The Apocalypse is Coming and it has Nothing to do with Zombies
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Get your castle moats ready. Things are about to get apocalyptic. Or at the very least, fire and brimstone medieval. There's a storm brewing. One we won't be able to stop. Not by the way things are currently going.
And we have hard data to back it up.
No, one-armed brain eating zombies will not be taking back our streets. Nor will highly fashionable black leather clad blood sucking vampires. Aliens too, have nothing to do with this.
No, it's more real than any of those fantastic ideas. But one thing remains certain - our lives are all about to change drastically.
When it happens, we'll all be regretting it in the not so distant future. When my generation is old and wrinkly, and it becomes crystal clear we've wasted so much of it, someone will finally say:
“Bejesus! What were we thinking?!”
So, what's all this build up about? What should we be so worried about?
One word: ENERGY.
Ugly, dig it from the ground, energy. Like coal for instance.
Coal today accounts for one-third of our total energy production. Pulled from the ground in ugly pits like this one, its energy yield is high and is still relatively cheap to extract, process and distribute. The same can be said for natural gas and much of the world's oil supply. Which is a good thing because we all need it and love it.
Every day our estimated 7.6 billion residents of Earth use energy in everything they do. Think about what you used yourself today. From your alarm clock to wake you up on time for work, to your wrist watch, your home's lights, mobile phone, tv, computer, coffee machine, dishwasher, washing machine, stereo, car, train, or that flight you'll be catching soon, on your next vacation.
Energy consumption is in almost every part of our daily lives. And nearly all of us misuse it. We take it for granted. We assume it will be around for our use always. Because for now, that energy we use seems an overflowing well. One that will never, could never, run dry.
But as wells do, this one will too.
The majority of that cheap energy we use is fossil based. That means once it's used up, IT'S GONE for good. And the scary truth is, no one truly has a solution to replace the cheap fossil energy we use each day with cheap renewable energy for tomorrow.
Not fully. Not yet.
So, as it stands right now, when fossil fuels are gone, get ready for things to go a bit crazy. A bit medieval. Because, in many ways it will. We'll still have many modern comforts but we might start seeing more of these on the streets. The taxis for the poor might come with shovels.
And yet, our OVER consumption and misuse of non-renewable ENERGY continues.
According to some predictions we may only have 200 years left until it's all gone:
"...at current rates of production, oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110. We have managed to deplete these fossil fuels – which have their origins somewhere between 541 and 66 million years ago – in less than 200 years since we started using them."
A frightening prospect. But even more frightening is how few of us are taking any action on the topic. Those who are informed claim it's a well known issue. But how many, what percentage of us are really informed?
It seems instead that we are literally burning it up in smoke. Wasting its use. Making useless things from it, because it's easy, cheap, and we humans like to have FUN.
These plastic toys all come from petroleum products. Imagine a future world without plastic? Big deal, right? We can all live without mini dinosaur plastic toys. And Tupperware, probably too.
Lunch boxes would just get heavier. But, that's what the gym is for anyways. Get ready for some squats and bicep curls.
But a darker less humorous truth is closing in.
The Stark Reality
The stark reality is that the renewable energy we’re consuming right now only accounts to 11% of the total energy we use annually. That’s according to stats out of the USA.
Those numbers may be stronger in other more progressive European nations, such as Germany, or Finland, but no nation on any continent today has completely replaced fossil fuels with CHEAP renewable energy. We'll come back to this fact at the end of our story.
So the question remains - HOW will we all replace our use, love, and tap-your-arm-ready addiction to fossil fuels and all the things that power them?
Let's start by digesting some pie. Not real pie. But a data pie. This one might leave a bitter taste:
Let's talk about "per capita energy consumption." That means the amount of energy per person consumed within a given country. The USA gets a bad reputation on this stat, BUT many countries including my homeland of peace loving Canada, is actually worse.
And some, per capita, are MUCH worse. In fact, they are ridiculously worse...
Ok, what the heck is going on in Iceland? UPDATE: Iceland is the new cryptocurrency haven. More on that later.
Will science and human ingenuity save us?
But wait, what about all those breakthroughs in science? The new alternate energy sources? Will these new technologies save us from a future filled with horse drawn carriages and candle lit meals? A time when watching tv, playing video games might come at high cost? When fridges and freezers may only be allowed to operate a few hours per day?
Well, there's good news. And, there's bad news.
As usual, the human race has decided to do things in a confused state. It might be a left brain vs right brain issue. Or, it could just be a really bad case of global cognitive dissonance.
What about Electric cars?
One of the best ways to save our fossil fuels is to simply find a way to stop using so much of them every single day. So, we turn to one of the biggest talked about solutions - electric cars. There's one BIG problem with electric cars...
HOW they are still manufactured.
Electric cars run on batteries. A lot of batteries. And those car parts and batteries are built in fossil fuel powered factories:
"To power these vehicles, millions of new battery packs will need to be built. The lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow at a 21.7% rate annually in terms of the actual energy capacity required. It was 15.9 GWh in 2015, but will be a whopping 93.1 GWh by 2024."
And what keeps most of those car batteries energized while we sleep at night?
Yes that’s right, fossil fuels.
According to Forbes and the New York Times:
“Electric cars often need an entire night to recharge at home, and they can "increase a house's power consumption by 50% or more," The New York Times reported in 2013. A fellow FORBES contributor notes, "Adding an electric car on the grid is equivalent in some cases to adding three houses.”
In some cases, electric cars take up to 68% more energy to produce than traditional fossil burning cars. For these cars, only once a car reaches a certain milage threshold of say 19000 miles does it reach and pass this break-even point and becomes better for the environment.
What about Nuclear power?
Yes, that’s definitely an option. We could produce many more Nuclear power plants around the world. But would you want one in your neighbourhood? Just down the street? In your hometown, or city? Near your kid's schools, by your farm or near a river that supplies your water?
How about that for your city or towns skyline? I'm just going to close my eyes and pretend it's a chocolate factory instead.
It's been estimated 14,000 nuclear power plants would be required globally to power our current energy consumption. That's a lot of nuclear power and a lot of nuclear waste.
According to Forbes:
"To power the world, it would only take 7,000 tonnes of uranium fuel each year. Nuclear power currently provides only a few percent of the world's energy, with 444 reactors currently operating and another 62 presently under construction."
Nuclear power comes at much greater risks. Materials produced as byproducts of nuclear power remain radioactive for decades, hundreds of years and even thousands of years. For instance, Strontium-90 and cesium-137 have half-lives of about 30 years. Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years.
The construction of these plants have the highest standards of safety, we're told. And it's rare we ever hear about any problems from the current 444 reactors actively pumping out nuclear power.
But then things happen. Like earthquakes.
And the surprising thing about earthquakes is that THEY occur daily, around the world. Our tectonic plates are moving constantly and the things we build on them will move as well, eventually. Some areas less than others, but we are all floating on unstable footing. And no one has the ability to predict exactly when or where the next one will strike.
As of the publication of this article, here are today's global earthquake stats:
Let's look at Japan for a moment. And let's look back to 2011. How much radiation leaked into the environment and crossed the oceans when the Fukushima disaster unfolded?
It's hard to say for certain, but we know some of it travelled across the Pacific to the shores of Canada and the US, as noted by the Georgia Straight Magazine based out of Vancouver:
"On March 18, seven days after an earthquake and tsunami triggered eventual nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, the first radioactive material wafted over the Victoria suburb of Sidney on Vancouver Island.
For 22 days, a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney detected iodine-131 levels in the air that were up to 300 times above the normal background levels. Radioactive iodine levels shot up as high as nearly 1,000 times background levels in the air at Resolute Bay, Nunavut."
These are not happy days for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The clean up continues.
What about Ethanol?
Ethanol is great in theory, but there are two major problems:
1. Almost the same amount of energy is required to produce Ethanol than Ethanol creates as energy. It’s something in the range of just 2 additional units of energy is created when all is said and done in the production of Ethanol. And that's only IF everything goes to plan in its production.
2. Ethanol requires precious agricultural land for this energy source to be harvested. Land that could be used to produce food for the world. Which begs the question - what's more important to you? Food or Fuel?