We're all going to have to shift to creating our own energy. We all need to live & work in buildings that generate their own electricity, and live in circumstances where we can walk to, or at least be able to name, or drive past somewhere in our weekly round, the fields where the crops are grown that give us oil for our bio-alcohol. We have the choice of doing this now, off our own bat, or doing it after 3/4's of us have died out, at which point those of us who are left will be unable to operate power plants or pipe oil, and will have to find & affix solar panels if we want electric light or heat, and plough fields to grow rapeseed etc, and make the requisite methanol/ethanol from the dung of our cows or old potatoes or whatever.
I'm a chronic guilt tripper, I've never actually done much beyond making plans and falling short - I certainly am not going to put my short up for anyone to see until I've done some more work on it. My supervisor called the other day and gave me to understand that I may graduate on it, but if I show it to anyone commercial in the state it's in it'll kill any chance of a cartoon studio dead.
But I can read. I was reading round about a war a while ago, starting with The Cat From Hue
- John Laurence. Fabulous. This led me on to War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
- Chris Hedges, which stopped me dead in the water on a very fruitful sortie into the depths of the human psyche. It's an excellent title, a good point, but the book is too self indulgent.
On good people - I had a friend then who was doing a PhD on War Studies at King's, and his thesis was Rwanda. Now that was a man who walked his talk. He wouldn't have anything to do with me because I was on a reproduction kick and he needed to do his work.
He interviewed 20-30 of the genocidaires in prison and only met ONE who said, "I did these things." Everyone else said ,"These things were done." That Rwandan one is a very troubling episode, you know, because the violence was so intimate. It always is, in Africa. In Europe genocidaires press gassing buttons. In Africa they use farm tools, and afterwards (GASP) the perpetrators and their victims must learn to live together ... if you understand anything of the nature of trauma, this is beyond belief. How do you begin to fix such an out of integrity?
Some people try. I have some friends whom I met as child, in Kenya, working for VSO. They live in North Wales now, and I visited them with my family, only to meet We wish to Inform you That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families
on the shelf beside my bed. Their youngest daughter has gone to Rwanda to do teacher training. And they've just left to visit her! My mind boggles at the thought. Nothing could make me go to Kigali in this lifetime. I work on the Underground, and I will go to great lengths to avoid being around when a person jumps under a train, even if it means ducking out from supporting my team.
A few other titles I wish I'd read then - Karl von Clausewitz's "On War.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's impressive work- On KillingThe Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle
(1959) by J. Glenn Gray
War is a difficult subject. It is evil, but is elimination less evil? How else does a society react to threat? After all, all the societies alive today are the most hardened, pugnacious ones. The soft die out. How to create a world not inimical for the soft? How are they to survive in it?
These are the answers civilisation is supposed to provide. It's making an attempt - I understand the Chinese are lifting 20,000 people a day out of poverty. Great stuff. Long may it last ... but isn't poverty good for the spirit?
Sometimes I see a flicker of a glimpse of how it might be possible to be the best that you can be, to reach your potential and thus expand the human condition, living in a comfy society in the West and not doing much, directly, for the myriad have-nots. After all, it is the spirit that matters, and what it learns. But it is a fugitive glimpse. I am not convinced it's not just fear of returning to an insecure society. I grew up with this 70's mindset, from my mum, that to do good in the world you have to live an uncomfortable life. But it does not necessarily equate that an uncomfy life is good for the world, and it is hard on one's kids. I hated having no running water. I don't want my kids living that.
On the other hand it isn't necessary for all the world to live in energy poverty, and this might be my way out. A mechanism to share wealth equitably (isn't that the fundamental question of civilisation?), and absolve me of the burden. Hermann Scheer is leading a big shift in my thinking on this.
What I've seen in Energy Autonomy
a) We're all going to have to shift to creating our own energy. We all need to live & work in buildings that generate their own electricity, and live in circumstances where we can walk to, or at least be able to name, or drive past somewhere in our weekly round, the fields where the crops are grown that give oil for our bio-alcohol. We have the choice of doing this now, off our own bat, or doing it after 3/4's of us have died out, at which point those of us who are left will be unable to operate power plants or pipe oil, and will have to find & affix solar panels if we want electric light or heat, and plough fields to grow rapeseed etc, and make the requisite methanol from the dung of our cows or whatever.
b) It is complete rubbish that poor people are right now trekking about seeking firewood when the sun's beating down on their backs delivering, for free, 15,000 times more energy than we need every day. It is unspeakable that species have been wiped out in the last 100 years completely unnecessarily, just so we can suck up the earth under our feet and enjoy the pleasure of selling it to each other.
c) The reason why we're not living off solar power right now is because oil/coal/gas/uranium is a product that can be sold, and nobody can sell the sunlight. In 1981 when Reagan came to power the conventional energy business shut down the nascent solar movement because nobody could own the sun, so nobody should. See Who Owns the Sun?
d) Ample proof has been available since the 1970's that renewable energy can replace conventional energy and supply the world's needs. It's not hard, for us people who can split the atom, it just needs the political will to junk the energy business. See John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes for an explanation of why this is not forthcoming, and weep.
e) I have also conceived an overwhelming desire to make my own biofuel. Apparently thousands of people do!
I bought my first car this year - I finally buckled under the weight of two children (I actually cracked my ribs under the weight of both, abruptly applied), and I would love not to feel guilty every time I hit the road. The faint odour of chips wafting about my car as I drove would do me just fine - and I adore the idea of running out of the house with a watering-can full of fuel to pour into my tank. Just think of the expressions on the faces of the people walking past! Daft women drivers doesn't cut it!
Anyway I came up with this plan to make fuel last Wednesday, 2nd July 2008, and I read through a biofuel recipe on the net (it's not easy; takes 8-9 months to perfect it in practise) and bethought me of my dad, now aged 60, back in Kenya. He loves chemistry, especially the do-it-yourself kind, so I sent him the link. Maybe we could run a parallel conversion attempt and encourage each other?
The thought also struck me that the veg oil to turn into bio-alcohol must come from somewhere. The food prices must be getting a bit rocky in Kenya, and so that might be a problem. A practical problem, and a psychological barrier to takeup for biofuel - despite the fact that, assuming an average energy yield of 50,000 kilowatts per hectare, only 8% of the world's current forest, field and farmland acreage could provide enough cropping to suffice us all with fuel.
But Hermann Scheer says 'in semi-arid regions there is an additional cultivable potential of well over 10 million square kilometres', so maybe there might be a chance there? So much of Kenya is semi-arid, 85% I learnt in school. I wrote to my Dad.
He replied the next day that you can grow - a miracle plant really as far as I can see. Not only does it have 'a great yield of well over 2,000 barrels of oil per square mile per year; it increases the fertility of the land on which it is grown so that it can potentially be used for food crops in subsequent years. It's a perennial which can grow in arid conditions (even deserts), on any kind of ground, and does not require irrigation or suffer in droughts' - reuk.co.uk. I nearly fell off my chair.
It's like a coffee bush with spiky leaves.
So it looks like the future of the world is assured and I can slope off and attend to the next emergency, which is human rights. Because no matter how secure, healthy and wealthy we are, it doesn't count as long as one woman or child is being spoken to rudely in their own home, does it?
The recipe I lean toward is the journeytoforever.org one. I need a shed, really, cos I can't have that stuff going on somewhere I can't lock my kids out of. But I'm turning over in my head how to do the first bit, converting 1litre of veg oil.
I'd love to tile my roof with solar PV/thermal tiles, you can get those now. The single home wind turbines are great, but unfortunately my roof's 100 years old and needs replacing first, which pushes my costs up into the £30K area. Annoying, isn't it? I still need to get wealthy to save the human race! We've put in warm water underfloor heating, though, a thing I'd never have thought we could do this decade, so you never know. Energy autonomy may be closer than I think. It has to be pretty close, to do any good. I've borne two children in great labour, I certainly don't want them freezing to death in some hellish winter 50 years hence.
Labels: biofuel, cartoon studio, decentralised energy, domestic abuse, energy self sufficiency, save the human, The Kraken Wakes, war is a force that gives us meaning