Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I still don't believe in the gloom and doom of global warming

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about the gloom and doom of global warming and offered up several technologies that can help provide energy without generating carbon. I think changes in how we generate energy are important but there are best practices that also reduce greenhouse gases that can be employed by anyone.

First there is regenerative farming, a way of farming that sequesters CO2 into the ground and is closely associated with organic farming. Scientific studies have shown that agribusiness contributes about 30% of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. No new technology is required here, we could just change our practices to reduce global warming.

The focus of regenerative farming is to leave the soil as we found it, as close as possible to its natural state. There is zero tolerance for synthetic chemicals as insecticides, pesticides and herbicides tend to disrupt the life cycle of the soil. The use of such chemicals contributes to global warming since all pesticides come from oil, and their manufacture, distribution and promoting all require energy and their use only benefits a small minority of people.

One other practice to consider is small scale organic farming. We've become very dependent on large scale farming for our food, but that practice has many downsides. First, it tends towards monopolies in food production. Then the monopolies become arrogant with their power and flout the regulations that serve and protect the people, the consumers. They have become very secretive about their practices and are non too happy when they're called about runoff from their farms.

The United Nations has released a report stating that organic farming on a small scale is the best way to feed the world. I agree. I also think that organic farming on a small scale is more secure since food production would be decentralized, much safer from terrorist attacks than our massive breadbasket. Small scale farming will save fuel when food is produced and consumed locally rather than shipped from state to state or from country to country. If you have a neighborhood garden, support it with a purchase of their food. If you don't, you may be able to grow your own.

If you're not too fond of thorium, and there are more than a few of you out there, then consider the artificial leaf, developed by Dr. Daniel Nocera and others. Artificial photosynthesis is a process of using sunlight and catalysts to generate fuels for energy production. In the case of the artificial leaf, the fuel produced is hydrogen, the cleanest fuel there is.

With the artificial leaf, the economics of hydrogen change dramatically. Why? Because sunlight is used to split water, the hydrogen is then used to power our world through fuel cells. This can be economical because about 1000 TW of power falls on the earth each day and we only need about 16 TW to power the planet.

Unfortunately, the company founded by Sun Catalytix was scooped up by Lockheed Martin, a giant monopoly of a company. Sun Catalytix was bought not for the artificial leaf. it was bought for batteries being developed by the company. This is a problem when government lets a corporation get too big. They can buy anything they want and they can stifle innovation in the process. Let's hope that Lockheed Martin does the right thing because they bought all the patents, too.

I think a central point of global warming awareness is to decentralize energy and food production, a practice that will help to decentralize political power. When food and energy production are decentralized, political power is distributed, not concentrated. When we all have our own solar panels on our rooftops, we are using power from a source other than an oil or coal company.

When we buy produce from a local farm, or even a neighborhood farm, we remove political power from large conglomerates who seem to prize their ability to hide ingredients we don't want to eat in our food. Examples include the lack of labeling of GMO food, changing the names of ingredients to obscure their presence from the consumer and calling GMO food "natural" or even organic, a pet dream of the major food conglomerates. When we grow our own food, we know what went into it and we can relax when we eat food we are familiar with.

So remember that its still early days and there is much we can do to disarm the threat of global warming. As I said before, it is not a question of technology. The technology is here. Reducing or eliminating the threat of global warming is purely a question of political will. Perhaps now, more than ever, there is meaning to the phrase, "think globally, act locally".
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