The Japan Syndrome: All Radiation, No Light

Entrance to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, now entombed in concrete. Today's Fukushima disaster is not another Chernobyl, but could they together point us to a better way? (Photo by Timm Suess/Flickr)

A plume of radioactive blather has spread around the world from the Japanese nuclear meltdowns, stripped of information and logic (presumably by pre-radiation), seriously affecting the thought processes of millions. The reporting and punditry stimulated by the chaotic failure of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex is far more notable for what it does not include that for what it does. And the most astonishing absence of all is the lack of a mention of any rational remedy for the awful risks we have to take to satisfy our insatiable appetite for cheap electricity. I’ll suggest a remedy momentarily, but first a couple of observations about the verbal emissions. And omissions. Continue reading

Come, Apocalypse: Now It’s Peak Coffee

(Photo by Stepheye/Flickr)

Wait a minute. I have accustomed myself to the prospects that, approaching and after the Fall, I will have to give up gasoline, electricity, lettuce in the winter, thermostats, my cell phone, 20-minute showers and even — sob! — the Internet. I can handle that. I can stay home, tend my solar panels, grow my own food and cut wood for heat until I’m too hot and tired to take a shower. But Peak Coffee? It’s too much. Continue reading

Industry: Living off the Low-Fat of the Land

If you eat this you will get fat/atherosclerosis/high cholesterol/diabetes/lockjaw and/or you will die. True or false, and why, and according to whom? (Photo by VirtualEm/Flickr)

A brief excursion into dietary “science” shows us why and how industrial science is destroying our world, with our happy acquiesence. By industrial science I mean “science” conducted by people in the employ of industrialists such as Cargill and the Koch brothers, the handful of giant companies that engineer and market the food-like substances that have turned America into a country whose population is at once overweight and undernourished. Continue reading

From China’s Leaders, Intimations of Mortality

A typical scene along the banks of the Yangtze River as China's growth engine redlines. (Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr)

Which prominent American government official said the following this week?

  • “The conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today.”
  • “The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the worsening environment have become grave impediments to the nation’s economic and social development.”
  • “We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption.” Continue reading

Digression: A Modest Budget Proposal

If simplistic nostrums can save our government, why not the American family too?

From the new christian scientists now ascendant in the politics of America (well, they have been ascendant most of the time since 1980, but are currently enjoying a new iteration as tea partiers) comes a new theory of government. Just as the Bible is literally true in every respect, and humans co-existed with dinosaurs, and there are no such things as evolution, or human-caused climate change, or an end to oil, now comes another self-evident principle to guide our nation. (Self-evident because outside the statement itself, there is no existing evidence or even indication of its truth.) Continue reading

Keeping Tabs

How many times have we been right? Stand by.... (Photo by Jerkert Gwapo/Flickr)

Can we talk? About whether this website is an outpost of wild-eyed eco-extremism, cherry-picking alarmist half-truths from the web to scare the unsophisticated? That sort of thing. If we could just take a look at the recent record:

In December of last year (“Food Fights Coming Soon“) and in January of this year (“The People, Sir, are a Great Beast“), we wrote about the imminent threat of popular uprisings because of food shortages. Tunisia’s dictator fell (“unexpectedly,” by all accounts) two weeks after the second piece was published, and Egypt’s after that, as the wave of risings rolled on toward Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. But wait, there’s more. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Meetings

US Capitol dome

As night gathers in Washngton, the Capitol dome shines a beacon of total ignorance over the nation. (Photo by David Iliff/wikimedia)

In the past week, two organizations convened in Washington DC to discuss their view of the world. One, comprising some of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists, was the American Association for the Advancement of Science, holding its annual meeting. The other, made up of some of the world’s most powerful politicians, was the US Congress, assembled. They seemed to be discussing two widely separated, and wildly different, planets. Continue reading

Fuel Cell Offers to Save World: World Says No Thanks

Each Bloom box shown provides 100 kw cheap, clean energy for CalTech. Other clients include eBay, Google and Coke.

One year ago, the venerable televison news program 60 Minutes broke a blockbuster story that (as The Daily Impact observed at the time — Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?) made even energy pessimists feel a pang of hope. (Okay, 60 Minutes didn’t exactly break the story, but they did introduce it for the first time to a mass audience.) Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, California had brought to market a reliable, efficient, clean and relatively cheap fuel cell that was scalable from a coffee-can-sized power source for a home to a greyhound-bus-sized industrial plant. Continue reading

Peak Phosphorous: Worse than Peak Oil?

Whether in a farm pond like this, or the Gulf of Mexico, algae blooms stimulated by wasted fertilizer are deadly to marine life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we're running out of fertilizer.

Here’s the bottom line, obvious to all but the most arithmetically challenged: when you base an entire civilization on the rapid consumption of a limited resource, you guarantee the collapse of that civilization on the day the resource is exhausted. But the ride to that final day is not a smooth one; you also guarantee that chaos will ensue from the time that there is not enough left of the depleted resource to meet all demands. Running completely out of water is a shared disaster, but when there’s enough water for some but not all, choosing the “some” gets ugly, real fast. It has gradually dawned on a growing number of people that this is the bottom line for oil, but it is not yet widely accepted that the same bottom line, with the same potential for destruction, exists for a number of other substances, especially phosphorous. Continue reading

WikiPeak Oil: Now Do You Believe It?

"Got oil?" "Not so much any more. You?"

M. King Hubbert started predicting the inevitable arrival of peak oil in 1950. In the ensuing 60 years, a steadily growing band of geologists, other scientists, and people who grasp the essentials of arithmetic have been warning strenously that peak oil is both inevitable and imminent. If they are right, its arrival will have consequences for the world that will rank somewhere between catastrophic and apocalyptic; yet, in the developed countries (and by developed, we mean oil-dependent) virtually no one in a position to do anything about it mentions the prospect, let alone taking it seriously. Now, powerful confirmation of peak oil has turned up in WikiLeaks. It’s where we learned, for example, that Prince Charles is not as well respected as Queen Elizabeth. So now do you believe? Continue reading