“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
“Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?”
There’s no tomorrow
It’s not just climate change that we’re on a collision course with, we’re in conflict with basic arithmetic, specifically the exponential function. Although Thomas Malthus’ timing was off, he got it right, and mathematics will win in the end. The 32 minute video above explains why.
We have an economic system based upon ever-increasing interest bearing debt and its built-in requirement for continual growth. That growth is fuelled mainly by burning stuff. We need to understand why continual growth on a finite planet is not only undesirable, It’s flat-out impossible.
Change our ways today and our grandchildren will face an increasingly difficult future.
Continue business as usual and they will face Apocalypse.
The ongoing financial crisis is a serious problem which has cost millions of people their jobs and their homes, but eventually it will end. Maybe badly, maybe very badly. We’ll be poorer but we’ll get over it.
On the other hand, we can’t so easily thumb our noses at the laws of physics. The ever more dire probable outcome of our failure to control growth and to stem climate changing fossil fuel burning has reached the frightening stage. It will end badly. There is a significant possibility that it could end our civilization. It is almost certain that within decades it will radically alter the way we live, especially in the richer nations of the world.
Climate change: prepare for the worst, hope for sanity to prevail
The Social Secretary and I have just returned home after 8 days camping at the beautiful Tāwharanui Regional Park 15km from the lovely village of Matakana just north of Auckland. It’s a fantastic 588 hectares at the end of the Tāwharanui Peninsula in the Hauraki Gulf. Outside of the really busy periods like Summer weekends, Christmas and Waitangi Day the place is 90% empty. It’s astonishing to me that places like this are so little used but it certainly makes it enjoyable for those of us who can live without TV and PlayStation for a few days.
Far from the madding crowd
As you can see from this shot of our campsite (that’s us close to the centre of the image), it’s not exactly over-subscribed in the Springtime.
A pest-proof fence has recently been installed right across the peninsula. As a result, most of the introduced predators: cats, rats, stoats, possums, and hedgehogs have been eliminated and birds rarely seen on the New Zealand mainland have reintroduced themselves or been re-established by conservation organisations.
Getting off the grid at home is beyond my retirement income but I’ve managed to use the sun to banish the infernal combustion engine from my workshop.
An extended power blackout a few years ago prompted me to invest in a small portable solar setup which enables me to charge mobile phones and a laptop and to provide lighting and radio. It’s proved a boon for camping and with a 50W solar panel I now use only free solar energy to mow my lawn.
With the ever-increasing cost of petrol the cost of running a conventional lawnmower is becoming more significant. My running costs are zilch.
Here’s the setup:
The solar panel
This is a 50W portable folding panel. It folds up into a bag a little bigger than a briefcase.
The solar panel charges the:
12V deep cycle battery
These are at least twice the price of an automotive battery but are necessary for solar setups. Automotive batteries are designed to output high power over a short period but not to be discharged too much. I have 4 of these connected in parallel but you can get by with just one. Extra batteries just give you a longer insurance against too many cloudy days.
The battery is connected with a couple of alligator clips to the:
DC to AC Inverter
This converts 12V DC current from the battery to 220V AC current. I’m using an inexpensive 300W square wave inverter but before my next camping trip I’ll be upgrading to a more expensive 1000W pure sine wave inverter which will allow me to use fluorescent lighting and any other devices which aren’t happy with the square wave output of the cheapies.
The plug you see in the inverter output is for the charger for:
The lawnmower battery
It would be more efficient to charge this battery directly from the solar panel but the mower battery consists of 2 x 12V batteries wired in series to output 24V. It would be a hassle to disassemble it every time it’s charged so it’s more convenient to go through the inverter.
And the charged battery fits into the:
A note about the Enviromower
My last one lasted 8 years. If I’d been more careful about keeping the mower dry and regularly sprayed the electrical connections on both mower and battery with CRC it probably would have lasted at least twice as long.
This mower handles my average sized suburban lawn with one charge as long as I don’t let it get too long.
I have about a 750 square metre ( ⅜ acre) property as shown below. I’d recommend this setup for up to a ¼ acre – you’d need an extra battery – but the mower blade is only 350mm (14″) diameter so a bigger area would be a challenge.
But wait! There’s more!
Stihl have a great range of 36V battery operated tools with interchangeable batteries which are surprisingly powerful. I have the line trimmer and the yard blower and I’m very impressed with them. My 300W inverter manages to charge these too – barely. The Stihl 36V charger is a fast charge high drain device so you really need at least 500W.
I’ll probably be hocking off my firewood chainsaw on Trade Me and replacing it with an electric one in this range.
In the previous post we saw our civilisation’s quandary in a 5 minute nutshell. Sometimes it seems that the plight of the planet is so dire that we might just as well party up and forget about it. Fortunately for my grandchildren’s future not everyone feels that way. Innovative people are busy developing ways of addressing the problem.
Mike Cheiky is one of those people. He and his team are producing liquid fuels from biomass while simultaneously sequestering carbon and restoring soil fertility. This is not a pie-in-the-sky academic dream. It’s based on solid science and Mr Cheiky has some seriously big time backers.
dummy line break
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It’s rather odd, but I can’t find any opinions on this elsewhere on the web. Something of this magnitude with big backers like Google should have attracted attention. I’d like to know whether or not there are any fishhooks in this process. One area of concern could be the catalysts: are they plentiful, recyclable, and/or reusable?
Habitat loss, pollution, desertification, over-population, vanishing topsoil, the resource crunch—it’s not just about climate change…
Jonathan Schell is an insightful writer and scholar. A man of many accomplishments. He has elegantly summed up my generation’s legacy to our children’s children in this quote:
“Taken in its entirety, the increase in mankind’s strength has brought about a decisive, many-sided shift in the balance of strength between man and the earth.”
“Nature, once a harsh and feared master, now lies in subjection and needs protection against man’s powers.”
“Yet because man, no matter what intellectual and technical heights he may scale, remains embedded in nature, the balance has shifted against him too, and the threat that he poses to the Earth is a threat to him as well.”
Believe it. Those cupfuls of oil add up. Whether you’re a climate change evangelist, a climate change sceptic or just in denial you can’t escape the fact that we’re fouling our grandchildren’s nest and squandering their heritage. Whether or not you believe that our output of greenhouse gas is contributing to climate change, it’s undeniable that the measures which need to be addressed in order to limit pollution and to husband non-renewable energy sources are the same measures as those which the proponents of anthropogenic climate change promote.
One world, one people, one chance
If nothing else disturbs you, contemplate the source of funding for Al Qaeda, Hamas, Abu Nidal, Islamic Jihad and dozens of other groups. Every time we buy petroleum based fuels we’re contributing to their cause. Those groups obtain most of their funding from oil money: mainly, but not exclusively, from Iran and from the USA’s bosom buddies in Saudi Arabia. We’re funding an openly declared war upon ourselves. A quote from the Middle East Forum in 2003:
“The Saudi government has admitted to spending more than $87 billion over the last decade in an effort to spread Wahhabism. This money has been spent on the creation of Mosques, schools, and other institutions that have constituted the breeding grounds for the foot soldiers of the global Islamic terrorist movement.”
“Political considerations, and oil, have prevented Washington from holding the Saudis accountable for their role in promoting terrorism.”
A briefing by Rachel Ehrenfeld September 19, 2003
Eventually, the rising cost of oil is likely to be seen to have been a very good thing in every conceivable way. We only get one bite of the cherry.
Also on mistywindow
See David Roberts from Grist with a convincing climate change update and the resource crunch video:
“There’s no tomorrow“,
a half-hour animated documentary about resource depletion, energy and the collision of infinite growth with the brick wall of a finite planet.