Japan’s Apollo 13 moment

There are some situations where ordinary people are called on to perform extraordinary feats of bravery and ingenuity as part of their job. These were the people who used to be referred to as the they, in the they provide the power.

I feel privileged and proud to live in a world when people are prepared to sacrifice their future for the sake of their fellow man and for the greater good of humanity.

From the somewhat incomplete picture I’ve seen on the news it appears that 50 courageous works of the Fukushima nuclear plant stayed at their posts after their plant was shaken and them engulfed in sea water. Had they acted to save themselves, how much worse would the disaster be now?

I’m sure the in coming days the sacrifice these workers made will become known. I have one question if it were you, what would you do.

30 Year old prophecy

I’ve just finished reading Limits to Growth The 30 year update, while one of my favourite jokes is “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans for the future”, the authors of this book use system dynamics to model the planet and chart our future development in terms of population, industrial production, food production, pollution, resources and human welfare.

A common belief today is we are able to produce more with less, todays cars contain less metals than lasts years cars, you get more kilometres to the litre and they are less polluting, this may be true but if we are producing 2% more cars per year. As the number of cars is increasing exponentially it is impossible for our technological improvements to reduce the overall environmental damage caused by the motor car. It can be hard to recognise exponential growth as we can be easily fooled into thinking it is linear growth. Try folding a piece of paper in half, the width grows exponentially and before long it’s impossible to fold in half any more.

But it gets worse, when extracting resources, we are naturally lazy and extract the easiest one’s first, so for example all the tin ore in Cornwall at the surface is gone. The Cornish tin miners then dug mines, pumped water from the mines, exhausting first the high grade ore then switching production to slightly lower grades of ore. Each of these steps required more capital and energy than before. The lower grade ores require more pre-processing therefore more energy than before to create the finished product. This pattern can be seen throughout the world, BP in the 1970’s brought ashore oil from the North sea, what at the time was considered a harsh environment. In 2010 BP can prospected for oil in waters 1,500m deep in the Gulf of Mexico, with near fatal consequences for the company.

In summary the world requires natural resources to produce stuff which we need, with a population growing exponentially we require more natural resources. The world is finite we first exhaust the easy to get at resources then we have to increasingly spend more money and resources to extract what we require to produce stuff.

When these relationships are modelled more formally you can three results from your model steady state, oscillation and overshoot and collapse. The authors of Limits to Growth assert that it is very likely we are in overshoot, but not in collapse. Collapse they believe is not 100% certain, there is hope, the Human race came very close to destroying the ozone layer, but took action thanks to better understanding of the science involved, international cooperation and understanding by the public of issue.

Signs of overshoot can be seen in Tropical forestation and global fisheries. Non sustainable agricultural practices are widely practiced.

No one likes a prophet of doom but if you wish to disagree with their conclusions these are the points to contest:

1) Growth of population and economy when it does occur tends to be exponential.

2) There are limits to the source of materials and energy need to sustain the population and economy,

3) The growing population and economy receive distorted signals that limits are approaching and  delay responding to them.

4) The limits are not only finite but erodible.

In summary a book well worth reading, and should give you plenty to think about.

Malthusian Compliancy

This is a response to:

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7723/

The lesson from China is not that there is no problem with population growth, but here is a nation which understood the problem and tried to find a solution. The solution may be a little authoritarian for our western tastes but it would not surprise me if other countries in the world eventually follow it.
It’s important to realise how we got where we are, we have exploited all the easy to get at resources on the planet, why was BP drilling a well in 5000ft of water to get at oil a mile down? The answer is because that was their best investment prospect i.e. there is no more easy to get at oil left to find. The oil age has proved tremendously productive and given us fertiliser, energy to move food cheaply to where it is needed and refrigeration to keep it cool. And the whole energy generating apparatus occupies so little space you hardly notice it. We will miss it when it’s gone.
So now back to population what does every one need to put food on their table energy, add more people, then add more energy please. We’ve succeeded in this trick rather successfully for the last 200 years, transitioning from wood to Coal, then oil.
So to sum up the reason we are able to sustain such a vast population is due to our vast energy consumption, our energy production is relying on the extraction of increasingly difficult to extract resources which are probably running out and transition to new energy sources will be very hard. If we are smart and make the correct decisions now we may be able to transition to a new energy world order, but it’s far from obvious we will be able to do this. If we fail in energy production expect our Malthusian nightmare to come home.
Compliancy is the enemy, yes mankind is smart, but Sara Palin is also a serious candidate for President.

Gareth’s Blog

My first post, on wordpress (the other blog was imported from windows live space). On this blog I will be talking about an subject I choose, when ever I choose. OK!

Gareth

Monkey Puzzle tree

Interesting fact about Monkey puzzle seeds – they take between 2 and 4 months to germinate. They then take 5 years to grow 5cm. I couldn’t be bothered to wait so I bought some 8cm plants off Amazon.

Endless ride

Just uploaded pics from my holiday with endless ride http://www.endlessride.com/php/home.php an execellent trip. Many thanks to Gareth and Sam for looking after us all.
 
More photos here:

Useful computer skills

It’s always nice to be able to do something useful. Had a upset Mother ask me how to recover photos which she has accidently deleted from her flash card. Not possible I said. Had another think about this the next day at work and remebered there were old utilities from the days of MSDOS which could do this and the filing system hasn’t changed much from the days of DOS. I suddenly suspected there may be many utilities to do this in the internet. Picked RegSofts flash recovery toolbox because it lets me recover 5 photos before I had to buy it. After purchasing the software and recovering everone was happy again. It’s so nice to be able to tell a happy story occasionally.