by Jim Bell
We humans are something special and rare.
In spite of there being an estimated 5 to 100 million species of life on our planet, our species is the only one sufficiently conscious to become conscious of existence and our place in it on all levels.
On the most foundational level, this means that if enough of us become conscious enough, soon enough, we will be able to pass the birthright of a peaceful and life-supporting world to our children and future generations.
Additionally, increasing consciousness will open us to new potential and possibilities on this planet and beyond.
Unfortunately, our pursuit of consciousness will be cut short if we continue to live and make livings in ways that hurt others and cause life-support system damage. The Gulf oil gusher is just the latest example of how economic gambling can hurt people and our planet’s life-support system far beyond what the gamblers risk.
Clearly, whatever threats loom before us, if the world’s population continues to grow and we continue and even increase the average amount of life-support damage we cause per capita, sooner or later our planet’s life-support system will fail in some fundamental way. This will result in a general human and life-form die-back. If such a failure is serious enough, human extinction and even the extinction of life in general becomes a possibility.
Some people believe that such a failure is underway. They offer as evidence that 15% or 1/6 of the world’s population is malnourished or starving. That 70% of us are under-employed, have zero or next to zero health care and are poorly clothed and housed. Additionally, there is an estimated 27,000 species of life that are going extinct each year, 270 to 2,700 times our planet’s average extinction rate.
Additionally, human activities have released 80,000 or more chemicals into our common environment (mostly over the past 70 years) and are now adding 1,000 new chemicals per year; chemicals and concoctions that our planet’s life-support system has had zero experience processing or neutralizing and zero experience in protecting itself from them.
To avoid the utter failure of past civilizations, each individual and the human family as a whole, have to become conscious enough to resolve human differences without violence or its threat; and develop economies and ways of life that benefit everyone and that are completely life-support sustaining.
We are becoming more conscious but we are not yet conscious enough to stop killing and hurting each other and causing damage to our planet’s life-support system.
If we really want to leave our children and future generations the best chance to enjoy a happy, healthy, prosperous and completely life-support sustaining future, we have to become conscious enough and knowledgeable enough to know what to do to bring the human family into life-support system harmony.
If we don’t achieve this level of consciousness soon, we will follow the path worn by previous civilizations, all of which utterly failed at the height of their most advanced knowledge and sophistication.
But, if we become conscious and knowledgeable enough, soon enough — we can skip the decline and die off phase of past civilizations. Instead, we can propel ourselves to the next level of consciousness and the new potential it will open to us and to the human family’s future.
Obviously, our task is to meet this challenge, but what should we do?
The answer is simple. On the most fundamental and foundational level we need to develop economies and ways of life that are cooperative, mutually beneficial and life-support sustaining and we need to do this wherever we live and ultimately, planet wide. To achieve this goal, the following steps should be followed.
Step One – Become renewable energy self-sufficient.
When a home, community, city, county, region, state or country controls its energy supply and price, it controls its economy, its ways of life, and most everything else — no matter what happens to the price and supply of energy on national and global markets.
Because solar energy in its various forms is free and even delivered free, the only cost to benefit from it are the labor and materials for increasing electricity use efficiency and manufacturing and installing renewable energy collection devices on our roofs and over our parking lots. And given that our inventors/developers are still getting better at saving energy and converting various forms of solar energy into electricity and other uses, the cost of efficiency improvements and renewably generated electricity and other work will continue to fall.
Every level of becoming renewable energy self-sufficient creates opportunities. In San Diego County , where I live, there is an abundance of direct sunlight. Additionally, the county has substantial wind, biomass, ocean current, wave and tidal energy from which electricity can be produced.
But, even if direct sunlight was its only resource, and assuming 40 kWh of electricity, natural gas and transportation fuels are consumed directly or indirectly per capita per day, San Diego County could become renewable energy self-sufficient by increasing energy use efficiency by 40% and covering 43% of its roofs and parking lots with 15% efficient PV panels.
Economically, becoming renewable energy self-sufficient will increase countywide economic activity by over $175 billion over a forty year implementation period and create over 1 million job-years of employment in the process.
What about cost?
Actually, becoming renewable energy self-sufficient will cost less than continuing our dependences on imported energy — especially if we make the transformation with a little intelligence and grace.
Assuming an average cost of 10 cents per kWh over 40 years, making San Diego County renewable electricity self-sufficient alone would save the county $24 billion.* Since electricity makes up around 40% of the energy the average person uses per day, it follows that a renewably energy self-sufficient San Diego County would save around $60 billion over a 40-year transition period. Additionally, the higher the cost that electricity rises above 10 cent per kWh on the open market, the greater the County’s positive cash-flow and resulting economic multiplier benefit will be.
Step Two – Become renewable water self-sufficient.
Water is essential to life. It is essential to the water-rich lifestyle most people in the developed world already have and that people in the developing world would like to have.
Using San Diego County as an example, increasing the coverage of its roofs and parking lots by another 5% with 15% efficient PV panels will allow it to become renewable energy and water self-sufficient. The addition electricity will power reverse osmosis (RO) pumps to force saltwater against membranes that let freshwater through, but block salt, other minerals and most pollutants.
Assuming the worst case scenario of zero rainfall and zero imported water, five percent coverage of San Diego County ’s roofs and parking lots with 15% efficient PV panels would make enough electricity to produce 776,000 acre ft. of water each year. San Diego County now uses around 600,000 acre ft. of water each year. By installing PV panels over 8% of its roofs and parking lots, San Diego County could become a substantial water exporter to inland communities.
Sea life will be protected from RO pumps by extracting the saltwater to be processed through sand filtration (extracting saltwater through coastal wells and through sea bottom sand filtration). Wastewater or brine left over from the RO process will be evaporated in shallow open ponds so salt and other minerals left behind can be mined. When any RO wastewater is returned to the sea, it would be diluted by sand-filtered salt water to no more than 20% saltier than natural seawater, then released diffusely into the ocean.
Step Three – Become renewable food self-sufficient.
With renewable energy and water self-sufficiency, comes the ability to be renewable food self-sufficient. It also allows for the growth of a great deal of the fiber and lumber.
To make this real, it is essential that we protect our agricultural soils from further development and other misuse. Research indicates that we still have enough agricultural soil on our planet to feed everyone a nutritious diet of tasty, sustainably-grown food with lots of variety. With renewable energy powered RO, this is true for San Diego County . Unfortunately, this will not be true for San Diego County or our world for long if we do not protect and preserve our best agricultural soils for life-supporting agriculture.
Step Four – Population
Each person should make a personal choice to be the birth parent of no more than two children unless a child or children die before reproducing themselves. If this was practiced worldwide, the world’s population would decline by ½% 1% to per year. A 1% decline per year would reduce the world’s population to 2.5 billion people in 100 years. This was the world’s population in the mid 1950s. With a population drop of ½% per year, this would happen in 200 years.
Step Five – Develop a Space Debris Detection and Defense System
We already have the technology to locate all earth-orbit-crossing space objects. We also have the technology, to deflect earth bound objects large enough to cause serious life-support harm if they collide with us, if we discover them soon enough. We could an even capture such objects into earth or the moon orbits for scientific study and mining.
Bottom line, if we want to leave the birthright of a happy, healthy, prosperous, life-supporting sustainable future to our young and future generations, these 5 steps are the minimum we must do, and the sooner the better.
We’ve come so far, why blow it now? We know what can be done. All we have to do is do it. If those living over the next 60 years or so develop life-support sustaining economies and ways of life planet wide, there is little to stop us from colonizing space in our own galaxy and beyond.
* For details on this investment strategy, go to www.jimbell.com, click on “Green Papers”. Although this paper focuses on renewable electricity self-sufficiency in San Diego County , the investment strategies it develops can be used to become renewable energy self-sufficient for gaseous and liquid fuels as well. Additionally, this strategy can work almost anywhere on our planet, modified for climate, renewable energy sources available and other local conditions. With modifications, it will also work for becoming renewable water and food self-sufficient as well. For more depth, www.jimbell.com – 619-758-9020