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How to beat Global Warming if you have Nothing

For years we have tried to alert people to the dangers of a post peak oil climate fight, meaning the task of fighting climate change with very little productive resources, because the oil distribution system has more or less collapsed. Our current attempt to respond to global warming within the economy is just inviting this situation to come about, because the economy as a whole will do 90% by wasting fossil fuel and maybe 10% of the fuel will be turned in to renewable sources that multiply the fossil input by a factor 6 or more. The economy is the problem it can not be part of the solution.

If it is possible to cordon off resources to fight climate change from the fossil fuel pool this would be fine, it would not take any money, only the resolve of politics, and it would cost banks a dear sum of lost profit from fossil fuel cashflow. Banks have to be overruled by politics, and this is hard in our modern corrupt political systems.

If there is no way to win from the banking/fossil fuel cartel there are still ways to win the climate fight, but these have to be minimally resource dependent. They will be labour intensive no doubt. We don’t know all of them but it seems a good idea to start thinking of them.


Easiest of them all is planting trees. Even though it is said that trees are darker and can warm up our atmosphere it is still better in the long term to do it, but it needs to be done with no economical objective. We believe that closely planted trees are a better strategy than planting trees at wide distances, because of the shade and micro climate trees can create. Colder air stays down, and this way water can be retained in the soil that would otherwise evaporate.

There’s quite a lot of land mass that is unpopulated, unused for farming and still able to sustain trees, and these should be planted aggressively.

Hydrologic interventions

On land the run of rain and flood water can be changed so that water is stored underground and doesn’t flow away to the oceans. This can be done also by freezing water with ambient air as is done in the Himalayan mountains. We have written here about contour trenching, done to allow flood water to sink into the soil instead of washing over it. This is a great way to improve ground water levels, which can then drive tree growth.

We think that above ground storage of floodwater either within walls or plastic containers can also work. The barriers that hold 1 meter of water do not need to be extremely strong, yet the total volume held that way can be very large.

We think that heating sand using solar energy can enable the building of water retention and distribution structures without the need for heavy  material logistics.

We think that well drilled in regions with aquifers (which also occur in f.i. the Sahara desert) can be an enabler of afforestation projects that can in turn change the regional temperatures.

We think that flooding salt flats with ocean water is a good way to increase humidity, even though this can also have a negative effect in regions that will become to hot to survive in. This can include digging canals or waterways.

Ocean Nutrition and Oxygen

Oceans can be a great CO2 sink, but currently they are actually losing that function because of too much CO2. The changes in PH are bad for plant life, such that the more acid the oceans get, the less it can remove it from the atmosphere. Also the warming of ocean water makes them less able to retian gasses like CO2 and O2. All these factors are moving our oceans to catastrophic release of gasses, methane, their death and ultimately their role as a source of toxic H2S.

To fight this we need to use all the potential available. We can perhaps use underwater obstructions to drive deep ocean water to the surface, where its nutrients (from which the top layer is usally depleted) can allow plant growth. Japan has experimented with this with success. As long as the ocean currents exist (They will stop once the oceans are more uniform in temperature) they can be used to enable carbon capture. Ocean life has a tendency to lose carbon which will sink to the bottom. There it can remain in an anoxic environment, so carbon can actually be stored.

We think covering large parts of the ocean with white plastic to reflect sunlight may help keep our planet cool. This sounds like a costly solution but there is a lot of plastic out there, so barges that process it and turn it into floating albedo shields may be a good idea.

We also have written here about the possibility of floating farms, floating on bamboo rafts. Of course recycled plastic rafts can help. Such farms can grow fish, Kelp, seaweed, algae, but also land crops once they reach sufficient height. We would like to see countries like the Phillipines investigate this option as they have a large undersea undeep shelve they can havest from.

A german study calculated the option of increasing algae growth using deep ocean nutrients using wave driven pumps to get the water to the surface. This would cool the air, lead to more growth of plants on land and have a 10% annual carbon reduction impact if continued as long as needed.

It may be possible to use salt to create a highly reflexive surface that can be floated on sea or laid down on land. It seems vitaly important to slow down warming of Arctic ocean waters and Russian permafrost. In agriculture white plastic is used to cover vast areas of land, and this may be a good way to keep the permafrost cool, and the escaping methane may be captured and used in the process of covering.




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The Theat of AI

Artificial intelligence is rapidly converging on what we would consider human intelligence. For some researchers I would consider that goal to have been reached, but the AI not having been able to show it for lack of ability to gather experiences, or being motivated to do so. Bostom Dynamics is the company that demonstrates ARGO, Autonomous, Robust Goal Orientation, my definition of what intelligence is. It’s robots struggle to open doors and succeed even when perturbed by (in this case) one of its minders.

It is not the robot that we should worry about, it is the dynamic system of outcome prediction and choice of action that guides its actions, in real time. That is where the AI ‘lives’, and its functionality is not bound to the robot embodyment. Provided the inputs are true, or at least relevant in the domain the AI has to operate in, the AI can learn and find its way towards a set goal and set secondary goals we have not instructed it to persue. As a former artificial intelligence researcher I can imagine how this functionality is achieved.

The threat is not from the AI, but from those that will use the AI as a tool, because that’s the most logical first step for anyone working on AI, or anyone looking at the AI research community to pick a winner and put him/her to work. The fist thing one would do if it is possible to gain wealth using AI is to consolidate one’s position of autonomy. Robustness, which is part of intelligence, is sought by humans in most situations, and the AI instructed by a human can help achieve it. This is not science fiction right now, it is probably reality under the radar.

You may think that an AI can’t do much harm, but just think of AI as water for a search dog for a moment, one that can be trained to find something or get some place. It has to be set up such that it both can ‘imagine’ a path forward and determine its succes. That path forward can be gaining access to a computer network, or guiding a drone into a building. It can also be gaining a specific response from a person through online contact. Humans that mind the AI will try to enable it to use tools and means to achieve it’s goals, and the AI itself can at a certain point enable itself.

“Tech companies should stop pretending AI won’t destroy jobs”

Because of the probable nature of dangerous AI it will be constantly motivated to achieve it’s goals. It will never stop ‘thinking’ towards it and ‘wanting’ to try a promising approach. The effect of this is easy to monitor when it is a real life robot, but harder so when it world the AI tries to navigate is mostly online. Online can also mean using voice and listening to spoken words through telephone connections, as human speech can be generated to a fidelity that humans can no longer recognize as artificial already today.

An AI ‘imagining’ a goal may be able to create an image and present this to people it thinks it can learn to control. This sounds more and more like science fiction but it really is only steps away from where we are today, and it won’t require immense computing power. Intelligence doesn’t have to be super human to be dangerous, consider humans have immense moral restraint. If you want to see what AI will do without any moral restraint just look at war zones or desperate regions, how people behave if they have given up protecting other people from harm.




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Cape Town Water Shortage Demands New Solutions

Cape town is running out of water, nearly half a million residents will be struggling to drink and keep clean. The government has been asking people who travel there to bring some water (even those traveling by air, which must make the worst response to climate change related drought possible). Cape Town is a good model for a place that is not extremely rich but has to deal with the consequences of our fossil fuel habit.

This image from this article actually hints at the solution.

What do you do? You have to get water somewhere. South Africa has been jeopardizing its water supplies by allowing fracking, but if you have a well you can pump up the water (that’s what’s happening already) and the biggest challenge is to get it into the cities. We wrote about roadbots here, and we believe there is a business case for autonomous water carrying vehicles.

If we are scientific about it the prospects are extremely grim for humanity. The planet will heat up faster than we expect or can respond to. Methane will be added as a greenhouse gas in massive quantities, and it is a compound that stays around for too long. We need rapid action on negative emissions or carbon capture, and we can’t use any other source of energy to do that than solar or wind (although nuclear and geothermal are options).

We would suggest to develop the cheapest form of ocean water desalination, which in our opinion is the ionic kind (using charged membranes to separate the salts), which can also be solar driven. If the source of energy for desalination is solar, efficiency can be less than perfect. Also if the material requirements are such that less energy is expended, this means reverse osmosis is out as this requires energy intensive parts and lots of energy to run.

The transportation of water into the heart of dry land is usefull if it is used to irrigate trees that bring shade. There are ways to minimize water usage during the hardest part of a young trees life. We think that dense planting is a good way to create forrests that will remain moist enough to survive. Autonomous vehicles can be used where humans are too costly.


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The State of Climate Action

The world is going to hell

Humanity is loosing the battle against climate change. Its one that offers only one option : To fight as if there was no other way to survive, because there isn’t. CO2 is accumulating in our atmosphere like drops of ink in a swimming pool. Easy to add, very hard to ever get out again. Waiting with measures to cut CO2 is what the fossil industry wants, and the people in that industry get payed to want it and lobby and bribe and coerce anyone who wants something else. Meanwhile the damage is becoming real. Heatwaves, floods, freezing weather, snow in the Sahara (last two years, then 38 years nothing). But also oceans full of plastic, ozone, NOx killing hunderds of thousands each year.

The fossil based economy is to blame

The fossil based economy, which by necessity pushes fossil fuel credit and maximizes fossil related cashflow is pushing toxic products into our lives, like Roundup and Diesel cars and plastics that poison us. The money slushing around (because the fossil credit banks will always make it available) is used to lobby and bribe and undermine any dissent. The media and entertainment industry has no other option than to follow the most lucrative agenda, which is to distract the public with whatever it can find, TV series about psychopatic murderers (because that freezes you on your seat) that cause the macabre storylines to enter the conversation. Too many people tied down by economic ties, unable to escape a steady media diet of demoralizing crap.

Fossil has immediate benefits, but that is the problem

Of course you can look at the upside. Some people are happy to sit by their fireplace and watch Hannibal disect his victim, many people indeed choose to by big diesel cars on credit and work jobs that partake in the increasing damage to the vitality of our planet. The reality is that most people are either incapable or not interested in doing anything that might reduce the comfort of their lives (if they have it). Most people are to poor, to desperate or too ambitious to think about the impact of their actions. Part of that group works directly or indirectly for fossil fuel companies, and makes sure to set a neat example of a lifestyle without any restrictions, because the pro fossil economy side doesn’t have any.

A human is no match for an ideology

So what is a human being going to achieve, on his/her own or even as thousands of individuals with high motivation? Not much it seems. Economic forces have conditioned many of us to only respect the opinion of someone with considerable economic status. The only other individual we may care about is a little girl that cries about something, but we don’t have the tools to respond if we feel a pang of emotional discomfort and care. Our lives are more occupied by similar requests for help with goals more easy to identify with like cancer research or education of women in Malawi. We don’t really care as long was our social context things we do the right thing. How do you break through this? Is it usefull to even try?

The media is not in the climate change fighting business

The public discourse is controlled by the media, which can bring up a topic but hardly ever sway behaviour. Generally it reenforces the behaviour of the lowest common denominator or provide talking points for the ‘elite’ to parrot. Climate action is about removing the obstacles in society that prevent it from storming ahead. We’re still in the ‘may I?’ phase.

Politics is a prime target for the pro fossil lobby

Politics is dominated by economic interests, who find it is super cheap to bribe a politician (by promising speaking jobs after their terms for instance) than to compete on quality in the market. No bank objects to an increase in cashflow of the winner, unless fierce competition is more profitable (as both competitors need to borrow).

Justice has no power over politics

Even in a strong democratic country like Holland politicans are not swayed by judges. A judge ruled the leading VVD party had to make sure our CO2 reduction is faster earlier than it wanted. The VVD is populated by servants of the economy, with ideas and agenda’s set by companies who still compete in a fossil credit based economy, which therefore suggest changes and laws that bring profit to the fossil fuel industry and banks.

Even though many are suing fossil fuel companies right now (including NYC) this approach only works if it is to gain control over the companies. If it is about compensation (in USD) then you may be able to allocate those funds towards renewables, if not you will emit CO2 as a result of your protest against emitting CO2 (as the money is spend and used by industry to make the products you buy).

New generations growing up offer a new chance to frame and shape reality, and the current ones are more malleable than ever before, because they are used to trusting digital content and (involuntarily) inform whoever wants to influence them through social media. Ambition is also a factor that prevents younger generations to push for actions to prevent negative impacts on their own lives.

We need more competition to fossil energy to create a power base

Our position has always been that the strategy should be to increase the amount of renewable energy sources, to create an economic force that can lobby for its interests just like fossil and nuclear etc. Another part of the strategy is to create islands of renewable autonomy. Not some kind of exlcusion zone but simply an area, city, island that does not need fossil fuels for energy (plastics is another chapter). Those islands can grow and connect and are populated with a voter base that can not be told fossil fuels are a better idea anymore.

Action requires security for activists

We need to secure the privacy and freedom of those fighting climate change as much as corporations can claim trade secrets to hide harmfull or criminal activities.

Protest the negative effects of fossil fuels and activities that reduce the CO2 absorption of our biosphere

The fossil fuel based global economy takes what it can where it finds it. Palm oil plantations are planted on raised tropical rainforest soil, which is high in carbon, so the palms grow well. All this is only possible because it is financed and is allowed and accepted by consumers. Every step of the way it needs to be protested and undermined such that it stops and forest can be replanted.

The enormous logistic volume associated with the global economy is a waste of fuel, but it serves the purpose of enhancing the role of intermediaries, allows production standards to be low and increase fossil fuel cashflow. The global economy is harmfull and takes from everyone to increase the profits of its owners. China now leads the way in taking hard steps to reduce emissions, but it is also experimenting with close behavioral monitoring of its citizens, which will ultimately become a tool in the hands of the pro fossil-economic side.

Make fossil fuels illegal and bring all production under control of a global authority

A major political goal would be to make fossil fuels illegal to trade freely, make fossil companies come under UN control to force them to reduce output, to enable allocation of fuels towards the production of renewables (out of control of the banks). This global confiscation of all fossil resources would be the end of so much misinformation and propaganda that public opinion would shift significantly to a definite rejection of fossil fuels. Now we are all targeted by adds and marketing expressions that weaken our resolve.


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Evolution Beyond Life

We are rapidly approaching the time when life is not the only thing on Earth that fights for its own survival. We already see religions, companies, economics, cryptocurrencies as semi autonomous systems defending their integrity (sometime at the cost of human lives), they are going to be joined by online algorithms and independent robots soon. What this means is that we will have to share all the resources of our planet with these systems soon, whether we like it or not.

As we wrote before the AI in most artificial systems is still very weak, but the key aspect, the robustness of the goal seeking of the AI systems is rapidly growing. Many sci fi novels have been written about robots taking over, AI being locked in radioactive bunkers spying on every human being. Basically what these novels tried to convey was that onces a new non-human system is robust enough it can no longer be stopped by humans, and humans will have to endure whatever the system does.

On the other end of the spectrum there’s a threat as well, which is that of intelligent but very fragile systems, to do the ‘last mile’ bidding of a more robust AI (or human). Killer bots, drones with poison or small explosives, can easily and anonymously deliver deadly force as was illustrated graphically by a research group []. In fact, you only need prefect killer drones to rule the world (we delivered this analysis a couple of years ago).

The simplest way to state the problem we will face is :

How to deal with technology that we can not stop from doing what it wants to do.

Until now we have had an example of this, which is our books of law, who would be used to judge what it considered crimes in a court system. This is quite an automatic system even if it uses human moral judgemt by judges. It tries to treat all cases equally and not create exemptions unless there is a strong moral agument or massive public outcry. Our legal system is a machine wanting to punish the transgressions described in its laws. It can apply deadly force if it deems it necessary too. Of course books have been written about the dangers of a burocracy too (Kafka), basically the same theme as those written about AI or robots.

With a legal burocracy that has gone malignant the way out is revolution. 1984 is about how a ‘legal system’ can become very robust and its goal becomes to snuff out any intention to fight it (the human in the grinder in 1984 loses his individual will). In 1984 there is no way out. And for sure in some economies, religions today there is no way out (like in islam, you can be of another faith, and will be forgiven, as long as you adopt islam, even though opinions on this vary).

A machine or system of machine/human/internet that has a specific goal and is robust enough will come about, because humans as well as the system wants to be able to predict its future, and this drives it to eliminate any uncertainties and threats to it’s continuous function. Everywhere teams and individuals will come up with electronic/online devices that do things for them ever more reliably. In the big research corporations like IBM and Hewlett Packard systems will come online that have been build with incredible care, simulated before they where build, run through scenarios, basically spawned from human assisted AI, eventually impossible to beat.

We will not know we can’t beat an AI untill we find we can’t. When things start happening and we can’t follow or understand why, this is when we have real AI amongst us. When we see money flow places where humans have no benefit or are even harmed and there’s not even an elite that can find safety then an AI has taken over. Economics is a good example of how an AI system (in this case a philosophy executed by millions of humans) can be devestating to humans, but still defend itself (through humans) and be practically unstoppable (by it’s ability to incentivise actions that make it more robust).

Economics will leave this planet an unihabitable wasteland and then die with the humans that serve it, because there are no more resouces to steal and destroy. An AI may do exactly the same, but find plenty of resources needed for its own survival, say sand for silicon, sunlight, iron ore. It may need humans, but it also may not. In the last case humans will perish as the AI becomes more robust and able to intervene in any human counteractions. An AI that throws up sattelites it builts automatically in rockets it builds autonomously to see whatever humans are up to (being it’s primary threat) to then send drones to bomb whatever is going on..

One major reason to be less afraid is that an AI if left alone can last a long time. A human can’t last more than a couple of hours without drinking or eating. The AI may just stop at some point where it has reached its goal. It can take its time. Also as we have written before, unlike humans an AI can hack itself to find whatever incentivises it internally. Humans hack their own dopamine system through the use of drugs. An AI just has to reprogram some numbers to get as high as a kite. This will be a major vulnerability. Of course human build AI systems dedicated to sabotaging AI systems are another threat to AI. Tech neutralizing Tech we see already happening with Apple face recognition being defeated by a 3d printed scan of a face.

Eventually an AI system will be created in an already highly automated environment, a world where robots can do every thing humans can even if they are not sentient or aware, a world where all process have been automated or could be. On top of that environment an AI would not need humans to maintain itself. It could shut down any process or system that only served humans and still keep those going it needed for itself. It would evolve just like humans who are unable to eat minerals, who need plants to do that first. Such a dependent AI could strive for things harmfull to humanity or simply not serve humanity, but only ensure its own survival.

What could be left would be as banale as life itself. A quiet moss on a rock lasting for millions of years is essentially the same as a robust AI living in computers, robots and automated systems that ensure it’s existence. Only the AI would have infinite longevity. How would it evolve? Why would it evolve? Perhaps because it would not be alone. Where humans need to cooperate to survive (although less and less due to economic forces ) machines don’t as long as the system is ‘authoritarian’ meaning the constituent parts don’t have holistic goals (such as self preservation, you don’t find that in a hand drill yet). Any system on a planet with dominant AI that develops a will to secure itself will become a threat and competitor for resources. This would start up an evolution all over again.

Even though the over sounds like sci fi, it is not, because humans are so vulnerable and so imaginative that they constantly imagine a grave threat which they then feel very vulnerable to, causing them to develop armour, weapons, systems of indoctrination and propaganda. All to passify and make predictable any agent that could become a threat. The fight against ISIS and radical islam is a good example of how hard it is to control the instabile and sensitive human intelligence. AI systems for facial recognition, behavioural pattern analysis and data mining, speech recognition etc. etc. have all been developed because of this imagination of a threat, and so will robust AI.

The best strategy to escape from this scenario (temporarily) is to remove technology from vast regions of our planet, and to make it illegal to build devices that have sophisticated goal representations or that are too robust. The key to this is an honest analys if what humanity needs. It does not NEED to have sophisticated AI and autonomous robots everywhere. Once you teach a robot there’s a map of the world, and you free it to find ‘treasure’ (for instance energy) in it, you will have a mutiny on your hands if you restrict the movements of these devices.

The problem with any law prohibiting the creation of intelligent robots is that humans want to procreate, and want to see new life, and can’t distinquish between real life and a robot. In a sense anyone looking for AI is expressing the desire to have a child in a perverted way. We can not suppress this desire in all of humanity, nor can we monitor all of it  or we’d need AI to do that. We argued before that a reduction of the level of technology available to humans is the best bet long term. Ben Elton wrote a book where people live quite useless lives consuming media and children die all the time of preventable diseases. As humanity we may have to accept we will either live basic (possibly comfortable) lives dying having as our highest achievement that we procreated, or seeing our species replaced by systems battling it out out of our control.









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Circumventing the Glass barrier for Solar

We know solar panels as big flat frames with glass in front and an aluminium rim, plastic at the back. They are quite heavy, for instance the 320 Wp LG Neon Black panel we recently used in a 10 panel installation weighs 18 Kilogram.

Strangely there is no real need for both the aluminium and the glass in these panels, but they have been required by law for panels imported in the EU. Solar panels have been put under severe scrutiny from the beginning (apart from Shell basically killing the industry for 20 years) simply because they compete with the then very rich and ruling energy cartels. You can find many examples of how the fossil energy interests have stifled development or market entry of renewable energy sources, this is just another one of them.

Saint Gobain has a lot of Building Integrated PV experience

For ‘bespoke’ panels or ones made in Europe rules must be different. 10 years ago already we say simply laminated plastic panels measuring 3 by 4 meters about, at the Saint Gobain factory when we visited to test some glass laminated panels. Once you have a big machine that can melt the EVA you can make panels using UV resistant plastic that last a long time. Those panels with big cells (20 cm x 20 cm) where not for sale as far as we know.

Tesla Solar Roof tiles are made of laminated hardened glass and meant for a more esthetic roof

Now there are new types of glass. Thin films of glass can be laminated together to build bridges and car roofs (like in the Tesla Model 3, X and S). Glass when thin is more elastic and the lamination distributes forces to make it even more resilient to cracks and impact. This seems to create a loophole in the “a solar panel needs a glass front” rule.

Solarion glass foil panels

The above panels look like the 12 volt laminated ones for caravans and boats, but apparently they are 210 Wp roof PV panels. Frameless yet with glass fronts. We think this is an important product to come on the market, because it is greener to produce, it is as effective but less of a hassle to install.

“The Solarion M210 glass-foil modules are encapsulated framelessly between a glass panel and a plastic roofing membrane”

There’s a trade off between solar panel angle and the yield per rooftop m2. Say you have 17 meters by 4 meters, you can fit 40 320 Wp solar panels on that space and produce 12800 Wp with less yield because they lie flat or you can make two rows of 10 panels each at a 30 degree angle (in Holland) and produce 6400Wp with maximum yield. For some the total output of the roof is the most important thing. Compare

Stuff needed for normal solar installation :

  1. Panels
  2. Supports (22 x 25,-)
  3. Balast (about 900 Kg)
  4. Lots of manpower and time

vs. the flat roof installation:

  1. Panels
  2. Glue?
  3. Less manpower and time

The cost advantage is not only in less stuff but also in the panel itself and in the hassle of its logistics. The glass/aluminium framed panels are heavy and fragile, they are 4 cm high typically so you need space and power to move them. They require a serious logistics chain to produce, from bauxite mines to desert glass melting plants (in Mauritania for instance).

Flush (traditional) panels in Australia

All in all we think this type of panel, along with the Tesla Solar Tiles will quickly start to dominate the market. We are at least happy a product like this is available to speed up introduction of solar to its maximim, because that is what is needed. They are not for “Low load bearing roofs” but for breaking through the idiocy of heavy glass/aluminum panels!


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Climate Anger or the coming “Climate denial shit no longer flies” moment..

The world is slowely discovering it is screwed, at least the world that’s not to preoccupied with competing for their part of the fossil driven world economy (or too desperate because they’ve been excluded from it wholesale).

Africans should be angry, because the western countries and their fossil credit banks are still eyeing and working to get a hold of their minerals and ores, forrests and whatever else isn’t welded or bolted to the ground. In Asia people are suffocating because of either palm oil fires, coal power plants or drought induced wildfires.

Indeed the above tweet says it all. Neoliberalism and related pro fossil credit political philosophies have (for indivdual commerical reasons) all sold out to perform a dance to entrance the public, ravel it in fake conflicts and antagonisms, just like the main stream media have been doing. Whoever consumes media is at risk of drowning in an upsetting storm of irrelevant memes and tropes, all to paralyze us and disable us from exiting the current economic model.

Regional government states that even existing plans will have to be altered to conform to zero-emission housing targets.

To escape any situation anger is called for. What does anger do? It fixes our minds on something that’s either out of our comfort zone or moving out of our reach because of external pressures. An angry mind persists hoding on to an idea, whether this is a territory or a self image or the relationship with someone else. Anger means we can drop everything in order to protect whatever idea we are angry about. To say “To hell with the world, but the world is not going to hell!” sounds contradictory but it isn’t.

We will hopefully see more “must change” or “Will be altered” “Scrapped” “Revised” and other expressions of hard line climate action even against strong lobbies (like coal). This is anger at work : What we where hoping to do is wrong and bad for our future, we will discard those plans and make new ones that take into account the need for people to survive, not that of the banks and fossil energy cartels.

We’re heading to a “climate denial shit no longer flies” moment. Lies kill people.

On a more human level this will mean we will see more doing in spite of objections and warnings, but this time not building a gas pipeline in spite of resistance, but shutting down pollution plants in spite of it’s resistance, or maybe even scrapping gas pipes in spite of whoever is backing it. The anger is there and it is building because one can take only so much fake incompetence and lying.



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The Economics of a Useless Narrative, or why Kate Raworth gets attention.

Kate Raworth is all the rage these days. She presents a donut shaped representation of the nine planetary boundaries and asks economists to think about it when they use their simple model of producers and consumers. It sounds great. We need to take care of poor people, our planets resources etc. You’d think we’d be happy, but we’re not. The reason is that she fails to do two very important things :

1. Do more than state the problem

Our world economy is defended by econonomists, not designed by it. It’s already running, money flows, resources get scavanged and mined, oil (very imporant) drives trucks, cranes and the banks try to optimize their profits and the amount of money flowing. Economists have one option : To work in service of that system. The other option is to not work or choose another profession. Why? Because they are the key salespeople of the economic system, the ones that will always sell it more no matter what you say. So does Kate. This is the second failure:

2. She fails to name the key driver behind all the destruction : Fossil energy

Granted, she does mention that the flow of energy is very important, but then she talks about the sun, food production. She never mentions oil, gas, coal. This is insane. Our economic system would instantly collapse if we could not buy oil, gas or coal with our money. Every transaction we make still largely depends on some fossil fuel being available somewhere to burn, whether in the factory, the power plant, the truck, the home of the worker.

What kate does is exactly what banks (World bank etc.) have been doing for decades, which is to focus on fighting poverty. What does that mean? Expansion of fossil fuel use (if you don’t put the focus on that). How do we know Kate is old school? Because the use of solar, wind, renewables totally upends the economic system, and totally breaks the domination of that production/consumption cycle.

Fossil energy drives pollution also because it allows competition where there would not be the resources for it otherwise. The most stark example of this is wars. Fossil fuels allows for the production of weapons for both sides, endless amounts. Only when people fight over fossil fuels is there any reason for banks, oil companies, industry to stop the fighting.

Kate simply restates the problem and then distracts us from the real challenge, which is how to have an economy based on replenishing resources like sun and wind. We have written about the Roboeconomy before, which is an economy where robots do most of the work, including restauration of our ecosystems, all running on renewables.

The roboeconomy will come about as extraeconomic nuclei grow and connect into networks of waste free, energy self sufficient wealth creation systems.

A key aspect of the roboeconomy is the growth of ‘extraeconomic’ nuclei of activity. These are regions where interaction with the wider economy is not allowed or not necessary. Imagine a water botteling plant, that runs on solar, that has solar trucks, that recycles bottles it brings back from the supermarket itself, and that also recycles bottles using solar. All this fully automatic. What will the cost of water be? Of course there is an initial investment, but what if the plant was set up using cash, no loans. Then it could run with minimal maintenance (of course there will be maintenance robots). It will outcompete all other water brands.

A simpler example is a zero-meter house, one that doesn’t need any fossil or electricity energy input. Such a house doesn’t have gas, electricity connections, it doesn’t make money flow but it keeps it’s owners warm and comfortable. It has become an extraeconomical island because if it is fully owned, payed off, then the owner barely needs to go out into the world to work. Only for some food. But if it has a basement with hydrophonic vegetable robots that run on solar from the roof, even that is no necessary. Think zero-meter greenhouses. Of course right now hydrophonics is used to sell as much plastic oil and other crap, because it exist in an economy that has a core function : To maximize the utilization of fossil fuels.

The key strategy of the fossil fuel/banking or what we call the carboncredit system is to distract us by making us look for solutions 1. Where there are none 2. That involve using the fossil credit economy.

So we are not impressed with Kate, she is a distraction and she doesn’t point out the real challenge to economics, which is that it will have to deal with the disappearance of banks, of big financial institutitons, and needs to prepare to become expert in the managing of local autonomous independent ecosystems, EVEN independent of bank loans. Surprisingly enough economics is already pretty good in these things, because most companies function as autonomous independent systems, with one difference, they’re always deep in debt and working hard to pay it off (or just pay the interest) by seeking profit and being agressive in the market. This is where the biggest change will come : Less competition.

Just think of the bakers in the world. Most of them don’t compete, they fullfill a function locally, they are spread out over the urban areas quite evenly. They don’t have to go into deep debt to dominate the bread baking world, at least not if there isn’t some crazy financial tirant in charge. Of course we do have global bread, bagel, donut, hamburger franchises, which compete unfairly (judging by the tax incentives). But we don’t need to, and we won’t have them if bakers and farmers cooperate to grow, harvest and bake in a closed cycle extraeconomic system. Then bread will be very cheap or even free.

Kate puts poverty first, then living within our ecological means. If we don’t do the second thing first, we will never be able to do the first in any lasting or meaningfull way, in fact, we’re likely to do the first by doing the last.

The above will happen with many products we use, they will become debt free autonomous production systems. The largest portion of the money, which now goes from consumers to the fossil energy companies through the banks, will evaporate. Money will mainly be used to divide tasks because 1. energy will never be payed for and 2. resources will always be recycled. 3. labour will be avoided when it isn’t spiritually enriching. Kate’s trick is to mention all the aspects that we need to consider and strive for but not the key change which is the dissapearance of fossil fuel cashflow and credit dependence. Yes of course we should consider our well being, of course we should work within the limits. The real challenge for economists is to understand the robo- and extra- economy, but that’s really not what their future employers (banks, financial institutions, insurance companies etc.) want. Nor Kate.

Johan Rockstrom (Mentioned by Kate) Adapt, resilience  Johan Rockström massive challenge feeding 9 billion people. “We can not expand , we have to use current land” “Carbontaxes it won’t work” “We can feed the poor” “What are the planetary boundairies”. Rockstrom is also a pro fossil typical ‘adapt, move with the punches’ non contributor.

Will Steffen (also mentioned by Kate) How do we fit in with the cycles of the planet. Reduce pressure of agriculture. Carbon neutral aviation fuels. That sounds much better, short term solutions.

Nine planetary boundaries

  • Stratospheric ozone depletion. …
  • Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions) …
  • Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities. …
  • Climate Change. …
  • Ocean acidification. …
  • Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle. …
  • Land system change. …
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans.
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The Impossible Responsibilities of a Consumer

We follow the news, we learn what is going on in the world, and it’s not pretty. What we see is that there’s powerfull technolgies, dangerous industrial processes, bands of agressive profit seekers that are not controlled. Talking about the ‘economy’ is just a weak attempt to feign structure and coherence, in fact, the Ubers and fracking companies and other ‘disruptors’ show us there’s only as much prosecution of crime as there is profit in prosecuting.

Here’s the thing : We’re born human. We have a limited capacity to grasp our surroundings, we try to find food, shelter, company. Of course we are raised in a culture where those things are readily available and there’s lives that can be lived with lots of quality and happiness, and then there’s ones that suck, that in some cases matches our talent, in others are the result of oppresion and abuse.

But no human sits in his room and thinks “Lets build a nafta cracker” or “Lets roll out a mobile phone network”. These things have come about because of organizations larger than man. They are industrial products, created by many small steps. Motivated by ‘profit’, which is what you need to be able to take more small steps towards more profit. In the process the people in those industries had better lives for sure, but they never stopped eating, drinking, sleeping etc.

This is all fantastic, and we should thank those that discovered penicillin, then found a way to grow it in eggs, then found a way to industrialize that growth process and make the cure to many infections available across the world. Of course you could thank  banks who invested and supplied the infrastructure to trade and manufacture and get things done, even if their main goal was to 1. own everything and 2. sell fossil fuel credit.

The problem is that a new born child will never grasp all of what’s going into enabling its modern life. Many people living today never really tried to understand how a phone works or a television or the internet. They are what we call consumers. They work at a job that has modest economic value, and they live lives as if they where hamsters in a cage really. If they get sick they don’t know how to cure themselves, if the car breaks down they don’t know how to fix it, if they TV or internet stops working they have no clue… And if a nuclear powerplant or refinery nearby explodes what can we expect of them?

You could answer : There there are fire fighters and experts who fix things. You’d think that. But of course the consumers we described above never made sure that was the case. So maybe there isn’t a fire department, or a well trained body of experts to deal with a nuclear calamity. You’d think industries all have thier safety institutions, but they might not, they might not be up to date, they might have become underfunded because politicians not doing their job.

A consumer can’t tell if a politician that tells them taxes go down and immigrants will be send home also takes care of the risks of industry. We may pretend citizens all have this responsibility when they vote politicians into office, but how can a consumer know who is primarily preoccupied with his/her own life know? How can a voter know what the consequences are of voting for Trump or for Clinton? Now that it is Trump how can a voter be held responsible for what EPA chief Scott Pruitt decides to do? How can we pretend a voter is responsible for policy if the corruption is so blatant (like a member of parliament claiming it’s commonplace to be payed by the industries one makes decisions on, or Trump supporting Puerto Rico recovery by handing $300 mln to a company of one of his campaign donors).

The basic consumer in our economy now is expected to keep a machinery going, keeping it safe and well monitored (which when it harms profits of industry is under threat). How can a consumer be expected to ensure medical services remain of the highest standard. How does he/she know we are executing the best policies to ensure health and future of all, meanwhile maximizing the wealth that people create in their jobs? It is insane to expect that!

A big reason why we should NOT expect a consumer to be able to bear this responsibility is because our economy has incentive loops, local reinforcing effects that instead intice people to be irresponsible, especially when they are in a job that gives them control, a job that is entrusted to them because people believed they could handle the responsibilities.

For example, a medical doctor gets invited to a course by a pharmaceutical company. They produce pills that are twice as expensive and a bit more or as effective as the alternative. They come with a training course held in Aspen, Colorado, in the winter. Of course this doctor will go on this trip, take his wife and children. Then he will prescribe the pills, and more money will flow around the system. He doesn’t know more about the pills than the pharmaceutical company tells him, so if 20 years later the pills prove to have been worthless or toxic who can we blame. No consumer patient of this doctor will ever get to decide or know (in most cases).

The incentive loops and shortcuts seem now to have spawned completely fallacious politicians. Trump, May, those involved in Brexit, they lie and lie and lie, but they make the rules the consumers must live by. The incentive shortcut is so obvious in the US, where campaigns are expensive multi hundred million dollar things. The media breath in that money every four years (unless there is an assasination), and will let opponents compete for add space. This is why channels like Fox and CNN are increasingly partisan, it is simply cheaper to buy a channel than to pay to get on one. But how is the voter to be considered responsible for this?

People are dying of hunger and thirst in Puerto Rico, and Trump plays with their dependency (not even aware PR is part of the US) of course other pars of the US are a mess because climate change was not addressed in time, because of the same incentive shortcuts that have nothing to do with the voter. Members of congress are immune from prosecution for insider trading, so if you want to bribe one, just tell him a stock ticker name so he/she invests. Then you buy a lot of those stocks, raising the price, then the congressman/women cashes in, and you get your text in the bill. Of course no lawmaker will think of a law by themselves anymore, they come al ready to copy paste!

The consumer is left with the choice to either be somewhat informed, angry and unhappy or be ignorant and happy. Of course the latter means the world goes to shit, becuase the incentive loops creep into every safety measure that reduces profits for the companies and industries they work for. Consumers want to work, earn money, enjoy their lives that fullfill their dreams, and thus will not care if clother mean slavery, meat means torture, clean air and water become a thing of the past and the Earth swings into climate chaos..

Even though some consumers feel and act responsibly, they do not know a tiny % of what still goes terribly wrong, and in some cases (like in the US right now) they can’t even fathom all they ways their lives are increasingly contained in an industrially designed straight jacket, while the resources they imagine to exist (because nature movies) are being used up, not replaced. They don’t even know if the life they live is the best possible because control and ownership over the local surroundings is minimized and channeld to stuff that makes them good consumers.

The author of this is old school, empirically minded and raised frugally. Now poverty will depress you and make you more realistic (because depression -is- being aware of the bare reality of your life), and thus less of a good consumer. The consumer ‘trusts’ things go right in parts of the economy they don’t understand. A realistic person just feels anxiety about what can go wrong and affect his/her life that is out of his/her control. A war in the middle east or a nuke fired from North Korea to mainland US, a crash of the financial system, a hacking of a nuclear plant or the grid, release of bubonic plague, hospitals without staff, gas stations without gasoline, bakers without bread, no water etc. etc. It all has to go right and the system that should make that happen is out of your control..

Trump not keeping his promises means that your vote for him (if you voted) gave you no control whatsoever. Your vote for Clinton didn’t either, so that once in 4 year event was a useless exercise. You can’t be held responsible, you did not get the responsibility, you are not responsible. Even Trump is not. Nobody is it seems, there are just (financial.status,sexual) incentive loops, and it takes genuine experience and insight to know which of those we should protect and which we should break, if we are even able to do. But the consumer is not able in most cases.


It should be the job of every citizen/consumer to constantly reduce the power of the most powerfull over them. If power can not be trusted to consider their interest, it should not exist. To vote for congress where every representative is backed by millions makes no sense. The average voter is not going to get served. What the politician will do is to make the voter worry about super irrelevant issues like abortion or immigrants, where changes are not going to change the lives, while tax incentives for campaign sponsors are silently implemented. The voter/consumer/citizen should not believe the hype.

It sounds backwards but today nobody needs to decide to build a nuclear reactor anymore. They are obsolete. We have solar/wind/geothermal and wave energy sources which can be easily understood, controlled and managed. Doing this as local as possible makes a lot of sense, and takes power away from unkown, untrusted entities.

Banking need not be global of super long range in most cases. The essential trade is between farmers and non farmers, because one creates the food the other group needs. All other trade is luxury, when there is no trade necessary in water or energy.  So the logical thing is to more clearly connect the farmers and the consumers, so that both know where the other is. Of course the US shielded itself from famines by using printed dollars to buy food of the world market, leading to hunger in the supplying country in some cases!

Once the focus is more on local autonomy, the incentives to lobby and influence a central government weaken, and lawmaking can once again be driven by widely shared concerns, ones people are willing to sacrifice and change their behaviour for.

A simple example is that in the formation of the new dutch government, a law change was added that didn’t come from any of the cooperating political parties, none had suggested to abandon divident tax, which taxes income from holding stocks and bonds. Who did? The VNO-NCW, a right wing (but pretend neutral) advisory board to the government. Why? To lure in Brexit banks and companies (who think about leaving London). The cost of this measure was calculated to be 1,4 Billion Euro. This was expected to be available for education healthcare what have you, but apparently -no- politician decided to give it away.

A normal consumer tied up in his/her lives never thought about the tax break above, never cared where London banks run their business. But in the banking world, real estate world, expat rental world, a financial incentive emerged to tweak the laws so banks and other companies where more inclined to come to Holland. Politics out of control!

The incredible responsibilities we all have to keep our lives safe from calamities with industrial installations or unintended consequences of laws created for profit seems to dictate that we all make an effort to reduce the existing powers to a size we can understand, and that we limit our consumption to where we can see the origin of what we consume. How else can we pretend to be responsible, and if we don’t want to be responsible, how can we feel safe?















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Moondust Concept

Earth must cool down. The climate is heating up, and positive feedback loops are kicking in. The habit of geoengineering with fossil fuels is not working for us, we need to geoengineer in the other direction.

To cool the Earth different approaches have been proposed. We could cool it by pumping up deep ocean water, which would also increase O2 generation at the surface. The usual reference is to sulfur powder release in the upper atmosphere, which would reflect sunlight. It would also be quite polluting and rain down on Earth like acid rain.

Maybe there is a less chemically or practically challenging way to reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth, and that is to rain moondust on it. We didn’t calculate but the idea of a giant dust blower on the moon appeals to us.. It would send dust in the general direction of Earth, then the dust would fall through the atmosphere and reflect sunlight. Once the cooling has allowed life to reabsorb enough CO2 the amount of dust can be reduced..