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Entropy production delusion

It is common in knowledgeable circles to talk about the development of civilization in terms of entropy discussion. The term 'entropy...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sustainable Development Goals

Young people are being encouraged to embrace the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN following the success of some of the Millennium Development goals. Global poverty has been markedly reduced while education of the poor substantially improved this century.
However, the goals are no more than wishful thinking as they are not based on what is physically possible. The primary objective of sustainable development is not possible because the operations of industrialized civilization irreversibly use up limited natural resources, produces irrevocable waste material and degrades the terrestrial and marine eco systems. This operation is an unsustainable process.

The most that sound policies can do is slightly ameliorate some of the seventeen listed predicaments. This, of course, would be admirable and is a remedial policy to be encouraged even though it is based on an anthropocentric delusion. Those who contribute to enabling these processes will have the satisfaction of doing something that is clearly worthwhile. This movement by the young will tend to counter to a small degree the common wide spread aspiration for a high material standard of living regardless of the deleterious impact on the environment and the disadvantaged people. It will give the smart youngsters pride in easing some of the problems created by the unwise decisions of their elders and ancestors. However, they need to understand that there is a practical limit to what can be done in regressing to cope with the identified predicaments. The Sustainable Development Goals are only a pie in the sky!

However, it is expected that ELAM (Earth's Lodgers' Activity Movement) will provide a more realistic agenda for the young to embrace in coping with the inevitable powering down during the coming decline of industrialized civilization. How will society cope with the rapidly decreasing land, sea and air transportation capabilities as liquid fuels become very scarce? How will they cope with decreasing communication capabilities as electronic devices and electricity become very scarce? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Distorted perspective

The possibility of intelligent life on some of the multitude of planets in the universe appears to be quite a consideration of some cosmologists, probably because it aids their academic careers to publish seemingly knowledgeable arguments on the subject.
Of course, they are not required by society to put this issue in appropriate time perspective. After all, most people are only concerned with what has happened in recent times and what is likely in coming years here on Earth. Some have a mild interest in the speculation of cosmologists about what has happened over past eons in the vastness of the universe. The space efforts of NASA and other organizations are of wide interest largely because of the impact of satellites on what they can use and do. The increased knowledge of what it is like on Mars is an interesting abstraction that does not rate as highly in society as the doings of entertainment and sporting (human) stars.
The time reality does not, however, appear to be taken into account by those who speculate on possibility of intelligent life on other planets. The universe has developed for billions of years with galaxies coming and going. It is quite likely that intelligent life on Earth will last for only millennia. The demise of industrialized civilization is certain within centuries as the limited natural resources are used up, while the surviving human population will not have the tools to survey the stars. If any intelligent life has existed for millennia on other planets it is most unlikely that they are in existence now. Those who speculate on making contact with intelligent life on other planets do not take that time factor into account. The slight possibility that intelligent life will develop on some planets in the distant future is an issue that no doubt some people will speculate on!
No doubt most people will continue to strive to make do as global economies start to contract and the views of cosmologists will be only a very minor distraction among even the the most learned.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Anthropocentrism hallucination

Anthropocentrism is the hallucination in society of regarding humans as the central element of the universe. It involves interpreting reality exclusively in terms of human values and experience, often without understanding of what is really happening..
There are many examples of how this lack of understanding has led to mistaken attempts to emulate nature in providing services. An example is the installation of desalination plants to provided communities with potable water and or irrigation. The hydrological cycle is how natural forces have use energy from sunshine to supply water in rain and snow for eons with an ecological cost (such as the damage due to floods) that is remedied over time by other natural forces. It has been and will continue to be a major factor in natural operations such as plant growth and organisms operations. 
Desalination plants provide potable water by using electrical energy (often from coal fired power stations emitting the greenhouse gases contributing to climate disruption and ocean acidification and warming). Ironically, these plants need cooling water circulated by using electrical energy in their operation. These plants are made of irreplaceable materials and have limited lifetimes so their operation is unsustainable process. So they are an eco costly emulation, not substitution, of the hydrological cycle.
That is, they are a common example of the failure of costly technological systems to emulate freely available natural processes. Despite these failings, proponents argue that desalination plants are often justified to meet the range of needs of industrialized civilization when what is freely available from natural operations is insufficient.
There is failure to understand that systems such as desalination plants are only temporary expedients. Installing these expedients as the population and infrastructure (and severity of climate change) grow only makes the inevitable collapse of the infrastructure and the die off of the population harder to deal with.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

demise of airliners

Appreciable research is under way in an endeavor to determine a viable alternative to the jet fuel derived from oil. This research is driven by the requirement to reduce emissions from the exhausts of jet engines in aircraft as well as the fact that the availability of oil is expected to decline in the future. There is a vast airline industry operating something like 200,00 airliners. An airliner consumes around 150,000 litres of jet fuel per flight. For example, a Boeing 747 consumes 4 litres/sec  So something like 3 x 10exp10 litres per day of jet fuel is being used.
Bio fuels are being promoted as a viable alternative. Fundamental energy relations show that these fuels cannot possibly meet the demand for jet fuels so the demise of most airline (and other aircraft) operations this century is certain.
Sunshine powers the production of the bio mass needed for bio fuels. About half of the amount of sunshine energy producing the biomass is available in the bio fuel produced. This means that about 15 hours of sunshine on a square metre of plant are required to produce the amount of energy in a litre of fuel. That is, about 3 square metres of plant are required to each day supply the energy provided by a litre of fuel. Plants do not have anything like the energy density of oil. The energy in jet fuel is about 35 MJ/L so airliners use abut 10exp12 MJ/day of energy in the fuel consumed in their operations. So something like 10exp11 square metres (10exp5 square Km, about 1 per cent of the area of USA) would be required of bio fuels to meet the present airliner demand. This would have to be in addition to the amount of land used for other purposes, including food production.
Research into using hydrogen as an alternative jet fuel decades ago did not get very far because it has such a low energy density in its gaseous form that the necessary fuel tanks would have been enormous. Cooling it to its liquid form was not technically practical on an aircraft.
Energy issues alone do not determine what is reasonable or even feasible. The extraction, transportation and processing of oil to yield jet fuel entails the use of energy and materials in technological systems that irrevocably age so need maintenance. In the main, these systems exist around the globe.
The growing, processing and transportation of bio mass to provide bio jet fuel entails the future installation of a massive eco costly, aging system. Yet it can only meet only a small portion of the demand. So airliners (and other aircraft) are a doomed species!

demise of shipping

http://www.gizmag.com/shipping-pollution/11526/ Provides details of the fuel oil consumed in vast quantities in the operation of the fleet of 90,000 cargo vessels carrying 90 % of the goods of global trade. It's the cheapest and most polluting fuel available and the world's ships chew through an astonishing 7.29 million barrels of it each day, or more than 84% of all exported oil production from Saudi Arabia, the worlds largest oil exporterThe article focuses on the polluting effects of the exhausts from the engines and consequent effect on human health.  A single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. The UN's International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which regulates shipping for 168 member nations, last October enacted new mandatory standards for phasing in cleaner engine fuel. By 2020, sulphur in marine fuel must be reduced by 90% although this new distilled fuel may be double the price of current low grade fuels. There are nuclear powered military and ice breaker ships but the in-feasibility of nuclear powering of cargo vessels was determined decades ago.The powering of some vessels by liquefied natural gas (LNG) will have insignificant impact on the holistic predicament.
There is no mention in the article of the effects of the emissions from these ships on climate change. There is no mention of the fact that the global stocks of oil are limited and oil will be getting beyond reach in the near future. There is no mention of the fact that these ships are built of irreplaceable materials and have limited life times. It appears that the decision makers around the globe do not understand these fundamental physical principles.There are already 3,693 new ship builds on the books for ocean going vessels over 150 meters in length due over the next three years. So ship builders will be facing the same grave predicament in due course as the shipping  firms and importing/exporting countries  as global trade disappears down the black hole. Society will have to cope with the inevitable powering down following the black swan event of the closure of global trade.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Resource scarcity predicament

“Scarcity: Humanity’s Final Chapter?” by Christopher O. Clugston provides a comprehensive analysis of the limited current and most likely future availability and usage of 89 non-renewable natural resources (NNR)  (fossil fuels, metals, non-metallic minerals). The amount of authoritative data  (referred to in a comprehensive End Notes and References chapter) it provides underpins the basic  tenet that this usage of NNR is an unsustainable process.

It covers the usage of the various NNR profiles in the extraction/production levels in appreciable detail in the Appendixes chapter. This information identifies whether the NNR is used in the production of goods, the provision of services or the construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure. It does not deal with the wastes produced by these processes or the impact on the environment of these operations.
The economic viability  of the production of NNR is considered . This is quite surprising because often the future production of an NNR will be dependent on the availability of other NNR rather than an assumed future financial cost.

In Epilog, Clugston calls for an intelligent response to ‘humanity’s’ predicament. But he has identified the scarcity of NRR as being a predicament when it is only one of those that society will inevitably have to deal with.
The Myths and Reality chapter deals with a number of common myths and the associated reality. Ironically the major myth that NRR scarcity is the only predicament is not covered. Coping with global overpopulation and aging is a difficult one. Dealing with the aging of the vast infrastructure that society has become so dependent on is another predicament. So is coping with the devastation of the environment (including climate change, ocean acidification together with reducing fertile soil and aquifer water availability) by the operation of technological systems
Many of the comments on the myths covered in the book are very perceptive within that limited context. The myths dealt with in the book are discussed in the following.
 ‘Human Ingenuity and Initiative Can Solve any Problem’. The Reality comment is sound except that it refers to ‘economically viable NNRs’. The reality is that possible physical operations will determine what NNRs are viable. Money can only affect the decisions made about these possibilities whilst it holds its value.
‘Economic and Political Solutions Can Solve Any Problem’. The Reality comment sums up the situation with respect to NRR scarcity very well. But that is not the only problem facing society.
 ‘We Will Grow Our Way Out of It’. This myth has a big influence on the attitudes of the political and industrial ‘leaders’ in society and the masses go along with that delusion. The Reality comment deals with the limitations of financial markets, particularly the growth of debt, to cope with the increasing cost of NRR as these costs now become more apparent.
 ‘Everything is Cyclical – with an Upward Bias’. The Reality comment points out the past nature of the ups and downs  have occurred while requirements for NNR could be easily met. That delusion cannot continue as a range of NRR become scarce. The commitment to use many NNR to operate and maintain the vast existing infrastructure as it irrevocably ages is not taken into account
‘Plentiful NNR Supplies Remain to be Discovered’. Surprisingly the Reality comment refers to ‘economically viable NRRs’ when it is ‘ecologically and physically viable NRRs’ that will set the limits. But the essential point is that there are limits to the NRRs that can possibly be extracted. Innovative technology can only extend these limits slightly because most advances have already being made.
‘”Official” NNR Estimates Typically Understate Remaining Reserve Quantities’. The Reality comment  explains how the misleading estimates have contributed to the common misunderstanding of what will happen to NNR supply.
‘Increasing NNR Prices Always Bring About Sufficient NNR Supplies’. The Reality comment again deals with ‘economic viability of NRRs’. Increased NNR prices have had a significant influence on supply in the past  but that influence will change dramatically as NNRs become scarcer.
‘We Can Always Produce Additional NNRs’. The Reality comment focuses on the economic aspects of NNRs supply when the reality aspects are likely to have a major impact. For example, there is growing social and political pressure to reduce the mining and use of coal due to the impact of the consequential emissions on the climate.
‘Legal Restrictions Currently Limit Access to Plentiful NNR Supplies’. The Reality comment provides sound refutation perspective.
 ‘NRR Substitution will Eliminate NNR Scarcity’. The Reality comment provides refutation perspective but based on intangible financial considerations rather than sound technical issues. 
 ‘Technical Innovation Will Insure Sufficient Incremental NNR Supplies’. The major point in the Reality comment is that technology can marginally increase the supply of NNR but it cannot create additional NNRs.
 ‘Incremental Financial Investment Will Insure Sufficient NNR Supplies’. The major point made in the Reality comment is that NNR exploration and production are subject to diminishing marginal returns as they become fewer, smaller, lower grade and less accessible. Oil is a typical example of this predicament with the use of fracking being an example of the developing predicament for sections of the oil industry.
 ‘Recycling Will Extend NRR Supplies Indefinitely’. The Reality comment provides perspective on both the impossibility of recycling of some NNRs and the limited practicality of others.
‘NNR Conservation Will Enable US to Reduce NNR Utilization Levels’. The Reality comment questions whether that will ever occur because of its impact. The real point is that NNR are being irreversibly used up even if the rate of utilization is reduced.
‘Increased Efficiency and Enhanced Productivity Will Reduce NNR Requirements, Demand and Utilization’. The Reality comment points out that these improvements actually tend to reduce human labor.
‘Population Stabilization Will Solve our NNR Scarcity Problem’. The Reality comment points out that even if the unlikely population stabilization did occur, it would only slow down the rate of usage of NNR.
‘”Stopping Growth”, “Downscaling”, or “Moving toward Sustainability” Are Viable Solutions to NNR Scarcity’. The Reality comment points out that these would only slow down the rate of usage of NNR so defer global societal collapse. This is misleading. NNR are used for the operation of the infrastructure of civilization. Decisions to cut back on the operations of the infrastructure do not lead to societal collapse.
‘We Can Avert Societal Collapse through a “Soft Landing”, ‘Humanity’s Real Problem is the Unequal Distribution of Wealth’. Again the Reality comment focuses on what will happen to society when NNRs become scarce when it is the operation of the infrastructure that will be the developing predicament.
 ‘Advanced Nations Such as the US Are Less Dependent on NNRs’. The Reality comment soundly sums the situation for the US. It applies to the developed economies but not to the developing ones.
 ‘Pre-collapse Preparation is the Answer’. The Reality comment notes that society has handled isolated disasters in the past but not the scale of disasters related to ever-increasing NNR scarcity.
‘Post-collapse Preparation is the Answer’. The Reality comment deals only with how some people will cope with obtaining fundamentals. It does not deal with how people will cope with the loss of such services as electricity for heating, air conditioning and communication or liquid fuels for land, se and air transportation.
 ‘Post-collapse Life Will Be Preferable to Our Industrial Lifestyle Paradigm’. Again, the Reality comment deals with how people will react without taking into account the services they will have to do without.

There are a number of other views amongst people, including the powerful, that are myths that distort our world view. The major myth is that continuing economic growth is possible. Numerous knowledgeable people (including Clugston) have provided convincing arguments for decades as to why this growth is not sustainable but many governments still pursue this delusion. Asian countries, with China and India leading the way, are doing their utmost to emulate Western countries even as their ecosystems deteriorate.
Another major myth is that using physical energy for the operation of technological systems can be done without taking into account the associated transformation of material to waste and the aging of the processing system due to friction. Even scientists have failed to point out the misunderstanding that has led to this myth. Climate disruption and ocean acidification and warming is the major deleterious consequence of belief in that myth but society will also have to deal with the disintegration of infrastructure. That is a developing predicament due to that lack of understanding of the ecological cost of necessary maintenance.  
Clugston effectively defines one of the major predicaments that global society will have to deal with as effectively as possible in coming decades. His book is but one contribution to insight into how industrialized civilization really operates in providing people with throw away goods and sometimes useful services without taking into account the irreparable and unsustainable ecological cost. Despite these warnings (in peer reviewed academic papers, books like Clugston’s and in online forums) by numerous knowledgeable and concerned people over many years, society blithely continues to head down this devastating path. Clugston refers to many of these sound contributions in End Notes and references.
The coming scarcity of NNRs is only one of the predicaments that society will have to deal with this century. The loss of services provided by the aging infrastructure has been noted above. The role of friction in this irrevocable process is not widely recognized even though the need to use energy and materials (NNRs) for maintenance is.
Concern about irrevocable climate change is even growing in governments but this predicament and the associated ocean acidification and warming is not yet being realistically addressed. Neither is the damage being caused by the production of a wide range of land, sea, air and organism pollutants.
However, over population is probably the gravest predicament for society as food shortage is likely to be the major factor in the inevitable die off. The declining availability of NNRs will have a major impact on all aspects of food supply from land preparation to serving up.
The trickle up of material standard of living that capitalists have been promoted for decades is clearly coming to an end in many Western countries and this is leading to social disruption, particularly among the young.
Ironically, many organisms have been responding to environmental disruption for decades yet most of society is only slowly waking up to these unintended consequences of industrialization. The ‘leaders’ of society are still blinded by the delusionary economic growth paradigm.
The cancer that is anthropocentrism will continue to dominate thinking amongst even the powerful in society until reality becomes too painful. Making money for wealthy (financially but not environmentally wise) investors will continue to dominate the decision processes until money inevitably loses its potency as the predicaments take over control.
It is ironical that a wise Roman summed up a long time ago what society is doing wrong.
Tertullian died before the start of the third century crisis that saw the Roman empire nearly disintegrating in a series of military defeats, civil wars, economic collapse, and currency devaluation. If Tertullian had been living today, he would be called a terrorist. But he, like many others, was just reacting to the increasing shrill and absurd official propaganda of his times. 
His view was “...our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.”