Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where are we headed anyway?


Have you played Warcraft or Age of Empires? Not that I am a big fan of Strategy games but I have played them and pretty much liked them. So if you have played one of these strategy games, then you surely must have mined gold. I mean one of the things that you do in these games is explore territory and find new sources of wealth. Warcraft mostly used to have gold-mines and as soon as a new map starts, you would start exploring it looking for sources of wealth. Invariably, the mine that you started at beginning of the stage would collapse in the middle and if you hadn't found the next gold-mine it was pretty much game over. The good thing was that the people who designed the game made sure that there were enough mines in a map for you to survive and cross that particular stage.

But is that the case in our world? Have the designers of this game put enough resources on our planet for us to keep going on and on? China and India are the two most populous nations in the world. They are also the the two of the fastest growing economies of the world. The United States is the benchmark of prosperity for the world. But it is also the biggest consumer in the world. China, India and the others are expected to catch up with the US in the next 20-30 years. So the most populous nations in this world are going to catch up with the nation which consumes the most resources of our planet. God help our natural resources!

Just like Warcraft though, we would also move out to other areas in search of resources. India was already talking of mining the moon for some isotope of Helium, when our first moon mission went ahead last year. So once we have exhausted the resources on earth, we would move to the moon, mars and god knows where else just to keep ourselves going. Surely that is the way forward for the progressive human race.

You must have seen the blockbuster movie of the 90's, INDEPENDENCE DAY, starring Bill Pullman as the president of the United States. In one of the scenes, the president is communicating with one of the captured aliens. He explains to his associates, "They move from planet to planet. They consume all the resources in one planet and then they move on to the next. They don't want peace."  Well, makes me wonder whether the president of some alien planet is going to say the same thing about invading humans in the future.

The way we are going about things is disgusting at times. Take the development of around Delhi for instance. Concrete Jungles coming in every place. That alone increases the temperature of of the already hot city. What do we do keep it cool then? We install air-conditioners. Earlier only a few people could afford it, but now thanks to our prosperity almost everyone wants an AC. And how do we power up these ACs? We burn more and more fossil fuels to produce electricity and in the process produce a lot more C02. Well one fine day there won't be anymore fuels to burn and if we haven't found an alternative source of energy, cities like Delhi would be pretty much inhospitable. The current power situation in Delhi is a warning for what could be in store. It is what actually triggered this post.

Scientists and engineers came up with the air-conditioner as an answer to the heating and cooling problems of your home. But it is not a solution which we can use on a mass scale. So over the years they have been working on alternatives and one very impressive alternative is Passive Solar Building Design. I saw a program on Discovery Channel which showcased a company which was implementing such techniques in New York City.

Perhaps we shouldn't be worried about it after all. Somebody will surely come up with an answer. There is a certain degree of uncertainty involved there. What if no one did? In a very short span of time on this planet, we humans have had the most impact on it. No doubt then that we are part of the problem. However if there is a solution then it has to come for us.

So what does the future hold for us? Where are we headed? I guess only time will tell!

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