How has a global energy crisis impacted Wade's world? Are there any options that will allow us to avoid the same catastrophic events that Cline describes in the novel?

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Cline paints a devastating picture of Wade's world, one in which a global energy crisis has fueled massive unemployment, homelessness, famine, and war. To salvage faltering economies, nations have resorted to war to gain access to dwindling oil reserves. Wade tells us that the burning of fossil fuels has led to rising temperatures, melting polar ice caps, and rising sea levels. These changes have in turn negatively affected fragile ecosystems.

Wade's world is experiencing what some experts call a Malthusian post–Peak Oil crisis, where consumer demand for oil far outstrips its supply. In such a scenario, only the wealthy can afford to travel. Because the price of gasoline is prohibitive, even travel by automobiles is impossible for average civilians. Cline reiterates this fact by highlighting the stacks of abandoned cars, trucks, and vans around the perimeter of Wade's settlement.

Because oil powers economic growth, its scarcity creates monumental problems. Oil is intrinsic to any economy's agricultural, commercial, industrial, and technological viability. On a basic level, fossil fuels power computers, cellphones, laptops, washers, stoves, fridges, and heating systems. Without oil, the mass production of food effectively stalls, exacerbating the problem of world hunger. Correspondingly, crime becomes a concern in neighborhoods like Wade's because desperate people are willing to kill to obtain food.

It must be noted that although there are options that may allow us to avoid the catastrophic events described in the novel, there is little political consensus regarding climate change or energy consumption.

Proponents of alternative fuels favor biotech and renewable solutions. They support full electrification of the transportation sector and favor harnessing the power of low-carbon energy resources such as nuclear power. On the other hand, proponents of the abiotic theory maintain that oil can be formed from non-organic sources and that crude oil is routinely produced by geological processes in the earth's mantle. At issue is whether NASA's recent discovery of hydrocarbon lakes on Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) is meaningful to the debate. It remains to be seen whether scientists, world leaders, and economists can reach any consensus on these options.

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Ready Player One

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