Rocketing to Energy Sustainability



Metaphors are an important way to facilitate understanding of new processes. This metaphor is constructed based similarity of a rocket’s and civilization’s transition from one stable state to another at a higher level accomplished using a limited supply of fuel. For example, fossil fuels enable the transition from sustainable pre-industrial society to another more advanced sustainable society. However, to realize this potential, society must transition to a sustainable energy supply since fossil fuels are dwindling. A major question is whether this global transition can be completed at the same time that global development continues to improve lifestyles and economic opportunities. To help understand some of the complex relationships and challenges in this transition, a metaphor is developed of the evolving technological society as a rocket, which once launched, needs to reach a critical velocity and altitude before obtaining a sustainable orbit. The basis for the metaphor is that there are two stationary locations for the rocket- the ground (pre-Industrial society) and a stable orbit (advanced technological society). The rocket transitions between the two with technology to utilize a finite amount of fuel to overcome gravity and atmospheric friction to attain a speed, altitude, and orientation for a stable orbit.




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