March 27th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Hydra: The Thrivability Quadrant)
Ever since I first read about Bucky Fuller’sDesign Science Revolution, I’ve taken the proactive position that no problem is unsolvable given enough will. I’ve lived long enough now to know there are solutions to every problem we have, including the more difficult ones (the unknown unknowns). It has been a bit discouraging to see most thinking still stuck within the first three quadrants, with many of the more conscious and smart people hanging out in the upper left quadrant – the Spore quadrant. The essence of this quadrant is that it’s all “going to shit”, but we can still plant seeds or “spores” of resilience now that will eventually sprout in the far future.” (John Robb, who I have a great deal of respect, is the most notable person in this category). For us thrivability people however we see the crisis as an opportunity, an inflection point where things can get a lot better. Sometimes it takes crisis to push us in the right evolutionary direction. As Hydra’s we see the network, the global brain, as coming to a megaconvergence just as we face a megacrisis. The Hydra’s see the same “facts” as the Spores, but see far more opportunity for positive change.
P2p technologies are one great example. They have the power to break the entire stranglehold on mind, hearts and innovation that is currently holding humanity back, way back. Like the medieval church before it, the current economic elites have rigged the system for their benefit, in large part by locking up and controlling as many liberating technologies as they can. They are the winners with their spoils, and they are going to hold onto them as long as possible. But it is too late for them – the genie is out of the bottle. The network is democratizing the entire information universe– ideas, movies, books, formulas, recipes, instructions, designs, and now physical objects – tools, manufacturing processes, replicating 3d printers, and soon every means of production. If you want more information on how this works, I’ve detailed a bit the ingredients that will enable this “Hyrda” post-scarcity world to emerge.
March 27th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy)
I have identified just three necessary ingredients for achieving a fully sustainable, post-scarcity economy – open information, open manufacturing and full regenerative use of local materials. All of these are proving to be unstoppable.
Lets look at each of them in a little detail:
1) Open Information – The modern trend towards increasingly open information began with the Gutenberg printing press in 1436 and became unstoppable ever since. There is not a single instance anywhere in history where information has been successfully censored indefinitely. The Internet is merely the most recent and dramatic example of this ongoing information explosion. Despite the best efforts of powerful interests everywhere to control and censor information, information wants to be free, and makes it so. The end result will be a totally decentralized and uncensored global network “brain” where everyone will be able to create, share and receive bits from anyone else. For example, the Pirate Bay, the biggest victim of censorship attacks, is now designing and building solar powered, high-altitude (70,000 feet) wireless servers that will be extraordinarily difficult to shut down. Open source hardware devices like the $50 Arduino and $25 Rasberry Pi, are only the beginning of cheap, widely available general purpose computing devices. With the rapid digitization of everything, including books, music, movies, money, recipes, formulas, designs, manufacturing processes, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, state secrets, solutions of every kind, and most importantly computation itself, the genie is out of the bottle for good on this one. No amount of laws or wars to stop it will succeed. Sadly, until the old order collapses, much of the progress in these domains will be done by outlaws.
2) Open Manufacturing – With the advent of open-source desktop manufacturing, the means to create physical goods locally will be made available to all. Open sourced manufacturing generates some dramatically positive outcomes:
Radically improved product design without planned obsolescence – think 50-100 year product lifetimes. Indefinite product lifetimes means no further expenditures on tools, and radically reduced requirements for new materials. This translates to far less consumption, waste and strain on the planet.
Modular construction methods for easy and rapid construction, repair and upgrading. Example: Wikispeed designed a totally modular car in less than 3 months that gets 100mpg, has 10 minute average repair times, and can be changed from a gasoline to an electric car (and back again!) in less than an hour. Currently automobiles are deliberately designed to fail within a few years, in which repairs and parts are both expensive and difficult to replace. This planned obsolescence is a deliberate design flaw for maximizing auto industry/auto mechanic profit margins. Open source automobiles totally eliminates this waste and expense.
Designed from the beginning to use local and biofriendly sources of raw materials – current business models favor the use of expensive or hard to obtain materials for maximizing profit margins. If the materials are cheap and readily available, prices can’t be fixed by resource hoarding. There are strong incentives withing the current closed-source system for incumbents to use materials and processes that are hard to duplicate elsewhere. Prices only drop when their is genuine competition in raw materials. By designing open-source products to use locally available and renewable resources, the price fixers, hoarders, renters and other middle-men are completely cut of of the equation.
3) 100% Regenerative Use of Local Materials – Currently many of the products of our civilization require precious materials from far away places. However the means to create advanced technologies like high capacity batteries and computer processors is becoming possible using everyday organic materials like carbon. A good example is graphene, a new and spectacular type of carbon molecule whose strength and electrical conductivity is greater than any material ever recorded. Already people have figured out to make graphene supercapacitors and do microlithography (the process used to make microchips) using nothing more than a $50 DVD burner! The continued work on creating new materials using readily available recyclable and biodegradable resources makes the possibility of having an fully regenerative, earth friendly, advanced technological, post-scarcity, thriving abundant civilization, a tangible possibility. See Spime.
January 5th, 2011 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Solar Could Power the Whole World by 2030)
Here’s are some back of the hand projections I worked up this afternoon. If my facts are wrong, please insert your own and lets recalculate the projections. These are simply projections based on past trends. I didn’t take into consideration better manufacturing methods beyond current thin-film solar technologies. So these projections do not include nanotechnologies, desktop manufacturing/3D printing (a sure thing), availability of needed materials (China, etc), regulations or other unforeseen economic roadblocks.
Fact 1: The slowest growth period for installation of Solar Power was between 1990-2000 at 20% annually.
Fact 2: The fastest growth period for adoption of Solar Power was between 2004-2009 at 60% annually.
Fact 3: Total installed Solar Power as of November 2010, was approximately ~25 Gigawatts.
Fact 4: Total World Power Capacity is ~17 Terawatts (as of 2010).
Fact 5: Useable Solar Power is only 1/3 of the time in sunny areas, so practically speaking we’d need 51 Terawatts of installed Solar to match current needs.
Using basic logarithmic functions I wanted to see how long it would take Solar at the above growth rates to reach 17 Terawatts.
SLOW (20%) – Log (1700/25) / Log (1 + 0.20) = 41.2 Years – Solar reaches current World Power Output by 2051.
MEDIAN (40%) – Log (1700/25) / Log (1 + 0.40) = 22.3 Years – Solar reaches current World Power Output by 2033.
HIGH (60%) – Log (1700/25) / Log (1 + 0.60) = 16.3 Years – Solar reaches current World Power Output by 2026.
Even if we take the Median projections based on average growth of Solar over the last 30 years, we get Solar reaching current World Energy needs by 2033. Since world energy needs continue to climb, then there is no reason why at a median 40% growth rate, Solar could not meet all the electricity demands of the world by 2030.
March 18th, 2009 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Space Migration or Human Extinction?)
Like many people I believe the current crisis is a wake-up call for humanity. However, unlike many of the voices dominating the discussion lately, I have come to some very different conclusions.
The dirty little secret behind many environmental movements and their followers is a deep wish to see large segments of the human population die off. This way the the Earth can restore itself from the overpopulated human civilization that has drained it. Ideally, these same loyal econauts see themselves as inheriting this New Earth paradise after all the unworthy people have died off. If you think I’m making this up or exaggerating, just ask them. One prominent “visionary” (who shall go nameless) said if people don’t get with the program, they will be turned into mulch. Being an environmentalist myself, I’m not accusing all of them, just many of the louder voices currently dominating the conversation. You’ll hear all sorts of scenarios of doom, gloom, and even glee that when it’s all over, the Earth will have maybe at most a billion inhabitants left (if we’re lucky) by the end of the 21st Century.
They are right about one thing – given our current level of dirty technology, population growth and rates of resource extraction, the human game of continual growth and material abundance cannot continue much longer without a severe environmental backlash from simple resource constraints. You can’t extract what’s no longer there. In other words, unless we find a way to magically transform our society through advanced nanotechnology into one that is 100% regenerative, large segments of the population will die off from a lack of resources necessary to feed, house and clothe them.
The honest truth is advanced nano-enabled regenerative technology is still a distant dream, and until it’s realized, we can’t count on it. Instead we must solve our problems now using tools already available or that can be built without requiring unforseen breakthroughs.
Clearly as long as we continue doing business within a fragile planetary ecosystem, pretty much everything we do needs to change, adapt, ephermalize, regenerate. I just hope that along with these changes, we don’t loose site of the bigger impetus which this all points – which is to continue onward, upward, outward off the planet and become a space faring species.
This is the first time in our planets evolution such a possibility is upon us. Given what’s at stake (massive ecological, economic and population collapse), it’s now or never that a strong push for space development must be made. Those talking about peak civilization and mandatory de-industrialization are a depressing, anti-evolutionary lot.
I think when real-world constraints start culling the population, radical evolutionary pressures upward will re-exert themselves. I’ve never known people to go quietly in the night, especially when bigger, better alternatives present themselves.
My fellow Lifeboat adviser Brian Wang is actively working on some very radical space propulsion designs which could reduce orbital launch costs to less than $1/Kg without the need for any new technological advances.
When billions of lives are at stake from a lack of biosphere support capacity, space migration is by far the saner choice, especially when many if not most industrial processes can be taken off world.
This way everyone wins. The more radical elements in the environmental movement can celebrate as all the industrialized processes they hate so much move wholesale offworld. The Earth, through tender stewardship by those choosing to stay behind, can be ushered back into a veritable garden of Eden without it requiring any devolution or death of the human species.
February 16th, 2009 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Bye Bye Apocalypse: 5 Hopeful Trends)
Ok, the future of doom and gloom is getting old fast. At this point, nobody can predict the future, not even Bruce Sterling, Dmitri Orlov or Warren Buffett. Even the billionaires are getting hosed by the economic downturn. But what this really proves is we have entered a new era where the old rules no longer apply. That prospect scares a lot of people, especially the ones who’ve gained the most money and power by maintaining the status quo. The elite have become naive enough to think they can continue getting away with theft and cronyism without any consequences (i.e. mob revolt), but this time they’re wrong. Asynchronous power is getting stronger all the time, which is why the worlds most powerful military is loosing to a small number of decentralized insurgents. I predicted the current economic crisis back in 2002, in my post Capital, Power and Ecology, simply because business as usual is not sustainable. It was destined to collapse, and my best guess at the time was that it would happen sometime within the next decade or so.
There is nothing like a crisis to spur rapid evolutionary growth. We are witnessing a level of creative destruction that is unprecedented both globally and historically. Yet solutions for every problem we face are already available right now. We have all the information we need. In fact we are drowning in it.
The current economic collapse, rather than being a indicator of worse things to come, is instead a wake-up call to re-engineer our society from the bottom-up to become more resilient, capable of withstanding unexpected change and upheaval. A resilient economy is also one that is more sustainable and integrated with the planetary ecology, and more responsive to the needs of all of its citizens. Economic growth can and will accelerate, but not by converting precious resources into cheap disposable products, but by making more intelligent use of the materials we already have! There is no reason why this intelligent growth (getting more from less) can’t increase indefinitely, or at least until we’re ready to leave the planet. This is what is called a regenerative economy, or what Bucky Fuller called, ephermalization, which is the idea of progressively doing more with less.
What most doomsayers like Dmitri Orlov don’t get is the process of ephermalization. His prediction is that our only solution is to accept that we’re all going to be a lot poorer, and we should just get used to it. This is just nonsense, and he’s not helping the situation any. I suppose if wealth is defined as having tons of disposable material goods, then yes our wealth will diminish. But is that what we really want? Having an economy that depends on cheap imported products from China, using up more non-renewable resources powered by coal-fired plants polluting the atmosphere while inducing severe climate change, is just plain stupid. So yes Dmitri is right, we are going to become a lot poorer in terms of Stupid Wealth, but a lot richer in terms of Smart Wealth (Please read the Smart Growth Manifesto for a great explanation of this idea).
The answers to future growth and wealth production are decentralization via localization, regeneration, remediation, renewables, and cybernation all of which results in greaterresiliency. If we can achieve both local and global resiliency we can grow out of our technological adolescence and become a type 1 civilization. This means the odds of our species surviving this century increases dramatically, and we can go on to become a space faring immortal civilization should that be our wish.
Here are details for the five trends I listed, and how each can change the world for the better:
This applies across the board. Anytime critical needs are centralized the resources for those needs are subject to attack and failure. If one power plant fails a domino effect can take place, knocking more power plants offline. The solution to creating a resilient energy supply that is resistant to overloads or sabotage is to localize power production through locally available renewable resources like solar, wind, and geothermal. If every community had at least one power generator for every thousand people in combination with more renewable energy being generated on local rooftops, there is nothing short of a nuclear blast that could shut it all down. The more decentralized, localized and miniaturized the power generation, the more resilient and reliable it becomes. In an ideal world all the power would be generated by the house or building itself. This applies equally to food production, means of exchange (localized currency), manufacturing and defense. For an interesting read on localized defense, read John Barr’sPower To The People. The topics John covers are both frightening and reassuring. But here is a good excerpt:
A newly vigilant and networked public will push for much greater levels of transparency in government and corporate operations, using the Internet to expose, publish, and patch potential security flaws. Over time, this new transparency, and the wider participation it entails, will lead to radical improvements in government and corporate efficiency.
On the national level, we’ll see a withering of the security apparatus, but quite possibly a flowering in other areas. Energy independence and the obsolescence of conventional war with other countries will reduce tensions between the United States and the rest of the world. The end of oil will also force corrupt states, now propped up by energy income, to make the reforms they need to be accepted internationally, improving life for their people.
Perhaps the most important global shift will be the rise of grassroots action and cross-connected communities. Like the Internet, these new networks will develop slowly at first. After a period of exponential growth, however, they will quickly become all but ubiquitous–and astonishingly powerful, perhaps as powerful as the networks arrayed against us.
This is really the same thing as decentralization. The localization movement is definitely picking up steam, as more people are beginning to realize that governments don’t work very well, and needs are best met locally. The aftermath of Katrina is a classic case of government gone wrong. There is a great book called The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, which is a users manual for transitioning your community from one dependent on centralized sources of food, energy, and currency to a localized one. A localized resilient community would be one that generates all of its own food, energy and many or most of its products. Desktop manufacturing will do a lot to bring the power of production down to the local level, reducing the current expensive and polluting means of transporting products from one corner of the globe to another. A product designed in Malaysia can then be sent online to you in Kansas, where it can be manufactured locally. A resilient community would also have a robust locally issued currency that is immune from government issued fiat currency that is fixed and manipulated by the most powerful for their benefit at the expense of everyone else.(See the video Money is Debt, for a fantastic explanation of the evils of corporate banking and government issued fiat currency). Localized currency is the way to go, and their many thriving examples, including the Totnes Pound in the UK, and the Berkshares in Western Massachusetts. At last count there are over 1200 local currencies in the US alone. The Totnes Pound was the brainchild of the author who wrote The Transition Handbook. He’s created a network of towns in the UK that are all making the transition to local resilience.
Another great idea is a Time Bank, where you deposit time by doing tasks for other members, who in turn get paid for your services with time they deposited. Time Banks are now operating in 22 countries and growing. Here’s a good quote from a guy who has combined the two concepts of local currency and time into what he calls Ithaca hours, in Ithaca New York.
“We printed our own money because we watched Federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rainforest lumber and fight wars. Ithaca’s HOURS, by contrast, stay in our region to help us hire each other. While dollars make us increasingly dependent on transnational corporations and bankers, HOURS reinforce community trading and expand commerce which is more accountable to our concerns for ecology and social justice.”
Regeneration is the ultimate endpoint of comprehensive recycling. To accomplish this will require two primary fronts of advancement. The first is new, efficient and cost-effective means to recycle materials we’ve already created, and the second is transitioning more of our products to using materials that can be recycled. Advances on both fronts will result in a middle ground combination of materials that are biodegradable, low or negative carbon footprint specific, and/or easily recycled non-biodegradable stock. Advances are happening on all these fronts, and those companies willing to spend money on research and development stand to reap huge financial rewards from innovation in recyclable materials and processes.
In the meantime, there are huge tracts of land that have been destroyed by pollution or non-sustainable agricultural processes. The solution is to engage in aggressive bioremediation efforts to regenerate the soil, clean up the toxic waste and polluted water stores. Solutions for this are already here, including nanofilters for cleaning water, microbes for cleaning and rendering harmless toxic waste, and advanced permaculture methods for bringing dead land back to life. John Todd developed what are called Living Machines, that can turn waste water back into drinkable water. With Todd’s help the Tennessee Valley Authority has already done this with their water supply, and has cleaned up their polluted river in the process. There are many good sources for information on how to do this for yourself. Some good starter books include Introduction to Permaculture, From Eco-Cities To Living Machines, Edible Forest Gardens, and Mycelium Runnng (which shows how to remediate dead soil using mushrooms).
This is a no-brainer. If your energy supply is produced locally from readily available sources such as wind, solar and geothermal, there is no dependence on outsiders, whether it be large energy corporations or foreign states for supple of your energy needs. The added bonus is the energy is clean, green and non-polluting, which in turn eliminates the expenses added by pollution, including health costs and remediation of polluted lands.
This involves both the continuing transformation of more of our world into bits, which can be transported and replicated at next to no cost, and the increasing intelligent automation of more of what makes our world run. If more of our services and products are conducted and generated online, it reduces the need for material and energy costs of doing the same thing in the analog world. Just imagine how much energy costs will be reduced by reducing dramatically the need for transportation of goods, when they can be made locally by the advancement of desktop manufacturing technologies.
Then there is the continuing network effect ov more people get online, more high quality information becoming available, and connections to people and resources becoming more relevant through semantic intelligence, peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and better social networking services. And with Moore’s Law of accelerating returns we’ll continue to get computer power for less and less money. Advances in all the areas mentioned above will become accelerated too, as everyone can connect with the right people at the right time, spreading knowledge, know-how and creative solutions more rapidly than ever before.
Resiliency & Anti-Fragility and Thrivability
So what’s the result of all this? Our quality of life will improve dramatically because we’ll all be wealthier, healthier, and safer from smart growth. This will produce cost savings in the trillions per year, reductions in pollution and far greater resiliency for our world. Imagine the incredible reduction in cost when all of the materials that are currently being chewed up by mining, the cutting down of rain forests, and the pollution of lands and waters, are no longer needed. Imagine if you can get almost everything you need within 5 miles of your home. Imagine the cost reductions when food, energy and materials are all available locally through permaculture, biointensive gardening, local aquaculture, living machines, abundant clean energy and desktop manufacturing. It’s a future worth working on, and we can start building it today.
December 8th, 2008 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Heal the Planet, Live Forever, Travel the Stars)
Vincent Callebaut’s Lilypad Ocean City
Solutions to all the world’s problems are all around us. Every day there are thousands of new solutions presenting themselves to solve every pressing problem facing the planet and humanity.
It was Bucky Fuller who made this observation back in the 1960’s, that given sufficient willingness we have everything we need now to house, clothe and feed every human being on the planet ten times over, and at a standard of living equal to a billionaire. What is required, Bucky Fuller said, is a Design Science Revolution. Updating this for modern time, what we really need is a Green Design Science Revolution.
Lets start with the picture [to the right]. The so-called Lilypad Project is perhaps the most fantastical of these green wonders. The idea is to create a series of floating self-sufficient ocean-going eco-city islands. Each one would be able to house 50,000 residents and would support a great deal of biodiversity. Collecting pools located in their centers would gather and filter water for use on board.
These would be places for adventurers and refugees alike as water levels rise around the world and threaten many, particularly island, habitats. As fears of global warming induced population displacement are steadily realized, the allure of waterborne aquatecture becomes more and more enticing.
Designed by Alexander Asadov, this incredible floating Aerohotel (pictured above) features a lighter-than-air aesthetic that sits serenely atop an elegant system of supports. Conceived as an elevated aquatic structure replete with hanging gardens, the space-age floating island preserves the entire extent of the ecosystem beneath it, contrasting with man-made islands that disrupt their immediate environment with tons of gravel fill.
The beauty of most of these solutions is they not only solve their intended design problem, they also solve many of the other problems of the world as well. Whether it’s poverty, pollution, political tyranny, climate change, disease, or environmental degradation, they are all related to each other via a complex web of life in a materially closed system at the bottom of a gravity well. Solve one piece of the puzzle, and the rest of the puzzle gets a little bit easier to solve as well.
Although I’m still a bit jaded with the American political process, I’m more hopeful than ever before. The reasons are many, but most especially the “can do” attitude that is sweeping the nation since Obama’s victory. It’s a shift in consciousness. I’m seeing solutions, rather than intractable problems. I’m seeing that we can do anything if we’re willing enough. And I’m not the only one feeling it, millions around the world are.
Thanks to 8 long years of disastrous policy and rampant corruption, people have seen just how much bold faced lies and crap they can take. People are fed up with the constant bullshit, and they are not going to take it anymore. When pundits and other so-called “experts” say we can’t do this, or we can’t do that, people are crying foul! I’ve heard it on the radio, and seen it on the streets. People know now that we can do anything if we set our mind to it.
I heard a recent radio interview with some so-called electric car supporter saying it will takes us decades to convert even 25% of our car fleet to electric and plug-in hybrids, except this time he was out smarted, and out WILLED by everyone else on the panel, including the callers, who said their is no reason we can’t convert to 100% renewable and electric vehicles in half the time – if we are willing.
Better Place, a company that aims to build a worldwide electric car charging infrastructure, has announced an agreement with the state of California to build a $1 billion network in the Bay Area. Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his company is looking at rapid charge technology, and the possibility of swappable batteries. The entire US fleet of vehicles could be powered by renewable energy.
A recent study done by Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University says that wind, water and sun beat biofuels, nuclear and coal for clean energy.
Wind was by far the most promising, Jacobson said, owing to a better-than 99 percent reduction in carbon and air pollution emissions; the consumption of less than 3 square kilometers of land for the turbine footprints to run the entire U.S. vehicle fleet (given the fleet is composed of battery-electric vehicles);l the savings of about 15,000 lives per year from premature air-pollution-related deaths from vehicle exhaust in the United States; and virtually no water consumption.
“There is a lot of talk among politicians that we need a massive jobs program to pull the economy out of the current recession,” Jacobson said. “Well, putting people to work building wind turbines, solar plants, geothermal plants, electric vehicles and transmission lines would not only create jobs but would also reduce costs due to health care, crop damage and climate damage from current vehicle and electric power pollution, as well as provide the world with a truly unlimited supply of clean power.”
Jacobson’s research is particularly timely in light of the growing push to develop biofuels, which he calculated to be the worst of the available alternatives. In their effort to obtain a federal bailout, the Big Three Detroit automakers are increasingly touting their efforts and programs in the biofuels realm, and federal research dollars have been supporting a growing number of biofuel-research efforts.
“That is exactly the wrong place to be spending our money. Biofuels are the most damaging choice we could make in our efforts to move away from using fossil fuels,” Jacobson said. “We should be spending to promote energy technologies that cause significant reductions in carbon emissions and air-pollution mortality, not technologies that have either marginal benefits or no benefits at all”.
The three best alternatives that Jacobson is mentioning are each seeing revolutionary advancements. The Maglev wind turbine is designed to generate up to 1GW of power.
Magnetic levitation is an extremely efficient system for wind energy. Here’s how it works: the vertically oriented blades of the wind turbine are suspended in the air above the base of the machine, replacing the need for ball bearings. The turbine uses “full-permanent” magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricity to run. The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction. This also helps reduce maintenance costs and increases the lifespan of the generator. Maglev wind turbines have several advantages over conventional wind turbines. For instance, they’re able to use winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 meters per second (m/s). Also, they could operate in winds exceeding 40 m/s. Currently, the largest conventional wind turbines in the world produce only five megawatts of power. However, one large maglev wind turbine could generate one gigawatt of clean power, enough to supply energy to 750,000 homes. It would also increase generation capacity by 20% over conventional wind turbines and decrease operational costs by 50%. If that isn’t enough, the maglev wind turbines will be operational for about 500 years. A few hundred of these could power the entire American car fleet.
Beyond centralized solutions, there are plentiful cheap individual ones as well. Accessible individual wind power is getting cheaper all the time, such as Helix Wind residential wind turbine.
On the Solar front we have Nanosolar’s printed solar cell. They are already creating and selling massive sheets of solar cells for less than $1.00 per watt. Their current manufacturing output now exceeds all other solar manufacturers in the world combined! They are claiming prices of less than 30 cents/watt are achievable once manufacturing goes mainstream. To put this in perspective, the current price for coal is $2.10 per watt. Solar and wind are becoming cheaper all the time, and are no competitively cheaper than the more dirty alternatives. There is no excuse anymore to use the dirtier alternatives, other than providing corporate welfare to obsolete industries (coal, oil, nuclear, etc.). The only downside to sources like the sun and wind, is they are not continuously available.
Enter Deep Geothermal. Currently, geothermal plants exist near fault lines and other areas where hot temperatures are closer to the surface. For example just south of Reno, Nevada there is a geothermal plant that powers the entire city, or equivalent to 220,000 homes. This tiny plant and all of its facilities takes up less than 8 acres of land. This plant works because it’s sitting on top of a geothermal basin, where hot temperatures are right under the surface. So location is everything with current geothermal implementations. Deep geothermal technologies change this because they are able to dig deep enough, that location doesn’t matter anymore. With deep geothermal power water is pumped down to the hot rock, heated, and then brought back to the surface to turn turbines for electricity. Dig deep enough and boiling hot temperatures are available everywhere. You could set up a geothermal plant anywhere power is needed. Nevada is also home to Solar One, the third largest solar concentration plant in the world, producing 64MW of power on less than 400 acres. Combine Nevada’s abundance of sun, wind (especially in Northern Nevada) and resident surface geothermal could power most of the United States, turning Nevada into one of the 10 biggest economies in the world.
Cars meanwhile could be converted over to running mostly or entirely by electricity. About 90% of the population drives their cars less than 100 miles a day. So the limited range of current battery technology would take care of 90% of automobile energy consumption. The other 10% could be a combination of electric and plant-based fuels with 100 – 300 miles per gallon possible.Rather than these plants taking place of food crops, they could be saltwater based and be grown in currently non-arable areas. The use of saltwater crops for food and fuel could expand the world’s arable land by 50%! That’s over 50 million square miles of previously uncultivated territory in the world’s coastal deserts, inland salty soils, and over-salinized agricultural land (For more information on salt-water agriculture see Food vs Fuel). The water for these salty plants could come directly from the ocean. Meanwhile a portion of this seawater could be desalinized, bringing fresh water to the very arid regions that need it. An added benefit of all these saltwater plants along with renewable energy could cut global greenhouse gases back to pre-industrial levels
As I mentioned in Regreening the Earth, the European Union has proposed building out a massive renewable energy works that would tie together very-large scale solar facilities in Northern Africa, offshore wind powered turbines in the North Sea to form a large universal energy grid. The Africans would also get a cut of this cheap energy, since most of the solar plants would be in the Northern Sahara. As part of this plan, large scale desalination plants would line the African coastline to bring much needed water to areas of Africa that have been suffering from devastating droughts and desertification. This massive increase in fresh water to Africa would alleviate many of Africa’s problems with hunger, disease, and poverty. The potential for re-greening Africa is very compelling, and could be a model for re-greening much of the rest of the world. Comprehensive solutions like this EU proposal is precisely what the world needs to making the world a better place and bringing us all into a prosperous and robust 21st century future. .
However, climate change is but one part of our current environmental crisis. The other is the wholesale destruction of fragile ecosystems taking place around the world. Locations like Indonesia and the Amazon are seeing the most diverse plant and animal kingdoms give way under chain saws and bulldozers. These vital ecosystems, having evolved over millions of years, are bring destroyed for short-term economic gain.
The problem of resource depletion is big, and it will require an equally big solution What we need is a wholesale transition to a world-wide regenerative economy – based on value, rather than debt. ( A regenerative economy is one that recycles and regenerates everything it uses and creates back into the economic fold to be used again and again. This eliminates both the need for chewing up the planet or creating toxic landfills.
Below is an artist depiction of San Franciscos powered by geothermal energy “mushrooms” and algae-harvesting towers produce hydrogen, which is stored and distributed via a series of carbon nanotube walls. Fog catchers capture moisture from the atmosphere to distill fresh water.
A network of above ground and underground systems “fulfill infrastructural needs for the movement of people, water, hover-cars, and energy throughout the city”. Taking cues from nature, a giant super system resembling seaweed and chantrelle mushroom will hold together this network to collect water, power and distribute it across the city.
The biggest challenge in creating a regenerative economy is converting waste back into useful materials. This includes all of our waste such as water, petroleum based plastics, and precious metals. One solution to having abundant clean water will be the widespread adoption of cheapnanofilters, which have already proven effective in treating waste water. Biodegradable and recyclable plastics exist, and only require infusions of capital investment to become cheap enough to compete head on with traditional plastics. Saltwater agriculture + plant based plastics = win-win regeneration. Add in the growing potential of nanotechnology and microbe-based reclamation tools, and we could clean up and eliminate ALL of the toxic materials we’ve ever created, while simultaneously restoring damaged ecosystems. Human civilization finally becomes a deeply organic and fully integrated part of the biosphere.
All of this effort toward creating a sustainable and regenerative economy would simultaneously solve many, if not most of the world problems. It would create hundreds of millions of new jobs. It would allow developing and third-world nations the opportunity to leap-frog entirely the polluting and wasteful industrializing phase right into a clean, green, regenerative economy. This would result in a radical reduction of world-wide poverty and hunger, while bringing them the benefits the best of the 21st Century has to offer.
So this brings me to two other pressing problems – population growth and political tyranny. As I mentioned previously, all the worlds problems are interrelated. The rapid rise in pollution, industrial waste, and environmental destruction can be directly linked to population growth. Population growth in turn means more competition over dwindling resources, which means more wars, genocides, and politically oppressive regimes run by brutal dictators and junta’s, supported by first-world industrialists. BUT, if the means to health, wealth and economic prosperity can be had without further resource depletion, then the incentive for war is significantly reduced. The same goes for political oppression and culturally based genocide wars, which are the result of desperate, ignorant people caught in the web of poverty, disease and lack of education. Economic prosperity and education go hand-in-hand. If developing nations are able to access the world’s knowledge through the internet, this opens them up to the rest of the world. Freedom is a tantalizing thing, and once people have it they will do everything they can to keep it and expand it. I found out just yesterday, Saudi Arabia now has it’s own all-girl rock band called Accolade. Their hit song Pinocchio is getting massive airplay throughout the middle east. They still can’t perform live, and must wear their black shawls while in public, but the influence of downloadable music and iPods is having a cultural influence on the young in oppressive regimes.
When people are well off economically several things happen – they are less likely to commit crimes, less likely to commit acts of terrorism, and less likely to have children, and less likely to put up with assaults on their freedom. The net population growth in the First World is zero. All population growth is happening in Second and Third World countries and their immigration into First World countries. Improve the economic conditions of the world’s poor, and population growth stops.
All this will take is willingness to make it happen. Most people don’t even know their are solutions, or think it is way more difficult than it seams. So it’s about educating and inspiring as many people as possible. This is why I’m cautiously optimistic that if a minimum threshold of people wake up and adopt a can-do attitude we can in fact make it happen.
November 13th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on War, Hope and Peace)
As I have written on several occasions, the reasons we are seeing so much repression and the resultant terrorist response, is because those in power are getting scared. Read this article, on the dilemma facing George W. Bush for the best analysis I’ve read so far.
The real power struggle is between the elite and the growing power base and unrest of the general population. Up until now, the elite’s power base has been built around the control over the dominant energy source – oil. Not only are the world oil reserves running our, but cleaner and more efficient alternatives are becoming available. Don’t you find it at least somewhat of a coincidence that those countries that harbor and/or support terrorists, are the same countries that have the greatest supply of remaining oil? The connection is so obvious I am genuinely surprised more people haven’t figured it out. This ruse that “we are a nation at war” with “dangerous terrorist organizations” and “countries with weapons of mass destruction”, is really just a cover to secure more oil and protect the power-wealth base of the elite. They couldn’t or wouldn’t stop 9-11 and they are unlikely to stop another terrorist attack no matter how many security measures they supposedly implement. The reasons that we are seeing all of these repressive measures is not to stop terrorism, but another way to repress the American people, who will increasingly question a war whose sole purpose seems to be making the elite richer while the rest of us poor bastards try to remain alive in the crossfires. Like Vietnam before it, people will become increasingly restless and angry at what is happening. The difference this time is the war will be at home. And to make sure another anti-war movement doesn’t get to far out of hand, they have already begun constructing the scaffolding of a police state – surveillance, biometrics, national ids, checkpoints, and massive monitoring of Americans to prevent just such a thing from happening again. The FBI is already bugging public libraries! They already own and control what was once a free press, and so you can be certain you will never see alternative points of view that would make you question it in the first place. But of course there is the Internet. Its effect on people’s views is growing, which is why they want to control that too. In the meantime, we are likely to see more terrorist events, which will be used to justify even more elimination of our freedoms. And the saddest part of all, is the American people will gladly surrender them. It’s the oldest tactic in the book. America, once the land of the free and home of the brave, will become the land of the enslaved and home of the afraid. Wait, I think we are already there.
However there are reasons I remain hopeful. Oil is running out. It’s only a matter of time. If the situation weren’t so critical for the power elite’s they wouldn’t be risking global war and instability. Regardless of whatever you’ve heard – war is not good for business. War is for desperate people. And these guys are really desperate. The same can be said for all the repressive measures we are seeing and likely to see more of in the US. Add to all this massive corporate corruption and the failure of genuine global markets to materialize, and you have a recipe for disaster. Therefore these guys are grabbing as much money and power as they can before the whole damn global political economy collapses. And the reasons it’s going to collapse is because they have been quietly plundering it for years. After all where did all the money from Enron and Worldcom go? To offshore accounts of course. That money will never be recovered. You and I and every stockholder lost, while the guys stealing it get away with it. It has become increasingly obvious that this same type corruption and thievery is happening at all the high levels of corporations and government.
Of course all of this is likely to make life for most of us worse in the short-term, but ultimately these machinations of war, greed, corruption and repression cannot be sustained. Something has to give and it will. For a deeper analysis of why, read my Capital, Power and Ecology. In the long run, assuming the entire world is not destroyed a global economy of freedom and wealth will emerge. An economy that is not only ecologically sound, but that is consumer controlled rather than corporate controlled. Bottom-up as opposed to top-down. An economy that favors transparent and fluid capital over one that is tightly controlled and secretive. Ultimately investors vote with their pocket books, and only the most ethical, open and effective business enterprise will survive. I hope we all live to see that brighter day. In the meantime, hang on to your hats – because this desperate war and the all the terrorist fallout is going to be a bumpy ride.
As we sit here deep in an economic recession, with a looming war with Iraq, amidst growing global unrest, it can be hard to imagine how anyone might be optimistic about the next few years. But despite these gloomy prospects, there are larger forces at work, and they point to the prospect of a brighter future for everyone.
We are seeing battle lines drawn with capital on one side, and ideology, criminality, war and political power on the other. Arguably capital has won hands down up to this point. Without capital, ideologues cannot finance their causes, criminals have nothing to steal, wars cannot be financed, and politicians cannot gain or keep their power. Ideology doesn’t buy you guns, money does, and if the machinations of a group is centered around money, they have a greater chance of making more money, and buying more guns, than those whose machinations center around ideology. Ideologues can get money too, but ultimately they depend on the machinations of capital to finance their causes. In the Darwinian sense, those who focus more of their energies on acquiring and keeping capital than fulfilling their ideology have the survival advantage. That’s why the United States, the most capitalist society in history, is the most powerful by far. The US military budget is greater than the next nine largest militaries put together. Yet the power to destroy increases in capability for the individual (bio/chem/nuclear), and this in turn complexifies the game. Now, even the under-financed ideologues can exact great damage with limited resources. 9-11 is a perfect example. Likewise, a single malevolent and resourceful individual could get their hands on a very leathal and virulent strain of biotoxin and kill a huge portion of the population.
With a growing amount of power falling into the hands of individuals through internet resources, strong crypto, bioweapons, etc., the response of the capitalist has been to erode privacy and increase the level of intelligence and surveillance to find these potential threats. Already we have seen some grave erosions of civil liberties by the government embowered by the US Patriot Act. In addition we are seeing a massive increase in public cameras, dataveillance, biometrics, GPS tracking, and profiling. What’s more troubling is these increases in transparency have occurred almost exclusively one-way. Part of the problem is that corruption and criminality reach the highest levels of society and for the moment those unaccountable are using this “war on terrorism” as an excuse to shield themselves while increasing their power over others.
I don’t think its too extreme that we are for all intents and purposes living in a de-facto fascist-criminal regime. Lets be clear, I’m not accusing anyone in the current administration of wrong doing, only that the machinations of how everything is being run as being questionable to say the least. These are trends that have been going on for a very long time, well before the current administration took power. Rather than be shocked and upset by this continuous coup, see it as a weakness that has been exploited while the rest of us weren’t watching and even unable to watch, by the most sophisticated group in history. While they distracted us, they “acquired” large sums of capital and power sufficient for near total domination of the political arena. Now they have grabbed the reigns of government, gained control of the media propaganda machine, brought the economy to its knees (a mistake that will be their undoing) and control the largest military on earth. The only problem is they have already exploited the world to such an alarming degree that they are quickly running out of resources left to take. Having already reached the maximum threshold of taxation of the American people, they created a fake war on non-corporate drugs to increase their financial spoils even further. Now that they have exhausted that avenue, they’ve now created a “war on terrorism” as a cover to justify full-scale preemptive invasion of entire regions of the globe. This a dangerous move on their part, and they know it, but it doesn’t matter now because they are desperate. They are loosing their ability to hide their behaviors behind business as usual, because business as usual is on the verge of collapse (Enron, Worlcom, etc). Now the gloves are coming off and the rest of the world is seeing them for exactly what they are, and it has people scared. Lots of damage could be done by this gang in its desperation to continue its questionable cabal at all costs. But it cannot last, because ultimately it is not based on the free flow of capital but on the stealing of it from others.
If this “war on terrorism” continues it will devastate markets around the world and increasingly anger the true capitalists, the ones who have everything to loose if the economy collapses. These savvy rich people will line up against this cabal in all sorts of ways, least of which is to finance an opposition party to the current regime. And if the that is not possible, finance a way of undermining it from within, through bribery, blackmail and other dirty tricks. Regardless of what you’ve been told, war is not good for business. We are now a global economy and plundering one part of it to boost the coffers of another part is no longer sustainable. Its a short-term gambit at best. The whole damn thing is too interconnected and ecological. When you harm one part of it and you harm the whole. War, fascism, criminality , they are all unsustainable in the global ecological economy that now exists. It will fail, because the free-flow of capital demands it. Already the U.S. military machine is supported by vast subsidies by an economy that is buckling at the seems. And yet. the current administration is proposing an increase in the military budget by another $100 billion per year by 2007. Where is this money going to come from? We have already reached a critical mass of taxation. Any more and it will break the backs of the consumer, who without their spending power renders the economy helpless. If they don’t spend, companies don’t earn, if companies don’t earn, they lay off more people who in turn cannot spend. So if there is less capital, there is less tax to support a war machine or a government – it is that simple.
This so-called war on terrorism, this imperialist and desperate move to invade Iraq could very easily tip the economy right over the edge into a full-scale world-wide deflationary depression. Already it is on the verge of collapse because of massive swindling on every level by the most sophisticated white collar criminals in history. Enron and WorldCom are just the tip of the iceberg. The savings and loan scandal was peanuts compared to the vast robbery and theft that has brought us to our present predicament. It is no coincidence that we are banging the drums of war to divert our attention away from an economy that is on it last legs. Some say the cabal is power-mad and greedy for oil and money. Perhaps. The truth is they need this war if they are going to save an economy based on faulty principles and criminality. However, the only way this economy can possibly recover in a healthy and sustainable way is to have sufficient checks and balances that prevent such criminality and massive swindling from ever occurring in the first place. Corporations and governments will have to become more accountable and transparent. Surveillance will have to go both ways. If we are to see ourselves out of this unsustainable spiral we must now ask the question, “who is going to watch the watchers?’ This is an important question to ask, because as is been pointed out, if nobody is watching the watchers then we have a huge hole of accountability and in turn vulnerability to abuse. And such abuse is ultimately bad for capital. Capital requires liquidity. Liquidity requires liberty. Short-term capital can be made that breaks all the rules, such as corruption, theft,etc. But it cannot be sustained long-term. Long-term, capital favors liberty over tyranny and that is something we should be optimistic about.