Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Petroleum Man

Does this entry belong in this blog? I don't know. Is this entry something important that should be addressed by all educators and compassionate people that care about the future and the generations that follow us? Definitely.

We are in a quiet crisis. I just finished reading The Oil Factor by Stephen Leeb and Donna Leeb. This was an informative book that investors may want to look closely at as we approach a very turbulent economic period in the years ahead. But it was this book coupled with Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy
by Matthew R. Simmons that really got me concerned about our future. Both books point to a clear and present danger to the American way of life: Peak Oil.

Peak Oil is a term coined by prescient American geologist M. King Hubbard. He predicted that US oil production would peak in the 1970s. Nobody paid much attention to his ideas until his prediction became reality. Peak Oil is the idea that there is a finite amount of oil in each field and that oil production peaks once half the oil from that field is extracted. In other words every day after that oil production declines until eventually there is none left. Most geologists and experts agree that we are nearing peak oil production globally right now. By the end of the decade we will most likely be in decline.

This, of course, is happening as the world consumes oil in unprecedented amounts. The growing economies of China and India have become big spenders in the world's oil market. This new demand for oil only exacerbates the problem. A good economy is just a catalyst for oil consumption. Historically, the two trends go hand in hand.

What will happen when the oil disappears? Who knows? One thing is for sure though: no more oil. That means our lives will be drastically different and we will endure a period of chaos and cultural change that is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. The oil won't just disappear, but even a small fluctuation in price is enough to cripple our current economy. Just look what the shortage after Katrina did.

So how do we prevent a state of unpreparedness? We prepare. We start looking at alternative energy sources today. Wind, solar, hydro, fission, fusion, nuclear, coal, wood, hydrogen, biodeisel, etc. If the markets are any indicator the trends may look like this: Increased nuclear power, Increased military spending (fighting over what's left), and Increased R&D for alternative energy sources

This search for alternative fuels make so much sense on many levels: Cleaner environment, Safer energy production, Renewable energy sources, less dependency on foreign oil (Middle East), a chance for global leadership, and a better tomorrow. Petroleum Man is a species that has roamed the earth for a relatively short amount of time. With massive planning and a global effort we might be able to save him from extinction before it's too late.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

School Buzz: Mandarin is in

Chinese language is catching on in US classrooms as our leadership acknowledges the emerging global markets and our changing economy. Our Defense Department has contributed $700,000 to schools in Portland, OR to develop a long range program aimed at graduating students who will be fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Instruction begins in Kindergarten where students are most likely to develop foreign language skills.

This is not a solitary effort confined to Oregon. In the U.S. Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee is considering a proposal to allocate $1.3 billion (euro1.1 billion) to boost Chinese language and culture classes in public schools. China's education ministry has formed partnerships with states including Kentucky and Kansas to promote teacher exchange and training programs. Interestingly enough, the Chinese are pushing their university students to take English language courses to be competitive in the global market upon graduation.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Win Superbowl Tickets and Fight World Hunger by Gaming

"Food Force" is the second most downloaded free Internet game following the US Army's recruiting tool: "American Army." The game was developed by the United Nations World Food Programme to spread awareness and change the attitudes of our children. This is how it is described by The International Herald Tribune:
The game is this: The fictional Indian Ocean island of Sheylan has been ravaged by drought and civil war; millions of people need food. The player joins a World Food Program team and must airdrop food from a C-130 Hercules; pilot a surveillance chopper; navigate a supply truck through land mines and guerrilla checkpoints; coordinate shipping and prices for rice, beans and oil on the world market; design a nutritionally balanced food package for the hungry; and use food to help rebuild a community.
The National Football League Players Association is even supporting the efforts of the WFP. They have promised to award a trip to the Superbowl to the child with the highest score.

This is one example of how video games can be used to create engaging and authentic learning environments for our children. The military has long used simulations and virtual reality to train their soldiers. Our classrooms may soon have a vast array of learning games to support their curricula. Can you imagine asking the school board for joysticks and gaming consoles? I can too.