Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The future on the back of a paper mat

Photo courtesy of Pietro Cambi.

A glass of wine and the back of a paper mat with the schemes of a circuit for a new BMS (battery management system). A few days ago, in Italy, a small group of people met in a restaurant to discuss how to develop new technologies for renewables and electric mobility. There is still hope of a transition to a sustainable world.


  1. There is no "sustainable electricity."

    Electricity (the addictive novelty that drives industrial civilization), like alcohol (the addictive novelty that drove the neolithic revolution), is an addiction. A physical (and psychological) addiction in the full medical sense of the word, because, even though humans lived without it, now humans need it to survive.

    Designing solar/wind is like the Kübler-Ross bargaining stage of a schlerotic alcoholic presenting with severe jaundice, promising to drink only a glass.

    We cannot escape ourselves.

    1. There is no "sustainable electricity."

      Uranium supplied to the oceans by river flows:  ~30,000 tons/yr.

      Uranium required to supply current human energy demands:  ~5000 tons/yr.

    2. What do you think the oceans are, an in-situ leaching (ISL) evaporation pond? (Hore-Lacy 2007) By all means, harvest it if you think such a diffuse energy source has a "profitable" EROEI, then humans can demonstrate Jevons paradox to a glowing fair-thee-well.

      Humans with power are scary creatures, even more scary with more power. With 6x today's available power, humans should be able to scrub the earth clear of flora and fauna even more efficiently. (After they evaporate the oceans to get it.)

      Like an abusive alcoholic hairless Great Ape destroying his house and beating the children in a rage, humans addicted to electricity have nearly trashed their home planet, seeking that next dopamine "fix."

      And perhaps turned Earth into Dune.

      Japanese Researcher: They remind me of Godzilla (PHOTO) — 95% of worms die, survivors grow 10 times average size when raised on Tokyo soil contaminated with Fukushima radioactive material

      "Ennui and tuna." ~Henri

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  2. As James Howard Kunstler has suggested, persons living in industrial civilization will probably be dragged kicking and screaming into a world of lower per capita energy use, including electricity. What will we do without our electrical appliances? All of us are so spoiled by refrigerators, microwave ovens, washing machines and dryers, computers, light bulbs, televisions, radios, stereos, etc. Richard C Duncan's Olduvai theory may well come to pass, although the timing is likely to be off a bit from that which he predicted. In a way I'm thankful that I'm likely to be dead when the end of industrial civilization draws near. It is likely to be horrifying.

    1. Humans sealed their fate on November 1, 1952 at Enewekat. Or was it Enewetak?

      Even Dr. Richard Duncan's "slide" into a post-industrial "Olduvai Theory" stone age is just more Kübler-Ross bargaining for humans to somehow not be extinct and knapping obsidian around a campfire.

      "Every 'small' war pulls the trigger in nuclear roulette. Each of these probabilities, by itself, is small. But taken together over a year's time, they add up to a cumulative probability which is no longer small. Taken together over a century, they make nuclear war virtually INEVITABLE." ~Dr. Martin E. Hellman, Stanford University

      "We cannot escape ourselves." ~Henri

    2. Henri, is that you?

    3. Oui, mais moi fatiguez.

      I've been thinking about all the animals in zoo cages. Humans have themselves penned more completely than any other animal.* At least I can walk out the door. If I devise a solar powered cat food opener.

      "Sometimes the cat door is closed." ~Henri
      Peter J. Wilson (1991) "The Domestication of the Human Species." Yale University Press.

  3. And think that somebody tells me that I am a catastrophist.....

    1. Nearly all humans now express the "pious hopes" of one of several Space Age Cargo Cult sects, as described by William R. Catton Jr., in "Overshoot," (University of Illinois Press, 1980) pages 187 to 195.

      Excerpt here: http://www.ecoglobe.ch/overshoot/e/overcarg.htm

      I think another cult sect to be added is the social engineering necessary to create a post-carbon "sustainable" civilization. There is no post-carbon society not awash in Strontium-90 or Caesium-137.

      "If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act," as Chekhov said.

      "Attenti al gatto." ~Henri

    2. Henri..... did you eat something wrong today? Take it easy. I understand catastrophism, but there is also a way to exaggerate!

    3. There will be no voluntarily powered-down society in America. At the Earth Summit in 1992, George H.W. Bush forcefully declared, "The American way of life is not negotiable."

      America is a land of sovietesque Home-Owner-Association (HOA) volunteers walking around with clipboards, keeping their neighbors from installing clotheslines or planting collard greens. The volunteer also goes to a rapture-ready church who preaches "it's all going to burn anyway."

      And it is going to burn, because they brag in their churches, bars about turning whole biomes into "glowing parking lots."

      America will use as much aggression as necessary to maintain its "plastic fantastic" (Leary, 1994) lifestyle, including aggression that results in species suicide.

      Even if Lady Gaga could be convinced to start square-foot gardening by June 1, 2013 (a sociopolitical revolution,) the methane is already bubbling up from the arctic seafloor. http://a-m-e-g.blogspot.com/ The global pain is guaranteed.

      Transference will rule the day soon. The surrogate victim will be humanity and the Earth. Oh, they'll hit hard.

  4. And, you know, sometimes I have this idea that I wouldn't want to write in a blog that has people like me among its readers.....

  5. A question for prof. Bardi and Pietro Cambi: I just read a couple of posts about a secret German research work about Substitute Natural Gas using the Prox system that "should" be the next energy revolution:



    I do not know why (maybe my 6th sense, ^__^) but from the language used, they seem a lot the type of marketing posts used at the beginning of the famous "Ecat" case (and we know how that case finished).

    Do you know anything about it? Thanks for the attention.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017)