Archive for the 'ecology' Category

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Mars: The Self-Deportation of the 1%

Elon Musk's new plan to enable the self-deportation of the 1% is to be applauded. And as someone once said, “Mars is next.” Earth, you've had your chance. The 1% have never really been of this planet earth, the planet was given to them as raw material to build their family empires. And Mars may offer the largest single source of new raw material available.

Musk has acknowledged that the 1% will need to pool their fortunes to fund this effort. As a community of rugged individualists, they will shun government handouts in pursuit of their goal. Self-funding of self-deportation is a core value of the mission.

Self-deportation as a method of addressing the income inequality problem is relatively new. The theory goes that global warming, the sixth mass extinction and the possibility of a doomsday event has made the planet earth so unwelcoming it has incentivized the 1% to seek refuge on Mars.

Musk is open about the fact that some of the 1% will die in an effort to establish and sustain a city on Mars. It will be a sort of culling of the herd and will make the 1% even better and stronger.

SpaceX, Musk's firm, has said, “this is for everyone, this technology to self-deport the 1% is for humanity.”

 

Test Your Strength

test-strength

Sometimes there’s just a little glint of something in the sand. A quotation is brought in to the stream of the conversation and it’s meant to provide support for some point being put across in an answer to an interviewer’s question.

In Tim Bradshaw’s Financial Times interview with Larry Harvey, one of the founders of Burning Man, it’s the moment when he pulls Milton Friedman into the conversation. The question has to do with whether or not ideas from Burning Man have entered the larger culture. Harvey responds:

I’d like to mischievously quote Milton Friedman. He said change only happens in a crisis, and then that actions that are undertaken depend on the ideas that are just lying around.

I don’t know the origin of the quote or whether it’s accurate or not. While I didn’t have much use for the rest of the article, I did find the Friedman quote intriguing. On the one hand we could make the case that the ideas we find lying around are the result of some historical process and therefore predetermined by their predecessors. The other case is that these ideas are lying around for a variety of reasons. Some are bought and paid for, others are the result of conspiracy theories, some are just random trends. Probably the truth lies somewhere between the two. As I look around me at the ideas lying around, that one seems to fit the bill.

When we consider Friedman’s idea about crisis and action and apply it to global warming, we run into a problem of scale. According to Friedman, action occurs when we perceive the crisis. As the crisis reveals itself, we humans look to the ideas lying around and hope to find something that might serve to blunt its force. Global warming is a large wave overwhelming the biosphere. While it may not be possible to pinpoint the exact moment this wave began gathering its force, certainly it’s a trans-generational event. The patenting of the steam engine (1781) serves as a useful marker of global warming’s beginning.

Objects of this size and complexity have been given the name hyperobjects by philosopher Timothy Morton. Even our ability to directly detect the crisis is limited. We require a global network of sensors, computer climate models and a good measure of inference. The size and momentum of the global warming wave begs the question as to whether the ideas we might find lying around could possibly counter something of this size.

We look for an idea to counter strength with strength. We might believe through the use of leverage, physics and ingenuity we can create a force sufficient to provide an answer. Our instinct tells us that size and momentum of global warming must be overmastered.

In addition to the word “hyperobjects” Timothy Morton also has given us an idea of the value of “hypocrisy, weakness and lameness.” When confronted with something as large and powerful as global warming, perhaps we should take a different tack. Dinosaurs were the most powerful animals on earth during another global climate event. Strength didn’t result in survival. Perhaps as we look at the ideas lying around, we shouldn’t assume that it’s strength that will get us out of this crisis. To evade the power of a hyperobject, we may need to reverse our instincts and get small.

Lithium for Gaia

They're out there now. Scouring the earth for the good lithium brine. That's the stuff that yields the white gold, the new petroleum.

Lithium is number three on your periodic table of elements. It's a soft, silver-white metal. Doesn't go around by itself, prefers compounds, primarily brines and clays.

Lithium salts are classified as a “mood stabilizer.” Apparently it decreases the risk of suicide in cases of bi-polarity. Naturally occurring lithium in drinking water has been credited with lower general rates of suicide.

The energy storage business (batteries) could be much larger than the electric car business. At the moment, that's a business based on mining the good lithium.

Bolivia has mineral-rich aquifers, so does Nevada and Wyoming. A few corporation control the business. Without lithium for batteries, electric cars don't go mainstream. And once they go mainstream, lithium will be essential for life as we know it.

We talk about the Permian and the Bakken, but soon we'll be talking about Wyoming's Rock Springs Uplift. It's all about the possibility of steady supply of cheap, high-quality lithium.

The human-dominated social space is about to get a big dose of lithium. I wonder how it will change us.

 

Pattern into Pattern

PierreBonnard-Twilight

At the exhibition of paintings by Pierre Bonnard, called “Painting Arcadia,” there were about five rooms filled with work by the artist. Early in Bonnard’s career he belonged to a gang known as “Les Nabis.”

In the first room, there’s a painting called “Twilight, or The Game of Croquet.” This was one of my favorites. I only want to draw your attention to one thing. Look at the pattern on the clothing against the organic patterns of the garden. There’s no solid, dark line separating one pattern from the other. The patterns are distinct, but flow into each other. That’s a beautiful way to look at objects. And you may think this is a step too far, but it’s an ecological way of looking.

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