Thursday, March 17, 2011


This is the opening weekend for Limitless, a movie starting from the false premise that humans only use a small fraction of their brains and following a character who takes a drug that supposedly opens up that vast untapped brain power to basically make him superhuman.

Once more, that entire idea of our only using something like 10-20% of our brain and thus having "limitless" potential is quite wrong but a fine enough premise for a fictional movie. However, basing energy, environmental, and other policies on the notion of a "limitless" Earth is ludicrous.

Yet The New Republic editor John B. Judis penned a recent column with the theme of how in recent decades the Republican Party has come to adopt that "limitless" stance, which also dovetails with my previous post.

This is exceedingly childish thinking, and civilization is past the point where it needs to act adult. The idea that the world is basically infinite for humanity is dangerously persistent. We see it in climate science denial with the summary dismissal of the idea that human activities could possibly affect nature such that it can alter climate. We also see it in the notion that we just need to open up more area to drilling, mining, logging, etc. in order to satisfy our needs.

One might think though that the "limitless" mindset would make those people who have it amenable to the idea that we can do the work required to transition to sustainability. But instead the response is like a child that goes from boundless energy for play to a don't-want-to, whining, feigned inability to even stand up when it is time for chores. Americans are apparently so exceptional and capable of anything... except, for instance, shifting toward an infrastructure not utterly dependent on massive burning of fossil fuels. We can do it later. Or preferably we do not have to worry about it at all, and somebody else (i.e., in the future) will deal with the problem without our having to do anything. A kid would appreciate the attitude, or at least one not saddled in the future with our mess would.

The major problems we face are not simply the result of big, bad government that by taxes and regulation blocks the path to limitless production. The much bigger concern is that the world is not limitless - there is only so much fossil fuel, there are consequences to adding CO2 to the atmosphere and oceans, and we could only ignore these things for so long. Time to grow up and deal with the limits to the world.

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