Dispatches from Future America: World Reaches Zero-Fossil-Fuel Milestone
[Editor's Note: It's happening again.
I hadn't gotten any of these messages since last year, and I was starting to hope that the wormhole, or whatever strange conduit it was, had closed for good. But once again, in my inbox this morning, there it was: the same anonymous remailer, the same untraceable IP address, and yet another message presenting itself as a news dispatch from a possible future version of our world. Is it truly what it claims to be, and if so, how did it end up in this era? I leave the decision to you.]
JEDDAH, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF ARABIA (September 30, 2040) — Energy-industry executives, celebrities and dignitaries from around the world, including American President Linda Sanchez, were on hand today as Arabian Prime Minister Faisal al-Sharif threw the ceremonial switch that shut off the flow of oil from the last drilling rig in the world. With this milestone, planetary fossil-fuel production has achieved the long-sought milestone of zero barrels per year.
"Today marks an achievement that will be remembered as surpassing the first domestication of fire," said Prime Minister Al-Sharif, with a new field of solar panels glittering golden in the desert sun behind him as he spoke. "Since the dawn of our species, human beings have relied on wasteful, polluting combustion to cook their food, warm their homes, and power their machines. Now, for the first time ever, our world is cut free from those bonds, and we use only clean, renewable energy to serve our every need."
"This is a triumph for all human beings everywhere, not just Americans," added the U.S. president in her prepared remarks. "Whether it be the free citizens of the democratic Middle East, the brilliant engineers operating our West Coast seawater-fusion reactors, or the brave explorers in our Orion I ship now en route to Jupiter, every person alive can bask in the glory of this accomplishment - for, indeed, it could never have come to fruition without the combined efforts of billions of people."
Media analysts were on hand to put the day into context. "We can trace the roots of this day back to the 2012 American presidential election," said CNN analyst Athena Jones. "Although Barack Obama turned out to be a cautious centrist, rather than the transformative figure millions had hoped for, the enthusiasm inspired by his landslide reelection turned out, in retrospect, to be the seed that blossomed into the progressive revolution of the 2020s. At the same time, the resurgent European Union was rediscovering its voice in global affairs after emerging from the crisis of the previous decade, basking in the vigorous economic recovery that followed the removal of self-destructive austerity measures."
"These two world powers were the driving force behind the ratification of a worldwide treaty to completely phase out fossil fuels within thirty years. Although there were challenges all along the way, the goal of cutting loose from the fossil-fuel yoke unleashed vast creativity and ingenuity that helped make this once-unimaginable dream a reality, several years ahead of schedule."
Despite the day's celebratory atmosphere, the President struck a sober note in her speech, reminding a global audience of the challenges that lie ahead. "Even the most efficient carbon-sequestration technologies currently in operation will take decades, possibly centuries, to clean up all the damage of pre-ZFFM industry and restore the Earth's climate to what it was before human interference began. We can never restore all the species that went extinct. But take comfort in the knowledge that our children will one day walk again on mighty glaciers, will see the Amazon rainforest and the monsoon rains return."
Although no protesters were present, a statement was later sent to the media by a group calling itself the First Reformed Church of Koch. The statement asserted that "God gave us the coal and the oil and it would be a sin not to burn them" and called climate change "a liberal hoax".
Pay attention to the decisions made by the provinces.
- China leads the world in numerous green energy categories.
- CO2 emissions in the country totaling more than all coal emissions in the U.S. have recently emerged.
- This seems to be an administrative-induced blip on the way towards a green energy tipping point.
NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller is coming back to Big Think to answer YOUR questions! Here's all you need to know to submit your science-related inquiries.
Big Think's amazing audience has responded so well to our videos from NASA astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication Michelle Thaller that we couldn't wait to bring her back for more!
And this time, she's ready to tackle any questions you're willing to throw at her, like, "How big is the Universe?", "Am I really made of stars?" or, "How long until Elon Musk starts a colony on Mars?"
All you have to do is submit your questions to the form below, and we'll use them for an upcoming Q+A session with Michelle. You know what to do, Big Thinkers!
Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku.
- Many readers buy books with every intention of reading them only to let them linger on the shelf.
- Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our lives as they remind us of all we don't know.
- The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits.
Calling all big thinkers!
The Boring Company plans to offer free rides in its prototype tunnel in Hawthorne, California in December.
- The prototype tunnel is about 2 miles long and contains electric skates that travel at top speeds of around 150 mph.
- This is the first tunnel from the company that will be open to the public.
- If successful, the prototype could help the company receive regulatory approval for much bigger projects in L.A. and beyond.
Money makes the world go 'round. Unfortunately, it can make both children and adults into materialists.
- Keeping a gratitude journal caused children to donate 60 percent more to charitable causes.
- Other methods suggested by researchers include daily gratitude reflection, gratitude posters, and keeping a "gratitude jar."
- Materialism has been shown to increase anxiety and depression and promote selfish attitudes and behavior.
Anatomy and physiology professor David Harper claims a recent study in The Lancet is flawed.
- The low-carbohydrate group in a recent Lancet study were typically middle-aged, obese, sedentary, diabetic smokers.
- The study was not a randomized, controlled, double-blind experiment.
- Harper has been in ketosis for six years, and says it has profound effects on cancer patients, among other chronic ailments.
A mind-bending paradox questions the nature of reality.
- Boltzmann Brains are hypothetical disembodied entities with self-awareness.
- It may be more likely for a Boltzmann Brain to come into existence than the whole Universe.
- The idea highlights a paradox in thermodynamics.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.