This is Part III of a series on our modern waste-based society, written by TAE commenter A.G. Gelbert and originally published by RE on the Doomstead Diner. The first two parts re-published on TAE (Part I and Part II) confirmed the existence of a structurally wasteful society and explained why our society had become this way (i.e. corporate greed). Part III reviews some of that discussion before taking a lengthly look at viable solutions and alternatives to the energy-intensive Waste-Based Society that we currently live in; ones that may not entail a return to Paleolithic levels of technology. A. G. Gelbert outlines a myriad of technologies which might be employed to maintain a higher technological base for society.
Waste Based Society III: Solutions and Alternatives
We are cursed with a rather effective propaganda machine that defends the status quo and works mightily to provide allegedly iron clad arguments exposing our desperate dependence on fossil fuels and the enormous debt we owe to them for our 'wonderful civilization'. The media has cleverly weaved fact and fiction to present plausible arguments against the practicality of going cold turkey on fossil fuels and 100% on renewables. Not one word about the fact that fossil fuels are easy to meter and conveniently provide a constant revenue stream for the rich along with governmental control of a populace that simply cannot move or function without daily use of fossil fuels ever seems to be mentioned. Not one word about how renewables cannot be metered or taxed easily and how that feature gives everyone a large degree of independence and flexibility in disaster situations to help themselves or a less fortunate neighbor is mentioned.
On the other hand, the continuous and vociferous denial of the link between fossil fuels and environmental problems, regardless of scientific consensus on this very real link, never seems to go away either. The actual history of the industrial revolution involving some very brutal measures to coerce humans to abandon horses, as only one of many coercive measures, for transportation and farming are always ignored and replaced with a stream of pejorative comments about horse dung in big cities. People did not want to get rid of their horses! I am not simply talking about city ordinances and fines targeting horses. Right around 1865 a big push began to sell farm machinery. Amazingly, a huge horse plague hit the U.S. that year that killed a massive amount of horses. No explanation beyond "Civil War stress" blarney was ever given. These horses were not just city horses in population centers but out in the country as well.
The move to horseless carriages began on the farm with steam power and hydrocarbon lubricants. The automibile came later along with the bone cancer. Bone cancer from the original automoblie fuel, benzene, is seldom mentioned by the media and apparently is considered no big deal in comparison to horse shit odor. Moving on to the early 20th century, Rockefeller has a waste product in his refinery cracking towers (after separating all those great heavy and light lubricants) called gasolene and he talks Henry Ford into modifying the carburators to run on it. Of course the 'minor' problem with benzene fuel may have helped make the switch. There were electric cars on the road at the time. Cleveland had wind generators creating electricity at that time! You'll never guess what happened to them and the electric trolleys all over many towns in the USA. So, enough of that.
Everyone here knows how predatory capitalism attempts to game the system to achieve price control and a monopoly. Once much more efficient and sustainable technologies are shoved aside by hook or by crook, the distorted and mendacious meme that our current technology is the result of friendly capitalist competition in the 'free market' is pushed. Predation occurs followed by propaganda versions of history. That is the real history of the industrial revolution in regard to our choices of energy production. Renewables got squeezed out, not because they couldn't compete favorably, but because the pollution and health costs of fossil fuels got 'externalized'. Along the way, the independence of the mostly agrarian American in energy production and use was crushed.
A love afffair with the car was fostered to the point that in the late 1920′s more Americans had cars than flush toilets. Of course they were better off, ecologically speaking, without flush toilets, but the point is the job of selling Americans on fossil fuels was a done deal by that time. So please remember that nobody was doing us any favors, like the media wants to claim; they were selling us something in order to concentrate wealth and power in a few hands. They were using us as a cash cow to the point of introducing planned obsolecence, rampant consumerism to keep the factories going and simultaneously thwarting moves to sustainability like Henry Ford's plan to make cars out of hemp plastic in the early1940s. We like new stuff and are always looking for the latest model year of the car or whatever because we have been manipulated by experts to do so. It has absolutely nothing to do with our health, well being or happiness. Bernays really messed us up. Fast forward to the present where the witches brew of ecological harm brought about by industrialization has caught up with us. And NOW, all of a sudden, we just can't live without all this 'wonderful' energy packed fossil fuel economy.
Methinks somebody wants to slap a guilt trip on the chumps so they agree to clean up the mess even though the media keeps claiming there isn't really that much of a mess. We, the masses, are accused of being wasteful pigs that bred like rats thanks to fossil fuels.
Where to begin? How about the fact that family size has been decreasing, not increasing, througout the industrial revolution? That's right. The numbers were baked in by 1800 and the wars slowed them down a bit. Louis Pasteur and Lister did a hell of a lot more to create our present population 'problem' than fossil fuels. Most of the key scientific advancements in medicine were not exactly high tech and fossil fuel dependent. A human makes it past 5 years of age and he has a huge chance of living out his 3 score and ten. It was the enormous reduction in infant mortality brought about by antiseptic procedures that caused the population explosion, not fossil fuels. It's a stretch to say that fossil fuels alowed people to obtain clean water to wash their hands before delivering a baby, but I'm sure the media verbal contortionists would toss it out there to further muddy the waters of historical truth.
The much touted plumbing advancements that require machinery and factories powered by fossil fuels, while they did reduce disease in population centers and prolonged life, were setting us up for more fossil fuel use through improper humanure handling. I maintain that the main cause of our population explosion is knowledge of disease microbes, their propagation methods and our changes in hygiene as a result.
What about all this waste we now produce that we have been folded, spindled and mentally mutilated through Freud's nephew Wall Street amygdala reptilian brain control propaganda? They set us up and now WE are the bad guys? They want us to shop till we drop and WE are the problem? And how much 'waste' do WE actually produce on a carbon footprint basis compared to the global 1%?
Well, Senator Bernie Sanders stated recently that less than 1% of the U.S. owns about 40% of the assets (I'm not talking about income increases although they have gotten the lion's share over the last ten years as well). Yes, I know he talks about banks too but he mentions those 400 or so elite families every now and then. Now figure the carbon footprint of those people and compare it with the rest of us. All those endless films about diapers, milk gallons and so on used in our middle class lifetimes with the obligatory landfill mountains thrown in are nothing compared with the horrendous and gigantic amount of crap these families generate. Isn't it amazing that when it comes to pollution and wasteful habits, we are 'all in this together'? No attempt is made to segregate out the worst offenders. On the contrary, the poor and middle class are constantly demonized as being irresponsible useless eaters. It's all quite Orwellian on the part of the media.
But yeah, we do waste and we have a waste problem that is real so let's talk about it.
Waste can certainly destroy a society, species or most of the ecosphere if, as many point out, we continue with the ridiculous paradigm that we can industrially do multi-generational damage to the life support systems humans depend on and not define this as suicide. It's almost like our nuclear nuts and oil fetish fucks have morphed us into a mass version of the heaven's gate cult. Those people thought they could hitch a ride on a comet by commiting suicide. Every single step in industrializaton has, for anyone willing to do the TOTAL math, NOT been ecospherically cost effective. The fact that a small group of humans has temporarily benefited at the expense of the overwhelming majority of humans and all other earthlings right now, not to mention the obvious acceleration in environmental degradation promising a super bleak future, seems to go right over the heads of way to many otherwise intelligent people.
Just like the heaven's gate cult, people are addicted to a dream that never was, PERIOD. All talk about this and that from our youth and how much fun we all had and how nostalgic we are for those nicer times is the exact same phenomenum of a drug addict longing for his first high. LISTEN UP! We are a function of the ecosphere. We DO NOT, despite all the best propaganda efforts of our scientific community, understand the mechanism of the ecosphere sufficently to tinker with it, let alone wantonly pollute it with "externalities".
EXTERNALITIES!? That's just some economist bullshit! There are NO externalities inside the life bubble called the ecosphere; it just takes a while to catch up with you when you mine, bomb and toxify with chemicals NIMBY areas for a few centuries. We are there and yet our scientific community and our financial community and our political wheeler and dealer con-artists with their new techno death toys and 'miracle' GMO crops and drug after drug to replace patent expirations, new ripoff scams, more war profiteering and emotional button pushing divide and conquer racist crap just DO NOT GET IT (or maybe they do get it and are insanely trying to make hay out of it).
The people in charge of our dysfunctional clusterfuck are akin to that psycho Whiteapple that led the heaven's gate cult. They will not change to a sustainable paradigm because THAT requires subordination to the reality that we are a product of the ecosphere and the humble acceptance that we do not understand it yet so, until we do, we must henceforth emulate natural processes of cradle to grave recycling in all industrial technology and outlaw destructive activities like war or perish. No, they prefer to insanely reduce the world population by environmental collapse in the ridiculous la-la land elite hope that then the ecosphere will cure itself and they can continue their merry resource extraction paradigm as if nothing happened.
It won't work because these reductionist morons in power with their scientific priesthood of techno nut balls are so full of pride from all their tremendous 'contributions' over the last two centuries that they cannot see the monstrous downside of the technology explosion and that, yes, technology can be developed and used in an environmentally friendly manner. They don't want to do the work. They are supremely irresponsible and supremely greedy and incredibly stupid. Instead of doing a rethink, they are just flooring the accelerator and increasing their propaganda blitz.
I am not against technology. Since about 1970 we have had the knowledge to use technology to produce an environmentally friendly and sustainable society free of poisons in food and industry in the scientific literature. It has been deliberately supressed time and time again. Imagine what it cost to cover the country with roads and power lines. Well, decentralized power, food and transportation would cost a hell of a lot less. It's total bullshit that we can't do this or that we are 'hooked' on oil or nuclear or natural gas. We could have switched away decades ago. In the 70s NASA used solar panels to bring electricity to a Navajo community which was not served by the local electric utilities in a southwestern state. It worked great and the utilities went ballistic. They wrote to NASA requesting the solar panel project be stopped because, even though those areas targeted by NASA were not adequately served by the utilities, the fossil fuel free energy would 'force' the utilities to lower their rates. NASA stopped the project.
The planet earth DOES NOT have an energy crisis. For you engineering types out there, just do the math on the energy required daily to lift trillions of tons of water vapor out of the rivers, lakes and oceans and deposit this at higher elevations in the form of rain and then try to tell me about how much it COSTS (ZERO!) and how we are running out of energy. What the planet earth has, is a HUMAN GREED AND STUPIDITY crisis among the 1%. But suppose we could dispense with all the agenda laced perjorative propaganda about renewables, agree to clean up the planet and eliminate fossil fuel, nuclear and any other kind of poisonous technology because we have no other choice?
Can it be done? Yes. Will it be done? Probably not. I just heard today (June 11, 2012) on the Thom Hartmann show that phytoplankton replacement in a bay in Maine has dropped 500% over a period of a decade or so. The phenomenum has now been confirmed as occurring globally. Phytoplankton produce approximately 50% of the oxygen on this planet through photosynthesis. They are not regenerating adequately because increased ppm of CO2 (now 400 ppm) is acidifying the oceans and killing them. Can the elite be so insane that they plan to meter our oxygen? I hope not. At any rate, we must accept that the fossil fuel economy is not an exercise in fun conveniences or a requirement to maintain 'civilization'; it's killing our oxygen supply now as well. We must switch to renewables.
In regard to available energy to maintain some level of 'civilization' with renewables, when I mentioned the world evaporation energy example, I wasn't alluding to energy collection through hydroelectric power (although dams certainly help as long as salmon runs aren't thwarted), but using this vast amount of energy available free to shed light on the scientifically bankrupt view of quantifying energy by using bomb calorimeters like we did in college and energy mass per mole in rapid oxidation. Nature has never done it that way. Everything in our culture always wants to scale up a process or else judge it as wanting. That is assbackwards from a sustainable biological process point of view. In our bodies, the reason we have enzymes lowering the energy of activation in myriad chemical reactions occurring per second is to keep us from overheating and/or rapid ph changes that would kill us but the fact is that the enzymes accomplish a task with less energy than a straight forward math computation of the chemical reaction energy requires.
Capillary processes in us are unconcerned with "stream head'" like scientists or engineers are when they want to build a dam yet they work just fine manipulating Bernoulli forces to use the absolute minimum energy needed to move that blood so the heart pump doesn't have to work as hard against vessel friction and pressure changes. In our techno-love affair, everything we do is geared to centralized and maximum power. For example we really do not need a lot of stream head to power a house because we can gradually pump water up to a reservoir in our house to give us electricity on demand.
But the techno math says you need X amount of head for Y amount of kilowatts. That's only true if you need all of that all the time. Sure, not everyone lives by a river or a stream but that is simply a small example. A giant Sequoia pumps over one hundred gallons of water hundreds of feet up every day through transpiration. The tracheal elements can stretch water molecules 27 atmospheres as long as the vacuum holds. The technology to make artificial tree water pumps has been around for decades but our society is STUCK on the energy density per mole fixation like a teenager that wants a hot car to ride to school instead of a small electric rechargeable scooter.
Have you heard about the roaring forties? That's an area of latitude in the oceans of the southern hemisphere that is always turbulent. They alone could power the world's energy demands after a ten year installation of wave and undersea current power collection systems that are already being deployed off of England and Scotland. In regard to corrosion issues with sea water and maintenance of deep water (massive pressures to deal with), I only ask that you consider technology equivalence hurdles that have long since been surmounted in nuclear power plants (the ultimate in corrosion challenges including hydrogen embrittlement that is not present with sea water) and oil undersea pipelines (pump sea water to a land reservoir and start the power cables from there as a cost effective low maintenance option). At present, ocean oil rigs (which are mostly metal) have sacrificial anodes placed on them so electrolysis in most areas is thwarted. The anodes are replaced as they are used up. And remember all we have learned through space exploration about metallurgy, high temperature insulation during re-entry and don't forget microwave power transmission technology. We can do all this stuff. It's really not as hard as putting a robot vehicle on Mars or building a space station in orbit.
It's telling that Einstein described the photoelectric effect at the very beginning of the 20th century but the US government has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to develop solar panels (we only did it when we needed them in space) but it spent a fortune on the development of the bomb in the 30s while a large part of our populace was going hungry.
Have you ever wondered why the oil lobby never attacks nuclear power but spares no expense to demonize renewables with disingenuous propaganda and mendacity? Think about that a while. If you come to the conclusion that the nuclear power plants were put out there to make bomb material and get you to pay for it and were never, ever considered a viable alternative to fossil fuels for the production of electricity or a serious source of oil lobby competition, you win the prize. There is also no excuse whatsoever for not using solar and electric power to run every single ship in the ocean. It would be child's play to switch all automobiles and trucks to full electric as long we had geothermal, wind, tide and ocean current derived power 24/7, not to mention solar panels.
Do you know what oil tankers do after they offload the oil? They fill huge portions of the holds with sea water (for ballast) and then dump it when they get back to reload with oil. This massive pollution goes on day in and day out. We have a guaranteed continuous oil spill as long as we have a fossil fuel ocean tanker economy.
As for fertilizers and food production machinery requiring a massive amount of fossil fuels to feed 7 billlion humans, the fact is that using decentralized permaculture with humanure (after appropriate and low tech local processing to avoid disease pathogens) along with greenhouse technology for nordic climates can replace the fossil fuel required to run tractors, make fertilizer and insecticides and herbicides. I mention farm machinery because there is increasing evidence that plowing needs to be replaced by non-plowing with perennial crops in order to stop the massive top soil loss and lowered nutrition of crop yield (they look the same but don't have the same nutritional content). Other posters here are up on humanure and they are right. I recommend anyone repulsed by this to think again. Feces are an inseparable part of being human and it's high time we stopped with this Victorian idiocy of seeing it as bad stuff; it's part of our salvation as a species. An added plus with humanure through the avoidance of chemical fertilizers is no more ocean dead zones and massive top soil degradation. Also the energy and water savings in not pumping human waste to be treated with chemicals (made with fossil fuels) in a sewage treatment plant would save billons of dollars.
Examples of how renewables can switch us off of fossil fuels quickly: www.euronews.com/2012/05/27/germany-breaks-solar-energy-record www.euronews.com/2012/06/06/solar-plane-completes-maiden-intercontinental-flight www.euronews.com/2012/03/05/sea-solution-to-future-energy-needs www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/renewableenergy/3535012/Ocean-currents-can-power-the-world-say-scientists.html
Pelamis wave power device that looks like a giant snake: www.weirdlyodd.com/10-renewable-energy-sources/
Zero energy balance hotel: www.euronews.com/2012/05/16/go-green-get-growing
I think this can be done in TEN years, not forty: www.euronews.com/2012/05/18/in-40-years-every-home-every-building-will-be-a-power-plant-says-jeremy-rifki
Growing food and the fossil fuel 'requirement' is a dependency created by the fossil fuel industry but we CAN shake that dependency without mass starvation and depopulation: www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/85/1/Fuel-and-food.html
"The strategic goal of biofuel is to supplement or even replace fossil fuels, the amount of which is constantly and rapidly diminishing." haitireconstruction.ning.com/page/biofuel-1
I've already mentioned my views on the population explosion and its causes but I wish to point out how the oil lobby has tried to make fossil fuel brownie points out of it.
Remember the green revolution of the 60s, 70s and 80s that supposedly caused the population explosion? The numbers are in. The yields are not statistically different with all the fossil fuel fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides than without them. The green revolution is a lie fostered by, you guessed it, the fossil fuel lobby. Their only valid claim is the fuel for machinery which now turns out to lower crop nutrition from top soil plowing degradation. This degradation is caused by a combination of chemical fertilizers and plowing (bare soil tends to blow away when dry or erode when wet) which leaches the soil of trace minerals needed to produce nutritious and tasty as opposed to bland crops. The way things stand right now, agricultural guidelines in the U.S. state that it's okay to lose 4 tons of top soil per acre per year from 'modern' farming techniques. The government claims it is the price we pay for high 'yields'. Are you comfortable with that? I'm not. Considering top soil regeneration takes over 100 years, I cannot believe we are doing anything but losing massive amounts every year.
And last but not least, the militaries of the world are the most voracious users of fossil fuel. We sure as hell do not need them to keep 7 billion fed and clothed. The U.S. Navy, in particular, has the top spot as fossil fuel user AND polluter.
We need gradual, decentralized trickle charge or slow pumping energy storage systems for sustainable humanity. Anything else is not viable for the planet. If we want to zip around at high speed and be able to have instant this and that, yes we have an energy crisis. If we want to emulate biological processes and eschew the love affair with higher energy density per mole of fossil and or nuclear poisons killing the planet, we don't have an energy crisis.
Nature paces everything; so should we.
All that said, there is the 1% with their hubris and arrogance and there is the rest of humanity. The agenda of the 1% is a tad different from the rest of us. I agree the knockdown is coming. The people controlling the levers of innovation and adaptation in our governments and the elite parasites that own them want this knockdown so it will come. I maintain that the false notion of a causal relationship between a large population and a polluted, unsustainable, fossil fuel dependent human society is the driving force behind this elite desire for a knockdown. The elites are the only truly unsustainable population on this earth because of their mega-carbon footprints. So, in true Wall Street Orwellian fashion, they blame the bulk of the 7 billion humans for THEIR piggery and slavish dependency on fossil fuels. The 1% that owns our governments loves the predatory resource extraction paradigm despite the fact that some of them probably suspect that it will cause a population knockdown, not from lack of fossil fuels, but from environmental collapse. Billions of humans dying is considered a good thing by the 1%. They think it will solve the world's environmental problems and provide a more manageable population of slaves. The 1% probably grumble about minimum gene pool diversity species population required in order to perpetuate homo sapiens. The 1% think robots will take care of all the 'important' work while medical technology available to the 1% will provide them with 150 year plus lifetimes. They are wrong and they are the cancer that is destroying humanity.
There's a way to clean up this world and live sustainably. Killing off several billion is a straw man. It's typical elite bullshit adding two an two and getting whatever answer keeps them in the catbird seat. The media will continue to block the truth from the people 24/7.
I apologize if I tried to cover too much ground here but this situation we are in has matured for well over a century and we need to see how we got here to understand, if we survive, how to prevent a new set of snakes from selling us snake oil in the future.
Feel free to pass all or any part of this rant with or without attribution. Everything I wrote can be researched free on the internet if you want to post links about horse plagues, NASA correspondence with utilities, Henry Ford and hemp plastic, Rockefeller chicanery, U.S. solar panel development reasons, Americans starving while the bomb was being developed, Bernays propaganda tools, etc.
Photograph: Harris and Ewing Alexandria (Va.) airplane factory 1918.
Possibly the Kendrick Aeroplane Co.