mandag 3. desember 2012

Carbon cycle

I am sometimes amazed at how quickly some people just brush off the idea of global warming being caused by CO2. Its clearly based on emotions and a feeling of "I cant see it, so it cant be true". Well, there are two approaches you can take to become more convinced.

Hurricane Sandy brought some serious damage to USA
The first one is to study the effects of global warming, freak weather, storms, hurricanes, ice melting and temperature spike records. I know many will just brush this off as well and say its either normal cycles in weather we are experiencing, or if there is warming going on its a natural variation. After all we have had ice ages before, so why no warm ages? Believe me, 95% of the scientists are agreeing that the main cause of the global warming is CO2 and many have dedicated their life into finding the evidence. So for them its not a matter of what they believe, its a matter of what they know. But scientists are inherently skeptical and are really taught to have enough proof of something happening before making a hard statement of truth. If you do some research on climate scientists (I mean people who have dedicated their life to the study of climate, not some freak blogger interpreting data), you will see that the majority are beyond confident that the global warming is caused by human CO2 emissions, or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) as we have come to know it. Dont believe me, but please do believe the thousands and thousands of papers with the proof available.

At this point a lot of people will go: "Its a big hoax", the scientists are doing this to keep money coming into their coffers. If you are a person who easily believe in conspiracy theories, then I have really nothing I can say to make you think otherwise, but if I can at least try to get into a part of your logical brain. I can only say that, although scientists are naturally collaborating, what benefit do they have of presenting a theory that will wreck havoc to our planet? What benefit do they have of presenting a solution that will basically stop economic growth (many scientists are actually afraid of angling it this harsh)? Are all climate scientists part of some doomsday sect? Is there a hidden spell that jumps out of their books, and bewitches them into mindless climate zombies? I can tell you that most scientists are actually affected by one "spell" from the books, and that is the knowledge of how fragile life is and how much we need to work to preserve it. Many wildlife scientists, including famous ones like David Attenborough, dedicate their whole life into studying parts of the ecosystem and eventually come to grips that the rules that apply have been changed by human influence. Everything from over fishing in the oceans to global warming and the effect this will have on plankton (as the sea temperature rises, so does its acidity as it absorbs more CO2 as well, eventually killing of huge amounts in the lower food chains). Biologists like Lynn Margulis will clearly inform you that science is an eye-opener, it really is trying to explain how the world works. So don't brush off science so easily, are you still questioning whether the planet is spherical? That it goes around the sun?

A common message is that weather is too unpredictable, the weatherman cant even predict the weather for the next day. Indeed, weather is unpredictable, actually its more unpredictable now than it was 100 years ago, even though our ability to predict it has improved with every new technology. If you study a bit of climate science, the weather patterns are really just an effect of heat and cold pushing air in all directions, a very simple set of rules (also called physics), but an unpredictable sum of billions of influences happening at once. Well, if the temperature rises it also amplifies these effects, the bigger the variation between heat and cold, the more extreme weather we experience. If you look at this statistically, there is a clear tendency showing extreme weather patterns appearing more often than previously. So yes, the outcome is unpredictable, but the physics involved in the rules are a well known scientific fact.

Carbon Cycle image from
Yes, at one point you have to come to grips that its all about chemistry and physics really. The second way of approaching the global warming question is by studying how the planet came to be. What are the geological properties involved into making something as stable as life on our planet? A biologist will tell you that an exceptional chemistry soup eventually formed carbon based life and are often focused on how it forms from there on. A geologist will go further back and tell you that the composition of the atmosphere was essential in the forming of life. He will also tell you a bit about the carbon cycle and how essential that is as a thermostat for our planet to keep it from becoming Venus (too hot) or Mars (too cold). If you look more into the details, CO2 is essential in all of this, and through studying the carbon cycle you will come to appreciate the fact that nature is trying desperately to "wash out" excessive CO2 from the atmosphere all the time. Every time a volcano erupted, it poured a lot more CO2 into the atmosphere. Over the next thousand years it was captured by the natural carbon cycle. Well, human beings are now contributing to 99% of the new CO2 added to the atmosphere and the natural cycle has simply not able to keep up, with gradual CO2 buildup as the consequence. You only have to look at the measured CO2 in the atmosphere (you can follow it also in the little app to the right):

CO2 level chart from
I really dont know why people can look at this chart and go, oh, that's nothing to worry about. To me this chart screams to us that we are doing something completely wrong. The global temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees because of this so far, and its steadily accelerating as well. A big wildcard in climate science is the effect of increased methane (100 times more potent) and CO2 emissions from the northern hemisphere as the areas get warmer. Some say this can have catastrophic consequences, and by that we dont mean a little more storms and drought. We are really talking about tipping points where the average increased temperature of the planet will skyrocket above 10 degrees C and literally kill every life on this planet. Remember, climate scientists say that anything above 2 degrees is dangerous - and now they have said that we are on course for 5 degrees. Most scientists are skeptical by nature as I mentioned earlier, and they are very careful as well. Many dont even include methane emissions in their estimates. What if our current path is for 10 degrees C increase within 2100? Do you have any idea what the planet would look like when this happens? I sincerely hope you start researching and start KNOWING (not believeing) that CO2 from human activities is they cause for the global warming, and only we can fix this!

I leave you with a very good talk by Geology Prof. Daniel Schrag which explains the importance of the carbon cycle and how CO2 emissions is throwing the cycle off balance (click the link under the picture).

Prof. Daniel Schrag talks about the carbon cycle

onsdag 28. november 2012

Inner Loop

David JC MacKay's
energy stack.
As a long time programmer all the way from the 1980's you very quickly learn that to optimize code for performance you need to optimize the "inner loop". What it basically means is that to get a noticeable speed from your program you need to locate the part of the code that is run most frequently and try to find faster ways of doing those lines of code. Well, with regards to CO2 emissions, the same challenges could be raised.

If you plan on becoming more environmentally friendly to your planet, consider analyzing what parts of your lifestyle generates the most CO2. Many people seem content and feel good about themselves when they swapped out their light bulbs for energy saving ones, not realizing that this is indeed a drop in the ocean compared to what they could save by changing other parts of their lives. CO2 emissions is naturally linked to energy use in general, although some are more polluting than others. I will look at one example of this.

To the right I have "borrowed" a drawing from the book "Sustainable Energy without the hot air" by David JC MacKay, a great book about the subject you can read for free by clicking the title link there. Instead of trying to figure this out for yourself you might as well take a look at some of the analysis that has been done on average consumption, in this case David has used the typical UK consumer. The impact on CO2 emissions will naturally shift considerably for yourself based on your lifestyle and in what country you live in. For example in Norway, CO2 emissions from lights and heating is quite low since we get most of our electricity from hydro. If you live in a country with coal and gas plants for electricity, then the energy use David shows here is has a CO2 equivalent to care about. Generally, any direct fossil fuel consumption that can be moved to electrical power is a good move for the future as we go into using more renewable energy sources. If you heat your home from electrical panels you really should consider installing a heat exchanger as that is a more energy efficient way of heating.

There is one thing our western lifestyle has come to enjoy, but cannot be shifted to electrical power easily, and that is flights. Davids flight sample here is one round trip to a faraway destination (like Egypt from UK), and as you see that one holiday trip is consuming almost more than all of his driving for a whole year (the car energy use is based on 50 km driving per day for a normal petrol car). So to get back to my "inner loop" case, if you travel a lot by airplane, then there is your "loop" you need to cut down on. Airplane manufacturers like to brag about how efficient they have become in fuel conserving (and hence CO2 emissions), but they are really just tiny optimizations in the 10% range. The only way to really cut down emissions is by flying less, or travel by train or boat instead. You know, its possible to figure out quite a lot by borrowing a book on Egypt in the library, or just type "egypt" in google search. After a day of reading you will most likely be more educated about that country than actually travelling and spending a week there. But I perfectly understand that you wont feel the heat or "emotions" you might get from sitting on top of a pyramid. Neither will you feel good about yourself as you brag to your friends on Facebook with a photo of yourself on the pyramids (btw you can easily make those shots with some Photoshop skills). The question I ask: Is that feeling more important than the future of your children on our planet? You really need to cut down on air travel to have any real effect on your carbon footprint on our planet.

Nissan Leaf - A modern electrical car
Another heated debate is electrical cars, people just love to hate them. I have no real idea why, but I guess its because traditionally electrical cars were very small at a time of big 4WDs in every driveway. Some people might have felt technology had moved backwards. I can assure you, driving e.g. the new Nissan Leaf feels very much like any other car you have but without the engine noise and exhaust. In addition, a typical modern electrical is 4 times more energy efficient compared to a petrol/diesel car. To look at David's numbers above, the new Mitsubishi i-Miev would reduce your energy consumption on driving to 10 kWh/d. So even if the electricity you charge your car with comes from a dirty coal plant, the total CO2 emission is way lower than that of a fossil fuel car. If you are in a country with lots of green energy then an electrical car is simply a fantastic investment to reduce CO2 emission. I know a lot of people say that range is a problem, that even the Nissan Leafs 150 km on a charge isnt enough. Well I would turn this around and ask you: Why do you need to travel so far? Do you enjoy sitting in a car? Wouldn't you rather read a book, watch a movie or tend your vegetable garden? The problem with our dependence on cheap fossil fuel is that it has basically turned society into a travelmania world where people choose to live an hours drive away from work and even buy a secondary home in the mountains (which justifies the 4WD as its needed those 4 visits to the cabin a year). All this travel really isn't making us happier, and generally a lot of time is wasted on it as well. When I got my first kids I had a motto: "we buy a baby stroller that fits our car instead of buying a new car to fit any huge monster of a stroller". The same goes with electrical cars, try to fit you lifestyle into lower energy consumption, instead of making a high energy consumption the primary basis for your choices. By choosing to travel less and more efficient you will actually improve on many areas of your life. Less CO2 emission, less time spent travelling, and more time for doing the things you like.

McToys - Example of wasted energy
The other big box in Davids energy use stack is "Stuff", and that basically means the energy needed into manufacturing and transporting the stuff to your home. The size of this box will vary greatly between people and our purchasing power, and is generally the first parts to be reduced when your economy isnt good. Still, for those with a lot of money, this is the place where you can most likely cut down considerably on energy use. Do you really need to swap out that TV every third year to a new model? Do you always need the latest model of the iGadget? Try to hold on to the things you buy for longer. And if you consider buying something, try buying used instead of new. Used stuff will only imply a transportation energy cost as the stuff has already been manufactured and it will reduce the amount of new stuff being created all the time. There is also a very big energy use into completely useless things like all the McDonalds toys and a small things that will be tossed away very soon. Just stop buying that mass produced crap, but instead try to buy locally produced handmade stuff, that will have more meaning by far and support a needed growing area of local produce. Generally speaking, people just need to use the things they have for longer periods of time before they are tossed out, and even then consider renovating it or fixing it yourself. There are a lot of things you can do yourself to conserve and preserve instead of buying new all the time.

To sum it all up, there are many ways to conserve energy, but most likely the most important "inner loop" one with most effect on CO2 emission is to fly less. If you are down to one flight a year, then you can consider switching to an electrical car, install a heat exchanger, insulate your home or even just paint that old shelf in another color instead of buying a new one.

mandag 26. november 2012

CO2 and car emissions

Fossil Fuel burning = CO2 emission
One of the major problems facing humanity is a general acceptance that CO2 is indeed a greenhouse gas that is the cause of global warming. The media and the web is just packed with doubt everywhere, and I often feel there is too much feelings on the subject - with little real focus on the facts. I will try to present this as clearly as I can. Drop your feelings, I don't hate you and neither does "environmentalists". Don't take it personal when someone tells you that the car you drive is a major contributor to CO2 emissions leading to global warming.

I am quite sure you chose the car you want for perfectly valid reasons, its big enough for your family, it might even have 4 wheel drive to get you to your cabin in the mountains, the color was just right or even the sound of the engine "turned you on". The car is so embedded in our human psyche and we quite literally treat them like gifts from the gods with all the magazines about them and general public interest. The car is an immensely practical technological achievement which has given human beings a new form of transportation freedom. What you probably havent noticed is that it has also formed our society in a way where we expect people to travel large distances to achieve their daily chores. In some societies you simply cant get by without a car as the place you get your food is 3 miles in one direction and the place you work to get money for your food is 3 miles in another direction. While we previously perhaps didnt have to move much from our farms or fishing village, we have now created an "efficient" way of travelling so that we have immediate access on a daily basis to buying food or get to work somewhere else than where we live. An irony in this is that many people move away from towns into more peaceful areas to get away from the "busy urban life", accepting that they still need to commute for many miles every day to secure their income for food and paying their debt.

Personal transportation has become an achilles heel in society for any serious change in the way we use energy for transporation. The fact is that its become like a teddy bear that someone is trying to pry away from the hands of a child. But who is trying to pry it away? We like to call them "environmentalists" - the ists at the end there has turned it into a negative word - just like "islamists" - they are considered a pest and bothersome part of society. But if you double check that word it starts with "environment" - which is basically whats surrounding us, and by that we mean the living planet and not the concrete and cars that we have formed its resources into. Yes the planet has been plentiful with resources, and yes we have formed it into a lot of stuff with our technology. But we still have to consider the fact that the planet is not an infinite source - its very much a finite one as we are clearly experiencing with regard to oil (and soon will with many other resources). No matter how hard it is to think around this, the planet is a "small" sphere in our solar system that we have to care for. Its creation is by chance that is impossible to imagine (hence do so many believe it was created by a god) - and the whole eco-system has also been created through the evolution of species and atmospheric composition. The amount of oxygene, carbon dioxide, nitrogen in our atmosphere has evolved to be "just right" for our planet. The same with the seas and the composition of it (salt, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and a whole lot of others).

That is to say, it was "just right" for millions of years - or at least the past 100.000 years, as far back as we are able to measure the composition of the atmosphere from ice core samples. The amount of CO2 has gone up an incredible amount since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Basically it has risen from around 275 ppm to 390 ppm in less than 200 years. That is around 42% increase in the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. And yet people are still questioning whether this affects the eco-system in any way? The graph (from wikipedia) below show it all so clearly:

Never before has the world seen such high CO2 levels as now

Never before since the creation of the planet has we seen so high CO2 levels. Even if we knew nothing about the properties of CO2, would it be wise to fill the air with over 40% of some gas without analyzing the consequences?

I wonder why people are still dismissing this fact as "uninteresting"? The reason naturally lies with the fact that we cant see CO2 - we cant touch it or really feel it unless we are in a room saturated with it (in which case you will die rather quickly). Neither do the average person understand the subtle properties of CO2 when trapped in a "container" - the molecules have a way of storing and radiating heat - in other words it acts like a greenhouse gas. Well, our atmosphere is "trapped" by gravity and in this mix we now have 40% more CO2 than we had before pre industrial times. The global warming trend that we have now measured since we started real global measurements (an average based on millions of measurements) is showing clearly that the planet is warming. We know that one effect of a warmer earth is that ice starts melting, and this summer we had an all time low ice sheet area on the north pole - some say it might even be ice free in the summer time in a couple of years. Glaciers around the world are also melting. With higher temperature we also experience changes in the climate which is all about the shift of air and water due to the physical properties of heat and cold. Generally speaking the warmer the planet becomes, the more extreme weather we will experience. Looking at the facts again we can clearly see an increased number of weather related incidents like storms, hurricanes, droughts and serious rainfall with floods. Weather patterns which normally happened every 50 years start happening every decade, and we get new cycles as the patterns change due to the new rules on the table from global warming. We like to see world records being broken in the olympics, but nothing beats the amount of weather related records every year these days. My own town is set to a new record in amount of rainy days this year, and it already rains a lot here as it is. Its beginning to feel like the Blade Runner movie.

An all time record low ice sheet on the north pole in the summer of 2012

People just got to get their head out of the sand and start thinking about the future we leave our children. There really is no doubt that global warming is caused by emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. It took the planet millions of years to trap carbon in the form of oil, coal and gas - and we are releasing this into the atmosphere now in the form of CO2 at an ever alarming rate. Just this past year, due to China's "growth" and industrial boom, the amount of coal they burn has doubled over the past 10 years. Since CO2 has a delayed effect on climate, we have no idea what these past 10 years of coal glut will cause in the near future, although by now we know that the effects of yet more CO2 in the atmosphere will rise the temperature further.

And I havent even mentioned self amplifying cycles when methane is released due to the thawing of the tundra in the north, and neither the acidifying of the oceans and the destruction of huge eco-systems in the seas because of this.

Do you still love your car so much? Start caring a bit for the planet and our future for a change. Choose a better life through less travelling. The only way we can cut down our CO2 emissions is by using less fossil fuels and believe it or not, its us, the consumers who form the basis of our societies dependence of the stuff and through that stimulates more CO2 emission. If you live in a country with green energy (like Norway who has a lot of hydro electricity), switch to an electric car if you must drive. Move closer to where you work or places that allow you to commute using public transport. Buy less stuff. Reduce the amount of flight trips you do as they are a major polluting cause (one person travelling one longish roundtrip will have the same CO2 emissions as their petrol car has in one year). Use less energy in general, turn off lights when you are not in the room, insulate, switch to water based central heating or install a heat exchanger - or simply wear a wolly sweater and socks, they will keep you warm and comfortable.

mandag 19. november 2012


ERoEI is a "word" you will frequently come across when reading about energy, the letters mean "Energy Return on Energy Invested". Its a term which the future will bring to the table more often than we would like to know. If you look at the current civilization you will notice that we have gotten used to having a lot of energy available to us at all times. The reason for this is because its cheap and available.

250 years ago, energy wasn't very cheap, unless you had many slaves working for you. Even though one slave could only do so much with his time and you had to clothe and feed him to keep him running. But the moment we invented the steam engine, we could use coal to power it and the machine could to a lot more work with one man feeding the engine with coal. We could say that the energy density of coal is much higher than the food that a human requires to do physical work. This energy density is very important and the primary reason for why coal, oil and gas is used so much. You could argue that nuclear power from uranium even has a higher energy density, but  unfortunately it also requires a very costly investment to set up compared to pumping oil out of the ground. The fact that after 100 years of motoring we still use petrol to drive our cars is simply because there is nothing that can compare to the simplicity of a liquid fuel like petrol. Replacing such a system with something else would be a massive challenge for the future, a problem I will come back to in a later post.

300:1 ERoEI
But lets get back to our EReOI term, why is this important? Well, if you look at the first oil wells you could just poke a hole in the ground and the oil came gushing out. In other words, the initial oil required very little energy input compared to what you got back. It is often said that they had over a 300:1 ratio, so for every barrel of oil you used to create and operate the well, you got 300 in return. Ok, that's a huge return for the energy invested. Unfortunately, as oil wells are depleted, you need to put more and more energy into pumping and processing the oil so the EReOI goes down. Fast forward to present times, and its becoming increasingly hard to find oil at all, each well requiring an immensely amount of energy input to find the oil, and then equally a lot to get it out of the ground. The present oil is probably around 12:1 for most of the imported oil to USA, and falling still. The problem is that as oil becomes harder to extract, the quality of it also goes down, requiring more and more energy into processing it as well. The tar sands in Canada is a prime example of where ERoEI is rather terrible at 3:1.

3:1 ERoEI
Consider the fact that we humans would first go for the easiest stuff to extract, its a sad story that we find it worth our time to do oil extraction projects like the tar sands. It should tell the reader something about where we are currently at. When the ERoEI slowly creeps toward 1:1 we are basically entering an era of energy shortage to feed our present civilization. Remember how energy dependent our infrastructure is. As energy becomes harder to extract, the price will naturally rise as it has in the past years - wreaking havoc in our financial world as everything just cost more to run. Again the link to the economy shouldn't be neglected. Every part of the economy is affected, including the cost to maintain each meter of road or any other utility we have gotten used to. The link is a two way one as higher oil price also makes it possible for companies to start oil extraction projects that was previously not affordable. Many people say that we have to get used to $100+ barrel oil prices, as the oil that is still left in the ground is very costly to extract as it requires a big investment in equipment and infrastructure to get going.

ERoEI is seriously biting now, and we should all think about how to conserve energy in any way we can. From simply driving less to planning ahead what energy you need for certain tasks. It is clear that eventually we will have to move away from fossil fuels unless they are the super concentrated ones used for nuclear power generation - although we are far from having enough of this to support the immense transport requirements we have gotten used to. We used to say the planet has become smaller - well, the future like it looks now - will make it big again. Chances are that the future will not have commercial air flight, except for a very small elite, as we still haven't invented electrically driven planes. The more you explore the world of energy, the more you will see that oil has been the most fantastic substance we have found on our planet - but will only benefited a very small selection of human generations over a timespan of 300 years as the finite resource dwindles. It will take millions of years for the planet to produce another batch.

According to Hubberts peak oil statistic, we have by now used half of the planets oil reserves. The remaining part is the hard and costly part to find and extract. Lets at least use that share to transition into a more sustainable future with regards to energy conservation. So instead of driving to the gym to work out an hour, perhaps you should just go outside and run around a couple of blocks? We all need to start thinking about this now, or at least start to prepare our lives for less but more expensive energy. As you become less dependent e.g. driving your own car, you might realize also that you will live a simpler and more peaceful life as well. Buying less stuff will also reduce the stress on energy use, but naturally also affect the economy - perhaps in a way that makes us care less for "stuff" and more about sustainability? Buying local products is also a good way to conserve energy as food and things don't have to be transported halfway across the globe first. The limits are showing now already, but are you ready to embrace them, or do you choose to fight them? Or do you expect some technological breakthrough any day now? Like, Chris Martenson say, remember that technology isn't an energy source - its an energy sink. We have only used some technologies in order to locate energy, and then used a million other technologies to consume that energy.

tirsdag 13. november 2012

The importance of oil

Many people today never take the time to stop and look around at the incredible pace of energy consumption around us. Most of us take this for granted in the western world at least. We were born into it, a world full of affordable energy from power outlets as well as gas pumps. If you think a little about the energy required to make e.g. a car, including harvesting all the raw materials in it you will see that its an amazing feat of our current civilization to have come this far. And its all because of cheap and abundant energy!

Yes, many people underestimate the importance of fossil fuels and how fundamental oil and coal is to the creation of the past 200 years of civilization. Many western people look at times before 1800 as being hard sweat and toil - and indeed for the majority of people it was - the primary energy source available was pure man power. If you were rich you could perhaps afford a horse to simplify transportation at least, but generally a lot of the world was "made by hand" (to quote the title of one of Kunstlers books). But from around 1769 when James Watt perfected his steam engine powered by coal, everything changed - the industrial civilization was basically born out of this machine. Now machines powered by fossil fuel could do the same work as many many people, and indeed James Watt is also whose name we eventually used as a power measurement unit.

Coal was now a primary new energy source but it wouldn't take long before oil would supplement it as the invention of the first combustion engine triggered a boom in oil extraction. At first the oil was easily found, it came gushing out of the ground in some places. As oil became more and more important, a lot of companies all around the world started drilling for it, and they found a lot of oil although they often had to go deeper and deeper. We never really thought it would ever run out, but the incredible pace of consumption would soon prompt some people to say that the oil wouldn't last forever. And indeed, in 1956, Hubbert presented a prediction that USA would reach peak oil extraction around 1970. Naturally he was ridiculed, but when the 1970's came, USA did indeed peak in oil production just as he said. USA turned from being energy independent to becoming a major importer of oil in a very short timespan actually. A direct consequence of this was the effect of the oil embargo in 1973 when the arab oil exporting countries (OAPEC) decided to turn off the tap as USA was supporting Israel in the "Yom Kippur" war.

"As resources become scarce, so does conflicts around them arise..."

Many people today still regard this as a conflict based in a case of "axis of evil" more than the immediate problem of the incredible oil dependency USA had. As resources become scarce, so does conflicts around them arise - and the world had by now become seriously addicted to oil. Out of the 70s the western countries made peace with many of the oil exporting nations and it was the "energy blanket" from which industry and the booming 80s and 90s could be formed upon. There is no doubt that an immense amount of energy is required for a growing economy. But the majority of people and indeed the news media has not really connected the dots yet. Unlike some people like Chris Martenson which is seriously trying to make people understand the foundations of our current way of living, and understand the important relation between Energy, Economy and Environment.

Its clear that the western world is having problems with the economy, with the latest recessions - the high debt in USA and EU countries having to apply for crisis funding packages. Although money can be printed on will and some fancy accountancy work can be done to make numbers look better - the fact is that a debt based economy is essentially borrowing/printing money based on future energy use. From 2005 its clear that the supply of oil has flattened out, basically limiting the available energy for us to make "stuff" from. The result is like any other supply/demand case when demand rises above supply - the price of the product rise. The oil price is now 3 times higher than it was in 2000 - and this time there is no "embargo" or any country deliberately limiting the supply - its simply mother earth that is running out of the stuff. When oil is 3x more expensive, it affects everything that is manufactured or transported - and over the past 200 years we have put oil into almost every part of our infrastructure. Some even say that the "arab spring" is partly caused by rise in food prices due to higher oil prices. It takes an incredible amount of energy to feed the growing population on the planet (which I will come back to in a later post).

The way I see it, the faster we can get off fossil fuels, the better... but can we expect to maintain the current civilization like it is now? What about our economies, free markets and globalization? Its a challenge that is clearly in opposition with the people who run any kind of business, and through that influences everyone working. If the majority of people are not motivated for this change, the planets finite resources will force the change when its empty. Wouldn't it be better to adapt before its empty, when it will surely start a lot of conflicts? I don't see many signs of change of any particular size, especially when considering how little oil there is left in the ground, and I haven't even mentioned the climate issues due to rise in average global temperature from CO2 emissions. I don't believe in "doomers", as we clearly have choices we can make. But I just want to state clearly that the oil took millions of years for the planet to "make", and we have used it almost up in 200 years (the energy blip), and forming what we now regard as the current civilization. Its clear that limiting the use of fossil fuels (either deliberately or by natural limits) will impact the state of our civilization immensely. The amount energy to service the current world is just incredibly high, and you don't have to look very far to see how mother nature takes over when we don't pour a lot of energy into keeping it "tidy" (what is tidy for the nature?). I just want you to be prepared. As Chris Martenson say "the next 20 years will be nothing like the past 20 years".

I leave you this time with a link to the first part of Chris Martensons "Crash Course" on YouTube. I seriously recommend you watch the whole video series and try to understand the foundation of our current civilization, our money system and how important the three E's are:

mandag 12. november 2012

Who owns the world?

Again, its been a long time since my last blog entry here, but I hope to start updating it more often now as I have been studying a lot of issues about the state of the planet that I'd like to share. One common view I often meet is that the moment you start caring about the environment and how we manage our planets resources, you are either a "doomer" or an "environmentalist" or just "annoying". Basically if you start questioning the status quo, then you are an outsider and trouble maker in many peoples view. And indeed, if you look into the views of many environmentalists they are basically questioning how we manage resources, and since the current civilization is built on exploitation of these resources for the free markets, banks and money - anyone that opposes this view is basically a dissident.

The brilliantly reflected Noam Chomsky recently had a talk at The University of Massachusetts with the title "Who owns the world?" - Indeed, who does own it? The people born into it? No not really, its really owned by a select elite and inherited through birth right. Much like kings of feudal times, your rights to the worlds resources is based on who your parents are. This is basically evolution taken to another level, the species who was able to get enough for themselves survived, the ones that didn't would die out. Well, our brains also have evolved ideas like "empathy" and "compassion" and "care for others" as well as the idea of socialism and sharing. The western free market world has evolved into that doesn't really care much for ideas around socialism, and often compares them to communism run by brutal and mad state leaders - quite possibly rightfully so due to our past experience. It was under our belief that if we give the people full freedom through democracy and free markets - the best solutions would come to the people.

You cant argue that as a peaceful society, democracy generally has better track record than many other government forms. But the planet we live on wouldn't really agree. With freedom comes great responsibility into making wise choices about how we govern our resources. And to be frank, since the dawn of industrialism, we haven't been been very nice to our planet. The ever increasing focus on profits and short term thinking is basically wreaking havoc to the composition of our biosphere, seas, freshwater and serious resource depletion. At the current pace of mismanagement its looking rather bleak for the coming generation. I believe we owe them better - and seriously need to teach our children a better way than what we have been doing for the past 100 years.

I leave you this time with a link to the Noam Chomsky talk, a person who's views will certainly try to shake you out of your shell a bit - as we all need to start facing the realities (and stop watching silly reality shows which is so far from reality as it could be).

onsdag 11. november 2009

Age of Stupid

Its been quite a while since my last (and first) entry in this blog. :) Well, there is a new movie around that you should watch: "The Age of Stupid". Its made as a "looking back" documentary where the globes ecosystem has collapsed and everything with it. Humans are good at looking back at their faults, so its only fitting that the film has this viewpoint. Its a good movie. Watch it.

It is clear that the biggest problem on this planet is simply overpopulation. There is no way we have enough resources to sustain the current consumption unless we all start living like the average African person - on the bare minimum. But there is really no sign of humans changing their view about this situation. For every researcher screaming "watch out" you have a similar opposition defending the current way of living. We in the western countries have no given right to live better lives than any other person on this planet. Every life should have equal rights.

Even if we distribute the wealth and resources evenly among the people, the amount each person gets is smaller for each child that is born. But its humans right to have children isn't it? Well, yes it is, but its also our choice to limit the amount of children we get. In many poor countries there is a general view that a woman should give birth to as many children as possible during her lifetime. Each child gives the family a larger chance of "survival" (classic Darwinism). As people get more secure and don't have to worry about getting food on their plates, they start to become more educated and widen their horizon. This also reduces the amount of children being born. This is especially linked to the fact that women's rights are in a bad state in many developing countries. Its vital that every woman in the world is treated equal to any man, and with that comes her freedom to educate herself and develop her skills just like man has done for thousands of years. Eventually it results in more educated choices about when to start a family and how to live in it. Hopefully understanding the bigger picture, that we all live on this "little" planet and what we see is what we got.