Thomas Homer-Dixon, in his fascinating The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of civilization (Knopf, 2006) reflected upon the fall of Rome and its civilization and other disasters to identify how and why a society could break down and how to avoid such a fate. In a nutshell, he shows that five tectonic stresses (population, energy, environment, climate and economy) accumulate, which then combine with two multipliers (the rising speed and global connectivity, and the escalating destructive power of small groups) “to make breakdown more likely, widespread, and severe.” Among these five tectonic stresses, he underlines that energy is particularly important because it is a master resource. Indeed, energy is embedded in every parcel of our contemporary lives, from […]

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