Q. Are Intelligent Clusters like a Noah’s Ark?
A. Intelligent Clusters are mere models to demonstrate that humans can live intelligently, prosperously and comfortably at a very low energy profile! We hope that the populace won’t regard them as Noah’s Ark. The biggest challenge is ‘retrofitting’ the existing population centers into intelligent 286W Communities.
Transition to Sustainability
Q. Doesn’t our ‘transition to sustainability’ involve significant disruptions to our way of life?
A. Disruptions are inevitable when correction become vital to human survival. The issue however is how to minimize these disruptions intelligently and as painlessly as possible. We believe the Intelligent Communities 286W solution constitutes the best option, the only option that could save significant numbers of lives.
Depletion the Bigger Threat
Q. [Chris] Is it not true that resource depletion poses a bigger threat to human survival than habitat degradation/climate change because the links between resource depletion and collapse are more straightforward?
A. [Anne] Any environmental overshoot ultimately leads to species extinction. In the short term, however, water and food scarcity translate into higher prices [until critical points are reached.]
As for fuel scarcity, there is enough tar sand, oil shale and coal in the ground to choke our planet several hundred times over. They are a lot dirtier and more expensive to produce!
The Green River Formation (Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado) is estimated to contain over 2 trillion barrels of shale oil – twice the world total oil reserves. Worldwide, the technically-recoverable reserves are about 3-3.5 trillion barrels of shale oil [somewhat exaggerated perhaps.]
Proven world coal reserves will last 147 years and natural gas 61 years, at current production levels (world energy consumption 2006 included dry natural gas ~ 23.35%; coal ~ 28.02%).
AND there’s Sun, moon (tidal energy) wind, water, waves, geothermal… Clearly, Peak Oil, when it happens, does not spell peak energy!
Climate change including extreme climatic events, buildup of toxic pollution in the environment, killer disease pandemics and mass migration of environmental and eco-collapse refugees among other dynamics of collapse pose clear and imminent threats to human survival.
Flap Your Wings to Save Humanity
Q. [Greg] My wife and I are maximizing our study of how to reinvent our lives off the grid and away from the (present/future) mire. The most difficult part is maintaining our motivation while caught between ignorance on the one side and negativity on the other. Shouldn’t we all both think and act locally — extremely locally — having cast a wish for better days globally?
A. [Harry] Reinventing your and your wife’s lives off the grid might seem like an obvious ‘win’ strategy; however, for as long as we share the same atmosphere, air soil and water, we share a common future. The ‘escape to wilderness,’ option is, therefore, an ineffective long-term strategy. We live in a closed system, for all intents and purposes. A strong relationship exists between the forces acting upon all of us: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; any attempt to break free from a common destiny would face its own nemesis.
What to do: Flap your wings to bring about the ‘radical’ changes that are necessary to save humanity from total extinction.
There is a concept out there called ‘sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory,’ which means tiny variations in the initial condition of a nonlinear dynamic system could result in large variations in the outcome/behavior of that system. Put simply, a butterfly flapping its wings in China might create changes in the atmosphere that could ultimately cause [or prevent] a category five hurricane off the coast of Louisiana. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the system’s outcome might have been entirely different.
Humans, too, could create initial conditions that would cause a massive corrective change in the system, for example, revolutionize the economy, or equally feed the large positive feedback loops to wipe all of us off the face of the earth.
Poverty in Africa, droughts in Australia, poisoning of land and water in New Zealand, bloodbath in Iraq, human rights abuses in Israel and Canada, government corruption in Saudi Arabia… excessive energy consumption, overproduction and pollution in the US and China and all other human-induced catastrophes are triggering the big ‘hurricane’ that would destroy everything in its path.
Our lives are too interdependent; we are all caught in the same crossfire. Yes, we have to act locally, but we must think globally and intergenerationally. NO solution would work for any one of us in the long run, unless it works for each and every one of us and our children, too.
286watts Doesn’t Seem A Lot
Q. [Rochelle] 286 watts per person per day? It reads like 286 per watts per person year? One high efficiency, bulb at 7 watts x 4 hours = 28 watts per day. 286 watts would be one light bulb for a about a week and half.
Does this include home and work?
A. [Liz] The watt (symbol: W) is a unit of power (measured in joules per second). It tells you how much energy a system consumes every second. The 7-watt compact fluorescent bulb you mentioned consumes 7 joules of energy (electricity) each second when ‘on.’ Over a four-hour period it consumes a total of 100,800 joules. [BTW, for every three units of energy used to generate and transmit electricity only one unit reaches the end-user, the other 2 units are wasted as heat and dissipated into the environment.]
How much energy is one joule? Not a lot! If you pick up a small apple (weight of 102 grams) placed atop a table in front of you and raise it above your head (height of 1 meter), while in a sitting position, you will have used about one joule of energy.
Here’s another example: A 30 year old woman weighing 60 kg (130 lb) and 175 cm (5 feet 9 inches) tall would need a minimum of 68W to keep her vital organs functioning while at rest [That’s her basal metabolic rate, BMR, measured in a neutrally temperate environment in the post-absorptive state!]
She would consume about 25W sitting on a chair, 43W standing in a line and 268W walking on an even path at a speed of 4.5 km/h (2.8 mph).
In the 286W Communities, each person uses up to 286joules per second, or a total of 9.025 gigajoules [2.51MWh] per year [one gigajoule is 10^9 joules] without compromising her standards of comfort or destroying the rest of the planets failing ecosystems. The moderators will post a broad definition including the energy breakdown for various applications at the 268W communities soon.
Meantime, please visit the following links on the links page for an idea of how buildings can provide shelter as well as comfort, even food, and look after the occupants’ energy requirements: S-House ; Passive house Institute ; Energy-plus buildings
The next step would require a rethink and a change of perspective (as well as a little bit of planning). Why not work from the comfort of your home?
Isn’t Overpopulation the Only Problem?
Q. [Winston] If the subject isn’t about overpopulation not worth discussing. We are in population overshoot and not one mention of it. there is no other subject! what don’t you get?[Edited]
A. [Mirva] The committee members have identified Overshoot of Carrying Capacity (increased ecological footprint and “overpopulation” in “developed” countries) as a major cause of collapse. We also call for the world population to be stabilized at its current levels.
The world is in a drastic overshoot of carrying capacity in energy, material, food, clean water, and many other resources. The major cause of this overshoot is the unsustainable lifestyles of the populations in developed countries; it can hardly be blamed on the entire world population. Half the world population live on less than two dollars per day! See below for a comparison:
High income countries (GDP (PPP) per capita)
United States: $44,765
Less Developed Countries
D.R. of Congo: $700
Liberia: $19 (2007 estimate)
Now compare the energy consumption for the same countries:
High income countries (per capita energy delivered in watts)
United States: 11,383W
Less Developed Countries:
D.R. of Congo: 56W
[Moderator] More than one half of the world’s 6.6 billion people remain in suspended animation for all intents and purposes, while the richest 17% consume nearly 90% of everything! What if instead of the richest 17% only the wealthiest 10% or even the top 4% consumed 90% of everything? The problem, the overall size of the consumption pie, would still persist.
Prof Robert Sczech [RS] of Rutgers State University Commented:
Consuming energy at the rate of 286 Watts contin[u]ously and still maintaining a comfortable life is an impossible goal.
[Moderator] Here’s the first question you must ask yourself: “Do I love and respect life, planet Earth and nature to the extent that I would do ALL I can to protect, preserve and sustain them indefinitely?”
We (Members of Creating A Sustainable Future, CASF) hope the answer is a resounding affirmation!
[RS-1] Consuming energy at the rate of 286 Watts contin[u]ously and still maintaining a comfortable life is an impossible goal.
[Moderator] It’s not impossible to live comfortably at lower energy profiles. While we are not advocating that everyone should or could live like the Inuit, who inhabit the arctic region, we would stress that the Inuit energy footprint is lower than 286W.
Additionally, more than 70 countries globally receive a per capita USEFUL energy lower than 286W. Here’s a partial list: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Vietnam Zambia … source EIA 2005).
1. Most, but not all, of these countries have warmer climates. The example of Inuit was therefore provided as a balancing reference.
2. My colleague is studying the Amish energy profiles and would publish the results when her research is completed. [Though the Amish lifestyle may not qualify due to their large number of children. ]
3. CASF will publish a definition of what the 286W footprint entails, soon.]
[RS-2] 286 Watts for 24 hours is roughly 6KWH of energy per day.
[Moderator] Actually 286W is about 14.5% higher than the figure you suggested, i.e., 6.864kWh.
[RS-3] At present prices of electricity (the most expensive form of energy) at $0.15 per KWH, this means a monthly energy cost of roughly $30. That is not enough to cover the cost of heating a small apartment in the winter located in northern climates.
[Moderator] The atomistic lifestyle to which you are alluding is not a sustainable lifestyle. Other alternative, intelligent lifestyles are available (e.g., cohousing), which would reduce the per capita energy requirement significantly.
[RS-4] It would require scraping all of our buildings and rebuild them according to the most recent “passive house” insulation levels.
[Moderator] Not true! Only the new dwellings need be built to the low energy “passive house” or similar standards. There are various methods for retrofitting older structures.
[RS-5] The cost of that reconstruction in terms of energy would be astronomical.
[Moderator] Must work with the optimal socioeconomic formula! See also the reply to [RS-4].
[RS-6] Renewable energy systems (solar panels) require 10 to 20 years of operation in order to recover the energy spent producing these panels. The solution is to either abandon heating or at least lowering the temperature to the uncomfortable level of less than 60 degrees in the winter. This is definitely possible and we would survive such temperatures (as our grandparents did). However, it would be dishonest to claim that such a temperature level would still represent comfort.
[Moderator] It’s true that the actual standards of comfort that are implied do not coincide with what the advertising media purport them to be. Before you could condemn the statement as “dishonest,” however, you’ll have to specify the level of comfort you regard as “standard.” Is your standard of comfort (i) based on a mathematical abstraction, (ii) deem to be realistic, and (iii) prove sustainable? A realistic definition of comfort must include all those criteria and more!
[REM: we have reached this critical juncture in human “evolution” because our hedonistic lifestyles have turned nightmarish.]
[RS-7] I understand why we need to drastically lower our energy consumption – there is no argument about that. However, we should be realistic about the cost of accomplishing such a goal and also about the quality of life which would be implied about such a low level of energy consumption.
[Moderator] Global military spending reached nearly 2 trillion dollars (United States accounted for 75 percent of the total) in the last 12 months. Source: http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm
The global average cost of building new intelligent communities of about 1000 inhabitants including rearranging, remodeling, restructuring and retrofitting existing towns and buildings is an estimated 5-10 million dollars on large scale basis.
The world GDP (PPP), on the other hand, was $72.34trillion in 2007 (source: IMF)
“On the other, other hand” (cf., Tevye the Milkman), the options of living “comfortably” on a “Marsified” planet, or persuading a sizable proportion of the global population to hibernate during the colder months of the year are not yet available!