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Eureka: Realistic talk about the environment
by Jay Gutman
2016-12-30 10:39:11
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As long as there will be winter, there should technically be fossil fuels of some sort. For thousands of years, men and women fought the cold weather with fire. Fire is also used for cooking and hot water, as fire is known to sterilize bacteria both in food and in our bodies when we shower.

env01_400Fossil fuels are merely a combustion mechanism. We need to keep that fire ignited, be it with coal, charcoal, paper, wood, or highly combustible fuel such as “naphtha” and its derivatives, known as kerosene, petroleum, gas and the rest. Such fuels keep the fire burning and keep us warm in the winter, help us cook, keeps the lights on in our homes and helps our car engines run. Naphtha and its derivatives are also used in the entire industrial engine, from helping motorcycles run, to helping sawing machines run, to helping paper mills or food packaging mills run.

Here’s the problem we have run into. When I was growing up, which was not 100 years ago but more like 25 years ago, boilers were not the norm when taking showers, a family of 6 would share one car and we had to pick up gas bottles so we could cook. Brothers and sisters used to argue over who would sit next to the radiator in the winter and an urban legend had it that sleeping with radiators on at night even in the winter could cause horrible diseases. I also remember that back then it was hard to find pasta that tasted good and you could only find chewy bread at the bakery, but that’s another story.

Now rumor has it that rather than wasting combustibles to cause heat such as wood or coal or naphtha derived products, the sun is a reliable source of heat that is renewable, and there’s plenty of it, and it does not even pollute. That is you can now take a hot shower with a solar-powered boiler, cut wood with a solar powered electric saw, and even run a paper mill that is solar powered. Talk about the air clearing up in cities like Mexico City or Seoul.

The idea with solar power is that some parts of the world have more sun than others, and that solar energy has to move around. So you would have to invent a mechanism that absorbs solar heat, stores the solar heat and that can distribute the solar heat to parts of the world where the sun seems to be lacking. That way you can cook with solar heat, you can take showers and run your industrial business with solar heat.

There are other energies that can be used to power industry, most of them are renewable. Up until now, the 17th to 21st century were the centuries of “fire” where combustion was needed to give us light, keep us warm and keep us fed. Now we’re moving to a multi-energy type of era where water, wind, fire and earth can be used as either renewable or non-renewable energy to fuel the planet.

Now to stay warm, to have light and to be fed you need the sun, thus fire. But how about to keep us housed, clothed or moving, as in transportation. Up until now, earth, metal and cotton and derived products were the main items that kept us housed, moving and clothed. Everything from cars to windows to buildings is made from material found from the ground, either in the form of sand, earth, metals such as copper or iron or other rare metals and rare earths that help build cars and houses. But then 25 years ago I remember my school teacher saying there were not quite 5 billion people living on earth and yet a lot of us shared a room with lots of people. So the question is how do you deal with non-renewable resources that come from the ground, from the earth in an era where everyone wants to own his own loft so he can have Halloween-themed Sabbath dinners every Tuesday evenings, something about post-modernism.

In a physics class I took about a decade ago we learned that everything from the ground up and below was the energy of the sun transformed. So could there be a mechanism where we could use solar energy, or perhaps wind energy to create say, concrete, metal, steel, or perhaps even water or wind? This is something modern alchemists will have to work on, as technology does help imagine such resources quite a bit. In sum, in a creative economy, you need a little bit of philosophy and ethics, coupled with sociology, physics and good computer program skills to avoid disastrous real-life experiments. Oh, and a little bit of cash and capitalism too.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-12-30 14:48:36
The necessary other face of the coin:

Here again, true to form, first you reduce the problem of environmental degradation to the problem of managing technically and scientifically the world's energy resources, then it rationally follows that you need just "a little bit of philosophy and ethics, which smell of witchcraft and superstition and magic, and can safely dispensed with, coupled with a much more abundant, crucial and valuable amount of scientific (positivist) sociology, physics, computer programming, and of course a bit of cash and capitalism which goes with it. Those are the tools of "enlightened" man, the same man, by the way who created the environment disaster and has dispensed with the liberal arts. The former vision is idealistic and useless, good for Don Quixotes fighting windmills, who believe in justice and the common good, and the power of the poetical, and the former is "realistic" fit for those pragmatic people who do things and don't just dream about them. How does, after all, thermo-nuclear energy (used for good or for bad, it matters not) stack up against the last verse of Dante's Divine Comedy ("The love that moves the sun and the other stars")? or against David Sparenberg's The Green Troubador? Not very well, they look ridiculous, and yet, and yet, Dante and Sparenberg are the absolutely other necessary side of the coin to save humankind from ultimate disaster, as silly as such a statement may sound to positivist ears, tending to deafness...

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