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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson’s concept)

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  • Sat, Jan 23, 2010 - 02:50am

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    Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson’s concept)

 The Hong Kong definition of sustainable prosperity seems nice, but lacking in reality or true understanding of what sustainability really means. Hong Kong is an example of a completely unsustainable economy. It is dependent on imported goods/food for survival of its people as well as its business which is in turn dependent on worldwide international trade. Add in the problems of peak oil and the economy is hanging by a thread.

Google shows up a recent report (2007) by Geoffrey Chen, Robert Footman on peak oil comments:

“Hong Kong is almost 100% dependent on imported goods and
services (as it has limited agriculture, manufacturing and no natural resources). In
addition, both Hong Kong’s key economic activities and positioning as a hub is
highly sensitive to the availability of affordable oil. Disruptions in oil supply and
permanently higher prices could jeopardize these activities, and undermine Hong
Kong’s status as a regional hub.”

 “Peak Oil is a clear and present danger and the HKSAR Government needs to take a
proactive approach to risk management”

I often hear the term “Sustainable development” bandied about by many who sound as if they know what they are talking about, when is reality they are only providing superficial window dressing. Every frame in the HK video shows large usage of energy and not a single comment about how that energy usage may be sustained.

I am very skeptical that  cities (especially large ones) that are not tied directly to adequate food, water and needed energy nearby will be able to survive in the longer term at all. More likely to be the salvage yards of the future.

 I’ve heard sustainability experts talk about how efficient people living in a city like New York are and how badly the country folk do when it comes to energy usage and sustainability. Could be that if one calculates the the energy consumed by an individual in a New York apartment who takes the subway to work, the consumption  may be low, however by adding all the support needed from outside to grow & transport food & supplies, eliminate waste by hauling it all thousands of miles to dump on some one else’ land — everything must be hauled in from somewhere and then back out to somewhere. Add oil at a few hundred dollars a barrel to that and see what happens. NYC has a line of garbage truck over 12 miles long every day leaving the city early in the AM. Trainloads of baked (high energy use) human waste are transported for disposal as far away as Texas — the list goes on — and none of it is sustainable in a low energy environment.

I don’t think that there is a simple answer other than to look back at a time around 1900 when the world operated somewhere near a sustainable energy consumption and try to imagine how we are going to adapt to that energy level over the next 50 years or so. Horses and mules come to mind and much more in the way of home made goods created in the workshop or garage out back will help as well as chickens and gardens. Somebody figured out that the amount of energy used in this country is more or less equivalent to 90 billion people working full time – if true, then we can only produce about .3% manually of our current energy requirements. I know we have some coal, oil and other resources that we can draw on for some time, so it is not THAT bad, but I find the magnitude of the quantity of energy that we take for granted mind-boggling. It is a giant problem for which nobody has come close to finding an answer.

We can’t figure out how to go to the store to buy stuff  without using a gallon of precious gasoline to even get get there never mind that the stuff we get comes from thousands of miles away. Our entire way of living is going to change — and only then after a great deal of trial and error will we begin to get an idea of what is sustainable and what is not.

I’ve recently installed enough solar PV to be totally self sustained energy wise for the next 40 or so years (beyond my life expectancy) — however, what happens after that? I won’t have to worry, but was that a sustainable decision? Certainly better than some ways of proceeding, but it may or may not work for the long term.

This is a good thread to discuss our ideas further, so please keep the ideas flowing

Jim