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Global warming and climate change. Peak oil. Corporate dominance. Rising food prices. Exploding populations. Unsustainable economies. Environmental degradation. Water scarcities and droughts. Peak jobs. Fragile interdependence. Industrialized food production. And on and on and on.

I have been asking myself and anyone I can get my hands on, "How do we transition to a sustainable world without killing billions of people?"  

I think I am close to having the beginnings of an answer. The ways and means are springing up. Using them properly and effectively will be political.

We need a sustainable supply of liquid fuel as well as a sustainable supply of electricity. We also need to use much less of both, especially liquid fuels. We need to produce more of everything locally, especially food and energy. We need to reduce corporate influence. We need to change the way we think.

Joule Unlimited promises to produce diesel and ethanol directly from sunlight and (extremely) surplus CO2 at $30 a barrel. Artificial leaves, algae, cellulosic biofuels and the like have promise but if JU can even half meet their expectations, then we're getting somewhere.

Joule produces clean, infrastructure-compatible fuels directly from sunlight and waste CO2 in a single-step, continuous process that requires no costly biomass intermediates, processing or dependency on precious natural resources.

We combine breakthroughs in genome engineering, bioprocessing and hardware engineering to form an integrated, commercial-ready solution with unprecedented scale and productivity rates.

Requiring only sunlight and waste CO2, this system can produce renewable diesel fuel in virtually unlimited quantities at costs as low as $30/barrel equivalent, overcoming the challenges of oil exploration and production.

A new engine promises to quadruple automobile efficiency and would probably do the same for anything that needed a generator. Imagine going from 15% to 60% utilization of the actual energy in a liquid fuel!

The engine is  an extremely efficient and simple rotary design that wouldn’t directly power the wheels but charge the battery in a hybrid. In theory, it can harvest several times more energy from fuel than a conventional internal combustion gasoline engine.

New windmill designs can distribute power production at a low cost, including aesthetic considerations. New solar technologies do the same and/or are capable of running round the clock. Entirely new science in the field of solar power could yield even greater benefits.

The “Revolutionair” turbines will be “revolutionary” in that they are designed for domestic use by homeowners. That means that ordinary individuals can put them in their yards, gardens or on roofs to generate power for their households. The clear quadrangular 400W WT model has a power output of 400W and the helicoidal 1KW WT one will be able to generate 1 KW of power.
A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.

The burgeoning field of green roofs means that less power will be needed in cities year round, while possibly even improving the food supply as well as the local climate.

Here's a beautiful one on a government building in Greece, already reducing heating and air conditioning costs and bringing back butterflies while retaining rainwater and dissuading pigeons.

Speaking of the food supply and local environment, the story of the Polyface Farm as I first read it in the Omnivore's Dilemma was inspiring. Zero artificial fertilizers, minimal fossil fuel inputs and the land has entirely recovered from its degradation and is producing more and far, far better food than the most industrialized operation at the same or lower cost.

IN 1961, William and Lucille Salatin moved their young family to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, purchasing the most worn-out, eroded, abused farm in the area near Staunton.  Using nature as a pattern, they and their children began the healing and innovation that now supports three generations.

Disregarding conventional wisdom, the Salatins planted trees, built huge compost piles, dug ponds, moved cows daily with portable electric fencing, and invented portable sheltering systems to produce all their animals on perennial prairie polycultures.

Ongoing work in Syria is coming up with the non-patented seeds that will (hopefully) see us through the coming turbulence.

IN THE MIDST OF a red, rocky stretch of land in the northeast of Syria, hundreds of rows of wheat brace themselves against a hot, dry wind. The plants are separated into small square plots by grassy pathways, ensuring no genetic material is transferred between sets.

At first glance, the dry, yellow crops look identical – they’re the only signs of life for kilometres around. But, in fact, they couldn’t be more different.

Some have grown tall and straight, while others are too wild and ‘hairy’. Some haven’t yet produced seeds, while others are ready to be harvested. Many couldn’t take the heat while a few thrived.

And these differences will determine what many populations will be eating in the next 10 to 20 years, and could decide how many people go hungry as Earth’s population grows.

One of the most inspiring things I've come across recently is the Open Source Ecology initiative. The SF fan in me got really excited when he heard about the plans for Civilization in a Box, Some Assembly Required. Watch this Ted Talk if its the only link in the diary you click on.

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

And finally, it may be too late to change our thinking but this guy has 4th graders solving the world's problems. Frankly, I'd like to play that game myself and would nominate one of the 4th graders for president.
The World Peace Game is a hands-on political simulation that gives players the opportunity to explore the connectedness of the global community through the lens of the economic, social, and environmental crises and the imminent threat of war. The goal of the game is to extricate each country from dangerous circumstances and achieve global prosperity with the least amount of military intervention. As “nation teams,” students will gain greater understanding of the critical impact of information and how it is used.

The Arab Spring has also got me thinking that perhaps real change is coming to the way people think. When protesters in Cairo were upset that some of them were breaking non-violence by throwing stones back at the regime's thugs it overturned so many stereotypes that it made me think that perhaps the bricks in the wall may be finally falling out.

In short, I believe that all these things emerging now is not a coincidence. The ways and means to transition to a better place are coming together and we will have at least one more chance. We're going to have to work like hell, though, and we're going to face a lot of opposition but it will no longer be true to say that we do not have the tools we need.

Cheers

Originally posted to Athenian on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 07:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by oo and Community Spotlight.

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Can these things help save our civilization or are we doomed?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (34+ / 0-)

    I know there are several promising things I neglected to mention. Please chime in.

    Cheers.

    We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

    by Athenian on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 07:35:06 PM PDT

    •  Great diary, full of ideas (4+ / 0-)

      I will carefully read it with a cup of coffee.

      Off the top of my head, I want to add,

      Since transportation is consuming most of our fuel, we need to rely more on bikes and high speed rail and public transportation in general. We also need to travel less, to stay put.

      This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

      by Agathena on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 05:39:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I too, believe, solutions are near at hand (6+ / 0-)

      but the real problem is the political fight of reorienting the financial system away from speculation and rent-seeking behavior, and back toward actually investing in what's actually needed. In just the foreign exchange markets alone, there is $4 trillion of trading EVERY DAY. By contrast, total world trade in merchandise and services is $19.5 trillion a year. So the question is, how do you re-regulate the financial system so that doing the important, productive work that needs to be done is what's profitable?

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 07:06:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Really (6+ / 0-)

    The structure is still as sound as when I first learned it over forty years ago. The details have evolved, and are evolving, as should be the case.

    The problems are all in the politics and the economics (and in the interface between the two, of course) and I don't see anything dramatic there.

    Oh, and population increase and environmental degradation are progressing inexorably. Technology, alone, has no answer for that.  

    •  "Technology, alone, has no answer for that." (5+ / 0-)

      I agree, though without technology we're dead. As Douglas Adams, I think, said, "We can't go back to the caves, we won't fit."

      But in my small roundup are a number of things that are not mere technology and are much more a change in thinking backed by know-how. That, in my humble opinion, is the game changer.

      Cheers.

      We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

      by Athenian on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:02:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Really (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SaraBeth, RunawayRose

        If you can't extrapolate it out for at least several decades, how do you feel comfortable concluding what "changed the game" and what didn't?

        When I first assembled something similar to this in 1983, it took me hundreds of pages. The resulting "progress" has left me far less optimistic over the ensuing years. None of the major challenges have been met, and the overall level of progress has been less than stunning.

        •  Tell me more. (4+ / 0-)

          Do you still have it? I'd love to see it.

          I can extrapolate that fossil fuels are finite and that Joule Unlimited's project or something like it looks like a solution.

          I can extrapolate that farming needs to be sustainable. Industrial agriculture gets about as many calories out as it puts in. Polyface and other such outfits are turning that around.

          I can extrapolate the planned obsolescence does not apply to open source hardware.

          Sorry you are grumpy and pessimistic but I find grounds for hope in the roundup and in several other things that are sprouting up around us like mushrooms after the rain. May I recommend Ted Talks?

          Cheers.

          We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

          by Athenian on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:45:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am both pessimistic and optimistic. (5+ / 0-)

            We're finding solutions, but due to right-wingers a hell of a lot of death and destruction is going to happen before those solutions lead to a more sustainable society.  One on a biodiversity-depleted, much poorer Earth than today.  The sheer laws of ecology and economics mean that only those who implement the solutions will survive, and they are not all guaranteed to thanks to the right-wing murderers.

            Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

            by neroden on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 11:59:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We're begining to find some ways (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ignacio Magaloni, Athenian

              to implement solutions that were taking shape when I first studied Ecology in the sixties.

              Look to politics to understand why our "progress" has been so stunted. Clear back in the fifties a powerful group from the MIC hired an actor named Ronald Reagan to run for President and had the patience, intelligence, and wealth to nurse the project to fruition. And they won't let up until confronted and defeated. People like Coors, Koch, Bush, etc., etc. always stand ready and willing to fill a leadership seat aytime one becomes empty.

          •  I have not thrown away my unpublished manuscript (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ignacio Magaloni

            Photovoltaics were available to be beneficially prioritized in 1983 but we've actually made less progress down that path than even if only market forces had been allowed to act unimpeded. For example. And Buckminister Fuller mostly seems to have been relagated to not much more than a Footnote.

            The majority of the real progress I see has happened in spite of the concerted efforts that have been made to thwart it. And that progress is clearly moving to slowly to avoid a very messy (though likely not cataclysmic) day of reckoning.

            The profits from our "mistakes" are being privavtized at virtually unimagineable levels, the costs are spread ever more broadly, and it is likely that 99% of humanity is still to unsophisticated to completely even grasp this concept.

            •  Would you send it to me, please? (0+ / 0-)

              Back in the eighties when I was in college I kept on trying to predict the future. I really would like to see your manuscript and, perhaps, to write a diary together.

              I have the greatest respect for smugglers, they saved my father's life more then once during the War.

              I'm serious. Send me a message.

               

              We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

              by Athenian on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 03:30:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's in storage (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Athenian

                in a box. 600 double spaced, typed pages. I have only one copy.

                I wrote a political manifesto (thinly disguised as a novel), which, among many other things, had a detailed national energy policy.

                I missed a few things, hit many things dead on, and the bulk of it is still being played out.

                Humanity still has a slim chance to put a sufficient number of pieces together correctly, but what once were strong odds, have now become a long shot.

    •  Regarding that (7+ / 0-)

      Population increase is self-limiting.  It can happen through the "demographic transition" or through mass starvation, it's just a matter of choice.

      The economics problems are surprisingly easy to solve if we can solve the political problems.

      The political problems?  Now you start getting into the hard part, and arguably the reason why this website exists.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 12:01:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  agreed (5+ / 0-)

      IMO, it's far more a matter of money and political will than it is the ability to solve the technological problems, though we have waited long enough to deploy greentech that future trouble is baked into our future even if we stopped emitting carbon as a species immediately.

      From my POV, these troubles look like more interesting problems to solve.

      Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 01:14:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The thing about Joule that has me doubtful (5+ / 0-)

    is that the process requires water.  What about the world's water resources?

  •  tipped for the Open Source HW video. (10+ / 0-)

    Definitely suggest a follow-up stand-alone diary on that topic!

    I used to write here as VeganMilitia. I let that user name pass into the history books.

    by Shuksan Tahoma on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:08:18 PM PDT

    •  It was the clincher. (8+ / 0-)

      When I saw that, it brought together all the other things. I know I haven't articulated it all as well as I should have but I'm hoping to light a spark.

      I will do a dedicated diary on it, as you suggest. Possibly on a number of the ideas presented.

      Cheers.

      We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

      by Athenian on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:14:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was an amazing video as was the TED site (5+ / 0-)

        No one ever made anything happen by second and third guessing everything that could go wrong and might not work.  Anyone creative can tell you there are hits and misses.  If you worry about making a miss you're paralyzed.  Resiliency and flexibility and ingenuity are what's needed.

        That being said, not everyone is going to have the vision to get on board, and it's easy to get discouraged when your great idea fails to ignite.  Luckily, small groups of like-minded people can work wonders.  

        Which side are you on?

        by wiseacre on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 05:35:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So, which side are you on boy (as the song goes) (0+ / 0-)

          Was that your first exposure to Ted? If so, that alone makes the diary worth while.

          I've challenged Oldpotsmuggler to give me his old manuscripts in order to produce a diary together.

          Will you be part of one of the small groups of like-minded people to work wonders?

          :  )

          Cheers.

          We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

          by Athenian on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 03:44:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I would like to suggest the movie (8+ / 0-)

    FUEL
    (click the link to watch)

    It's almost 2 hours long, well worth watching and share-worthy.  FUEL is a great discussion starter, it's FREE (YouTube) and it's inspiring. We CAN do this.

    A group of us got together to see it about a month ago...the discussion that followed was spirited, enlightening and, best of all, encouraging.

  •  It's nice to see some optimism. nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Athenian
  •  I agree with you.... (4+ / 0-)

    I have long thought that the DE-Centralization of power production is the way to go...along with pretty much everything else you wrote...

    With the exception of one thing. I do not see people living in the west willingly changing their way of life to cut down on their power usage... it would mean they would have to sacrafice a little bit of comfort and convenience... and so far I've not seen the majority of people rushing to do that.

    •  Especially in a house with teenagers. I have my (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Athenian

      children and grandchildren and grandchildren living with me.

      The teenagers walk through a room and turn on everything, seemingly automatically.  They nod and agree when talked with about it and a couple of days later are doing it again.  

      Some day it'll soak in.

      “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by maybeeso in michigan on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 08:40:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Energy efficiency! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Athenian, Ahianne

      Western Europeans live a life about as comfortable as ours, at about half the energy per capita.

      Lots of negawatt possibilities available.

      C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

      by RunawayRose on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 10:02:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is why Joule is so important (0+ / 0-)

      and the Green Roofs.

      We can live better with less. To the extent that we can make the transition invisible....

      Cheers.

      We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

      by Athenian on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 03:56:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You left out a big one (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, Athenian, Mayfly

    That is the hydrogen switch. From sea water through reverse osmosis you get water with less salt, from solar power you get h2 and o2 gas, from h2 an o2 you can burn in small chamber to make steam, steam can pull the loads that electric never can for trucks large and small. Look around there are trucks everywhere on the roads. The science is well known only requires engineering to put it together. And the big thing is a steam engine is macho. You don't have to sell it to an unwilling male public.

    •  It is also retro. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mayfly

      I've got nothing against retro or macho.

      After all, my favorite failed technology is:

      Zeppelins!

      and I'm stubborn enough to think that the time is right for a comeback.

      Cheers/

      We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

      by Athenian on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 04:03:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Have you heard of (4+ / 0-)

    "The Transition Initiative"?

    It covers all the things you have said and there are several real projects going on now. Google it. I did just a quick perusal, but there's an entire outline, source help and a lot of info.

    The political problem is a huge one. We're allowing more shoddy corporate gathering of fossil fuels and Joe Barton et al on that committee are trying to make clean air dirty words. We truly have venal idiots running this country. It's like they're intentionally backing up the sewer.

  •  Error. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Whimsical, Athenian, Mayfly

    We spent decades buildiing up our power. Now our whole world is run off solar, wind and even geo thermal. We have manicured it into a paradise, with the lands of men and the lands of animals both remaining. Biodiversity has flourished as ----

    Error.

    ==

    Theres only one answer. Colonize other worlds, hopefully other star systems. If we do not do this, and work on it NOW, well, then sooner or later the above text will become reality.

    We can only avert catastrophe by moving to other worlds. As it stands, one significantly large event can destroy us all.

    All thats left for us in that future is, well, an error.

    "May whatever power they believe in show the rightwingers mercy. They have been led astray by devils with chalkboards."

    by kamrom on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 07:26:59 AM PDT

    •  Agreed. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Athenian, Mayfly

      We need to get off this rock, or we're most likely going to go extinct.

      We should've had bases on other planets by now.

      "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

      by Whimsical on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 11:18:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And, my! Won't the inhabitants of other planets (0+ / 0-)

        be glad to see us:  "Turn off the lights, pull down the shades. Pretend we're not home. Maybe they'll go away."

        Just kidding. I am all for space exploration but we've got to be prepared to behave ethically and not follow our historic "seize it and use it" approach to territory that isn't ours.

        US energy corporations realize that both solar and wind power share one big drawback--they are free.

        by Mayfly on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 05:41:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the encouraging ideas. There are (5+ / 0-)

    things being done even though it sometimes seems not.  

    I've sent this diary to Facebook and emailed it to several people, including the company that did some insulation work on my house last week.

    Ann Arbor City Hall has green roof.   The mayor is getting all kinds of flack about wasting the money.   I think it is less than positive comments.   I haven't had a chance to see it yet.

    I really really want one of the wind generators.

    About the TED video, I hadn't realized just how much we've been discouraged from putting things together for ourselves instead of buying the pretty, sleek commercial products.

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by maybeeso in michigan on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 08:46:53 AM PDT

    •  Thank you, thank you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maybeeso in michigan

      Best comment one can receive for this kind of diary.

      One of the new things in this iteration of dkos is that you can message me.

      Your mileage may vary with Green Roofs. The locally sourced example that was in the link may well be an order of magnitude better that the baseline, which is already incredible. On the other hand, this particular approach will not work everywhere.

      I, too, want a revolutionair  :  )    or several.

      TED TALKS are  a great. Perhaps something to be integrated with the next NetRootsNation.

      Thank you again and cheers.

      We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

      by Athenian on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 04:27:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Biochar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Athenian, Ahianne

    See this site.

    Pulls carbon from air, sequesters it for hundreds to thousands of years, improves soil fertility, reduces fertilizer need and runoff.

    C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

    by RunawayRose on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 09:59:03 AM PDT

  •  I'm not persuaded by most of these ideas, BUT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Athenian

    I'm not persuaded by most of these ideas, but some of them might help us turn the corner.

    They are a lot better than "we have to keep doing what we're doing now."

    Corporations are people; money is speech.
    1984 - George Orwell

    by Frank Palmer on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 10:01:13 AM PDT

  •  I need clarification on one point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Athenian, Mayfly
    We also need to use much less of both, especially liquid fuels.

    Are you talking about the 20-30% we can reduce using technology and practicing conservation?  Cause if you are, this was a great diary and I'm 100% with you.

    Or are you being one of those environmental scolds who expects us to drop our energy use to 20-30% of current levels? Cause if you are you're dreaming.  Worse than dreaming, you're wasting time and energy(that really cannot afford to be wasted)on an impossible goal that will never happen.

    The enviromental movement will meet with much greater success when it switches its message from "You must massivley cut your energy usage right now and forever or we're DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMEDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!" to "Here's how you can use just as much energy as you do now, if not more, without killing the planet (and possibly not killing your wallet either)."

    "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

    by Whimsical on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 11:16:21 AM PDT

    •  The former. n/t : ) (0+ / 0-)

      We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about. Tim Jackson

      by Athenian on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 04:29:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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