Author Archives: admin

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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..


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DigID als Melkkoe

Sinds een jaar of 12 is er DigID, een manier om digitaal in te loggen om zo informatie uit te wisselen met onze overheid. Het heeft gemeenten in de loop der jaren geld gekost, maar ook geld bespaard, en zelfs de service verbeterd. Nu kun je zo van je laptop, tablet of smartphone belangrijke documenten aanvragen, invullen waar je hebt gesolliciteerd of je BTW aangifte doen.

Technisch gesproken is DigID niet zo bijzonder Het is een user/password login, soms met SMS bevestiging. Dat is vrij normaal en zeker niet duur om te laten werken. Je moet het een keer bouwen, maar je kunt de onderdelen letterlijk van het internet plukken. De SMS kost een paar cent per keer. DigID is net zo veilig als de PC of smartphone van de gebruiker. Als die een verkeerde site bezoekt die een keylogger installeert (een onmerkbaar programma dat elke toetsaanslag vastlegt en stiekum naar criminelen stuurt), dan ben je de volgende keer dat je inlogt het haasje. Dat kan beter. De Rabobank heeft een systeem dat werkt met een rekenmachientje dat elke keer op basis van een QR code een nieuw wachtwoord (een getal) verzint.

Enfin. DigID heeft natuurlijk wel een ambtelijk molen om zich heen voor het versturen van brieven enz, en er moet goed opgelet worden of niemand de database hackt of zonder keylogger in gegevens van mensen inbreekt. Maar die kosten vallen in het niet bij de besparingen, en kunnen gespreid worden over ~2200 gemeenten. Het lijkt ons dus niet nodig om iemand te laten betalen voor het gebruik van DigId.

Natuurlijk kan het zijn dat een commerciele partij, bv een energie bedrijf, ook achter het DigId wachtwoord wil, bv. omdat mensen dat makkelijker vinden dan een los wachtwoord onthouden, of omdat dit goedkoper is (en dat is het ook). Die bedrijven mogen betalen omdat ze kosten sparen en omdat ze geen publieke dienst leveren maar een product op de markt aanbieden. Als de concurrentie geen gebruik van gratis DigId maakt zou er prake zijn van oneerlijke concurrentie.

Voor de burger moet DigId echter gratis blijven, of het schiet zijn doel volledig voorbij. De burger zou geld toe moeten ontvangen nu er minder mensen in het gemeentehuis hoeven te werken. Als dat niet zo is dan nog was het niet de burger die hiervoor moet opdraaien, niet bewust althans.

   To our Podcasts en Irrelevante Onzin

Niet elke site over duurzaamheid is ook bedoelt om duurzaamheid te bevorderen, de lobby voor fossiel en voor centrale energie distributie (grid) vind plaats op veel niveaus. Het is daarom slim om af en toe een site te checken die lijkt een duurzame uitstraling the hebben.

De site “Low Tech Magazine” trok onze aandacht omdat er een post op kwam te staan die wat opzet en inhoud niet van deze tijd is, maar echter zeer herkenbaar, hieronder de url

Hoe duurzaam is een duurzaam elektriciteitsnet?

Laten we dit stuk eens bekijken, eerste alinea :

“Hoewel het potentieel van wind- en zonne-energie groter is dan de energievraag van industriële samenlevingen, zijn deze energiebronnen niet altijd beschikbaar. Om te verzekeren dat het aanbod altijd aan de vraag kan voldoen, heeft een elektriciteitsnet op basis van wind en zon heel veel extra infrastructuur nodig.”

De voorstanders van het smart grid redeneren dat de variabiliteit van hernieuwbare bronnen kunnen worden opgevangen door stroom van andere plaatsen aan te voeren. Daarvoor zou meer infrastructuur nodig zijn. De energie die van ver komt kan fossiel, getijden, golf of wind zijn. Infrastructuur is een zeer brede term, waar ook batterijen onder kunnen vallen, maar dat wordt hier niet bedoelt. Dat is zo al vreemd omdat batterijen natuurlijk het antwoord zijn op genoemde variabiliteit.

Tweede alinea :

“Die infrastructuur maakt van hernieuwbare elektriciteitsproductie een complexe, trage, dure en onduurzame onderneming. Als we daarentegen de energievraag zouden aanpassen aan het wisselende aanbod, dan kan hernieuwbare elektriciteitsproductie wel heel voordelig zijn. Deze strategie was heel gewoon in vroegere tijden, en moderne technologie maakt ze nog interessanter.”

He? wat? Ok, dus het grid (waar wij doorgaans niks van merken) uitbreiden zoals hierboven noodzakelijk geacht, kan opeens niet. Dat is ook weer een beetje kort door de bocht. Er wordt geopperd de energie vraag aan te passen aan het aanbod, dus geen infra, geen batterijen, maar meeleven met zon, wind enz.. Dat lijkt ons mogelijk (bv. vrieshuizen van veilingen kunnen koude bufferen als er aanbod is van zonne electriciteit, en zo ‘s nachts geen stroom nodig hebben)..

Derde alinea :

“Het idee leeft dat hernieuwbare energiebronnen ons in de toekomst onafhankelijk zullen maken van fossiele brandstoffen. Windenergie en zonne-energie hebben met voorsprong het grootste potentieel. De hoeveelheid energie die Europa praktisch kan uit de wind kan halen, wordt geschat op 30.000 terawatt-uur (TWh) per jaar, of tien keer meer dan het jaarlijkse energieverbruik. [1] Het potentieel aan zonne-energie in de VS wordt geschat op 400.000 TWh, of 100 keer het jaarlijkse energieverbruik. [2]”

Ok, afgezien van de rare zinsbouw…

“In praktijk zijn dit soort uitspraken problematisch. Ze zijn gebaseerd op jaarlijkse gemiddelden, en houden totaal geen rekening met de variabiliteit van windenergie en zonne-energie. In een elektriciteitsnetwerk moeten vraag en aanbod altijd in evenwicht zijn. Dat is relatief makkelijk met fossiele brandstoffen, want die zijn op afroep beschikbaar. Maar de opbrengst van windturbines en zonnepanelen is totaal afhankelijk van de grillen van het weer. “

Daar zijn we weer, die variabiliteit. De eropvolgende alineas zeggen dit over wind en zonne energie, dat is ook bekend. Geen probleem als je de stroom ergens kwijt kan. En de gemiddelden vertellen je dan precies hoeveel stroom je zult kunnen opslaan, als je dat niet doet dan heb je natuurlijk een probleem, maar ook kolencentrales worden bij en afgeschakeld, en in het huidge net zitten al verschillende energie buffers.

“Ten eerste zouden we kunnen rekenen op een reservecapaciteit van klassieke elektriciteitscentrales die op fossiele brandstoffen draaien. Die centrales worden dan ingezet als er onvoldoende wind en zon is. Ten tweede kunnen we veel meer windturbines en zonnepanelen plaatsen, zodat er zelfs bij bewolkt weer en bij lage windsnelheden voldoende hernieuwbare energie is.”

Elk redelijk up to date persoon herkent meteen dat hierboven het probleem kunstmatig in stand wordt gehouden. Dit doe je door fossiele buffering voor te stellen of meer wind en zon zonder over opslag te praten. Dat gebeurt in de volgende alinea’s onder de titel “Strategie 1” en “Strategie 2”. Beide zijn natuurlijk slechte oplossingen, hoewel we grote voorstander zijn van hernieuwbare “overcapaciteit”.

“Strategie 3” is (verrassend) meer grid! Dus Europees Elektriciteitsnet, dat er al is overigens, maar dat uitbreiden :

“Voor een Europees elektriciteitsnet met een aandeel van 60-100% zon en wind moet de capaciteit van het hoogspanningsnetwerk zeven-twaalf keer groter worden.”

Dit zijn berekeningen in de trant van “Als we de boot willen leegscheppen met een theelepel zijn de drie jaar bezig.”. Je kunt zo al zien dat deze denkrichting tegelijk dom en kansloos is. Waarom deze zo uitgebreid aanhalen?

“Strategie 4”. Energie opslag, ok, nu komt het! Het is een goed idee maar er zijn problemen..

“Ten eerste: hoewel er geen nood is aan het bouwen en onderhouden van een reservecapaciteit van fossiele energiecentrales, wordt dit voordeel teniet gedaan door de bouw en het onderhoud van de energieopslag. Inderdaad, dit heet vooruitgang, veel minder complex, een batterij kan automatisch functioneren, een centrale niet!

Ten tweede hebben alle opslagtechnologieën laad- en ontlaadverliezen, en bijgevolg zijn er meer windturbines en zonnepanelen nodig om dit verlies te compenseren.” Het grid heeft ook verliezen, maar die zijn groter. Een van de 40 centrales in Nederland draait alleen om de grid verliezen op te vangen.

“Onderzoek heeft uitgewezen dat het efficiënter kan zijn om windenergie te vernietigen dan op te slaan: de energie die nodig is voor het bouwen en onderhouden van de energieopslag, is groter dan de energie die verloren gaat als de turbine wordt stilgelegd. ” dit is onzin, de Giga factory van Tesla gebruikt zonne energie voor batteij productie, maar in het algemeen is er geen verhouding tussen de energie voor het bouwen van opslag en de energie die een turbine levert.

Er wordt vervolgens uitgerekend dat er vele terrajoules opslag nodig zijn om de hernieuwbare energie te bufferen. Dit lijken ons grote getallen, zoals bv 1,5 maand productie equivalent. Waarom 1,5 maand energie opslaan, dat krijg je niet eens opgeladen! Wat wordt vergeten is dat de aanvoer en delving van fossiel miljarden kost, en ook energie vreet, want kolen zweven niet vanzelf naar de centrales, en gas en olie infrastructuur bouwen zichzelf niet. De energie nodig per vat olie is in de laatste decennia gestegen en kan makkelijk groter dan 1 zijn, dwz voor 1 vat olie op de markt worden 40 vaten olie verbrand. De laatste zin over opslag maakt de tendentieuze aard van de ‘analyse’ duidelijk:

“Er zijn veel andere technologieën voor het opslaan van energie, maar die hebben allemaal unieke nadelen die ze onaantrekkelijk maken bij gebruik op grote schaal.”


“De nood om het hele systeem te overdimensioneren verhoogt ook de financiële investering en de tijd die het kost om een overgang te maken naar hernieuwbare energie.”

 Dan hadden we het over 12 keer niet? Dat vergt minder dan die opslag bouwen? En lost het het probleem op?

“Het bouwen van zonnepanelen, windturbines, transmissielijnen, reservecapaciteit en energieopslag met energie afkonstig van hernieuwbare energie is evenmin een oplossing: ook dan wordt een overdimensionering verondersteld, want we moeten de hernieuwbare energie-infrastructuur bouwen die de hernieuwbare energie-infrastructuur zal bouwen.”

Klopt, maar lokaal, bij de productie faciliteiten. Dat is iets anders dan overdimensionering ter bestrijding van variabiliteit.

“Strategie 5” Vraag aanpassen aan het aanbod.

Tja, dat is een nieuwe versie van efficiency. Het voorkomt de transitie naar een gebuffered energiesysteem, iets dat logisch is want kolen zijn tegelijk een energie bron en opslag medium, windmolens en zonnepanelen zijn alleen brond, dus de opslag is een natuurlijke component.

“In dit scenario wordt hernieuwbare energie ideaal gezien alleen maar gebruikt als de zon schijnt of de wind waait.”

De auteur is niet van deze wereld. Ten eerste is dit natuurlijk al het geval, de wind en zonne stroom komt variabel op de markt, waardoor de stroomprijzen dalen en sommige bedrijven nemen dan juist af (bv. alluminium smelters).

“Als we daarin zouden slagen, dan zou er helemaal geen nood zijn aan energieopslag, reservecapaciteit, of een overgedimensioneerde transmissie- en generatiecapaciteit. “

Tja, maar dan loop je 1. de goedkope energie mis en 2. doe je niks aan het klimaatprobleem en zul je 3. toch extra zon en wind capaciteit moeten bouwen.

De auteur gaat door dat we omdat het bovenstaande ook lastig is, maar tekorten zullen moeten accepteren.

“Dat impliceert dat we afstappen van de verwachting dat we 24 uur per dag en 365 dagen per jaar zoveel elektriciteit hebben als we maar willen.”


“als het Verenigd Konikrijk 65 dagen per jaar een elektriciteitstekort zou accepteren, dan zou het elektriciteitsverbruik helemaal op hernieuwbare energiebronnen kunnen steunen (wind, zon, golf, getijden)”

Natuurlijk is bovenstaande opmerking onzin. De redeneerfout die gemaakt wordt is dat de grote getallen suggereren dat iets niet kan. Maar zo is het ook niet met kolen en olie gegaan. Niemand had benzine of diesel motoren, de aanvoer was er niet tot er steeds meer bronne kwamen en men de motoren en andere gebruikers van fossiele energie ging bouwen (in NL bijvoorbeeld het gasnet). Dat vergde enorm veel energie en grondstoffen, maar het gebeurde wel, omdat er mensen aan verdienden.

Bij wind, zon, golg/gedijden en geothermie (voor warmte en electriciteit) hoort opslag. Al deze industrieen zullen de ontwikkeling en beschikbaarheid van opslag oplossingen ondersteunen en als deel van hun expansie strategie hanteren. Elon Musk heeft voorgerekend dat er maar 100 Gigafactories op aarde nodig zijn voor alle stroomopslag.

Ransoenering van fossiel om capaciteit te gebruiken voor de productie van hernieuwbare bronen en opslag lijkt ons echter wel een goed idee!

Het stuk in LowTech Magazine is niet zozeer slecht omdat het een probleem schets dat wij niet valide vinden, maar omdat het een oplossing suggereerd die voorbij gaat aan de bijna niet te stoppen onafhankelijke initiatief rijkheid van onze wereld economie, waarin bijna elke deelnemer belang heeft bij goedkope energie op afroep. Er wordt gesproken van een ‘succesvolle strategie’ maar wat is dan succes? Dat je geen extra zon en wind of extra grid (wat je niet nodig hebt) of opslag hebt gebouwd? Iedereen snapt dat waar een behoefte leeft die zal worden beantwoord door productie. Daarom vinden we het artikel irrelevante onzin.