Dependent, Hence Correlated !

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

The innovation consultant Graham Brown-Martin is very innovative in forecasting horrors. He can beat Malthus on this. His starting point is the banal dependence of the human race on oil. But where most people see dependence of just transportation and energy sectors of economy (which may or may not spill over to other sectors), Brown-Martin sees a comprehensive omni-penetrating dependence 1:

"Most of the human race is totally reliant on oil. Almost everything we do requires it in some form from transportation to plastics, from food and water production to pharmaceuticals, from manufacturing to electricity, from sewage management to defence".

Other sources of energy, in his opinion, cannot substitute it:

"What about all the alternative energy sources that we keep hearing about? Well the problem is that investment, both in monetary and political terms, in these technologies has been nothing like sufficient for them to become viable. Hydrogen, which on paper looks like the holy grail to fuel transportation, is so far a myth as it requires oil or gas to produce it and even though it can be made from biomass or water it takes more energy to make than it so far provides. Nuclear power given enough stations could provide much of the power but remain radioactive for millennia with no solution for disposal of its waste and a substantial risk of terrorist attack. Solar and wind power is naturally linked to the weather and like hydrogen and nuclear can not be used to create plastics, fertilizers or pharmaceuticals. The building of wind and solar farms apart from just the huge amount of space needed will also require an enormous investment in oil and raw materials".

Worldwide oil production follows a bell curve. Various forecasts predict that oil production will peak between 2010 and 2030 and then start rapidly decline. From this assumption and the afore mentioned omni-penetrating dependence of humans on oil, Graham Brown-Martin derives that the worldwide population will also follow a bell curve ! The logic is simple: dependent, hence correlated !

The horrors portrayed by Graham Brown-Martin based on this assumptions can eclipse those of Malthus:

"When oil becomes too expensive we can look forward to economic collapse, war, starvation, disease and a rapid descent down the population bell curve which some suggest maybe a contraction to less than 2 billion from a population that may peak at around 20 billion. Which means only 1 in 10 of us will make it."

He does not specify whether it will be a uniform population decline across the globe or some regions will fair better than the others. But based on his assumptions one can easily do it for him. China, India, Africa are the least reliant on oil because do not have so many cars, do not produce so many pharmaceuticals and so much food. Hence they will weather it better than Europe and America. It is plausible to assume that China, India, etc will not suffer much at all provided their level of automobilization remains at the present level. Hence their combined population will remain at the roughly same level of 2 billions. Since the worldwide population is predicted to dwindle to 2 billions, one can conclude that this is the population of Europe and America that will be wiped out !

Do you understand now the reason why Western powers feverishly ship off car plants (and other plants) to China and India ? It is to make them to suffer as much as the West in the impending oil crunch ! It is a merely question of survival !

However, it is known that Malthus' prophecies of doom had in reality followed by population boom. The same will definitely happen with Brown-Martin's predictions. For one that dependence does not imply correlation. And even so oil production follows a bell curve, it does not mean that the population figure has to follow a bell curve too.


R E F E R E N C E S:

1: Graham Brown-Martin, "Peak oil - running on empty", Energy Bulletin, September 2004.