A little less than one year ago, the major environmental news pertained to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. From Wikipedia:
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the BP oil disaster or the Macondo blowout) is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which flowed for three months in 2010. The impact of the spill continues even after the well has been capped. It is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The spill stemmed from a sea-floor oil gusher that resulted from the April 20, 2010 explosion of Deepwater Horizon, which drilled on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect.
Of course, the huge environmental news today is the nuclear crisis in Japan, stemming from damage to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plants.
It occurs to me that both of these disasters have a common cause: they were caused by desperate efforts to wring cheap energy from nature. The Macondo well was drilled in very deep water. This is difficult and hazardous. We would not do it if we were not desperate.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi power units were built in the late 1960s to late 70s. One could argue that the continued operation of the units reflected a desperate need for more cheap energy. The units were old; their designs, obsolete .
Both BP and TEPCO have histories of malfeasance and cover-ups.
Debt-based economies require a positive growth rate in order to keep functioning. That is, if the economy does not grow enough for all the accululate interest-on-debt to be paid, defaults inevitably occur. But economic growth requires either even-increasing energy expenditures, or ever-increasing improvements in efficiency. Therefore, there is a great need to constantly increase energy supply, given the political impracticality of getting people to become more efficient. We are trying to increase supply, despite a stread decline in energy return per unit of energy invested (EROEI). Hence, the desperation, hence the disasters. We have had two major disasters now in less than a year. This is not a good sign.