8 Dec 2005
Visioning the Future #3 – Design Your Own Captain Future
In recent posts I have been chewing over the idea of visioning, and its central importance to Energy Descent work. As part of a presentation I am preparing for a talk next week, I hunted down various images from the 1930s of how people then thought we would be living today. One of the best is a character called **Captain Future.**
Captain Future (Wizard of Science) is clearly a guy you don’t want to mess with. He’s powerful and strong, with a funny gun thing that hopefully for him, given all the aliens he has to deal with, is more powerful than it looks, especially compared to things in films nowadays, such as the Men in Black’s guns which I suspect I would probably struggle to lift off the floor. He has some great clunky space boots which presumably allow him to fly. He has a very tight fitting mask which amazingly doesn’t steam up, and little tiny leather pouches on his belt for carrying those essential knick-knacks you need in space (penknife? chewing gum?).
I imagine he probably has a spaceship too, and visits lots of other planets. For us now looking back it is easy to take the mickey out of poor old Captain Future (who clearly didn’t have much of a future, I’d never heard of him until today). Easy too to laugh at some of the visions of how our cities would be that were formulated around the same time.
Each of us flying to work in our own aeroplane, living on the 300th floor, having hoverbikes. Talk of going on holiday to the moon, living in space cities. None of which of course has come to pass. The world’s energy constraints, even in the last 50 years of outrageous wastefulness and gluttony, have not allowed it. Similarly, when we look at visions for the future that are put forward now, we should be equally sceptical. Will this scenario actually be possible in a depleting energy scenario, in an economic crash even? We have to change our dreams from being of moon cities, hydrogen economies, hovering cars and free energy machines to more realistic and achievable, and, I would say, desirable ones. Can we not get as excited about harvesting locally grown apples or building a cob shed as we can about the idea of having hovering boots? It is a mark of how far removed we have become from nature and from reality that we imagine that we can get through energy descent with clean hands and just with the skills we have at present.
In the 1930s technology was a bright new world of possibilities and people had no sense of its limitations. Now we ought to be a bit more realistic. George Bush wants to put a man on Mars (unfortunately he has yet to volunteer himself for the position), but really we all know its not going to happen. Most likely all the technology we will have available to us for our downward journey from the peak is already with us. I know I have already used this quote from Kenneth Deffeyes in a different post, but it is relevant here too, *”there is no time for scholarly research. There is no time for engineers to develop new machinery. We have to face the next five years with the equipment designs that are already in production. It’s not going to be easy