A blog devoted to Peak Oil and declines in other resources, and alternative energy. It's a cliffhanger. Will alternative energy come in time to prevent serious problems?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Five Biggest Problems in the World Today

You hear a lot of stuff happening on the news and elsewhere nowadays. People are fatter than they were 10 years ago, gasoline is $3 a gallon, Israel and Hezbollah are having a free for all with each other, the Iraq conflict is continuing on and on and on with no end in sight, hurricanes threaten Gulf of Mexico oil supplies, sex offenders maraud the landscape and so forth. But what really are the biggest problems we face today? This is important because some theories (Periodic Presidents, the Fourth Turning, and the Great Turning) are saying that a major crisis period may be coming shortly. If so, what's going to cause the crisis? I think it is likely to be one of these five problems that leads to the crisis, and I will enumerate them in terms of their likeliness.

5. Discrimination. No, it didn't end with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movements of the 1960s. We still see it nowadays, in the destruction of a gas station because its owners wear turbans (Sikhs), the murder of a gay man in Wyoming, and even in the way we associate with people in our everyday life. Discrimination is alive and well. It would help if everyone would recognize the worth and dignity of every person.

4. Prevalence of Mainline Religions. This is a large grouping of related problems. The problem is that mainline religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, and so forth, promulgate belief in a higher power ("God") way up there that answers their prayers. "I thank God for helping me through this disaster." What about those that did not survive? Was God with them? Sounds like a retributive God to me. Further, many people and nations begin to make God in their own image. For since the Ultimate Reality is so immense as to be unreachable, the best we can do is make up images that are specific to ourselves, and from this develops the idea of Good vs Evil, with Good being us and Evil being those other guys. From this conflicts develop. Muslims are especially apt to spout off religion in their own name, from the death threats against people who draw caricatures of Mohammad to the majority of people in Afghanistan who want someone executed because he wants to practice Christianity instead. In this country, it manifests itself in forcing us to hear "Under God" in our schools, in demagogues such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and in forcing high school teachers to teach non-science, such as creation and intelligent design. I believe that religious beliefs are at the heart of the present crises in the Middle East that threaten the entire world. People need to understand each other before demanding that they be understood, and the world will be a better place.

3. Retirement of Baby Boomers As we go down the list, we get into more serious problems. This one was caused by all the World War II vets who came home and started manufacturing babies and families, creating a population boom that caused schools in the 1960s to rapidly expand, caused a glut of PhDs in the 1970s, a housing boom in the late 1970s. We baby boomers are headed into our retirement years, and when that happens, some nasty things could happen. What happens when boomers withdraw from their 401(k)s instead of putting money into them? Will the stock market crash? Certainly the presence of all these aging boomers requiring care will be a drag on the economy. I suspect people will want to work longer, but this is still a danger signal in the years ahead. It has caused Harry Dent, an economist, to call for the Mother of All Depressions next decade.

2. Global Warming. Or in general, global climate change. All these fossil fuels that we are burning up is spewing carbon dioxide in the air, which prevents sunlight from getting out and causes the Earth to warm up. Al Gore presented the case for this quite nicely in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth. This is a movie that needs to be seen, as Al Gore has presented a convincing case that indeed global warming is affecting the way we live. We see it now, in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in some of these storms across the nation such as the Great Northeast Storm of 2006 June and the St Louis Blackout storms of mid July, and in desert-like conditions in some areas and heat waves all over the place, especially the American West and Europe. This is a problem that needs to be dealt with in the years ahead if we are to avoid destructive events. But it is not the biggest problem we face. Al Gore went to all this bother to prepare a first-rate documentary on the Number 2 Problem. We need something like that on the Number 1 Problem:

1. Peak Oil Our whole civilization is based on it. Oil. It is nonrenewable, and the world is near the halfway point. This means that in the years ahead, while demand for oil soars, production of it will decline. This will result in all sorts of havoc if we are not prepared for it. Good descriptions of the problem are available at and its links, Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation Chronicles, although the use of the f-word and other such words in his chronicles detracts from the message, Kenneth Deffeyes' web page, and many other sites. Peak Oil is why the price of gasoline has risen from 88 cents a gallon in 1998 to $3.00 a gallon today, and we can expect it to rise further. It is hard to find substitutes - hydrogen has storage and other problems, ethanol has an energy return ratio of 1 or less, there aren't enough wind turbines (although they are easy enough to construct), and solar power is a long way from providing us all the energy we need. We need to conserve as well, by eliminating the use of energy that really isn't needed by us - computers that burn all night long, lights that light up the ground for nobody, and so forth. To me, Peak Oil tops all of the other problems. It will stop Global Warming. It is important enough that, although I would recommend voting for Democrats in general this fall, if you are in Maryland's Sixth District (Cumberland and Hagerstown), don't. Vote Republican - for incumbent Repv. Roscoe Bartlett, who shows more awareness for Peak Oil than anyone else in Washington.

These are all problems that we need to deal with. Note that I don't list terrorism. I believe this is a subproblem to Prevalence of Mainline Religions. Religions drive people to commit acts of terrorism, for example, to go to where there are 55 virgins. It is a red herring. Terrorism is not the problem. Global Warming is a serious problem but it is not The problem either. The Problem is Peak Oil. Focus our attention on that, and the other problems probably will work themselves out.


At 4:49 PM, Blogger Whitney said...

Nice post, but i doubt the Baby boomers are that important as you state they are. There a more global problems for us to worry about then the population of baby boomers.

You say all the worlds' problems will be solved if we can save our resources and solve our "oil dependency" problem, but this is only on an economic base. Even if we do solve the problem of our resources, they still won't be evenly distributed around the world, which doesn't solve the problem of Poverty that 850 million people suffer in continents like Africa and Asia. Bombs will continue to be dropped even if we did solve the resource problem and War in Iraq would continue to cause bloodshed and terror across the world. I doubt Climate Change will ever be solved because it seems as a global population we have already given up on it.

At 4:05 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Poverty is indeed a big problem in the world today. It is a result of discrimination. The people of third world countries would be better off if income were evenly distributed.

As far as Baby Boomers are concerned, what happens if that huge generation starts demanding entitlements such as retirement benefits? That's a big financial burden on society, one that I think will be resolved by Boomers working later.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger AvariceAngel said...

I used most of your post in a speech at my college.. I got an 87.

Thank you.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

I respect your opinion, but it is difficult for me to understand. I find it quite laughable
that 'religion' is one of the biggest problems in the world today. If it is so bothersome and troubling to be 'forced' to say "Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance, then by all means, leave our great country (not really). Our country was founded on Christian beliefs. Who are you to think that should change? Without those beliefs you wouldn't be here. Believing in God isn't the problem; the problem is the many that choose not to. I'm an educated person one could say, while pursuing a degree in engineering I have also completed many hours in other sciences such as chemistry and biology, and study theology quite frequently. I haven't studied science to prove it wrong, I have studied it to become more familiar with the world around us. I've tried proving otherwise, but the conclusion I have come to during my studies is that God must exist. This isn't just an opinion, it's a fact. I might buy some well thought up theory on how we all got here, or evolved into what we are now, but it seems quite obvious that evolution, in itself, or any other theory to our being falls very short in one key area: soul. Your opinion that you so willingly put out there is based on one thing, and that is reason. Well, what does reason stem from? Without a knowledge of proposed 'good and evil' reason would not be possible. Apes, dolphins, lions, flies, or no other creature on this planet, except for humans, know that killing another being like itself is wrong. No other being knows or understands what selfishness, or heartache, or fame feels like. The only way to explain this is something greater than ourselves, not something previous ourselves, must be involved in it all. Like I said, I respect your opinion, as we all have a right to express it, but I feel it is my duty to inform another when the opinion they speak is assumed by them to be fact, and a fact that indeed is nothing more than an false belief. My hope is that you when you disagree with my comment, you realize that the only reason you can disagree is because something gave you the ability to. Love isn't something that evolves or comes from a single cell organism. It's something that exists within the soul, a soul which can only be created by God. God Bless!

Note: I do not assume you will change your opinion because of mine. I also do not expect you to believe in God due to my faith alone (I would hope so, however). I enjoy reading peoples opinions and thoughts, and in no way am I belittling your thoughts. But, I'm sure you will agree, we all think our opinion is the correct one, right? Good Day.

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Mr. anonymous,

You have taken this discussion out of Cliffhanger and into the realm of my other blog, Beyond God. But I will answer some here.

Requiring people to say "Under God" in a pledge constitutes discrimination. This country was not founded on Christian belief; the First Amendment shows that. The problem is those who choose to believe without questioning. The statement "God exists." is not a fact. Evolution does not talk about soul. "Good" and "Evil" are questionable concepts; one can prove that God is evil (example: he created Satan). One answer as to what soul is can be found in Douglas Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop.

I stick to my original statement. Mainline religions are a danger to the world, because they cause people to believe in things (such as God or a genocidal dictator) without question. Religion does not necessarily cause conflict, but it can make conflict much worse.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Vasa said...

Just on a note regarding you last blog:
The Bible teaches that God did not create Satan as he is today. Satan's pride led to his fall from heaven (see Ezekiel 28:12-19). Lucifer, now Satan, was once a high-ranking angelic being. He held a position of great power and influence. Lucifer was not satisfied to worship God. He wanted to be worshiped. Scripture sys that he desired to "climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14). Instead of being frateful for the many blessings God has given him, he sought to use those blessings to his own advantage. As a result, he was thrown out of heaven and will one day reside in the lowest depths of the pit of hell (see Isaiah 14:15)

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Shortly I will put a post on my Beyond God ( ) blog about religion being one of the top five problems in our world today, and I would prefer that future discussion be conducted there instead. This blog was intended for discussion of peak oil and other related sustainability issues.

As far as your blog is concerned, Vasa, there are many problems with it. For example, what is "frateful"? If God did not create Satan, then God is not almighty. God did not create everything. To me that is an inherent inconsistency in the concept of God, and it is why I don't believe God exists.

The Isaiah story is an interesting metaphorical myth, and may symbolize what our greedy corporate CEOs are doing. But they are not literal truth. There is no literal hell or heaven either. The Bible is not The Answer. In fact, there is no The Answer. Much of the violence and disrepect for our planet comes from people who think they have The Answer. That was my point in including mainline religions as the world's number 4 problem.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Squirrelly boy said...

ok? I suggest you guys should stop,
you guys are arguing about your own beliefs,
Christian , people who believe in science, or have their own way of thinking of the world, can believe what they can believe.
Christians have faith in their "relation with God" as they say,
and people who are with science believe what humans can see physically to believe, OK,
if you guys are so interested to continue this interesting topic on religion, start another blog...

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Squirrelly Boy, as I said above, please take religious discussion to my Beyond God blog, , for that is where it belongs. Cliffhanger is moderated, and from now on comments on this blog on topics that don't pertain to peak oil, sustainability, resource depletion and the like will be rejected.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Activities said...

hello. i love your page. i just have one question that has been in my head. why are we doing all this to help the earth? i know its what we are suposed to do, but humans are going to go extinct anyway right? so why not just enjoy what we have right now, which is EVERYTHING? just a thought. im not trying to be a pesomistic, because i do all i can. im vegan and i dont have a car. i ride the bus and my bike. and i dont buy from corporations, i buy local. but this question has just been in my head for a while. thanks for your time...


At 11:35 AM, Blogger ...AndimSoNice said...

So this list is basically something you rattled off after watching CNN and MSNBC for 24 hours. Get your head out of your ass.

How about you look at some real world problems:

1. Clean drinking water - 1.1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and nearly 2 million people die each year due to waterborne-related disease (90% of which are children under the age of 5).

2. Genocide - a real time problem in our day and age. Stalin famously noted, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."

3. Food shortages - all around the world foot shortages are being reported. This will cost millions their lives.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger ...AndimSoNice said...

Global warming in note man made. Man accounts for about 3% of all the co2 in the world.

I wonder why Al Gore didn't mention that. Or how parts of Antarctica are getting colder.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Jim said...

A user AndimsoNice left a remark on this comment, saying that there are three other major problems in the world. These problems are indeed serious, and I will respond with a separate blog on them.

By the way, I did NOT get these from CNN! You will hear little about peak oil on CNN.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jim said...

AndimsoNice, your comment "Global warming in note man made." is so ambiguous that I don't understand what you mean. Do you want me to note that global warming is man-made? Or do you want to say it is NOT man-made? It is not clear to me which you mean, because of your misspellings.

Yes, there are some cold areas. Some of Antarctica is getting colder. There is more ice in the Arctic than at this time last year. Verkhoyansk, Russia, famous for winter cold temperatures, has average highs in the 70s at this time of the year, but tomorrow they predict a high of only 35. But these are single events. What's the general pattern? And although there is more ice in the Arctic this year, much of it is thin, and it could easily disappear suddenly. I still think that man-made global warming is going on.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger ...AndimSoNice said...

Any perosn with a sound mind will listen to both sides of a debate inorder to gain a better understanding and well grounded basis for their own beliefs.

Now it has come to be known to me that not all scientists believe that global warming is man made and some even believe that climate change is not happening on a global scale.

My advice to you would be each what the other side has to say. Look up some key words in google news or take a look here for some of the things people say here:


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