Recycling is often touted as the sure fix for waste management issues. But that is not always the case as this Indonesian example shows. In any case, even if perfectly managed with the best technology, recycling cannot keep an economy growing due to basic thermodynamics. Yet it is amazing how often one hears the nonsensical slogan of ‘zero waste’. Entropy will always mean that there are always irreducible losses. The rest of nature only defies entropy only thanks to solar inouts and thousands of years of co-evolution, with complex systems of breakdown, assimilation and (usually very slow) recycling.
I do not know whether this is encouraging:
At first sight, it seems to offer the prospect of greater urban food production and thus reduced ‘food miles’. Yet some foods in supermarkets sourced from places such as Thanet Earth are very watery. Tomatoes in particular seem to suffer badly in terms of both taste and texture.
We certainly don’t any more of this:
Here is another examples of how ‘alternative’ is not necessarily the same as ‘appropriate’.:
It may be a good idea but that can only be decided when all the wider impacts of such tidal eenegy developments have been fully explored. The above article completely fails to acknowledge even the existence of such issues (cf: http://uk.whales.org/…/wdc-marine-renewable-energy-report.p…).
Perhaps we ought to hold the applause a little longer until such things are clear. Generally, it illustrates how ‘sustainable development’ and ‘renewable energy’ can be but the same old exploitation and ruination albeit in a new guise.
Another example today from the ‘Guardian’ of how cleverness is not the same as wisdom and how ‘mindsets’ trap even very bright people into false thinking. Thus the late Professor David Mackay, former chief government scientist, claims, in a posthumously published interview, that the only way forward on the energy front is a combination of nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CSS).
His worldview was one that seeks to maintain business-as-usual by other means. Revealingly he says ” I’d advise Las Vegas to get a nuke.” But places like Las Vegas have no place in a sustainable society. He mocks the idea that renewable society can power the UK (an “appalling delusion”). But for various reasons, the UK economy could, should and will have to be shrunk. It is that downsizing that will make renewables (plus efficiency promotion and radical conservation measures) practicable.
For all his evident knowledge, Mackay blithely ignore the ‘rate and magnitude’ problem facing any innovation but especially large-scale, expensive and complex technologies. In other words, they are unlikely to make sufficient difference on the necessary scale and in the available time, even if all other problems associated with them were, by magic, to disappear.
Those other problems are not only not going away but are also getting worse and at an escalating rate. Witness the exploding costs now projected for Hinckley C nuclear power station. Then there are the little matters of the huge radioactive waste, with no disposal solution to hand, that would be produced by a nuclear industry expanded enough to power ‘Las Vegas’ style living. [In terms of total delivered energy, of all forms, in the world, nukes are still a small contributor, a fact often disguised by conflating energy and electricity consumption]
CSS is a classic false fix (http://newtechnologyandsociety.org). It has been estimated, for example, that the pipelines and other infrastructure needed for a CSS system big enough to make a sufficient difference would be greater than that required by today’s oil industry. Think of all the impacts its creation would bring.
Mackay also ignores the other impacts of fossil fuel consumption, from oil spills to mountain removal for coal, ones that CSS would not alter. Last but not least, the ecological crisis is not just a crisis of energy supply but of depleting resources of many kinds and of a declining ‘life-support’ systems. ‘High energy society’ can only be maintained temporarily by aggravating all those other crises, ones capable of wrecking civilised living just as surely as climate change.
Clever tunnel vision is still tunnel vision
There are some important questions here about ‘urban farming’ and city-based food production:
Here is an other false ‘fix’ which those who won’t change their ways are increasingly backing:
It is worth recalling that, several years ago, Iran reversed its progressive family planning programme, in order to increase its birthrate and the size of its population. In other words, in a world of decreasing water supply, they are trying to boost water demand.
There is a good example of the ‘rebound effect’ here, something that believers in technofixes persistently ignore:
Transport, electric cars & Dutch phase out of non-electric cars: