This past week's Tall Ships parade on the Thames River is prologue for the future beginning at the end of the current fossil fuel era of cheap and plentiful energy.
Global oil, coal and natural gas discovery and production are declining after having plateaued. Global net energy - the residual energy after subtracting the energy invested in extraction, processing and transportation, etc. - is declining as well as net exports from oil producing countries.
So, it's back to the future whether human society is willing or unwilling. Nature always wins.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, commerce moved by human and animal labor applied to sailing ships and barges on canal systems such as the Erie Canal, which still exists.
America is a country and Connecticut is a state where energy waste is their most important and prolific product. It is physically impossible to have infinite economic growth in a world of finite natural resources whether raw materials or fuels.
Technological innovation and human determination will not alter future realities on non-renewable resources - the alarm clock is ticking to significant depletion in the post-industrial revolution.
Today coal, oil, and natural gas supply 93 percent of the world's energy. Waterpower accounts for only 1 percent, and the labor of men and domestic animals the remaining 6percent.
In1850, more than a century ago, fossil fuels supplied 5 percent of the world's energy, and men and animals 94 percent. Five-sixths of all the coal, oil, and gas consumed since the beginning of the fossil fuel age has been burned up in the last 55 years.
Whether this golden age continues will depend entirely upon our ability to supply energy in balance with demand for a growing American and global population. A requisite for any kind of civilization is possession of surplus energy, which is all the energy in access of that required by human and animal muscles used to obtain the bare necessities of life - food, shelter, heat.
Surplus energy provides the material foundation for civilized living - a comfortable and tasteful home instead of a bare shelter; attractive clothing instead of mere covering to keep warm; appetizing food instead of anything that suffices to appease hunger.
It provides the freedom from toil without which there can be no art, music, literature, or learning.
What lifted man - one of the weaker mammals - above the animal world was that he could devise, with his brain, ways to increase the energy at his disposal, and use the leisure so gained to cultivate his mind and spirit. Where man must rely solely on the energy of his own body, he can sustain only the most meager existence.
Clearly, economic growth - the solution assumed and promoted by almost every economist, politician, and pundit, which is collateral for past debt - is unsustainable. Governments must plan for contraction or at the very least a steady state instead of growth.
The only solution to extending the time to full depletion of fossil fuels is a significant reduction in energy waste by reducing population growth and per capita consumption, which are currently unachievable concepts because of enormous competing self-interests.
As a result, the best solution is to prepare for the future with lessened availability of surplus energy from natural and nonrenewable resources but with abundant renewable resources such as solar and wind energies.
The region, the state and the country need to rethink transportation policy to promote sailing ships as the future of maritime transportation for the open ocean and refurbishment and expansion of the existing canal system for inland commerce connected to sailing ships for international trade.
The Municipal Development Plan and zoning regulations permit creation of a Fort Trumbull maritime park for a new village centered on the marine industries including ship building and ship restoration and a shellfish industry, which harvests, processes - using mechanical depuration - and ships clams and oysters to market.
With additional piers, Fort Trumbull and the downtown waterfront could host commercial sailing ships for trade with South America, Europe and Asia similar to the whaling era.
Current thinking on transportation planning focuses on transit-oriented development for future economic growth such as high speed rail, dedicated bus corridors, which is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Once there is a substantial depletion in fossil fuel availability, these developments will soon wither and die.
Robert Fromer is a former resident of New London. He now lives in Windsor.