About the Blog
So what’s in a name?
When I was young, I was challenged to fold a piece of notebook paper in half 8 consecutive times. I accepted the challenge – and failed.
As it turns out, the folding challenge is impossible because at each fold the number of layers being folded doubles. This quickly adds up. By the seventh fold, the thickness of the stack is 64 sheets, and while folding 64 sheets is quite difficult, folding 128 is impossible.
This simple exercise highlights the challenge of exponential growth: the first six doublings are easy, the seventh is difficult, and the eighth is impossible.
The pages of this blog provide critical commentary on energy, the environment, and the economy from an ecological and social justice perpsective. Currently 88 percent of world energy is derived from the combustion of oil, coal, and natural gas – all of which are finite, non-growing resources. For 100 years, the production of oil has been doubling on average every two decades, but the oil industry has now reached the seventh fold. Oil production will not likely climb much higher than where it sits today. For this reason, extraction methods have become far more energy intensive and far more ecologically destructive. The seventh fold is also rapidly approaching for natural gas and coal – and should oil become constrained, it is to these ‘alternatives’ that the world will first turn.
Similarly, the global life support system has reached the seventh fold. We are teetering on the edge of multiple ecological tipping points. Oceans are acidifying. Aquifers are being rapidly depleted. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are filling the atmosphere. Lush forests are being overwhelmed by desertification. Coral reefs are dying. Polar ice is melting. And the list goes on…
Similarly, social support systems have also reached the seventh fold. The world faces a virulent and spreading socio-economic epidemic: abject poverty.
Meanwhile, public and private debt may be encroaching on the seventh fold as well. The total of private and public debt in the US has grown to more than three and a half times our annual GDP. This fact has caused many observers (myself included) to question how long such a trajectory can be sustained. Servicing the growing mountain of debt requires growth, and growth – at least under the business-as-usual scenario – requires the consumption of vast quantities of oil, natural gas, and coal. If the supply of any of these fossil fuels become constrained, we might expect growth to sputter. Under such a scenario, debt servicing becomes an overwhelming burden.
Economic expansion requires the consumption of ever-greater quantities of energy. Business-as-usual, then, lies at the heart of each of these seventh fold challenges, yet a return to growth under business-as-usual is touted as the solution to these problems!
There is still room for optimism, though. Thoughtful conservation, ethical consumption, and voluntary social reorganization offer the possibility of a better tomorrow and a solution to each of these seventh fold problems.
The goal of this blog is to inform the reader about these seventh fold challenges and mitigation opportunities. I personally believe that through our conscious collective actions we can create a low-impact and just society in which individuals are happy with their lives and satisfied with their opportunities.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey.