Look, I know this is not a huge issue, it’s just one UK power station as far as I know, that is burning wood pellets instead of coal to produce electricity, but it is huge in that it reflects the stupidity of the human race and the short term memory that we exhibit.
Photo credit: The electricity generated by Drax accounts for about 7 or 8 per cent of the total power of the National Grid AFP/Getty
The main reason that we started digging coal out of the ground was not that we just discovered that we could, but that we were rapidly running out of trees (in the old world industrial nations). And, of course, the population was only about 20% of what it is now (perhaps as low as 10% in those same industrial nations) back then. The population of a large industrial town would be numbered in the tens of thousands, maybe a few over a hundred thousand, but nowhere like the millions that we see in even medium sized cities today. Imagine catering for the needs of today’s crowds with only timber as an energy production as well as construction source. It would be a situation not unlike Easter Island over the whole of Europe and other places.
But that is exactly the situation we will be facing after our resource-based industrial society finally crashes as a direct result of us either discovering that we are unable to find or extract further resource supplies from the ground or we finally realise that continuing to do so will result in our rapidly killing ourselves off from the effects of that abuse on our finely balanced climate.
When that comes about, as eventually it must, I am sure that we will, given the opportunity, wonder whether we can go back to just using the trees to meet our needs. Timber, and other plant products, being the ultimate and perhaps only truly renewable resource which can be adopted without technology no longer available to us, that we may utilise to rebuild a saner society.
We may not get that opportunity, but if we do, and take a look around us, we will see that there is no region of this planet that we have not already trashed in our pursuit of easy power, that is immediately capable of producing the number of trees which would be needed to bring such a concept into reality.
Are you beginning to get just a vague inkling of the idea that I keep preaching? The idea which suggests that if any of us are to survive to create new generations following that societal crash, then most of us have to die somehow, to enable that to happen?
Why? Because we need the bloody trees so that we can keep breathing and also to provide all of our other basic necessities. And there is a limit to how many people can be supported by such a situation. Simple as that.
How many people? I would suggest the approximate number would be around the population level, or maybe a little lower than that, extant at the time when things started to go wrong for us. Say, one to one and a half billion.
Added after publication:
I would further suggest that this will also take place before the world population clock reaches 8 billion or shortly thereafter. That should be sometime around 2023, give or take, depending on events transpiring in the meantime ie. the possibility that we may kill ourselves off earlier.