State promises everything. There is a dwindling number of those who worry about providing for these vital needs through personal savings and careful expenditure of income. The cause of this change in behavior is due to the enormous quantities of energy injected into human societies in the course of the XXth Century.
In the XIXth Century, a pleasure trip to foreign places was a privilege of the very few who had obtained the means necessary to pay the expenses related to such travels.
Today, millions upon millions of tourists fly to the capitals and towns of foreign countries on borrowed money, quite unconcerned with regard to the possible urgent needs they may have to face in the future.
The daily injection of huge quantities of energy into the societies of the world has created a picture that presents, at the social level, the characteristics of water that has been put on a stove to boil – the condition of “social breakdown”. The old rules of behavior have become obsolete. It has become normal to see 25-year-old men behave like 12- year-old boys.
According to the UN: “World population will reach 11,200 million in 2100”. (Source: https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/)
The UN thinks that present conditions will continue valid for the rest of this century.
The UN does not take into account that the injection of energy into human life, at present volumes, cannot possibly continue into the coming years. Therefore, the world’s population shall have to diminish at the pace at which the production of oil diminishes.
The fall in the amount of energy injected into human life will have the effect of reducing the world’s population, just as the previous growth of energy input produced the growth of human population.
The inevitable conclusion is that the years from here to 2100 will prove to be catastrophic for humanity.
Oil is a non-renewable resource and the world’s petroleum industry is already giving signs of what awaits the world: The IEA (International Energy Agency) reports that in the year 2016, 25.1 billion barrels of conventional petroleum were produced, but in the same year there were only 2.4 billion barrels of new oil discovery. IEA also informs that during the past 15 years, there were discovered, on average, 9 billion barrels per year. In the year 2016, new global oil discovery was only 2.4 billion barrels, in other words, less that 10% of the oil consumed in 2016 (25.1 consumed against 2.4 new discovery).
The on-going disappearance of oil as a source of energy for humanity, which is taking place in the course of this century, will give rise to the growth of coal as a source of energy. However, coal will not be able to replace oil. To mention only one situation: both the airplane industry and the auto industry are not sustainable without oil as fuel: Electricity to move autos will require oil to be generated, and the quantity of electricity that can be produced by windmills and by solar-electricity fields (both of which requite enormous inputs of energy for their production) will be insignificant, by comparison with the energy no longer available from petroleum. :
Human life is going to change radically, from here to the end of the present century, as the Petroleum Age comes to an end. The world will inevitably turn to the use of coal as a fuel, with all its drawbacks as a contaminant of the atmosphere. The imminent drastic reduction in the amount of energy injected into human society, implies that the population of the globe will have to suffer a mega-contraction in the course of the next 80 years; the macabre “Three Riders of the Apocalypse” – Hunger, Plague and War – will have much work to do. The UN is dreaming, when it projects a world population of 11,200 millions of human beings for 2100.
The present age will pass into History as a Time of Dreams, and will be remembered by poets and thinkers for thousands of years.
“Panda rei, ouden menei“, said a Greek sage: “Nothing is permanent, everything flows”.
Or as Cole Porter said, “It was just one of those things”: