Biological Dilemmas II


The year 1776 gave us Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations, but no one would have noticed if it hadn't also given us steam engines that worked better than machines driven by horses on treadmills.  Although today over 98% of the work done in what we call the economy comes from fossil fuels, obtaining energy in this way also involves putting CO2 into the atmosphere. The economy may be a way of accounting how humans use energy, but CO2 affects climate and climate determines almost every aspect of all non-human ecosystems.  In other words, "the economy" and the natural world seem to be locked in combat.

What to do?

This six-part course will start with the scientific basics of global warming, and then move on to make a major effort to understand the concept of energy: its centrality, its rules, and the ways it can be obtained and used. As we move inexorably into the age of CO2 restriction, understanding these concepts will be essential to making good personal, economic, and political choices.

Six sessions starting Tuesday, January 13th. 2015

1) How and why CO2 affects climate and climate affects ecology

2) What is energy and why should we care about it?

3) Sources of energy

4) Embodied energy; efficiency versus production.

5) Energy trade; energy taxes.

  1. 6)The Way Ahead: Opportunities for those who use energy carefully.


As some of you may be relatively unfamiliar to the concept of energy, in the sense of physics or engineering, it would be good if we had a simple text. Were Elder College to permit it, I might suggest Energy: A beginner’s Guide by Vaclav Smil, but as they don’t I have taken the liberty of copying the “See-Inside” pages of another book by the same author from the Ama... www site and putting them into a PDF Energies Smil patch up.pdf.

Of the course the result has many missing pages but on the other hand, it seems well written and if you find it useful, you might find it at the Sechelt Library where I have spoken to the kind Librarian.

Other recent books having a bearing on this course are

This changes everything, by Naomi Klein.

Or a much shorter version with a cheerful title, by another Naomi.

The end of Western Civilization by Naomi Oreskes

Instructor: Dr. Jim Pawley.


Nothing changes unless energy is used and heat produced.”

Energy makes the world go around

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