The Other I

March 5, 2010

Yes we can!

Filed under: Political thoughts,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 3:01 pm

I opened up the newspaper yesterday and next to all the bad news was a whole page of hope.  A lot of people might still think that global warming is a myth and that environmental destruction can therefore be dismissed along with it.

But there exists a significant number of people around the world who are convinced that there is a problem, and that we can solve it.  Apart from global warming, the significant problem arises from the fact that in the last fifty years, the human population has tripled.  This has already put a great strain on the natural resources so many of us have used like a bottomless well.

But there are those who are convinced that there is something we can do besides wring our hands.  Many of them believe that waiting for top/down solutions from governments is folly.  Solutions, they believe history suggest, are going to come from innovators, entrepeneurs, and from the ingenuity of people in general determined that we need to respect the world and its resources.

Hope Example I is Daniel Ishag who made millions of dollars during the dot-com era and now wants to help the environment.  He spent several years travelling around the world looking for ideas.  He found it in South Korea where they are using bacteria to clean waste water.   Many waste-water treatments already use bacteria, but the advantage of the Korean version is that the bacteria can be re-cycled and used again and again, and requires half the power of existing technology.  Ishag’s company, Bluewater Bio,  is negotiating with companies supplying domestic water, industrial and sewage plants, agricultural sites, food-processing companies, breweries, hospitals, and textile manufactures.

Hope Example II is sustainable palm oil.  Palm oil is used in everything from our margarine and chocolate to products for our washing machine and car.  The problem is that tropical plantations to meet our voracious thirst has led to rampant deforestation and terrible habitat destruction.   Now within months a single refinery in Liverpool expects to be providing 1/3 of Britain’s annual consumption of palm oil from sustainable sources.  Sustainable means no more deforestation, no more habitats destroyed.  If one refinery in Britain can do it for 1/3 of Britain’s needs, it can be done for the world.

Hope Example III is my favourite, and the one I’m hoping for the hardest.  It’s a new approach to low-carbon fuel-cell technology coming out of Bloom Energy in Silicon Valley, California.   They think they can ultimately manufacture at a reasonable price loaf-size boxes that could power an entire house.  I will confess that my hope is not scientifically convincing because I don’t really understand how it works.  It was featured on 60 Minutes recently, though that doesn’t necessarily move it from the Hope to the Accomplished category.

Sometimes I just despair of the narrow-minded greed and selfish concern of the human species.  But sometimes I just look at us and think what an incredible, what an amazing, fantastic species we are.

Yes we can!


  1. I like that Leslie Stahl. She’s one to find such one of material and hold it up to us.
    Surely by now you’ve wandered into the youtubes and seen her piece on Apteras?
    Funny, though. They came from Europe, and, actually, I think the UK.
    The hybrid runs on either power (and advantage over the Prius (older models) where the fuel engine must be working to drive the electric motor, surprising a (ha!) major part of American drivers who, for some inexplicable reason, drive to the absolute bottom of the gas tank, only here, the electric motor has way too little of a battery system.
    She actually starts the segment with a relic of the near past, the Geo Metro. 58 MPG
    That’s a lot!
    Festivas did 42, and they were tin cans on wheels.
    Aptera is something that looks like it’s from the future.
    And at the now 300 MPG hybrid engineering, I’m thinking we’ll see more of it.
    GM also brags a long distant miser..I think they call it the Bolt?
    260-280 MPG
    priced at around $85K (56.4, GBP) a bit steep. The Aptera is $20K-$40K (13K-26K GBP) which is also expensive, but, the trick is to do the math of what is saved to ascertain the need or importance. Here, a sparse few do bicycle to work, but there are no gathering places for bikes themselves. You, of course, know that better than I if you have but gone tunneling to Amsterdam!
    Ahhhh. I would love to see the little Rotterdam again. As a youngster, I did not appreciate what I was seeing.
    My Old Man was in the Air Force, and had wanted to see the Van Gogh Museum. As an amateur artist, he knew of the importance of the works, and also knew most still reside there in Amsterdam.
    It was closed.
    Oh well. He had Ma and two young’ns to attend to.
    I still have the pictures,3 in all, taken as we were getting on one of those tourist boats…We were the epitome of America at the time. My younger brother and I with comics rolled up and shoved in our pockets (probably Superman #1 and #2) Ma leading us into the boat (“Behave yourselves, like it or not!”) and the Old Man, still grumbling at the museum being closed and seeing the photographer (and knowing danged well Ma would buy those photos!) but, like a danged bachelor, not together.

    So, energy from energy boxes.
    Very intriging, though I read more than watched.
    He made mention (and Leslie, too) about how many Asian houses such an array would power. she thought four, he said four to six homes. I admit to profiling in my mind.
    I think of six huts close in together and, maybe a shared bathroom.
    Odd, yes?
    They have smaller dwellings, but, are at a decent standard of living. Those would be the four units from one box.
    The huts…there’s the six per.
    We sit on three acres here.
    We’ve areas for tree crops (locust) and gardening (though we seem to feed an inordinate amount of bugs, too. Occasional fox.) and a field for me to bang away on a golf ball.
    Next closest neighbor just a bit over 1/8 mile
    Next one at half a mile.
    Still, though, the key may just be stop eating away at it like a baby nursing a tit.
    I don’t know…it just seems like that to me, sometimes.
    There was a special, and I think it may have been where I saw the bit with Begly, jr. and Bill Nye…it started off with a couple learning that on an annual count of what they used in energy was tantamount to an entire mountain top of coal. A PUBLIC BROADCASTING production. (PBS)
    They started small, household stuff. switches that turn off and on with motion or sound.
    Weatherizing their home.
    These both paid fairly nice dividends.
    They further invested in energy efficient heaters, ACs, water heaters.
    Better use of smaller units closer to where they were needed, that sort of stuff.
    Insulation, and other elements are among the best you can do for yourself to keep energy from seeping away.
    (danged reply is going to be longer than the post!)
    Really, though, thanx for this article.
    It seems more apt to help the transition to using less come about.
    Because, eventually, that will be the only answer. And a lot of countries have it over us in being so far ahead in this concept.


    Comment by maxwelldog — March 5, 2010 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

    • I went to YouTube to check out Aptera. Mostly it’s beyond me. But it does seem to me that the price is going to have to come down by at least 50% to appeal even to the upper end of the mass market. Or maybe gas will go through the roof. Over here in the UK we are now spending £1.20 per litre. That’s about $8.00 a gallon.

      The Economist says the Bloom Box people hope to provide boxes for individual homes within 5-10 years at about $3,000 each. They are cautious about the possibility, to put it mildly.

      I read somewhere that one of the northern European countries (can’t remember which) is generating electricity for lights by using the energy generated by people walking on the sidewalks.

      I can’t believe we’re not smart enough to figure out how to generate enough electricity without ruining our environment if we want to.

      Listen, you know a lot more about a lot of this stuff than I do. I hope you’ll keep dropping in with your pearls of wisdom.


      Comment by theotheri — March 9, 2010 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  2. oh goodness sakes..I am sorry.
    What a drone on I am, sometimes…


    Comment by maxwelldog — March 5, 2010 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

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