Climate, Energy and economics of sustainability

In August of 2010, the English oil company BP suffered an explosion on a rig in the Gulf Coast.  As a result of the industrial accident, nearly 205 million gallons of the crude spilled into the ocean and ultimately washed off onto the coast.  The spill had two major effects.  BP’s previously unscathed reputation suffered tremendously: Indeed, not only did the company suffer numerous attacks in the press, but even the CEO was criticized for being “out of touch” with the scope and scale of the tragedy.  The Gulf Coast, and perhaps more importantly its tourist industry, also suffered: According to some reports, the oil spill resulted in billions of dollars of lost revenue for residents in the area.  Nature also suffered: not only did the spill kill a tremendous amount of wildlife, but the equilibrium of the entire ecosystem was affected.  Overall, the BP spill was an ecological disaster with long-term consequences for the environment and residents in the area.

The relationship between population growth and technological development is a complex one.  At first thought, one would think that population growth plays a positive in technological development, and to some extent this is true.  As a new technology is picked up, the network effects of the technology grows forming a critical mass that allows the technology to flourish.  On the other hand, however, whether a new technology succeeds or not may be independent of a large population.  There is a usually a group of technology enthusiasts, known as “early adopters”, that are critical to the success of new technologies.  Indeed, no matter how large the population is without a group of individuals that will risk using the new technology first, the adoption of technology would likely slow.  Thus, in assessing the relationship between a population growth and technological development, the answer is both the size and type of population matter for technological development in society.