Towards A Sustainable Energy Supply: Shifting Paradigms In Energy Supply

1426 words - 6 pages

Following Hubbert (1956) and his Peak Oil theory, there was a remarkable increase in the efforts made by the environmentalist to find replacements to oil as a way of satisfying the world energy demands, but one century before nearly all energy already came from renewable sources.

Even when the first use of biomass for fire is well documented several hundreds of years ago, it is widely accepted that its use did not become common until much later. Related to sustainability measures to reduce the use of non-renewable sources to obtain fire, in How Societies decide to Fail or Succeed Jared Diamond documents some early cases of extended efforts, like the forest management policy occurred during the Edo period of Japan in the seventeenth century.

However, it is in the eighteenth century, with the Industrial Revolution, when the appearance of coal as a more efficient way to power steam engines than wood, lead to a massive use of this resource. But its massive use leaded to big concerns about the way petroleum springs and coal mines were rapidly diminishing, highlighted by the prediction of the inventor of the first solar-powered engine, the French professor Augustine Mouchot, in 1873:

‘The time will arrive when the industry of Europe will cease to find those natural resources, so necessary for it. Petroleum springs and coal mines are not inexhaustible but are rapidly diminishing in many places. Will man, then, return to the power of water and wind? Or will he emigrate where the most powerful source of heat sends its rays to all? History will show what will come.’

These examples of individuals and societies acknowledging the importance of finding the right balance between the well-being of the society and its demands also find their counterpart in other points of the history. In A Green History of the World Clive Ponting gives examples of the later like the rise and fall of Sumerian empire due to ecological collapse coming from the technical innovation of irrigation.

The aforementioned Peak Oil Theory of Hubbert leaded to an increased focus of environmentalists in renewable energy as a way to not only prevent the depletion of oil but also reduce the dependence on it. Those increased efforts saw results in the way of wind farms and solar farms, once the photovoltaic cells had efficiencies that allowed to be built in a cost-efficient way.

Also, there were clear signs in the 1980s decade that a shift from a mechanistic (or reductionist) paradigm, that sees the nature as a machine composed of elements that are related but discrete at the same time, to an ecological paradigm, where the emphasis is placed on the whole, was occurring. As stated by physicist Fritjof Capra in his analysis of cultural transformation in The Concept of Paradigm and Paradigm Shift, this change of perception, values and thinking is compulsory for a society in order to overcome the major problem of our times.

Nevertheless, it is definitely necessary to...

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