The Road

1.8.10 by m.a.garvin + 82 comments!

I haven’t yet read the book but I have just seen the movie adaptation. Coupled with the first half of “Earth 2100″ I have come out of January 7, 2010 with a very pessimistic outlook on the future.

Let’s start with the present: We are wasting resources at an alarming rate. Between our gas guzzling automobiles, extensive light use, and obsession with having the most “stuff” I can safely assume that in 50 years we’re going to wish that we had saved up some of our resources for later. I’m personally taking this year to be greener. Live greener. This Earth is a gift. Life is a gift and here we are spitting on our presents. It’s like that bratty child that looks at a doll in disdain on Christmas and says, “Mommy, I wanted the blonde one.” There are many things that we could do. In fact, the market is indeed cashing in on our new-found consumption awareness (which strangely enough sounds rather oxymoronic). Clorox has come out with “Green Works” products, paper companies are advertising the percentage of recycled materials that go into their goods, it is now en vogue to keep your vegetable garden and wear soy panties. But not enough of us are getting the picture.

It is projected: that the Earth’s population is growing exponentially. Something like 370,000 babies are born every day. Now, I’m not in favor of necessarily supporting the Chinese census limitation of families, but that’s a lot of new people in the world every single day. Just think of how many of those children grow up without homes or enough food. It’s alarming. It takes about three days to accumulate 1,000,000 people. I’m not mathematician but I know enough about numbers to figure that about every month there are 1,000,000,000 new people in the world. Let’s multiply that number by 12 and start counting the number of years it takes to get to 20 billion, huh?

What does that mean? It means major food shortages. Not everyone owns actual land anymore. There isn’t enough of it. And those that do are most likely commercial vendors. I would have to do more research on this, but I can’t imagine the staggering ratio of farmland to city land at this point in time. It’s not glamorous to farm, I get that. But it’s necessary.

On “Earth 2100″ it said that if the rest of the world consumed as much meat as the average American we could exterminate all the cattle in the world rather quickly. I just read on that animals are farmed and force fed in certain circumstances in order to be considered delicacies– and that’s only for the part of the body that will be cooked. Foie gras was the meal item in question. Duck livers. Check out the article.

This is probably the least educational place to get the numbers, the double-checked facts, and the expertise on things like post-apocalyptic Earth but I wanted to write about my concerns. Our fuel is running out. Our food is bound to run out. Our water supplies will stagger to devastating lows. Your children, my children, our grandchildren are going to inherit a naked Earth, badly abused. We could revert back into hunters and gatherers, or out of human greed, cannibalism. We could become scavengers. We could forsake all the things we know about right and wrong, intrinsic human values, and give into the eat, sleep, reproduce mindset that we forsook eras ago. Does that scare you? It scares me.

What can we do? We can recycle. went into a rather detailed explanation about what it takes to both make and recycle paper products and the nitty-gritty composition of plastic bags. We can look for other energy sources– at least our governments can, but they seem convinced that off-shore drilling is the answer. We could use solar panels, support companies using wind energy, buy all natural products, and grow our own vegetable gardens. There are simple solutions (save the finding new energy sources, I can imagine that would be rather difficult in larger scenarios) that aren’t being taken advantage of.

I wonder if this is the panic that the apostles felt when they witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. This absolute need to tell people that the here and now matters, that what you do in this life has direct consequences (maybe in this case, not your soul and eternal being, but definitely on future generations), and that something has to change.

(Just a note here: I will probably edit this as I do more research and add on to it, but don’t hesitate to add your own opinions and knowledge. Know that this post is not necessarily complete.)

Fruit Trees and Simple Data

8.3.09 by Cypy + 72 comments!

I attend the environmental club at my high school (yes, I know, you readers are acquainted with it, but this is simply clarification for the so called newcomers, the Internet figures who flit in and out of existence in the Google analytics graph). Most notably, our club arranged to get the school a recycling dumpster last year and successfully emptied the recycling conrtainers around the school. This year I would like our environmental club to continue working well with past plans, and also initiate new ones. For you busy readers, here is an outline:

We will communicate with the janitors and principal to properly divvy the recycling work between volunteers and school staff. We will place recycling containers in the commons area for lunch. I would like a mandatory compostable, reyclable, and trash system in the lunch room because it generates an enormous1 amount of trash every year, and from what I have seen, most of that trash is either food (compost) or paper and plastic (recycling). I recently read about a similar recycling program at a middle school. If ten-year-olds can sort their lunch leftovers, high schoolers are more than capable. Locker clean out day has always seemed particularly wasteful because many students, fraught with end-of-school spirit, decide throw every item from their locker into the trash. Not only could we recycle most of their old materials, but we could reuse them as well. Remember that recycling comes last in the chain of Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. They’re in that order for a purpose. First we must be careful not to generate useless crap, next we must insure that what we do make can be reused (preferably for more than 10 years), and finally, once all hope is lost and we are stuck with something useless, we must break down its raw materials for the construction of new products. Locker clean out day is a potential gold mine for school supplies. It’s logical to offer “re-use” bins to the frenzied students, in place of the ubiquitous black trash can. They could simply take one extra minute to sort through their lockers, and place their extra school supplies in the re-use bins, while placing any unusable materials in the recycling. We could then have a post-locker-clean-out rummage, which would provide students with a jump start to their back-to-school shopping (completely free of charge, too).

I am extremely passionate about the fruit tree project, and as I explain it, I will be writing with unbridled excitement. This is a volunteer organization in Lawrence, aimed at planting fruit trees around town. I think Free State High School is an ideal location because they have wide open spaces, a whole lot of sunshine, and hungry students. The city is hesitant to plant fruit trees because they always worry about the mess fruit can make. Fortunately for us, the hungry student aspect of our plan will take care of any fruit before it has the chance to fall on the ground and create a mushy, sticky insect pie. In order to plant fruit trees at Free State, we must do three things: create a map of the area, and evaluate the best locations; talk to the principal and other people in charge, presenting our case, so we can approve the project; rally the volunteers and the money to plant and care for the trees. Once the fruit trees are rooted and strapping, the second stage of the project can begin: the fruit harvesting—this stage will occur years from now when I am gone from the school so I am counting on new members of environmental club to carry it through. Harvesting can be both official, and unofficial. Unofficially, students will be able to walk outside, and pluck fruit from the trees. Officially, school staff can harvest the fruit to sell in the school cafeteria.

The last branch of environmental club is the outgoing, advertising, yelling, information-giving, promotion side. Not only will we try to find new members this year, but we will also try educate non-members to be conscientious, earth-friendly citizens. The more informative our advertisements become, the less likely people will pay attention. We have a trade off between the effectiveness of education, and the amount of people we educate. We will also generate trash with any sort of pamphlet or hallway sign, so whatever signs we make, we need some environmental hocus-pocus simply to restore the resources used to create them, let alone gain a net benefit. To optimize the effectiveness of education, I would like to present important data in a manageable (i.e. understandable) form. One educational opportunity I would like to seize, is to put global warming data in perspective. I recently read an article in Make Magazine by Saul Griffith, who made a really compelling argument that despite the mass-media attention given to global warming, most people still don’t know how much energy the world is using, how much carbon dioxide results from this energy use, and what temperature correlates to what concentration of carbon dioxide. These are debatably three of the most important facts in the grand scope of global warming, but people haven’t managed to memorize them (why don’t we learn this in school?). In case you were wondering, here’s the cheat sheet:

CO2 levels in the atmosphere are often measured in parts per million (ppm)
Preindustrial levels: 280ppm
Year 2000 levels: 368ppm
Today: 387ppm
Goal to stop before: 450ppm (at this level, global warming gets really nasty)

+100ppm = +1°C

1 billion tons CO2 = 0.260 parts per million CO2
1 Terawatt-year of coal = 0.198 parts per million CO2
1 Terawatt-year of oil = 0.155 parts per million CO2
1 Terawatt-year of gas = 0.112 parts per million CO2

People use over 10 Terawatts of fossil fuels, meaning we add from 1ppm - 2ppm of CO2 every year.
It will cost over 25ppm of CO2 to build alternative energy infrastructure.
450ppm - 387ppm -25ppm = 38ppm
38ppm/1ppm to 2ppm per year = 38 years to 19 years

Basically, we have 38 to 19 years at the current rate of emissions, before we pass the all-feared 450ppm limit. We need to realize that people are using more and more energy every year due to population growth, and modernization. Considering this, we would probably pass the limit before the 19 year mark if we don’t use clean energy, and even if we develop new clean energy sources, we will pass the limit within 38 years unless we replace all our old energy sources.

I imagine other educational opportunities will present themselves as we find guest speakers to lecture for our meetings. Currently, I am talking with Bart Rudolph, who works with the Lawrence Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization as a transportation planner.

Footnote: I have no numbers, but every day, about 1000 kids eat lunch and throw away the lunch packaging.

The End of ze World

4.12.09 by Deus + 118 comments!

We once had a poll in the Free Press about whether the world will end in 2012 - fifty percent if not more of the nine votes (maybe I’m remembering something incorrectly) said yes. Now I wonder - how many people actually know why the Mayans thought that the world would end? I got this from an authentic Mayan descendant: they had a base-20 counting system, and a denoted dates in the form a.b.c.d.e. Starting at, the date they believed they were created (some 5000 years ago), the first digit was incremented for each day that passed. When it reached 20, it returned to 0 and the second digit was incremented. There were specific day values for each position (first position is one day per each count, second is twenty for each count, I don’t remember the third and fourth, and fifth position 144000 days per increment). December 20, 2012 is when the calendar reaches and December 21 is when it goes back to So essentially, people are getting excited (ahem) because of the quirks of their numbering system and a religious belief that has been disproven by the fact that humans are considerably older than ~3000 BC. Of course, the likes of this gentleman aren’t much for the idea of us having been apes at some point (better to have been created by an omnipotent third party), but we have found some pretty old bones in the ground. But I digress.

That is not to say that the world won’t end in some sense - it’s just almost certain that we can’t predict the date by some mysterious prophecy. Right now, a third of the world (2.3 billion) is positive for tuberculosis. Some strains are incurable. We’ve got the Large Hadron Collider that can theoretically do some very interesting things (black holes, tears in reality, Satan, and all that science fiction that it probably won’t do but might [except the Satan thing]). When they originally tested the atomic bomb, they thought that it might ignite the atmosphere and put Outback out of business, but they detonated it anyway - who cares if our steak isn’t medium-rare and doesn’t have all the delicious tapeworms as long as we can blow up Japan a thousand times over? Shouldn’t we wait until we can do these things in space before we risk cracking our planet in half? Some lab is producing carbon nanotubes for the US government at a rate of 1g a day, which can stretch to 18 miles. They need about 140000 miles to build a viable space elevator, so my idea is that someone with the money should put together sufficient funds to sponsor an international collaboration on building this space elevator. I digress again.

But in any case, we can’t predict when the world will end. It almost definitely won’t happen because someone arbitrarily thought so.

Edit: So it seems that Wikipedia’s version of the Mayan apocalypse contradicts what I’ve written here. I got my information from an actual Mexican native so I’m more inclined to believe that, but I honestly don’t know which one is correct. Mine makes more sense, so I’ll leave it for now.

Let’s do the math

5.25.08 by Deus + 92 comments!

The radius of the planet Earth is roughly 6371 km, and the troposphere extends an average of 12km above the surface. From that follows that we have [(4/3)π*63833]-[(4/3)π*63713], or 1,083,206,916,846 cubic kilometers, of atmosphere. 21 percent of that is oxygen, so there are about 227,473,452,538 cubic kilometers of O2 that we have available for breathing. Now, if the oxygen were increased by just three percent, or 32,496,207,505 cubic kilometers, the atmosphere would ignite if you lit a match. Conversely, if you subtact a few percent from those 227,473,452,538 km3 of O2, replacing it with something like CO2 or all the other stuff released by us into the atmosphere, or perhaps dropping a few nukes into the South American rainforests, there won’t be enough to sustain human life.
Feel free to check my math.