Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet


The reason some popular posts are tagged ‘no title’ is not because they have no title—they all do—but because the old Blogger embedded the title at the top of text, and the new software does not see that. You can see the titles in capitals at the start of each snippet. (It would be nice if Blogger introduced an upgrade program that could fix this little problem.)

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Wednesday 28 September 2005


The insane global addiction to cars powered by an internal-combustion engines(ICE) includes a pathetically childish addiction to the noise they make. Oil-heads think that if it doesn‘t go bang under the bonnet (under the hood if you are American) it isn‘t a real car. Like little kids they love making a big hullaballoo. Flick your foot and howl the neighbourhood down. If you can‘t do that it isn‘t a real car. It isn't a REAL car. IT ISN'T A REAL CAR.

A few months ago a British developer launched a fuel-cell motorbike. Yay! Like all fuel-cell vehicles it makes very little sound. Double yay! But the British Motorcyclists Association dismissed it as not being a real motorcyle. Why? 'It doesn‘t go brrmmm-brrmmm.'

Getting from A to B on a series of explosions is crude. Disgustingly crude nineteenth-century technology. Refined a tad, yes, but in its black heart it is still the same crude old banger. Still only an ICE (Infernal Combustion Engine?)

It is still the same old bomb. 775 million of them banging away every day and all day all over Planet E add up to a far more destructive explosion than a few nuclear weapons.

There ARE weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq. They are called oil-wells. And cars and trucks. Ironically, there are far more of those in America...

Forget the ICBMs. Get rid of the ICE Brrrmmms.

Monday 26 September 2005


The problem with global overheating is that billions of people are addicted to it. America's love-affair with the car is endlessly talked about, but it would be better to call it an addiction to the wrong type of car--an addiction that the whole world has caught. But cars are not the problem. It is what they run on. Cars that burn petrol and diesel are the problem. Or, more accurately all the machines that burn hydrocarbons, from mowers to power-stations.

And it is an addiction. Neuroscience has in recent decades identified what we have always known intuitively--that the primary part of the brain in decision-making is the emotional centre--and thus that when the emotional centre is damaged our ability to make decisions in our own best interests or in the best interests of society is also damaged. The damage may be physical, such as from a tumour, but the most insidious is microscopic damage--bad wiring caused by bad conditioning and bad choices. That is why the abused abuse. Bad actions towards them, reinforced by their bad choices within, create, and worsen, the bad wiring. It is the classic feedback loop--the decisions that emerge from bad wiring constantly intensify addiction to the bad behaviour.

In short, we make decisions, first and foremost, with our emotions. If we attach them to something bad for us, the consequent addiction to that bad behaviour makes it worse. The bad behaviour, even though recognised in logic to be bad, is repeated and repeatedly reinforced. Cold logic is turned awry by damaged warm logic; the logic of external reality is turned awry by the distorted logic of internal reality; the artefacts of life are made to dominate the facts of life. The artefacts get further and further from the facts until the facts become irrelevant and the insane artefacts rule.

Thus, although people know they are trashing the planet with their hydrocarbon-burners they keep doing it because of their addiction to them and all that they mean to the gratification of their damaged emotions. They are hydrocarbon-junkies. Oil-brained. Literally, petrol-heads (how odd that we often speak more truly than we know!).

Like drug-addicts they cannot kick the habit. They keep acting in ways that are killing them and their society and the whole planet. They refuse to stop. They deny the damage that is happening right before their eyes, because their selfmade bad wiring diverts the images into denial. The bad wiring constantly impels them into decisions that are not in their best interests or the best interests of society, and their addiction is constantly reinforced by those bad decisions and by the fact that almost everyone else is doing the same insane things. There is such comfort in insane company.

They are so comfortable with killing themselves that they cannot bear to give it up. Not even a series of force-five hurricanes can impress on them their own insanity. They escape the storms in the vehicles whose emissions gave them their terrible power. They are trapped in a traffic-jam of their own habits, and all they can do is think of how soon they can get back to 'normal'--to the same insane addictions.

Tuesday 20 September 2005


Silicon is the second-most plentiful element in the earth's crust (after oxygen). Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. If we went on to a war-footing globally, with the aim of putting silicon solar cells on every roof and fuel-cells into every dwelling and vehicle ASAP, we could wipe out global pollution. We are too late to end global-overheating, because we have passed the point of no-return, but at least we will no longer be contributing to it. The fuel-cells would run on the hydrogen produced by splitting water with the electricity from the solar cells. The emission from fuel-cells is water, which would then rain on the roofs, and be split again, and so on.

We must produce hydrogen by splitting water. We must not, as the Boys from the Black Stuff want, produce it by splitting hydrocarbons. If we did that, the carbon in the hydrocarbons would, in forming carbon-dioxide, take more and more oxygen from the air. If we got down from the present 21% to 17.5-18% we would all die of asphyxiation. But taking hydrogen it from water means we would have a cycle: the water is split, passed though a fuel-cell and remade, then cycles round again. No net loss of oxygen. Truly a life cycle.

If we monumentally raised production of solar cells and fuel-cells all over the world we would force the price down to the point where it would cost no more than $US5000 a house to provide it with an average of 50 square metres of solar cells (538 sq ft) and a 15kW fuel-cell. The only thing standing between us and the sunlight-and-water economy is the law of supply and demand. If we keep using that law as a catchment area, as we usually do, the prices will keep creeping down, but that will take far too long. We do not have the time. So if instead we use it as a sword, by putting in huge orders from entire countries, and sharpen it by giving silicon foundries 100%-plus tax-breaks, we will force the prices down right now. The need is global. The bottom line is the quality of life of the whole human race.

Thursday 15 September 2005

Climatic normality has gone, because we have destroyed it. We have to get into our heads that the twentieth century, impaired though it was, is the last normal century we humans will ever see. So this not a time for normal action, for acting the way we have always acted--slow, late or never. We must act at war-speed. The numbers show that we are decades too late to stop global-overheating, but we can at least stop global pollution. We can stop using the sky as an open sewer. Then there will not be quite so many atmospheric vultures coming home to roost.

Carbon-dioxide is rising at about 2 parts per million a year. We are now at 380ppm. Last year the scientific community said we must not go past 500ppm. That gave us a maximum of 60 years to get ourselves off the Black Stuff, the coal and the oil, not counting the lag between cause and effect. Later in the year that was revised down to 450ppm. Not so good. Then the international conference in London at the beginning of this year revised that down to 400ppm. So now we have 10 years to give up our Black addiction--which obviously means that we passed the point of no-return decades ago.

As Einstein said after the first atomic bomb was exploded--'Now everything is changed, except man's thinking.' The climate has been changed for ever; the normality of the past 10,000 years has gone, because we have destroyed it by burning hydrocarbons--and it doesn't matter if that means fossil ones, bio ones, whatever. If it raises the level of carbon-dioxide on Planet E it is bad. BAD.

It is even more basic than science 101 that the Black Stuff is all the surplus carbon-dioxide that was taken out of the sky millions of years ago, and that if that ancient carbon-sequestration had not happened the human race would not be here. But instead of seeing that its continued presence in the ground was essential to human existence, we thought it was there for us to make a buck, so we have been pumping it out of the ground into the sky as if there was no tomorrow--thus making sure that there will be no tomorrow for millions of us. We have been winding the clock back hundreds of millions of years to a time before we could exist. Vast numbers will pay the ultimate price for that folly. Some say billions will pay it--that the global population will be cut to about a billion.

Even our much self-vaunted buildings will suffer from our ingrained habit of driving about in fossil-mobiles. The natural protective coating that forms on the steel rods in reinforced concrete is destroyed by carbon-dioxide. Concrete is of course porous to carbon-dioxide, so the more of it we put into the atmosphere the more we threaten countless buildings. We are, literally, crumbling our civilisation.

We have to recognise that normality has been destroyed, that we can no longer predicate our public and private decisions on what we have been predicating them on for 10,000 years. We have to move at unusual speed if we are to salvage anything. We are decades too late to stop global overheating, but we can roll back pollution, noise, and the diseases they cause. But to achieve that in time we have to go on to a war-footing to produce clean technologies, in particular the huge amount of silicon needed to make solar cells at speed all over the world (and to power silicon foundries with solar cells so they are not increasing greenhouse-gases).

Wednesday 7 September 2005

In the late 1930s the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waved a piece of paper at everyoone with Hitler's signature on it--the infamous Munich Agreement--and proclaimed 'Peace in our time.' Hitler‘s promise was worthless. We got war. Now the politicians and bureaucrats of the world have waved another piece of paper at us--the infinitely worthless Kyoto Agreement--and have tried to con us into believing that it will make a blind bit of difference. We have made peace with global-overheating. Yay! It will all be all right. Yay!


Kyoto is Munich on steroids. And global-overheating is not the Nazis. This is not a comparatively piddling little fracas like World War II., where if you come in late (as usual) it just takes a bit longer to beat it before we have the brass bands and the credits roll. With global-overheating too late means we never beat it. And we ARE too late. We passed the point of no-return decades ago. Look at the data coming off the satellites every month. Look at the results of studies all over the world in a myriad of scientific disciplines. We cannot roll back global-overheating. We are stuck with it, we are stuck with the catastrophic consquences. The best we can do now is perhaps make the worst not quite so bad. And get rid of global pollution.

For that we need a Churchill. Because we need to put production of clean technologies on a war-footing. And that means truly clean, not nuclear-waste clean, or 'bio'-fuel clean, or 'carbon-sequestration' clean, or some other 'clean' delusion or great con. It means sunlight-and-water clean. The only thing that should be coming from the sky is sunlight and water. What goes up must come down. We have been using the sky as an open sewer for 150 years. Now all our filth is coming back on us. To get even a fraction of the mess off we have to act at war-speed. But we won't. We never do. Look how fast we reacted to the New Orleans debacle. After ignoring the fact for decades that building a city below sea-level in hurricane alley was not a very bright idea, and putting faith in puny dikes and godlike American power, when the inevitable happened the reaction was Dithersville. The order to evacuate was given too late, hordes ignored it, the authorities who had given the order failed to make sure that everyone could comply, and did. So hordes died, corpses floated in drowned streets and bobbed in countless drowned houses, people behaved worse than animals--and the marines did not come galloping over the horizon and save 'em all before the commercial break.

Oh well, they want to rebuild the place, so maybe they'll get there quicker next time. There will be a next time, so let's call this one just a practice run. Next time, then, or the time after that. How often will they rebuild the place before it will get into their dim brains, as it did into King Canute‘s courtiers, that you cannot stop the tide coming in. Especially when it has a 300kph wind, a massive storm-surge and giant hurricane swells behind it.

Pieces in our time.

Monday 5 September 2005

The disgusting New Orleans saga sums up why we are staring down the barrel of a global-overheating catastrophe and the hammer has fallen. We think we can live any way we please and ignore the way the planet functions, then when it knocks our stupidity for a loop all we can talk of doing it picking ourselves up and getting back to the same old stupidity ASAP. As Winston Churchill neatly put it: 'Men often stumble over the truth, but most of them manage to pick themselves up and carry on as if nothing had happened.'

So now they are planning to rebuild New Orleans. NO! Let it slid back into the swamp where it belongs. Only monumental insanity lives below sea-level in hurricane alley. And when the inevitable happens, and it gets flattened and drowned, only stark raving hubristic lunacy wants to rebuild it.

There are going to be many parts of the earth that global-overheating will make uninhabitable. With the ice melting and thermal expansion getting steadily worse, the sea will be rising for thousands of years, even if we stopped the greenhouse-gas emissions right now, so we will just have to get used to the sight of big coastal cities being hacked out of civilisation. It is nicely ironic that America, where the internal combustion engine is king, and which is thus responsible for a large chunk of the lethal problem, should have been the first to cop a Grade A1 climatic smack in the head.

And it IS global-overheating, not 'global-warming.' 'Global warming' sounds so safe and comfy. Everyone likes being warm. But the term is scientifically inaccurate, because the earth has been warm, it has on average been at a good human temperature for 10,000 years. 'Global warming' is also dangerous, because its comfortable sound lulls us into a false sense of security; we see no cause for urgency. So then we get smacked right in the middle of our Big Easy. And it becomes bog easy, in nothing flat.

Friday 2 September 2005

Neil, who as it happens has seen and been told more of the design of the EStarCar than anyone else, and was impressed by how extraordinarily flexible and customisable it is, and thus how infinitely it could and would be modified once out on the road, observed that it was rather like Linux. Which may be true-ish. The heart of the car, what makes it go and stop and change direction is fixed. It has to be for safety, but the rest--the shape, the look and feel of the user-interface, the dimensions, the number of wheels and motors, the accoutrements, etc--can be whatever owners want to make them, or have made. Traditional cars are customisable, true, but for them it is the exception. With the EStarCar it is the rule.

So if the Linux kernel does not change much, and most of the enhancements are more out in the user-interface areas, speaking extremely broadly, Neil's analogy would be reasonable. Up to a point, hence that 'true-ish.' For with a car, you cannot publish any old enhancements and download them. Try that with a wheelcap, for instance. Difficult. Not enough bandwidth ;-) Even with the software it would be problematical, because a hacker could kill people. So the only software that that could ever apply to would be in add-on entertainment systems--only the stuff that does not power, steer, stop or otherwise control the vehicle.

But people could certainly share, build, enhance, download designs for bodies, right down to tiny structural details, designs in which certified engineers and engineering companies could share, so that you could go to a body-maker and get your desires turned into alloy in the comfortable knowledge that it would get the official stamp.

At the top of this posting I said 'out on the road.' Ooops! The EStarCar is so morphable that the road, or solid surfaces, are not its only beat. So revise that. Out there...