(Hello. This blog entry is copied from my response to a discussion on the WWU student forum http://forum.wwu.edu/node/11528#comment-29451. I'm not sure if that's visible outside the school, but I put a lot of effort into this, and it is relevant to our work here, so here you go:)
First off, the Venus Project site is down right now, so I'm having a hard time getting current research to respond with.
I have looked into this a bit before, and like listening to Jacques Fresco's ideas, but there are still many questions to be answered. I can't help but agree with his explanation that our economy, with its money-enabled profit motivation, is controlled by scarcity - with and without human intent and intervention.
I don't agree that the Venus Project "stems from technocracy". As I understand it, it stems from the belief that an economy of resource-based mutualism is better than fiat currency-based competitivism. As an engineer he figures his colleagues could best accomplish the transition from now to his desired future, but I believe that is *a* means while the resource-based economy is *the* end.
The Venus Project Wikipedia article shows Fresco promoting the "grow our way out" plan that enabled the US to dig our way out of the Great Depression. The idea was we had plenty of resources, so we could literally build our infrastructure and economy through simple effort and determination. The energy depletion crowd doesn't think we have enough resources left to accomplish "growing our way out of the problem".
This resource shortage is why we're in debt to the world - a reversal of our post-war position as economic world power caused by unsustainable extraction of oil, timber, natural gas, grains, water, and so forth. In other words, our current image as world power is rather an illusion allowed by debt that we don't have the resources to pay.
Fresco counters that the issue is not the amount of resources, but the definition of the "we" that possesses them. He figures that if "we" is everyone, then globally we have enough resources to provide all people with abundance. He believes the reason all people don't get access to our current abundance is their lack of money, which makes sense. Basically, it is more profitable to sell an excess to the people with money rather than distribute resources and products more evenly. By replacing the constraints of the profit motivation caused by money and competitive ownership, Fresco argues, We can All enjoy comfort and abundance.
Awesome!, but are there enough resources? Certainly not if we're planning to fuel all this abundance with oil! Fresco favors geothermal power. I reckon, though my research has admittedly been quite limited, that we don't actually have the capability to pull it off. If we could somehow solve all the problems of geothermal power production (causing earthquakes, for example), then we would still run into the much debated Big New Infrastructure that is the major impediment to things like covering the Southwest in solar and the Plains with wind turbines.
In other words, it may be possible to capture plentiful renewable energy, but how do we get it to everyone?
I've spent a number of years researching this issue, and as far as I can tell, the only way this could happen before we run out of the current energy required to develop a replacement of a similar scale of consumption is if we execute the plan immediately and globally. Which is to say, it may be possible to pull it off, but only if tomorrow the whole world decided to stop what they're doing and get to work recycling as much of our soon-to-be-obsolete systems as possible into something that can last - something sustainable.
So, the ideas of Jacques Fresco in the Venus Project may be technically right, but their probability of happening is so incredibly low that it's almost not worth trying. Almost. The alternatives to Fresco's vision of Green-tech Abundance all would likely result (sooner or later) in a human experience so radically different from our current society as to also force global change anyway.
I believe the best thing to do is immediately start transitioning from our current society based on a high-energy global economy to societies based on decentralized, low-energy systems.
First, the chances of developing anything like Fresco’s global utopia are so slim that we must have backup plans, which are so much more likely to happen that they might as well be the main plans. Second, a globally centralized infrastructure would be obscenely fragile! While it may have the side-effect of greater connectedness and humanitarian concern, people will be more concerned when an earthquake in Haiti results in extended power-outages in Bellingham and Melbourne. Third, switching our energy production off of oil will not solve all the derivative problems of petroleum based products we depend on. I must admit, though, that it would be *#$%ing awesome to wear clothing made from lava or wind!
So, the only sane and responsible thing to do is transition to a low-energy lifestyle that focuses its purpose and efforts on maintaining the health of the landbase and providing sufficiency for everyone. This is the only believable way to build anything close to sustainable, peaceful human existence.
And, in so vastly reducing our energy and resource conservation, the remaining resources can be allocated to things that genuinely improve life, like universal access to care and education. Who knows, the Venutians may even manage to secure for everyone global communication, or even transportation, networks.
In response to the likely objection of “Won’t sustainable life be miserable?”, I can wholeheartedly answer, “No, it will be excellent!” Yes, I am saying that life without oil can be better!
Living aware of one’s connections to the soil, water, and air can bring great peace of mind. Living as part of the Community of Life can do much to ease the pains of disconnection that drive so many people to the military and other gangs and cults, to labor unions and social clubs, and to forums on the internet. By all means, become part of these tribes, but know that realizing your connection to everything can make the experience even better. And - while there is no one right way to live - providing one’s own food, water, and shelter; possessing the products genuinely of the labor of you and people you care about; and living in accordance with the amount of sun given each day through the changing seasons is a guaranteed “good life -- true and free and independent”.
P.S. I'll owe a drink (organic beer?) to the first person who picks out each book that helped shape my thoughts above!