TED Conversations

Stephen G. Davis

CEO, KnGrid


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Maintaining human civilization by focusing on the key challenges of our time: energy, food and resource depletion.

While the ominous threats of a changing climate have failed to prompt America or any other large economy to wake up from our consensus trance, there are other challenges equally as frightening and urgent: The certainty of increasingly costly fossil fuels and their impact on our banking system. Rising energy prices are taking their toll on the middle class already.

At the same time, we see a scramble by emerging economies to emulate America's suburban lifestyle. The problem is that America's perpetual growth model rely's on cheap energy to validate suburban home values. It is a problem that no politician can even discuss in today's hacked operating system for privately funded elections.

We must develop clear consensus about this problem. In order to avoid economic chaos, we need to chart an orderly course to a world that does not rely on ever increasing oil production and perpetual growth in consumption of all things.

We have an entire industry with formidable political clout that does not want this problem to even be acknowledged, let alone solved.

There are solutions:

1. More walkable and bike-able communities with local food production
2. Less Suburban sprawl which leads to stranded (and destroyed) wealth as liquid fossil fuel prices inevitably trend upward when daily production rates peak.
3. More emphasis on distributed energy generation with renewable sources combined with energy storage technology.
4. Developing less energy intensive farming techniques that don't rely on oil based fertilizers and pesticides. ("Perma-culture")

This transition will require decades. To avoid chaotic economic consequences, it needs to begin now. As T. Boone Pickens once asked "when's the best time to plant a tree? The answer is 20 years ago." Another salient comment from James Howard Kunstler: "No amount of renewable energy is going to allow us to continue running what we're running the way we're running it."

If this frightens you, it should.


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    Sep 24 2013: Sir, Your idea of " Maintaining human civilization by focusing on the key challenges of our time: energy, food and resource depletion". How about "Maintaining human Civilization by focusing on "Simplicity" what is now the human civilization is not having, our desires have taken reality but when are we going to say stop it enough is enough; and even if we stop with our current needs, still in order to maintain it we will require all the three above. permanent answer is Sir Simplicity and compromise.
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      Sep 24 2013: Kuldeep: I think we may be in agreement. Energy, food and conserving resources seem simple to me. If we try living in a world without energy, people suffer. We obviously need food. Simple. Changing course to avoid resource depletion. Simple. What am I missing?
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        Sep 25 2013: I agree with you sir, alternate solutions mention in your script for the problems is the first step in the change of our consumption pattern and ultimately in our lifestyle.

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