The Trump Administration appears on the horizon, and Real fear for the present and future sets in. Suddenly, the wolf emerges from under its sheepskin. Nothing could be clearer, the steps we take in these moments will echo into time immemorial. Never has a population lived at such an important impasse between matters of culture, economy, government, race, and environment. How rapidly humans are impacting the environment has far out-stripped the environment’s ability to support us, let alone the rest of the ecosystem and its countless other inhabitants – and then there’s this. Media lied to us. Politicians lied to us. Polls lied to us. They made us forget what it was like to live with a Wolf when we had our cool, suave, friendly POTUS who actually signed deals for Wall Street, lied to the Sioux about how important their sovereignty was, and sent flying killer robots to kill poor brown kids in their beds. We forgot those “unattractive” things because we wanted to believe in the idea that our problems could be fixed with a magic wand. Well, it can’t. Sorry, we have to do it ourselves.
Images coming from the front-lines of the Standing Rock occupation in South Dakota today are disturbing at best, except for that bit when the herd of Buffalo (the work of species rehabilitation in recent years) showed up seemingly in solidarity with the protesters. The Internet is on fire about this, has been for weeks, and only now are mainstream media outlets that were ignoring it for weeks, confident that the blase cover story and re-routing issued by Obama weeks before would hold up and that the Internet phenomenon would die down.
Now major networks and newspapers are touching it finally, but of course choosing to focus on the violent struggles, burning tires, “illegal” road blockades and other noise around the fiasco. Typical. But even though everybody and their sister seem to be talking about this on the Online circles we are already in touch with, there is a deeper systemic issue we’re not talking about. The elephant in the room here is the silence of the masses, and of the candidates, and – until the last 24-72 hours – of the media.
There’s a lot of talk out there about renewable energy, living off-grid, tiny homes, passive solar, underground greenhouses, and other ways of fixing more of our resources closer to the homestead. If there was a way to do much of this, using very simple even throw-away or recycled materials, we’d hear about it right? Well, if you’ve heard about EarthShips, you’re lucky. If you haven’t yet, you’re in luck. Talk about the sustainability rubber meeting the road, it couldn’t get more perfect. Of course they’re hard to code, zone, and establish – because they fly in the face of all the dominant trends in building that have been written and dominated by a Dupont-dominated building industry and reinforced by a culture that will demean you for wanting to “live in a hole” because they just don’t understand yet that natural or Earth-based building is the wave of a future that we can actually afford to turn the lights on in. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at some of these videos from Taos, NM (Earthship capital of the Earth right now) and other places where people are innovating these unique structures. Also please keep in mind, that even if zoning or coding will not allow you to build one of these to live in primarily on your land, you can still construct an outlying “shop” or “greenhouse” that use these techniques, and even pipe the warm air it creates into a “proper” house – just to make the system happy. As innovations like this become more popular, hopefully culture will shift toward adopting concepts like this – building renewable sustainable homes with recycled materials – and move away from the toxic stick-houses that are hurting the Earth and easy to destroy by climate-assisted super-storms.
Most of us would agree that cities are a huge source of pollution. Generally, most of the junk in the air, waters, and land comes from urban areas, where the greatest concentrations of humans are gathered. This leads some to believe that the best way to “get sustainable” is to move to the country, where things aren’t so crowded and the potential and space exists to do projects that nurture the Earth and grow food. In reality, if there was a mass exodus of people from the cities currently, the countryside would be destroyed by urban sprawl in no time. This process of people leaving the gray city slate for the forested green of the country could explain how urban sprawl actually occurs. Rather than entertain potentially destructive notions in the hope of making a dent in the problem, turn the problem to its source for solutions. Cities are hubs of communication, the home to millions who want to see green where they live; they don’t want to have to leave to have their cake and eat it too. They want to green their cities, and why shouldn’t they? Introducing the movement to improve the ecology in the most ecologically destitute places on Earth, turning some of the world’s biggest cities into resplendent emerald attractions that bring even more residents, commerce, and tourists.
These are two major pieces of news that should be totally alarming to anyone paying attention. Good thing people already paying attention are already alarmed. We’re not trying to be alarmist, but if you’re not alarmed, be. We should honestly start a puppet show, rap video, or comedy skit about it to be taken seriously though, because alarmists are known to be a “bummer”. Oh well, there’s still this bit to attend to.
For years, there has been a magic number, a threshold of carbon particles in the air hovering around 400 parts per million… something about this “sets the level” for the climate, whereby past this point it may be extremely difficult, if not (some say) impossible, to reverse the trend and get back to 350 parts-per-million or below. Here is one post from the day that has seemed pretty doom and gloom to already-eco-minded types.
So what does this mean, for the planet, for the human race, for the individual?
The photoelectric effect occurs when light particles interact with matter, especially semiconductors like silicon, producing a flow of electrons that can be used as electricity.
I am making power in my backyard with microscopic pond algae. Rather, they are making the power, as I believe they’ve been doing since the Jurassic age, and I am just beginning to gather it, test it, and put it to use. Diatoms are surface phytoplankton (plant-like photosynthetic microbes in the surface of water) that are mostly made of silica (glass). Even though algae is being cultivated for fuel sources lately, this is not that kind of energy. There is no combustion here. The effect I’m observing I believe to be based on quantum physics in the interaction between light and silicon via the photoelectric effect, the same interaction that produces power in conventional solar panels. There is some precedent for this coming from moss – and theoretically any plant can put out energy that can be used to power light-duty applications.
We’re accustomed to thinking about energy in a very limited scope. Since the time most of us have been born, fossil fuel energy or chemical energy in the form of wood, coal, natural gas, and petroleum have been the norm. Even where you find electricity moving through the walls, most of the time it’s created with fossil energy. If it’s not made with fossil fuels, usually it’s hydroelectric – from dams – but most dams are unsustainable and make few if any contingencies for fish and other aquatic life, also they sacrifice habitat for animals and even important heritage sites. Either way, most of our devices, appliances and indeed thinking is wrapped around a singular source of energy. If it moves, it’s usually gas – if it plugs, runs, or plays and it’s not your car, usually it comes out of your wall and you pay a monthly bill for it.
To begin to change the energy paradigm on this planet, we need to begin to think about energy entirely differently.
It’s ever-present and yet hard to pinpoint, but such is the nature of this massive complex of phenomena we refer to as weather and climate – it’s even more slippery now that it is changing rapidly around us in ways we can’t yet fully predict. The data is in and the scientific community has come to the preponderance of opinion that climate change is a real global phenomenon being perpetuated by human activiities. Here are some sources from NASA, NOAA and WikiPedia on the subject. We will not spend the time here to discuss the existence or causes of this reality, that is a point for another article – here I would like to write about what it’s like to live, work, and farm through this global phenomenon.
Space has two of the most vital requirements for the operation of Internet servers – energy and cold. Given that space is so cold, almost to absolute zero, there would be little to no need for the massive atmospheric controls usually used for the giant server complexes that crawl across the surface of our planet, worsening the effects of climate change with energy usage from unsustainable sources.
Given that there is even better access to the ultimate power plant in our solar system, the Sun, in space, power would hardly be an issue at all, except for the investment in gear to harness it – namely, giant PV panels.
Given also that most of the communications on our Earth are currently facilitated by satellite anyway, we could move most of the operations for the overhead of our global Internet into space and take care of several problems at once – climate change and habitat loss, to name a couple.
Since commercialization of space for material resources hasn’t yet proved cost effective, thus hindering the race to colonize space for humanity, putting more of our communications technology up there could create more of a platform for Humanity to spring out to other locations with time. The Internet in space could be a breakaway concept to space colonization in general, and help solve some of the critical issues we need to face for our own survival in order to make that future possible.
With an on-grid power inverter, you can turn a rooftop solar installation into a powerhouse for your pocketbook. Whether your setup is one kilowatt or 5, you can have the benefits of Solar and peace of mind that your carbon footprint is being reduced by your investment. You can lease to own installations from companies like Sungevity and SolarCity, or you can purchase your own. If you choose to not go with one of the big companies, you can install it yourself or find a local qualified installer to do it for you at a good cost. The installation can be daunting but not too much for a good home improvement do it yourselfer.
SolarCity is a company that was founded by billionaire investor Elon Musk, who also is behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors (two other futuristic companies). It’s a real, working company that is producing power systems right here in the United States and deploying them for families, schools and businesses to benefit from solar energy immediately. Right now their range covers much of the country, and though they are running up against some resistance in WA, much of the country can sign up. Basically, the company gives you a quote based on the size of installation your building support, usually your rooftop, and sets up a payment scale based on that. Customers may have their power bill completely slashed or may even receive a check in the mail instead of a bill, and their relationship with the local Utility company is all their own. The solar panels are paid for on a lease system in a monthly payment to SolarCity that is usually less than a power bill would be except it lends to the potential ownership of the setup.
Another such company is Sungevity, who also has a fundraising option for nonprofit organizations. Between the two of these, much of the US has the ability to start making clean power on their rooftops right now. Companies like Sungevity and SolarCity make it easier than ever to go solar in your home by financing the system and allowing homeowners to rent or lease-to-own their setup.
Global warming isn’t cooling down and practically every expert with an opinion on the matter thinks we haven’t yet seen the full wrath that a modified climate can unleash. Climate scientists have been talking seriously since the 1970s about this unforeseen effect of fossil fuels, but the world thus far hasn’t taken heed – until now, when massive storms, droughts, and fires have devastated local and global economies, ruined livelihoods and taken lives. It’s a sad state of affairs that our civilization allowed these tragedies to occur by not taking action sooner, and even more tragic that even now that they have been happening there are still those willing to spend billions of dollars to deny that it is even occuring. Boardrooms in the UN have discussed carbon taxes and allowances to deal with the cost of the damage inflicted by climate change, but there is as yet no massive international government push for the adoption of clean energy technologies. The plain truth is that clean energy technologies need to be adopted en masse yesterday. There are so many of these technologies available, though, and there is so much energy in the environment that moves and changes through its different forms all the time, that there is no reason why we should remain stuck to one especially-destructive form of chemical energy – except that the brunt of the monetized interests in this world have a major stock in it. There are many different fronts taking on this challenge, including groups like 350.org, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club, CREDO Action, and many others changing hearts and minds and how business is done. There were over 400,000 people gathered in the streets of lower Manhattan (millions worldwide in solidarity) in late September 2014 demanding meaningful action on this matter, in all parts of our society, immediately. Anyone in a position of power in our society is either denying the evidence at hand, even when it’s literally battering their storm doors, or paying close attention to people power. Keep voicing out and inform yourself, here and everywhere you can.
Well first off, I live off-grid myself, having most of my power coming directly from the sun. I have a battery and a relatively low-wattage solar panel providing enough power for lights and some low-wattage computers and other meager appliances. I do not have the luxury of a multi-kW ongrid hookup for things like water heaters, washing machines, or large-screen HDTV’s – but we find other ways to heat water and do our laundry anyway.
It’s not easy – we have to budget power and literally count every volt and amp of every appliance we plug in, to find out if it fits within the parameters of our AC power inverter and battery life. Thankfully newer computers are offering more and more power with less and less power consumption, and longer battery life – enabling us to get more blogging done after the sun goes to bed. LED bulbs also get your basic need of light covered through the light easily with extremely low power consumption.
Little LED lights are changing the world one bulb at a time, and they are getting cheaper.
With LED lights, people can get the full spectrum of lighting using less power. LEDs use only a fraction of the electricity than even compact fluorescents do, with more energy going into light itself unless being wasted on byproducts like heat. They are extremely cheap and easy to manufacture, less toxic for the environment and don’t require special disposal for hazardous materials. As opposed to fluorescent lights, when they break, if they break, you don’t have to take special precautions to clean up the mess in order to avoid getting sick. They also have a much longer lifespan than any other kind of bulb.
LEDs run the gamut from low red to ultraviolet and can be combined into multi spectrum lighting for psychological health and even plant growth and raising animals that require UV to survive. All this means it can only be beneficial for people.
If you’re interested enough in sustainability to be reading this site, you may well have heard a lot about the problems with our energy systems as they exist. What people want, what they are waiting to get behind, are solutions. There is a grassroots movement happening globally, made of individuals and organizations, who are creating their own power solutions and flipping the grid in their areas. Solar power in some states has become popular enough that the fossil fuel industries have tried (unsuccessfully) to enact special rates and taxes to discourage people from selling power back to the grid. In Hawaii, for example, there was serious concern this summer that solar power would fry sections of the grid from overabundant wattage – in other words, solar has come so far in just a couple of years since the creation of clean energy tax credits that it’s starting to push back fossil fuels and make it necessary for traditional power plants to scale back operations. This is exactly what we want to happen! The tide is beginning to turn, and the odds aren’t so hopelessly stacked against anymore, but the battle is far from over.