Depletion of Fossil Fuels
A number of scientists are emphasizing the tremendous challenges that will soon be faced when the depletion of fossil fuel supplies coincides with an alarming increase in the global population. They highlight agriculture which is heavily dependent not only on gasoline to fuel machinery, but also on the petrochemicals necessary to manufacture synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Without these petrochemicals, crop yields would be only a fraction of what they are today. To assume that an abundant source of renewable energy will address this challengeis to ignore the vital non-fuel uses of petrochemicals.
Then there is the challenge posed to the current levels of mobility. As a fuel,gasoline is unrivalled in its portability. Electricity requires bulky batteries and hydrogen is notoriously difficult to store. Biofuels might seem like an alternative, but the energy consumed when converting corn into bioethanol, for instance, greatly exceeds the output when the fuel is utilized. In any case,once we reach a crisis in the food supply, it will not make sense to divert food crops to other uses.
Although there seems to be a widespread belief that the era of oil dependency is coming to an end due to some technological remedy, this may be mistaken. Relying on such an assumption can lead to complacency and a failure to take precautions.Experts may not be able to come up with the kind of solution that can lead to a pain-free transition.
Scientists warn that relying on alternative resources might only support half of the global population. The absence of a realistic alternative to fossil fuels will mean that the first priority will be to curb the demand for food.
The Meaning of Catching 22
One of the most interesting books of the 20th century was the novel, Catch 22. In the novel, the term “a catch 22 situation” was introduced. The term has nothing to do with catching anything. It has a much deeper meaning, and it describes a kind of logical conundrum that’s worth exploring. First, it’simportant to put the phrase into context. In the novel, a group of American bomber pilots is on an island in the Mediterranean. They face death almost every day when they fly their bombing missions. Many have already lost their lives. The remaining pilots know that it is only a matter of time before they will be the next victims.
One of the characters in the novel is a doctor. It is his job to see that the pilots are fit to fly. In particular, there is a rule that says he has to ground anyone who is crazy. To ground them means to remove them from active duty so that they don’t fly.
Some of the men believed in the principles they were fighting for. They were willing to give their lives for their countries. But to others, this was crazy. They thought the whole thing was insane. One of them, Yossarian, wanted out. He was friends with the doctor, and he wanted the doctor to ground him.
When Yossarian asked the doctor to ground him, the doctor replied: “You’re wasting your time. You’re not crazy.” Yossarian told him to ask one of the other pilots, Clevinger, to tell him how crazy he was. “There’s no pilot. He’scrazy,” the doctor replied. “Crazy people can’t decide whether you are crazy or not.”
“Clevinger isn’t crazy! He’s one of the sanest pilots here.”
“So he’s obviously out of his head,” said the Doc. “He’s got to be insane to keep on flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had.”
“Well, if he’s crazy, why don’t you ground him?”
“I can’t unless he asks to be grounded. That’s part of the rule.”
“So all he has to do is ask?”
“No, then I can’t ground him.”
“So there’s a catch,” said Yossarian, trying to get things straight.
“Sure,there’s a catch,” said the Doc, with a slight smile. “Catch 22. If he asks,then he can’t be crazy. Only those who are crazy are grounded”.
“That’s some catch,” observed Yossarian.
“It’s the best there is,” the Doc replied.
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