Tuesday, June 27, 2006

GREAT general environmental article

Glad this didn't miss my radar (ie Google News Alerts)


To summarize: basically, we're at a critical point with our environment (how many times can we hear that before something is done?). There are two ways of thinking: Sandal-style (biomass, wind, solar) and Nuke (technology to save us from our technology). A few great excerpts:

"We have to act soon, we have to think big and we have to work together. Humans are bad at all of those things, especially the last. And the window of opportunity is closing very quickly indeed. We probably have less than a decade to get it right. What, then, must we do?"

"Now we chuck a mountain into the air every year. If we solidified the 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide (over 6 billion tons of pure carbon) produced by humans annually, it would make a mountain a mile high and 12 miles in circumference. As a result, the Earth’s atmosphere now contains about 380 parts per million of carbon, compared with about 280 parts, which seems to have been the default setting that made our existence possible."

"Perhaps it would be even better simply to take the carbon dioxide straight out of the air. This is the idea of Klaus S Lackner of the Earth Engineering Center at Columbia University in New York. He has worked out that carbon can simply be filtered out of the air with remarkable efficiency. He reckons an area of 2 square feet would be enough to capture the carbon emitted by one American in a year: about 25 tons. (The world average emission per individual is 1 ton.)"

^^^ I predict this will become more popular and far more necessary as we continue to do what we do to this planet.

"Nuclear’s reputation as a dangerous power source is also undeserved. Since Chernobyl, around the world there have been thousands of reactor-years run without a serious incident. Furthermore, new “pebble bed” reactors that use graphite instead of water to control reactions are even safer. These are now being pioneered in, among other places, China. Finally, we should have fusion power available within about 40 years. This is absolutely safe nuclear power because, as the fusion scientist Miklos Porkolab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) proudly points out, if it goes wrong it doesn’t melt down, it just quietly cools down."

“agriculture is the greatest rapist of nature”

And what happens if none of this is embraced? Last resort strategies:

"Persuading the airlines to put sodium in their fuel might have a comparable effect. It would release particles into the atmosphere that would rise to form a high-level haze that also might help to block sunlight. Some have suggested that the same effect could be achieved by blasting sodium shells into the air from naval guns or floating it into the upper atmosphere with high-level balloons."

"Even more ambitious would be stopping the sunlight before it gets here. One suggestion is that we fly a spacecraft to the Lagrangian point between the Earth and the sun. This is the point at which the gravity of the two bodies is cancelled out. An object left there simply does not move. The craft would unfurl a huge curtain of fine mesh that would block a small percentage of sunlight, not enough for us to notice but enough to offset global warming for perhaps a decade."

"Finally, if all else fails, we could construct huge nuclear weapons to be exploded inside Earth’s orbit and which would blast us further away from the sun. This has seriously been discussed, but is generally regarded as a touch risky."

How about we just shrink our carbon footprint so we don't have to blow ourselves out of orbit, ok???

And, because this is so long, I'll reward you with a picture... an 500KM/H train that rides on magnets. These are currently running in China FYI



jude said...

very interesting; though it's hard to visualize all this as a direct threat to our ordinary lifestyles; which is of course the reason why most people keep pushing the environment to the bottom of their to-do list.

H2power said...

Funny you should mention that... the article addresses this human phenomenon:

"But whatever we should do, the big question is: will we do it? Humans are natural born wreckers. Deep within us, as Ausubel puts it, we have a “snake brain” – the neural vestige of our reptilian ancestry – which constantly subverts our reason. The snake brain manifests itself in crime, wars, futile rivalries and, most alarmingly, in our complete inability thus far to agree on anything remotely effective that should be done globally to offset the onrushing environmental catastrophe. This catastrophe, our reason tells us with absolute clarity, is bound to happen unless we act now. Maybe it won’t, says the snake brain, and anyway, maybe I can fix all this to my advantage, sunbathe, surf and grow rare orchids in Greenland while billions die in the superheated equatorial regions."