I'm old enough to remember the many apocalyptic scenarios conjured up by nuclear weapons and the Cold War. From Alas, Babylon to "The Day After", from Godzilla himself, the second half of the Twentieth Century was repeatedly haunted by vivid imaginings of the post-nuclear world, or its ending.
Now it seems we may be in for an apocalypse fiction wave of a less violent nature: we run out of oil. Cleantech is too slow or too little, oil stops, chaos descends. Axes and pistols once more are the basic tools of any household. Not laptops and autos. Here's a novel about the devolution in America when the energy runs out. Here's the novel's trailer on youtube. The catch phrase in the promotion for this book: "The future is not what you think." Harkens back to a genre perhaps founded by Earth Abides, which sixty years ago posited a civilization felled by pandemic. In all these fictional scenarios, science and technology are more villain than victor, more curse than cure.
WHERE ARE WE GOING WITH CLEANTECH?
Clearly there's global interest and belief in cleantech and its research backing. A conference next month in Copenhagen promises nearly two hundred exhibits of cleantech research findings from univerisities around the world. They're calling it Copenmind. One recent example of research going into commercial start-up: some University of Washington work on using algae to produce biofuel. Just got funded. The cleantech VC crowd sees great hope and promise. What the apocalyptic scenarios suggest: too little or too late. Of course, successful conversion from fossil fuels to renewable fuels and/or nuclear over the next decades would make a really boring novel.
And there is a recurring warning from organizations and people more concerned with the environment than corporate profits or state power. Man may have ovrer-stepped his ability to understand or control. Just recently the NRDC sued the EPA over information that may pertain to the honey bee die-off. NRDC suspects the pesticide Clothianidin could be at least partially responsible for honey bee hive collapse. The EPA did not respond to a Freedom of Information request so the NRDC sued to get access to the EPA's records on Clothianidin.
Meanwhile, bees have some political clout. Congress and the White House actually agreed on putting money into honey bee research. One such proejct is going on at Purdue. Trying to track sources of the honey bees' demise. Purdue's lead honey bee scientist thinks the answer will be complex, "This project is about honeybee health because it is likely more than one factor is involved."
Already mites and fungus are suspected of contributing to hive collapse problems. But research and time may determine if Clothianidin is also a suspect.
Honey bees make possible crops like blueberries, nuts, stone fruits, some vegetables. So if technology and research can find the cause(s), there'll clearly be some positive corporate contributions in providing whatever cure(s) is called for. So all this brings me around to: technology where will it take us? Or leave us? From apocalypse and the bee killer to algae biodiesel and saving the bees...a very wide spectrum.