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hunter's Journal
hunter's Journal
May 17, 2022

Everything Elon Musk does makes me pessimistic about humanity's future.

He pretty much personifies the lucrative (for him anyways...) kind of false optimism that will destroy what's left of the natural world as we know it. I'm pretty sure he's an apartheid asshole as well.

If we believe wind turbines and solar panels and batteries and electric cars are going to "save the world," we are only deluding ourselves. These will only prolong our dependence on fossil fuels, especially natural gas. In fact, an expansion of these technologies to more humans will only increase the environmental footprint of humanity at large.

Seeing wind turbines on hillsides or at sea, and acres of solar panels growing like cancers on previously undeveloped land, does not give me the warm fuzzies. And there's no way in hell this planet can sustainably support an automobile for every adult human, whether it's electric or not.

Human space exploration does not make me optimistic. I'm fairly certain natural humans won't ever have a significant presence in space beyond low earth orbit. We're just too damned fragile. There have been spectacular advances in computers and robotics since we last sent men to the moon so there's no good reason to send human explorers out into space any more -- it's a waste of resources and humans will only get in the way of actual science.

Robotics make me optimistic.

If we natural humans don't destroy our twenty first world civilization, then it will be our intellectual offspring who colonize this solar system; engineered beings who can safely walk naked on the surface of Mars, or fix a problem on the exterior of a spaceship wearing minimal protective clothing... like putting on a coat before going out into frosty weather, no space suit required. Breathing? What's that?

There are things that make me optimistic. The political and economic empowerment of women, easy access to birth control, and realistic sex education will halt human population growth in its tracks. That's a demonstrated fact.

It delights me every time I hear in ordinary conversation a woman talking about her wife, or a man about his husband.

Durable plastic pipe and sophisticated water treatment systems could bring clean water and indoor plumbing to everyone on earth. Modern treatment plants can turn sewage into irrigation water, or even back into tap water. The sewage that goes down the drain in my house irrigates crops, and some of it gets turned back into tap water. I don't have to feel guilty about my flush toilet. My shits not getting dumped directly into some river or contaminating the groundwater my neighbor drinks.

Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly sophisticated, both in their own right and with the greater availability of products that mimic meat and dairy products. It won't be long now before the most popular and least expensive burger in your favorite fast food place is vegan, the same as the milk you pour on your breakfast cereal. Unless you want to pay extra for the "real thing" which, hopefully, won't be some animal tortured in a factory farm and processed by abused workers.

I think everyone in the world deserves a reliable, affordable, supply of electricity. The way to accomplish that is with nuclear power, which is an established seventy year old technology far less dangerous, kilowatt hour for kilowatt hour, than any fossil fuel. Unlike complicated "renewable" energy schemes, the components of a modern electrical grid are mostly made of iron, aluminum and concrete. These materials last a long time and iron and aluminum are easily recycled when they are no longer serviceable, in a way that the components of various "renewable energy" schemes are not, everything from wind turbine blades, electronic waste, and lithium batteries.

I think small modular nuclear reactors built in factories and shipped to places that need electric power have a very promising future. I like living in a nation that never abandoned this line of research so we won't be dependent on Russia or China for this technology when it becomes clear to the majority of us here in the U.S.A. that the fossil fuel industry must be shut down.

There's no point to being an "optimist" or a "pessimist" if you don't have any clear vision of a viable and sustainable future.

Personally, I seek to crush the optimism of anti-intellectual intolerant religions, climate change deniers, racists, homophobes, libertarian twits, etc.

May 15, 2022

It was fun to see this meaty post back at the top again.

I'm some kind of Luddite so my opposition to nuclear power was because it works, not because I fear any sort of nuclear wastes or accidents. Fossil fuel wastes and accidents are clearly worse in every measurable way.

Nobody freaks out when a gas explosion levels an entire hotel or neighborhood, the kinds of accidents that happen fairly frequently. But some people are still freaking out about Fukushima, an accident that was caused by a giant tsunami and not any ordinary negligence. The non-nuclear toxins spilled by the tsunami certainly had larger environmental impacts than the nuclear loss of cooling accident, and the death toll of the tsunami itself was unimaginably worse.

"Peak Oil" didn't make me fearful, it made me optimistic that we humans might be forced to live within our means. But that was proven wrong. It's now clear there's enough natural gas in the ground to destroy the natural world as we know it, yet people still think it's a relatively "clean" source of backup power for their renewable energy follies. They say it's "better than coal" and other such nonsense, which is like arguing about the best way to execute prisoners. We're all prisoners.

In recent years I began to think about how dependent we all are on high density energy sources. Even the poorest person living in a slum, someone who can't afford shoes let alone a bicycle, is dependent on high density energy sources for their food and probably their water too, no matter how wretched the quality of that food or water is.

For now most of that high density energy is supplied by fossil fuels. If we don't quit fossil fuels as soon as possible very bad things are going to happen, worse than are happening now.

Nuclear power is the only energy resource capable of displacing fossil fuels entirely.

Watching energy data almost obsessively, all of it readily available on the internet on sites such as CASIO, it's become clear to me that aggressive renewable energy schemes in places like California, Denmark, and Germany have failed, and they won't "save the world." At this assertion affluent renewable energy enthusiasts (who tend to be quite wealthy by world standards) will wave their arms and say something about batteries and other fanciful forms of storage that simply don't exist, and cannot exist, at the necessary scale. Nobody is going to give that guy who can't afford shoes or a bicycle a Tesla Powerwall. But maybe everyone can have safe shelter, clean water, and reliable electricity.

The other argument is that "Perfect is the enemy of good." The problem is hybrid gas/renewable energy systems are not good. If they are widely adopted around the world they will only prolong our dependence on natural gas and probably increase per capita environmental footprints and greenhouse gas emissions as well.

An electric power grid is made out of iron and aluminum. It doesn't require any exotic materials. The dreaded wastes of nuclear power plants, unlike fossil fuels, can be captured and contained indefinitely. There's no energy source capable of supporting all the world's cities and agricultural industries that has a smaller environmental footprint than nuclear power.

May 12, 2022

The only birth rate that truly matters is the birth rate for all humans.

There's only one earth and one species of humans who have migrated by land and by sea throughout human history, populating all the continents and major islands except Antarctica thousands of years ago.

All the other concerns about birth rates are based on racism, nationalism, or religion, as expressed by people who believe in some sort of cultural purity, a sort of purity that has never existed even in places like North Korea where dissent is severely punished.

I'd flippantly say the ruling class is fearful of low birth rates because it reduces the number of naive young people they can exploit.

It would be a good thing if human population growth was zero or slightly negative. We humans are exceeding the carrying capacity of our environment.

We can achieve zero population growth by the political and economic empowerment of women, easy access to birth control, and realistic sex education. It's not a coincidence that these are the progressive goals that "conservatives" of many different nationalities and religions oppose.

March 29, 2022

Nuclear power is the only energy source capable of displacing fossil fuels entirely.

But that would make all these wind energy schemes redundant as well.

Thus all the noise.

Nuclear power is an existential threat to the hybridized wind-solar-gas industry that many self-proclaimed "greens" are invested in.

These renewable energy schemes are incapable of displacing fossil fuels entirely for the simple reason that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. At a certain point, usually well below 40% of the total energy demand, adding more solar panels or wind turbines hits a wall of diminishing returns. Additional wind turbines and solar panels have little or no value.

That's not the case with nuclear power. If nuclear power plants are supplying half the power on an electric grid then doubling the number of nuclear power plants will supply all the power on that grid. That's not the case with solar and wind power.

Solar and wind enthusiasts either ignore this reality or they argue for magical energy storage schemes that do not, and in some cases cannot, exist.

A wealthy person can afford a roof covered with solar panels, a bunch of Tesla Powerwalls, and a backup generator powered by vegetable oil produced on their own estate. That's not really an option for all eight billion of us. It's not even a truly green option.

The people with the smallest carbon footprints are going to live in pedestrian friendly cities with nuclear energy delivered directly to their homes over aluminium cables. That's the least resource intensive way to raise living standards throughout the world.

February 5, 2022

Aggressive renewable energy schemes in places like California, Germany, and Denmark have failed.

They are fundamentally unfair to lower income consumers and have only increased our long term dependence on fossil fuels, especially natural gas.

There's enough gas in the ground to destroy the natural world as we know it, and our civilization as well. It should be left where it is. Hybrid natural gas / renewable energy systems will not save the world.

The current rate structure for solar destabilizes the electric grid and transfers wealth from lower income consumers and apartment dwellers to people who are already wealthy.

I've discussed this on DU in quite a few places. Here's a recent post on rate structures:


I'm a radical environmentalist and I used to be a radical anti-nuclear activist.

Hell, if I was Emperor of Earth I'd ban all personal vehicles with engines larger than 10 kilowatts. I'd also ban the entire factory farm meat and dairy industry. Good thing I'm not Emperor, you say?

But seriously, my politics are practical and Democratic. My Emperor of the Earth proposals are thought experiments.

That being said, I've changed my mind about nuclear power. At this point it's a mature 75 year old technology and the only energy resource capable of displacing fossil fuels entirely.

As the human population approaches 8 billion we've worked ourselves into a very tight corner. At least 99% of us are dependent on high density energy sources for food, clean water, and shelter. Without these high density energy sources (now provided by fossil fuels...) about 40% of us would suffer and eventually die. That's about the same number of us who will suffer and eventually die by climate upheavals if we don't quit fossil fuels.

I'm some sort of socialist. I believe EVERYONE in the world deserves healthy food, clean water and indoor plumbing, comfortable shelter, and a reliable source of electricity. That can be accomplished with nuclear power, and with minimal danger compared to fossil fuels.

November 19, 2021

We know how we got here and it wasn't in spaceships.

In my strange universe intelligent species who don't obliterate themselves make the leap to near-omnipotence rapidly, before they build any silly things like starships, which would be quite boring as they wouldn't go faster than light.

This big universe is very threatening to certain religious beliefs, in that aliens are more powerful than their gods.

A being like Q, who can pop out of nowhere to harass Jean-Luc Picard in a galaxy of 100-400 billion stars or more, makes humans seem very small and insignificant, which they are.

It's much more comfortable to believe humans are special enough that aliens in space ships are watching us.

The truth is harder. We each have to determine "the meaning of life" on our own, even as nearly omnipotent beings. This meaning cannot be found in science or religion, it's unique to each individual.

On a less philosophical note, funding for UFO studies is easily diverted to less savory pursuits. Suppose you are looking for aliens or rogue artificial intelligences on the internet. Sounds fun, right? You might use the same technology to identify hidden political enemies as well.

Remember the Glomar Explorer? That ship was supposedly looking for manganese nodules on the ocean floor. I remember the popular science articles. The ship was in fact built to recover a sunken Soviet submarine.

In any case, supposing some alien near-omnipotent intelligence is teasing us, then there really isn't anything we can do about it, no defenses we can muster. It's trivially easy for a star-faring people to destroy an emergent civilization that annoys it. Maybe that's what happened to the dinosaurs.

If the space aliens want to talk to us they will. Otherwise we are just monkeys screaming at the airplanes in the sky.

October 9, 2021

Thought experiment: Anyone here can disconnect from the electric grid and pour sand...

... into their car's engine. Then what?

People say all sorts of things about climate change but most are in some stage of denial.

The right wing still thinks we can burn a lot more fossil fuels without any danger to our civilization. The left wing doesn't yet realize renewable energy schemes in places like Germany, California, and Denmark have failed and further entrenched our long term dependence on natural gas.

Personally I think the human race has worked itself into a corner. There are so many humans we require high density energy sources to keep us all fed and comfortably sheltered. The only energy source capable of replacing fossil fuels entirely (which we MUST do) is nuclear power.

Fortunately nuclear power is a mature seventy year old technology. Even the worst accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima, caused very little environmental damage in comparison to the daily horrors we are now experiencing as a direct consequence of our fossil fuel use.

The fundamental problem of our society is our economic system. This thing we now call "economic productivity" is a direct measure of the damage we our doing to the natural environment and our own human spirit. Most of us suffer jobs and lifestyles that are not making the world a better place.

The most horrible thing we learned from the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima is that humans going about their ordinary daily lives are worse for the natural environment than fallout from a nuclear accident.

June 2, 2021

I have a horrible love/hate relationship with car culture.

In my poverty I learned how to keep cars running.

Once upon a time I replaced the head gasket of my Toyota station wagon in a K-mart parking lot.

Late 'seventies early 'eighties I drove all over the western U.S.A. and Baja Mexico in that car.

At times I lived in that car as well. With all my tools.

I took my first driver's test in an Volkswagen van. My parents are artists. Of course they drove a Volkswagen van.

The DMV examiner looked at me like I was a freak. I don't remember for certain, but I may have been wearing violet pants. Certainly my hair was long and confusing to people who needed to know if I was a boy or a girl.

My first serious girlfriend was an engineer attracted to the heroin waif look which I naturally achieved without the heroin. She could show me off to her parents as the guy she was going to marry.

I never showed her off to my parents because I was pretty sure they would have told me I was going wrong.

Praise be to God that marriage did not happen, a match made in hell, the David Lynch version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding without the Greek.

She married someone else, a woman who had tried to kill herself in my bathtub. If I ever get some kind of gold star fast pass at the Pearly Gates it's for making that match.

My wife and I met teaching science in the big city.

Back to cars...

When I was driving all over the place gasoline was essentially free. I'd get jobs paying eight to ten dollars an hour. I could fill the tank of my car working an hour. I could get a warped engine head milled flat with a day's work.

That car culture was awesome.

As a rabid environmentalist my secret vice is Jay Leno's Garage...

He talks about Ralph Nader in this video.

Ralph Nader is an asshole.

March 10, 2021

Clocks and money were invented by the devil.

In my utopia I get up before dawn so I'm running as the sun rises. When I return from running I shower and work six hours or so, no automobile commuting involved.

I've managed to live like that for some of my life. Alas, severe arthritis now interferes with my running, but I still like to watch the sun rise.

The most hellish jobs I had involved long automobile commutes in stop-and-go traffic, leaving for work in the dark and arriving home in the dark.

There's no good reason for anyone in modern technological society to work as wage slaves except that a few powerful people profit immensely from it.

Most of us suffer work that is not making the world a happier place.

This thing we call economic productivity isn't productivity at all. It is in fact a measure of the damage we are doing to our earth's natural environment and our own human spirit.

The high technology world economy now runs on a single universal time. The local time is calculated from that.

Time zones were originally invented by the railroads. Railroads had to run by a single clock, for safety and scheduling reasons. Railroad time was set by telegraph and chronographs.

Before railroad time local communities had their own local time loosely synchronized to "high noon."

Later radio and television broadcasting followed railroad time.

If we wanted to we could go back to local time and use a single universal time only for those activities that require it.

We could even build clocks with variable hours so the day in a community would always began at dawn. That's the environment humans evolved in; that's the rhythm the internal clocks of our bodies follow.

January 25, 2021

We live on a planet glorious with many species of sentient intelligent life...

... yet some speculate we humans might be somehow unique and alone in this universe because we haven't yet met any space aliens like us.

If we can't see that spark of sentience and intelligence in our own immediate neighbors, how the hell would we recognize it in space aliens?

Maybe that's why space aliens avoid this place.

I've known many amazingly bright dogs and birds, even a few cats, and I love to watch videos of elephants, horses, and cetaceans who are clearly thoughtful and playful creatures who celebrate life.

It makes me sad there are humans who won't even respect the individuality of fellow humans beyond their own small tribes, and in the worst cases of sociopathy and narcissism, beyond their own selves.

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Name: Hunter
Gender: Male
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 37,954

About hunter

I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.

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