Over human history Every boost in sustainable population levels has been achieved by a new energy technology.
Neolithic people relied on human muscles for energy/food production.
Early agriculture used animals for hunting/plowing/milling/pumping.
Later agriculture used wind and rivers (for pumping/grinding/shipping)
Even later it used steam for mining/shipping/rail
Modern society is based on liquid fossil fuels.
Our next technology is biotech and this will save us. It will save
us because it will harness the greatest source of energy within
reach- life itself. Indirectly, life is powered by the sun and nothing, not even all the petrochemicals on earth can compare to it.
Think Manhattan Project- 6 years to build a nuclear weapon.
Think microbes that will break down ANY plant cell wall (the real problem in ethanol production is we can't just use any plant matter to produce it. Hence we stupidly use food crops).
They are already looking for the needed microbes in termite guts.
Think genetic manipulation and who-gives-a-damn about the possible environmental consequences of the bugs they produce. (I mean this is civilisation at stake rght?)
Think of all the weed infested waterways, junk land, byproducts of agriculture (stubble, chaff and waste), household waste and simple algae ponds that could be converted to ethanol?
Think of microbes that will turn tar sands into usable fuel instead
'of using clumsy chemical/mechanical processes that pollute and use far too much energy?
Think water weeds manipulated to grow like bamboo (some species grow 1 metre (3 feet) in a day) as feedstock for ethanol.
Think plants engineered to produce high energy hydrocarbons (i mean crush a eucalypt leaf and smell that oil) and which are engineered to release it only in the presence of a new engineered organism.
Plants that grow in salty, dry soil faster than asparagus.
Unbelievable? The gene that protects some crops from the herbicide called roundup is actually from a fish.
Human genes are now in the DNA of lab cows and pigs so they can produce human antibodies for us.
Rest assured, if civilisation is under threat the people with money
and power will spare nothing to solve the technological issues that underlie it. Not because they love we poor and powerless scum but because it offers them the potential to become even richer and more powerful.
We aren't there yet because it was easier for them to play the same old game and win. But if the game is about to change, they will make the rules for the new game as they always have.
Whether we like it or not, life on earth will be engineered and exploited to suit our needs. It always has been whether thru domestication, breeding, overfishing, extinction or whatever.
We don't give up easy which is why we're still here and dinosaurs
Do people really think that all the brilliant minds in the world haven't
had a passing thougt to all of this and that a civilisation that can put men on the moon, extract energy from fission, calculate the first moments of the big bang, and NOW!!! has created the first hand made genome from scratch (yes never before in nature) will
just slap its forehead and say "well, this energy thing sure beats me".
No way. I'm not saying society/government is very forward thinking (why would it be when short term approaches make so much money anyway) but when threatened as a species we have tyically had the gonads to find a way out.
We have the embryonic tools to solve this and soon we will have the money, focus and priority to make it happen.
Former crashed civililsations had nowhere near the intellectual understanding or sheer resources to rescue themselves to rescue themselves, but we sure as hell do.