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Energy And Us

Everything you ever wanted to know about...

Don't worry, these pages won't be as long as the dreaded RCXa8. Here goes:

We have a long and complicated relationship with energy. Ignoring for the moment that without energy there's be - nothing ... - and we wouldn't be here right now discussing it, there came a point where we realised that energy was actually a pretty good thing to get into a relationship with. Where there was energy, life wasn't quite so cold or dark (fire,) and eventually we decided that not freezing to death in the dark was a better way to live, and energy in the form of fire became one of our first real; advances. We figured out how to burn wood to make the points harder and sharper for hunting, how to use fire to keep night nasties away, how to cook our food, and even how to use fire energy and wind energy to clear bush for us and flush out evenmore food. But we also found out that to be on the wrong side of that fire was HELL, and the aeons-long delicate balancing act began.

That's enough background, let's get started: Fire was the one real energy source all throughout our early history. As our numbers grew, we needed more than just windfall wood for fires, so we began to 'hunt' firewood as a resource. In a way, better weapons brought about better ways to also cut firewood, prepare foods, and so forth. Or was it the other way around? Who can tell, by now? 

I mean, even in these more recent times, I found that gathering and cutting firewood was one of my most demanding tasks when I lived on my little farm, because it was medium heavy work, required mutliple sets of tools and skills, and had to be done all year round at a steady background level.It also required me to have a chainsaw and keep it maintained, a car and trailer, ditto, and a decent axe an hatchet for processing. It occupied quite a few of my waking hours, up to four to six hours in an average week for finding, cutting, hauling, stacking, and processing. (If I'd been born a few centuries earleir and had had a king, that king would have made sure he owned all the forests so that he could profit from my needs, but phrase it such a way that he was protecting his forests so that I'd have firewood, wasn't he a good king who promulgated stability. As long as I paid my tithes and sent hiom sons to fight the inevitable wars, the 'regrettable instabilities.')

Fire was good, but fire was expensive.

When I moved to a more urban area, 'fire' for lighting, heating, cooking and hot water was also expensive. Around an eighth to a quarter of my income went to pay utilities like gas, electricity - and now, also water. This meant that one or two hours of my work each day, they paid for the electricity, gas, and water that I consumed to live well. And I didn't really care where that energy came from, only that I felt that I needed it. Energy and fossil fuel corporations worked hard to make me believe that I NEEDED that energy, the I DESERVED it. After all, my money was their income. Weren't they good corporations, that kept mylife stable and well cared-for?

And for their own part, kings and corporations had their own problems with fire. (=='energy'

For a start, castles from which to rule and defend from had to have a LOT of firewood, corporations consume a LOT of energy to make their products. They have to have it though. So the king hired woodsmen and house servants, corporations pay the energy corporation who pay miners to - ultimately - used humans as the engine to dig out the coal on which their engines depended. Energy and human lives have been intimately intertwined for millennia, and therefore we've developed a somewhat skewed sense of the value of energy versus the cost of it. 

It was more important to save energy than to save resources, so we dug more and more resources out of the ground rather than recycle things at a greater price.The actual cost was never really considered.

But Hark! A Shining Light!

One thing has happened that should cause us all to re-evaluate our relationship with energy. It has happened about fifty years too late (and you have to kind of wonder if that delay was caused by mere happenstance or by a bit of judicious bastardry) but it's happened. We are finally in a position to have clean almost cost-free energy. I'm talking of course about solar energy. Yes, the naysayers all claim that we'll run out of silicon before we fill our 'insatiable thirst' for energy but - who pays their energy bills, their wages? Yes, they are right, but silicon isn't the only game in town. Now that the lid's off and solar energy has become significantly cheapr than fossil fuel or even nuclear energy, people including those who form the army of a corporation would be fools not to take advantage, non

But while there's appreciation that solar energy is a game-changer, no-one's exactly figured out all the pieces yet. Or should I say 'no-one else'? Because there's a lot to unwrap with this.

Solar energy (at the moment) costs us silicon, rare earth materials, aluminium (but more on that in a tick) and some copper for wiring. It costs some acreage but luckily big corporations have acres of roof over their corporate kingdoms to cover with panels. And the financial resources that the rest of us don't. But the game-changer isn't just in having silicon. It's what you do with it. For corporations, that's to keep up the pillaging, but with one lower cost. 

But for the rest of us, there are so many things to do. Imagine if you will, a world where aluminium, glass, and plastics are recycled. Now, as I said, for a big corporation, recycling plastics was too hard because of the cost involved. Now, with cheap energy at their disposal - it's still too expensive for them... You have to understand the paradigm: 75% of the damn cost involved was pesky human labour. Who's got the bottom line for that shit? And so far we've managed to avoid havin' to pay more staff to recycle plastic, now alla sudden you want me to spend money to make all the greenies feel better? 'Outta here! 

Now the RCX paradigm shift: You don't spend money on people to recycle plastic. That's shortsighted, narrowminded, focused on the wrong concepts, and stupid. Really stupid. 

Instead, you spend money on people to make make machines that will do the recycling automatically, tirelessly, for no pay, forever amen. Then you add in a dose of AI (another new technical fied that promises to make machines smart at exactly ONE THING for as long as you need it to be and then - makes it smart at exactly the next thing you need it to do) and suddenly you have a machine that just cleans the labels off drink bottles and dunks them into a sluiceway to take them to the next machine. You can build a hundred - a thousand - such machines, each designed to do precisely that one task programmed into them, and suddenly all that your recycling costs you is the energy to run them. And that - oh yeah! - that's actually almost free.

THAT is the paradignm shift people are going to have to undergo. Yes - automation is taking jobs. But that's going to happen no matter what you do. Corporations gotta save and make more and more profits because it's pathological, built into the DNA of corporations. The layoffs will continue until we change THAT paradigm - but that's another thing Projext Kamp will have to design the trigger for, and also the subject for another page.

Here's another example: I have a load of washing to do. Back on the farm, I had a basic washing machine, a rainwater tank, and a clothesline. I had the choice of over-sudsing the water all to hell and then emptying it down the driveway, or being a bit more circumspect and using it to water some of the garden, generally the windbreak shrubs. Then I lived in a city and suddenly it was a bit frowned on to use the washing machine suds on any part of the garden due to being over the top of the aquifer that fed several of the city reservoirs. 

So the cycle ('scuse the pun) went a bit like: Farm - use wind energy to pump my water up to pressure head height, use a bit of fossil fuel generated electricity to wash my clothes, return the water to some plants that would have gotten it in the form of rain anyway. City - use a bit of fossil fuel generated electricity to pump water up to pressure head height, use a bit of fossil fuel generated electricity to wash my clothes, let the water go into the sewage system to do whatever it does there but again using a bit of fossil fuel generated electricity. 

And now - the RCX way - use solar energy electricity to pump my water to pressure head height, use solar energy electricity to wash my clothes, drain the water into a  solar energy electricity powered still where every bit of it except the water in my clothes gets cleaned of impurities, then add in just enough fresh water for the next load of clothes. Save the material in the bottom of the still and either separate it myself using some of those solar energy electricity powered smart recycling machines or take it to someplace that does it in bulk. The materials recovered will be some fibres and plastic fibres that can be used in reinforcing resin or cement or bioplastics, some elements that can be separated with more solar energy electricity powered equipment, and a bit of dirt and sand that can go back to the soil. It takes longer and uses a lot more solar energy electricity but it also saves a few kilolitres of watere I'd have just sent into some kind of H2Oblivion before. 

Which resource do we have the least of? Sunlight or good clean potable water? And now you know why this paradigm shift is essential. Energy is no longer expensive. Stuffing around trying to avoid using it to solve such problems is ecocide.

Oh and back to silicon: We know silica is one of the most common materials around, but it's hard to get good useable silicon. But if we focus on a) making good clean silicon with existing clean solar energy electricity and use some more solar energy electricity to work on finding alternatives to silicon PV - and building them -RIGHT NOW, that too is ecocide. There are already hundred patents for obtaining energy from solar. 

Same goes for batteries, before someone points out the bleeding obvious - NOW, we have lithium batteries that need certain rare earths. If we don't use at least a part of this energy to find a solution for NEW storage methods, kiss this planet goodbye. 

All it takes is people to start thinking about it and getting together in Projext Kamps everywhere and brainstorming this and we'd have a solution in years where the corporations have been dragging their feet for decades because they didn't and still don't see any 'profit' in it. And how will those people sustain themselves while they're in these brainstorm kamps? Why - that's one of the things that Projext Kamp should make it a priority to find out so that we can have a hundred like it (and inevitably each generation of Kamps better than the preceding ones) all working on these solutions. And not some mythical airy-fairy 'at some point in the future but NOW.

 

NOTES:

Aluminium: induction smelting at small scales can be done with a few solar panels and sunlight, some storage devices.

Storage devices: Batteries aren't the ONLY game in town, and LiION aren't the ONLY batteries. Spinning up a flywheel can store a lot of energy, or a gravity / hydro type system. 

Conclusion: During the middle of the day and with decent storage / peak load storage it should be quite possible to cast aluminium and copper, and if using a Tesla Powerwall type setup, anytime would be okay.