5 May 2018 [Interview]
How fossil fuel saved forests and other non-trivial aspects of global change

"The natural environment has lost stability and is rapidly degrading..."

In continuation of our multiyear collaboration with the "Energy: Economics, Technology, Ecology" magazine of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the fifth issue of 2018 presents our long discussion (in Russian, but with an English summary, see below) of the biotic regulation concept with Dr. A.B. Anapolsky. We discuss scientific bases as well as practical implications of the concept.

For example, we consider the role of fossil fuels in preserving forests in the end of the 19th -- beginning of the 20th century. As dictated by population growth and technological progress, our civilization had long been increasing its consumption of forest wood. Forest areas progressively declined. However, at some point the use of coal and later oil reached a level comparable to the ever increasing wood consumption (about 3 x 1018 J/year in power units in the United States). Immediately wood consumption began to decline, and the forests began to regrow. In Russia these processes occurred several decades later than in the United States.

How fossil fuel saved forests

Had it not been for the fossil fuel, wood gas vehicles could have exterminated all forests in just a couple of decades. According to the biotic regulation concept, this would have brought about a global ecological collapse. The use of fossil fuel delayed this catastrophe; the time has been wisely used to invent and spread contraceptives and, with a lesser success, environmental education. Now there is a feeble but non-zero hope that global population numbers might still have time to naturally drop before the biosphere is irreversibly destroyed. Upon our return as a species to the green corridor of ecologically sustainable population numbers, people will thrive in the ecological and technological paradize not knowing either energy problems or any other global concerns -- because the forests will persist and continue their work on climate stabilization.

In Table 2 we outline a new, biotic regulation based, global environmental agenda in comparison with the modern agenda focusing predominantly on CO2 emissions. We do mention biofuels, a large scale transition to which is equivalent to a planetary suicide. The main text is in Russian, but this PDF presents main figures and tables both in Russian and in English.