Written with current sunlight.

Just got finished changing the oil in my car. Drving 60 miles a day for 2 months (roughly 3750 miles, my service interval) adds up quick 😦 my last 2 tanks of gas also varied widely, 35.7 and 26.4 mpg respectively. Ouch. Talk about a pendulum. (something odd going on, but it averages out.)

So, last night I watched a very good movie, suprisingly so also. I didn’t have high expecations of it, but its on a subject I am pretty obsessed with; climate change. “The 11th Hour” is Leonardo Dicaprio’s take on the subject and I was highly impressed. It is a very human movie; it differs from Inconvenient Truth somewhat because it is not filled with a slideshow presentation with graphs and animations (which is also very good and packs punch) but it is a continual interview style film running through many many scientists, professors and concerned academia who really lend a great personal touch to the message they are conveying.

This really let the film collect momentum through various educated perspectives, one of which I liked a lot, mostly because of its unbelievable simplicity and the fact it stressed that climate change is not the planets problem, it is ours.

It went something like this: Way back when the human race appeared our population flatlined at about just under a billion people, this continued for many centuries, farmers, craftsmen, builders and laborers all worked from “Current Sunlight”. All the energy used to grow food and resources used in day to day life was energy directly from the sun; current sunlight. Therefore there was only enough energy to support a certain amount of people.
As human life progressed we developed tools, we progressed to eventually become chemists, miners & engineers, very good chemists infact, we developed a way to extract energy (hydrocarbons) from something that had captured sunlight from a long time ago; dead plants and animals in many forms.
The fossil fuel age had begun, and our population balooned from something like 2 billion in the 30’s to 3 billion in the 1960’s (just 49 years ago !) and slowly it has risen to the 6.5 billion today.

This sized population can exist because we are harnessing ancient energy, which as it happens is not being replenished. Now, I’m not saying all the progress the human race has made is bad, today we have some mind boggling technologies that have helped us as a race survive, and some have made the Earth a better place. But, the current trend cannot continue.

I’m not going to get into all the peak oil stuff and when thats going to happen (some say the peak was already reached a few years ago) But all our ways of going about life on this planet currently rely on something that could dissapear and is not going to reappear for another few million years.
Take oil away, and we’re in a nasty situation.

We have to, and will most likely be forced to go back to living off of current sunlight as our primary energy source. When I heard this is was an absolute shot in the arm. It makes so much sense !
In today’s world, we have many solar technologies to generate energy directly from our current sunlight, and this energy: Electricity.

We just have to convince everyone on the planet. That, there is the problem.
We could reduce humanities carbon footprint considerably if every house that gets sun year round (like in Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Mexico, Florida, Texas, Bermuda, the Phillipines, Hawaii, Many pacific islands, Spain, France, Portugal, China etc.. etc..) had some way of getting thier energy directly from the sun.

Now, I mentioned that this is our problem. It is, if we don’t want to see our population drastically & violently drop to sub 2 billion person levels when we run out of carbon based fossil fuels (remember, in 1960, only 49 years ago, the population was only 3 billion, the reverse could happen just as quickly, if not, faster.)
If we want to survive as a species and not become some post-apocolyptic warlike race scavenging for energy, then we have to adapt NOW.
And as climate change happens, keep in mind that things on this planet will make life here very difficult.
The planet will school us pretty well in inhospitible environment survival.

My favorite quote from the movie “The 11th Hour” was definately this:

The planet will survive this, the planet has all the time in the world; literally. We as a species, do not.

Written with current sunlight; a very literal blog post title. My laptop is currently plugged into my “solar battery box” as it’s midday and the battery is charging; this is more efficient as more energy is being pushed to the battery, I can use this and still have the battery almost fully charged. Well, thats my opinion anyway 🙂 but it was formed from empirical evidence; my battery is dying a bit and lasts a lot longer if I do most task that are required of it, while its charging. If I wait till the sun goes down and the battery starts to hover around 12.7 volts and below (used to be it would hold 13v for a fair amount of time) then the work that can be done by it drastically deminishes.

5 thoughts on “Written with current sunlight.

  1. It is useful as you have to look at where our energy comes from and work out a ‘balance’, but I don’t think we can get all our energy /directly/ from the sun: Building, solar panels of sufficient size to generate all the energy (not just electricity – we need to drive cars, heat/cool houses etc) we need is basically completely impossible: In terms of materials alone it seems almost impossible. I do think it’s an important part of the solution though! I like the ‘wedge’ idea: Solving lots of little problems that all work together. However I’m basically obsessed with two main issues at the moment, Transport and Space Heating.

    Energy Use in the UK[1] 2001:
    Transport 34% << fix with more efficient cars + local food + less driving
    Space Heating 26% <_< (Actually, just read the synthesis report!)

    A kind of unrelated issue, but how bad is the water situation over there? http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/010201.html

    [1] "Energy Consumption in the UK" (uk gov) 2001 figures used

  2. Oddly the text from “Space Heating” to “Actually”, disappeared. It said:

    fix with insulation + thermal solar panels
    Also check out Box 11, page 29 of the Copenhagen Synthesis Report. It’s got the cost of various decarbonising options: Note that lots of them have negative costs! I.e. it’s worth doing *anyway*

  3. Thanks 🙂

    Well, I know I’m pretty obsessed with solar and sunlight, because its darn plentiful here so it makes perfect sense for me. I agree, I think the transition will be a painful one, and may even result in population growth in sunny areas, if that is the easiest way to get energy. It will basically result in people moving closer together nearer energy sources, long commutes and long vacations will become a thing of the past.

    The southwest, our biggest concern here is water. Not surprising 🙂 Water and the energy used to treat and pump it. We have huge incentives out here to use reclaimed water for anything we can, but again it still uses energy to get it to the ‘burbs, I would have to look up the exact figure on solar used for pump stations, but I know its quite substantial in Tucson.

    That’s why I really want to look into rainwater harvesting, small at first, I’ve found kits that use 55gal drums that are cheap (about $190)
    Then something more substantial later on, just like my solar situation :).

    During monsoon’s I think we could capture enough water to use for months. A 2000sqft roof collects like 1000 gallons for an inch of rainfall.
    I’d have to do the math on all the gallons per use but I think a few months isn’t outlandish. (And I have to look into filtration and treatment also; most of this water will go towards gardening, and eventually flushing toilets, washing clothes etc. … but some eventually will be drunk 🙂

    Exciting times !

  4. Yep, the movie was definitely educational, and I wish films like this would be a requirement in the public schools. The only way to get the word out is start with children who are not set in their ways and opposed to change.

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