Tällberg Forum 2011 (English)

Posted on July 4, 2011

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(In Swedish as separate blog)

It is time to summarise 2011’s edition of the Tällberg Forum. In a purely geographic sense the forum had moved its tent from Tällberg to Sigtuna but the rest was as usual. One should mention that the idea behind the Tällberg Forum is to gather together a variety of people from all corners of the world to discuss current issues and make new contacts for future projects. There are countless examples of this happening.

One theme of this year’s conference was “old maps and a new reality”. The regional maps included the Middle East, the Amazon and the Arctic and the international maps were of population, energy and food. Those that are interested in following what happened at the plenary sessions can go the forum’s website (http://webbtv.compodium.se/tallberg11/). When the forum began on Thursday we were given an example from each map and the “Arabian Spring” was an obvious one. One question that concerns many is the future development of the world’s population. Once again Hans Rosling showed that he is a master at capturing his audience and in his presentation he made a very interesting observation. If one divides up the world’s population into age-groups then the world has reached, as Hans said, not only “Peak Oil” but also “Peak Child”. In recent years there has been no increase in the youngest fraction of the population. The increase we have at the moment is due to the fact that many more older people are surviving. This trend is predicted to continue as our health improves and medical research advances so that we can treat more diseases. It is these factors that mean that we will exceed 9 million inhabitants on our planet.

There were a great many interesting things to listen to but I will now limit my comments to energy. Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountains Institute is well known for his optimism regarding technology and once again we were told that technology will solve all our problems. Concerning cars it is new lightweight materials and electric vehicles that will free us from our dependence on oil. The fact remains that these are not the majority of cars that are currently being sold and that most people desire. The transition period to these vehicles will take much longer than the Peak Oil plateau that we currently find ourselves on.

On Friday morning the session concerned, “Technology and Energy Horizons”. In January there a preliminary forum in Oslo in which I was engaged and at that time I described the consequences that Peak Oil would have for our future. The organizers apparently were scared by our research so when it was time to discuss the map of the future regarding energy they chose Björn O. Nilsson who is the president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. From his presentation his words were, “…soon we will run out of oil, that will not happen in the near term, we constantly find new oil and with more than a hundred dollars per barrel there is even more oil available that couldn’t be available at 20 dollars per barrel. Therefore … of course we will run out of oil but it will not be me, and not my children and not even the grandchildren that I do not yet have”.

Professor Björn Nilsson has performed research relating to the health system and energy is not on CV. Afterwards I asked him what data he based his assertions on and he referred me to a summary that the IVA [“Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences”] had made based on information from the International Energy Agency and the US Energy Information Administration. When I visited the IVA’s home page I found the reference. It is titled, “Global Energy Trends” and is written by my old sparring partner national economist Marian Radetzki. Now I understand why the participants at Tällberg received a description of the future of oil production that can only be described as “don’t worry, be happy”. Afterwards there were several people who asked me why I did not get to talk about Peak Oil. The fact that I participated in Oslo shows that the idea existed but my interpretation of the events is that they did not dare to “call forth the demon”. But who knows, things may change when physical reality makes clear its influence on global developments.

On Saturday evening there was a large concert to which the public was also invited and when “Mayor” Anders Johansson thanked the Tällberg forum for having chosen to come to Sigtuna he mentioned in a few words what it had been about and in the list of activities he named Peak Oil. Anders Johansson had been in Oslo for the preliminary forum during which there was a very interesting discussion about Peak Oil. He was not aware that the issue had been subsequently struck from the agenda.

Personally I am, naturally, disappointed but there were many other interesting issues regarding this complex world that we live in that were discussed. I will finish by recommending that you listen to my good friend John Liu and how he describes how it is possible to recreate ecosystems that have been destroyed. The presentation is around 20 minutes long in the final plenary session. The most important thing about the Tällberg Forum is the making of contacts and once again I have made many of these that will be important for the future.

Posted in: Dagsaktuellt