Written by Ryan McGuine // There is a profound shift taking place in the way the world produces and consumes energy — from sources with high power densities and high carbon intensities, toward low power densities and low carbon intensities. In order to achieve such a transition fast enough to prevent the worst effects of … Continue reading Digging for Sunlight
Written by Ryan McGuine // The incredible crop yields made possible by modern, intensive agriculture have literally made it possible to feed the world. Fossil fuels, which are used to power mechanized cultivation and as feedstocks for fertilizers and pesticides, are central to intensive agriculture. Indeed, comparisons of historical energy returns to farming (the ratio … Continue reading Grow Crops, Not Algae
Written by Ryan McGuine // The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically changed daily life around the world. The global economy has ground to a halt as governments and individuals take unprecedented social distancing measures to "flatten the curve." Everything humans do affects the natural environment in some way, and coronavirus-related changes to daily life present an … Continue reading Coronavirus & Climate: Silver Linings & Red Herrings
Written by Ryan McGuine // Cooling enables many things that are taken for granted in modern life, including keeping indoor spaces comfortable, and preserving food and medicine. Refrigeration works by boiling a refrigerant to remove heat from a space and condensing it to dump the heat outside, a cycle which needs a high rate of … Continue reading What’s Cooler Than Being Cool?
Written by Ryan McGuine // Humans produce a staggering 2bn tons of refuse annually, and rising. When managed poorly, it has a tendency to build up and cause problems for human health — it collects in the oceans, harming sea life; clogs sewer drains, leading to floods; and gets burned openly, causing respiratory illness. This … Continue reading Stop Trashing the Future
Written by Ryan McGuine // In the 1950s, Simon Kuznets postulated that as economies become wealthier, the level of inequality there would increase, then decrease. When plotted against income per capita, this creates the inverted-U shaped curve seen below. Around 1991, Gene Grossman and Alan Krueger noted a similar inverted-U shaped relationship between income levels … Continue reading Environmental Kuznets Curve
Written by Ryan McGuine // In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released a new special report. While the report is long and jargon-rich, it is at its core a charge to alter the way people interact with land. Titled Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land … Continue reading Corn, Cows & Carbon Dioxide
Written by Ryan McGuine // Today the world produces historically spectacular amounts of food. Despite this, around 12% of the world remains undernourished, and assuming current trends hold, the world's population is projected to reach 9.8bn people around 2050 and 11.2bn by 2100, making the challenge of keeping everyone well-fed even more difficult. Technological progress … Continue reading Feeding the World: Population vs Technology