Today is the fourth post in this Monday series of subjects covered during my summer 2014 interview of Bill Reinert, recently retired energy engineer for Toyota who played a key role in the development of the Prius and then assumed the role of future transportation planning of alternative-fueled vehicles at Toyota. See his full bio here.
K.M.: You were influenced by 60’s culture, “The Limits to Growth”, and were a student of Al Bartlett’s, the physicist who tried to educate the world about exponential function. So far, the limits to growth predictions have not come true. We have enough food and we continue to increase production even as the population grows rapidly. We continue to produce oil and electricity beyond previous expectations. Are our minds just too small to comprehend our capacity to continue to advance our human endeavors? What are the limits to growth?
Reinert: Well, I think that fundamentally, Al was correct about exponential growth. You know, Al was popular in the 1960s and 1970s and our technologies were different then. Now, we’ve moved on, and, yes, we can supply the world’s population with food through GMO production on corporate farms as the small farmer goes away, and with increased use of water which leads to increased fertilizer runoff. And we can get all the energy we need, but it’s going to be more tar sands and less windmills and rainbows. And these things are localized. There are still millions of people starving in some regions, and there are millions without energy.
What you have to ask yourself is what’s the carrying capacity for feeding and providing energy for everybody? What is the bill you are paying? What is the bill Mother Nature is paying? What about quality of life? Are you willing to turn a blind eye to the effects of that carrying capacity?
But, yes, we can go on for a long time.
May not be reprinted without permission.
To see last week’s interview on “Environmental Sacrifice Areas” click here.
Coming next week will be Reinert’s comments on the subject of over-fishing.