3 Elements of (Modern) LIFE

From the dawn of humanity, when we start to settle down from nomadic traditions to become river bank dwellers, we fought over territories fighting for 2 elements essential for life, namely: WATER and FOOD. Civilizations bloomed along these river settlements because both available in plenty – hence nations grew and became strong. Politicians rise and fall, and in the process strong leaders emerge, and war between these cities and nations began. It is about territories that are abundant in both.

Today, we have the 3rd element came into play, namely ENERGY. Energy, whilst actually available in abundant in nature, such as sunlight, wind, etc., however, in modern times, energy only means one thing: hydrocarbon fossil fuels – which also implies only one thing: crude oil. Oil which was discovered and developed about slightly more than 100 years ago, is THE main source of energy today. It became the main source not be default but pretty much by design and economic necessity – it was the cheapest and mostly easiest to deal with and available in abundance (then).
Energy, while being newest, is the most wicked of these elements, over time, it became the single most influential, and embedded in other elements – we need energy to produce water and food. And thus, energy now becomes the single most important element, out of all the three. Hence, the history repeats itself, that nations and civilizations, through rise and fall of politicians, goes to war with each other in the most basic elemental interest of control over energy (or oil). This is the basis and source of war today.

Oil (being the main source of energy), is limited as any other natural resources. It took billions of years to form, and only 100 years to deplete. Once scarcity sunk in, costs soars – and along with every other cost went along with – especially water and food. But then how does water & food costs became interlinked with oil price? For food is more obvious, agriculture industry today uses fertilizers which comes from oil and chemicals. The industry involve massive amount of energy to transport, process, store and prepare the foodstuffs. But for water it less obvious. Water is off course available in abundance – but the shortage is in usable water. Seawater is not usable unless we use desalinisation process; river water is not usable unless we use filtration and cleaning process, etc. And water need to be stored and transported, and thus involves large amount of energy.
And thus, the wars for oil are what we have seen; and that is not the end. People predicted that war in the future war for water will start, and so on. The key question is – do we have other choices of how to deal with the 3 elements that are so essential for our life? Are there real and viable alternatives?

Human history are full of inflection points – where the course of history will take a new path, tangential to the old path that has been developed; and this new path will take us into a new plane and new course of history. When oil became the de-facto source of energy, it did because an inflection point did occur, which took away the coal and other source of energy from consideration. From then, the modern engines were developed and the path was almost set for certain. But then again as the human history has shown that inflection points do and will occur. So what will this new inflection point look like and when it will occur? Nobody can tell for sure, but we can use some of our imaginations.

These will be my lines of discussions in the next few postings.


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