Saturday soapbox

Saturday’s is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation.

You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, to muse or amuse.

8 Responses to Saturday soapbox

  1. robertguyton says:

    Last October, Tokelau turned off the last of its diesel generators. In
    their place, we switched on our solar plants, making Tokelau the first
    country in the world to become 100% renewably-powered.

    I woke up before sunrise that day, excited about the history Tokelau was
    making. My whole village made its way to the site of over 100 solar panels
    — we could see the many hours of hard labor that had gone into this
    project. As we counted down to the switch, I could feel future generations
    smiling at us and thanking us. Our children’s future suddenly looked
    brighter because we had the vision (and perseverance) necessary to get off
    fossil fuels and switch to 100% renewable energy.

    You might wonder why we bothered. Aren’t we doomed to lose our islands
    from sea-level rise? I don’t blame you for thinking that if you did. So
    often the global media victimises the Pacific Islands and portrays us as
    helplessly succumbing to climate change and rising seas. But the global
    media know nothing of who we really are, or how it feels to live on these
    paradise islands we call home. They don’t know that as Pacific Islanders,
    we are warriors, and that the land we live on is part of us.

    We know that the longer the fossil fuel industry gets its way, the worse
    climate change will be, and the more sea-level rise will threaten our
    islands. But giving up on our home is not an option. We are not drowning.
    We are fighting.

  2. Andrei says:

    By hilikers Robert – 1500 people in a tropical Nation with no industrial capacity and who only have electricity for 16 hours a day at the best of times are using solar power.

    BTW they still maintain diesal generators for when the solar power doesn’t produce enough, though they can use coconut oil to drive them.

    But how long will all those expensive batteries and solar panels which make up the system last in practice? Twenty years if they are lucky I’d guess and what will the carbon footprint of replacing them all be?

  3. robertguyton says:

    I don’t know, Andrei but you sure are a wet blanket!

    The point of the missive is that these islanders are not gormlessly claiming ‘we are too small to make a difference’, the way many New Zealanders do.
    Go Tokelau!

  4. Andrei says:

    The point of the missive is that these islanders are not gormlessly claiming ‘we are too small to make a difference’,

    LOL you are so naive, this whole business was paid for using New Zealand taxpayers money which went to a New Zealand solar power company.

    Long term economic viability is not an issue when it comes to spending taxpayers money – political PR often is

  5. JC says:

    You aren’t wrong. It reminded me of a WUWT article covering the initial story:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/09/of-coconuts-the-sun-and-small-isolated-islands/

    JC

  6. robertguyton says:

    I didn’t know that! NZ taxpayer-money going to a NZ company, and a Pacific island benefiting along the way, plus, a significant position is taken over fossil-fuels and climate change. Naive hardly describes what I am!

  7. TraceyS says:

    Here is an example of the kind of technological development that is likely to confront us in the future (“Photosynthesis: Frontiers”, Cogdell, R. (2013), New Scientist, issue 2902). Described as an “electrical leaf”, it involves a combination of photovoltaic panels and genetically engineered bacteria. Electrons provided to the bacteria from the panels make the bacteria grow and extend conductive hairs. If the bacteria can be engineered to produce hydrocarbons, then they can turn sunlight and sequestered carbon dioxide directly into fuel. So simple! It’s conceivable that people could have their own fuel producing unit at home in the not too far-off future.

    Sustainable, yes, because the inputs are mainly carbon dioxide and sunlight. What if such alternative fuels eventually become very easy, convenient, and cheap to produce? Perhaps even too easy to produce. Let’s imagine that by 2050 you can purchase a fuel-making unit for the price of a smart-phone. All you need to do is put it outside to catch some sun, some air, and change the collection tanks! Those resources are virtually unlimited and if they can be harnessed cost-effectively, so too will be the fuel that it is produced.

    If it ever gets this easy there will likely be a lot of human activity stimulated as a result. And if there is a carbon dioxide-neutral growth in human activity then there should no longer be an issue with rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, but all other environmental problems will still continue to increase (such as waste, pollution, water and land-use conflict etc). And increased activity will create increased heat; “… starkly put, even if we stop soiling our atmosphere with greenhouses gases, Earth could still get hotter. It is an inevitable consequence of the second law of thermodynamics.” Chaisson, (2009).

    I have no doubts that this sort of technology will come about. As fossil fuel resource decline, there is money to be made out of sustainable replacement fuels technology – lots of it. And that is so because we have machines that just can’t run directly off solar panels, wind-power, or batteries. That is the plain reality. The boats that get people to Tokelau for example. This is the only method of travel to and from the island. It is also the only way to import their solar panels and batteries, and to deliver their exports to the world. They are still very dependent on diesel or diesel equivalents – there is no question about that.

    If such sustainable, efficient, cheap, clean, and unlimited carbon dioxide-neutral fuels come about then how are we to stop the future looking something like Coruscant? That is the bigger challenge in my opinion and one where both green and capitalist-minded people must find a way to co-operate. Otherwise the future looks a bit busy for my liking.

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