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Sunday, 16 August 2020


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Thank you Mike for adding a frisson of fret to our Sunday morning. One small cavil, in the USA at least, coal is no longer the dominant fuel source powering electric generation. Natural gas provides 38 percent, nukes over 19% and renewables an encouraging over 17%. The data are from the US EIA https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=21.
So maybe, just maybe, the times they are a-changing0

When I start to feel down about stuff, I try to remember that half of the smartest people that have ever lived, are alive now, with collaboration and communications tools undreamed of a couple generations ago. Pity that half of the stupidest people are alive too, and it seems like they are drowning out the smart ones.

A hurricane like storm eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois, and another in Indiana is a pretty good example.
Where I am in California the forecast is as high as 111 for the next few days with the occasional cloudburst to make things extra sticky.

It’s the new normal I’m afraid

[Well, I don't mean to be a bummer, but, unfortunately, it's not the new normal. There is no end cap on climate change. --Mike]

Where your electricity comes from depends on where you live. I'm in Ontario, Canada, where coal was phased out entirely in 2014. In 2020, electricity comes primarily from nuclear reactors, followed by the hydroelectric dam at Niagara Falls, followed by wind and solar, then natural gas. Oil and diesel are last, making up only 0.1% of power generation since 2005.

I've done much the same (avoiding reading the grim details) but it helps me to be politically active. Keeps me focused. We just helped elect locally a clean water, clean energy candidate over a "take it slow, coal is good for now" incumbent. Landslide victory. One thing I totally believe, though, is that we will only survive if we do so collectively, through cooperative effort. It might turn out to not only be good for the planet, but good for our emotional, physical and even spiritual well being.

Ordered! I could use a little hope right now.

Brief story: When my wife and I married some 37 years ago, I learned that she loved children's books, and loved stories of tough-minded women. She bought a copy of Bette Midler's "The Saga of Baby Divine," a somewhat autobiographical tale of an infant, not long out of the womb, crying "More!" That was the ongoing theme in the story. Thinking about it, I realized that, contrary to the usual belief that life strives to survive, to live, the underlying motive is "more." More of your kind, more food, more territory, more wealth, more stuff. I thought of the classic petri dish example of a mold or bacterium gradually encompassing more space, eating more of the nutrient, until it poisoned the environment that nurtured it, and died.

I'm afraid that, since then, I haven't been too hopeful about the long term prospects for the human race, and the other organisms we take with us. Even more dismaying when I consider who runs things.

Yes, please, a little hope.

Ref. the nuclear armageddon fear: Desmond Morris theorised in 1967 that we'd be fairly safe from that, because any leader who triggered it would also be in the frontline, not sitting back behind the lines in safety.

More megapixels. Need I say more?

You might be interested in Low-Tech Magazine (https://www.lowtechmagazine.com). You can even read it on their solar powered server, if you like and it's a sunny day. Most every article I've read there is well written and well thought out and I've enjoyed even if I wasn't much interested in the topic at hand. Posts are irregular, time-wise, so kinda like Christmas when they hit my feed reader.

Thank you for the recommendation. I immediately ordered for Kindle.

As for powering my iPad with Kindle, we installed solar last year. We live in Southern California, so days with sunshine are plentiful. But I highly recommend that all folks do the math on solar capability for their location. Our system will pay for itself in 7 or 8 years. It hits its theoretical significant production falloff in 25 years. It is a NO BRAINER, both financially and environmentally.

The biggest question mark is the grid. If we all have solar, there is no need for power plants during the day and a huge need at night. So: How do we address this? Maybe it's using excess power during the day from solar to pump water into a higher elevation reservoir and then discharge it into hydroelectric generators at night. Or, it's as simple as night shifts for power plants.

Regardless, once home batteries become affordable and low-environemental-impact, I'll fight like hell to get off the grid. Our modest 18 panels currently (net) generate enough electricity to power us 100%.

I'll be happy to read this book, Mike. But while I agree that humans can be very clever, there are times that, as a group or species, we can choose to be dumb as mud.

This has happened a number of times throughout recorded history - notably the Dark Ages. And, despite all of the technology and knowledge around us, we appear to be headed toward another one of those times.

Growing anti-science and anti-intellectual sentiment along with a retreat by many into nationalism, despotism, superstition and fear come at a particularly inopportune time.

I'm hoping that those who have been holding us back will wake shortly. In the meantime, I'll read the book and hope for the best.

Hard to say: chemical vs. digital. Chemical: more or less a one time carbon impact (e.g. manufacturing) per image and per print. Storage in the cloud? Ongoing carbon impact from all those servers, spinning, heating, needing cooling. Given that the cloud is "forever" it is hard to see how you ever close the carbon loop on digital. The data only ever accretes, and therefore the carbon footprint never gets smaller . . .

We have 20 solar panels on our house and a Tesla 14 kWhr battery system. This not only runs the house 24/7 but uploads about 400 kWhr to the electricity grid each month. So I guess my iPad is carbon neutral (although I’d really like to know the carbon cost of production of the battery and panels). Now I just need an electric car to make better use of the surplus......

An addendum to my comment above: the elephant in the room, that which must be addressed before any other issue, is that in my lifetime the world’s human population has tripled. Add to that a global economic system that relies on continuous growth and how can any sane person not see disaster looming

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