“robot pollination”

I knew this day would come. People thinking we can replace nature’s services with robot technology…

I think it won’t work because of the following:

  • The energy requirements of robots are greater than insects. How long can a drone that small fly for? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? A bee flys all day long and doesn’t ever need to be “plugged in”; it refuels as it travels.
  • Bees and other insects already know what to do. They know where to go, how to get there, when to return, which flowers to visit. A bee already knows to avoid bad weather. They sleep in! No programming required!
  • Insects such as bees are already solar powered (they make their food from plants, which are powered by photosynthesis)
  • Robots are not currently biodegradeable and/or compostable. Are they? E-waste is a big problem today and this simply creates more of it. Recycling still requires the consumption of energy and the addition of new raw material to the batch.
  • Insects such as ants detect chemicals. They’re chemical detectors. That’s how they work (as far as I know). It’s not just their eyes, but their antannae.Do you want to know what the smallest CO² chemical detector is today? Unless there has been some amazing development in the field of gas chromatography that I am not aware of, current gas detectors would need to be mounted on a drone so big, that it would not be able to manouvre around individual flowers with enough precision. It would be like a fucking bald eagle trying to thread a needle with a cross wind.
  • Bees aren’t the only pollinators. There are pollinators even smaller than bees that can pollenise the tiniest of flowers only a few mm across.
  • Making one robot bee is not the same as making a whole swarm. Who is going to make the swarm? People? Or still more robots? So then there will be more “embodied energy” tied up in the manufacturing stage.
  • Most current manufacturing methods are not really sustainable in the long term. They just aren’t. Because they require things like lasers, magnets, chemicals, copper/PVC wiring, steel moulds, energy, transport.
  • Do we seriously see ourselves making an equivalent of the Earth’s biomass of insects for the next million+ years? Like a billion tonnes of robot bees? Where is all that material going to come from? More mines? Current mining operations endanger many species all over the world; habitat destruction will endanger further species… so it just seems to me that as we try to apply more and more technology to solve more problems, technology itself creates an ever-decreasing viscious circle.

Humans have this kind of “wait and see” approach, which I think is crap. Sure it “can be done”, but making robot bees is probably a thousand times less efficient than natural bees (if not a million times less).

I think it’s time robot technicians admitted something. That they cannot recreate a single bee, fly or mosquito. Like I say, is it biodegradeable, self-assembling, and self-regenerative? No. If you look at even the most advanced robot and then put an insect or bacterium alongside it, the natural version is way more advanced (even in terms of the hierarchical structure of the materials alone).

I’m open minded. I’m creative. I’m optimistic. But this is clunky at best. This is stupid. This is wrong. This will create more problems for ourselves. And I think anyone who knows about science, manufacturing, or ecology, will probably agree with me.

The way I see it, digging up the Earth is still quite a primitive thing to do. And there is only so much we can dig. Better to have a circular economy and manufacturing industry. That’s how nature does it, with zero waste!

I really think there is only one way we can go and that is a “less is more” approach. And I think if we don’t change, nature will simply force us to. It’s hard to be productive as well as profitable in a blizzard, a heatwave, a flood, etc.

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t even be garnering additional exposure for this idea by even discussing robot pollination, and to take my thoughts offline. But I think it’s better to leave this right up here so that some of my connections can put up their arguments as to why they think it won’t work. I’d particularly like to hear from biologists. Tell us all the ways insects are superior to synthetic robots. :)

I am amazed and scared.

At the same time, I find it rather sad.

That we humans can be completely captivated by this demonstration and yet we have simultaneously lost our appreciation for natural organisms (flying and otherwise).

If you think about it, fireflies can do all of that and are auto-refueling, self-assembling, self replicating *and* biodegradable! What happens when a mosquito or a fly lands on us? We squat it without hesitation… perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to do that in future? 2c.

What is the Great Barrier Reef worth today?

Illustration by leslie dean brown. © 2017. All rights reserved.
AUD$56billion? Ridiculous evalulation. Just ridiculous. Completely wrong!

Did economists consult with biologists or materials scientists for their evaluation I wonder?

I think it’s worth more like 56 trillion to 56 quadrillion dollars, if you take into account all the endemic species, all of the “natural services” they provide, the potential for developing new medicines, the potential to study lifeforms in terms of their unique material properties and the potential to one day eliminate e-waste altogether…

Because I don’t look at a fish and see just a fish. I look at a fish and see a self-replicating biodegradeable waterproof robot with twice the swimming efficiency of a traditional propellor driven-submarine. Name one electronic device or invention that has the combination of all these properties. Name one! If this civilisation truly wants to be more ‘sustainable’, then technology is going to have to start resembling more organic/biological structures… that is my vision of “the future”.

There is a lot of stuff that we still don’t know. I am no biologist, but do researchers know how genes influence species’ morphology (and patterns) in all marine species living in the Great Barrier Reef? The actual mechanisms?

How does the organisms final shape come about? Why does an octopus have eight arms? How does living tissue ‘know’ when to stop producing scales and start producing fins or something else? Why do fish eyes appear where they do instead of half way down the animals’ body?

AFAIK, those are still unanswered questions… when we know that, we might be able to create our own reef ecosystems. And I don’t mean ‘cheating’ by simply pfaffing about mixing pre-existing strands of DNA. I mean, starting by scratch (synthetic DNA). Until then, the Great Barrier Reef and the biodiversity that it contains is literally priceless, aren’isn’t it?

The trouble with estimating the long-term benefits of scientific research is that it is really unknown. Any half-way decent scientist would say “Where are your error bars?”

And here’s the thing. I don’t think you have taken into account the loss of potential revenue from future scientific research. Is that not significant?

For instance: What would the US military pay for adaptive camouflage? What would they pay for uniforms that blended into their surroundings like a cuttlefish or octopus? Because that would give them a HUGE advantage in close combat, wouldn’t it? If the ‘enemy’ could barely even see something approaching.

Is the human race a plague?

Of course modern man is a plague. When did man become a plague?

Probably with the rise of the industrial revolution, when we were able to affect our environment on a grand scale. We invented pollution and toxic chemicals. We use those toxic chemicals to kill off other species on purpose and we only ever do things for our own direct benefit.

The population has reached a crisis point. We’re on every continent on the planet. We are not really meant to last longer than about 35-45 years old, but better nutrition has pushed us to live 90+ years. So instead of one generation merely replacing the next, you have 3 or 4 generations of humans alive at the same time.

We know it’s not at all sustainable yet the first thing we do is congratulate someone when they give birth to another child. Congratulations. For what exactly? Doing what comes naturally? Doing what every single one of their ancestors did?

How about congratulating people for not having a child?

We destroy everything in sight and call that “urbanisation”. When we do plant stuff it is common green grass. We then try to keep that under control by mowing it all down rather than letting things grow naturally by themselves.

We still don’t value nature’s functions yet we cannot live without them.

Some people are so obsessed with conquering everything that they even want to travel in to outer space to spread the plague even further.

Native American Indians, Australian Aborignies and many other indigenous tribes lived in mutual harmony with their natural environments. In the case of Australian Aborigines, for 40,000 years.

Their materials and tools were biodegradeable. The valued art and music more than we do in our culture. In our culture it seems we value consumerism. A sad fact.

So I think we can learn a lot from their values.

Do you know what the scariest thing is? – self realisation

“Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here. That’s… it’s just an awful feeling.” -Elija Price from the movie “Unbreakable”.

But what happens if and when you can’t seem to find your own unique, specific niche? I’m talking about major areas of your life, like employment. Your ideal partner? Your own distinct style? Your identity? Can these two states of overchoice and underchoice lead to mental health problems? What happens to your mood when there are an infinite number of things you could possibly do with your life? Do you begin to block everything out, deny existence of something?

I’m sure that for everyone, there are moments when it all seems like it is too much to bear. It seems to me that in this new information age, a lot of people are withdrawing into their shells, refusing to face the true reality of this world. Perhaps because of their online internet experiences. It’s called “future shock”.

We’re always reminded that people who can’t find a worthwhile niche are not much use to society. In this way, perhaps one completely natural & previously redundant “coping mechanism” (stemming for overchoice) is the occurrence of mild depression. We all know that chronically depressed people are obviously more prone to suicide. They consciously choose to eliminate themselves from their own suffering. It is a way of dealing with their own extreme level of internal conflict, self-pity, guilt and their perceived burden on society. But what if it is actually a subconscious choice that has already been programmed into them? Are the peers who have failed to recognise and treat their condition (just like they would any individual with another sickness) partly to blame?

Are we all making “nano-niches” for ourselves, in an attempt to fit into this new highly-customised, choice-oriented advanced consumer society? We now join online local communities such as forums, blog directories, facebook, dating sites, chat rooms. We subscribe to newsletters, RSS feeds. We can search for whatever we like with google, almost without limits. As individuals, we’re always searching to redefine ourselves, to find our life purpose.


No one can or should tell you what to do with your life. There is only one person who can decide and determine what you should do and that is you.

If you’re living your life trying to please someone else, you’re probably wasting your time. Sooner or later you will come to the realisation that the best way to please other people (such as your parents, your partner or your friends) is to be yourself. It’s fine to ask people’s opinions and sometimes they can know you more than you think you know yourself. I would say try and listen to that inner voice. Sometimes it is so soft, so quiet, it’s hard to hear it above the noise.

I often find myself asking these questions:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • Who do I want to become?
  • What do I want to do with my life?

When you are told very early on that you can do anything –to be anyone– choosing your own career path is never easy. So despite my little spiel about self-realisation above, this is my advice, should you choose to accept it:

Pretend you are retired. What would you do with your time — when time is most important to you?

Or Imagine you don’t get paid anything to actually work. What would you do with yourself then?

[look at the japanese overlapping circles]

 

 

Why am I a minimalist?

I am a former materials scientist. The first question I always get asked is: “what is that?”.

Materials science is the study of mostly synthetic materials such as metals, polymers, ceramic and composites. We study their physical & chemical properties and how they are extracted from the Earth.

I am telling you this because I think that people need to start listening to scientists. More people need to listen to more scientists.

That’s a two way thing. I think that more scientists should start their own blogs (and other mediums communication like that).

Right. So I am a former materials scientist. And do you know what I now think about materials? What I now know?

I think that everything that you buy kills some part of the world somewhere else. The metals in the electronics that you are buying come from mines and natural spaces have to be destroyed to get them. I think we have to realise that and remember it every time we go to buy something. We need to think about that whenever Apple tries to sell us some new product. Do we really need it? What is the environmental cost?

My view now is that the things that we buy have to come from somewhere. Ask yourselves where. Most plastics [polymers] in use today come directly from oil. Uh oh.

All metals that aren’t being recycled are mined. Mines are always built in the natural environment (just look what happens when they are not –like with coal seam gas– people complain their heads off and usually get their own way).

But the problem isn’t just big banks and mining companies. Because I think 99% of adults have simply forgotten where they get their stuff from. [Read more…]

Is the weather becoming our enemy?

Every time I turn on the news or read a newspaper, it seems as if everything is against us, the Earth itself included.

Have you noticed that certain weather incidents are now portrayed as a bad thing? Don’t misunderstand me. When I say they are bad, if there are casualties, it goes without saying that a tragedy has taken place.

What I don’t agree with is the notion that that the environment has somehow reached enemy status. Like it has a mind of its own and it’s out to get us to teach us a hard earned lesson. No! It’s our friend for Pete’s sake. It’s the oxygen we breathe. We grew up here. It’s almost like teenage children rebelling against their parents! Here’s a thought: if you’ve driven a car today, don’t attack the weather afterwards like some kind of evil foe. We’re the ones changing the weather.

I guess unlike a lot of other things, the weather can be dangerous and we’re naturally afraid of that. Just witness the air travel chaos caused by the recently erupting Icelandic volcano (Tenerife is a primary European holiday destination, so we were indirectly affected by all the flight cancellations). But then people begin to react with fear & anxiety which stems from a threat which usually can’t be controlled easily.

I’m just waiting for the day when some bright spark proposes [seriously] putting a stop to these ‘human inconveniences’ by plugging that Icelandic volcano or some other grandiose idea to reduce the volcanic ash cloud. Because my biggest fear is actually the moment when humans do try to stop or prevent weather phenomena in order to create a more ‘stable’ environment. Oh wait, seems it’s already happening:

Climate intervention is a field so new that the senior scientists who attended the five-day meeting don’t agree on its name. Some are calling it geoengineering; others call it climate remediation. Either way, it involves complex –and, some say, ethically questionable– processes to reduce the impact of global warming. Like dispersing sulfur particles into the atmosphere. I don’t think we should do that… we might just get sulfuric acid rain clouds.

You may or may not be aware that us humans have a great history of fucking things up big time. And the bigger the scheme, the greater the fuck-up.

Sorry to say this, but whatever we touch, we end up destroying in one way or another.

Sometimes we’re so stupid, we don’t even know what we’ve destroyed until it’s too late. Sometimes we’re that ignorant and we’ll never even know what we buggered up.

Mark my words people, because the first thing scientists do before attempting to create an artificial ‘solution’ is to measure or characterise something. Some of the most powerful computers on Earth are dedicated to weather prediction.

I hope we never reach the stage where we try to interfere with Earth’s natural systems. It’s probably too late, since it looks like we have already kick-started another global warming phase.

I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if some clever schmuck is right now devising an artificial gas halo to protect the Earth and cool it back to it’s natural level. Or they could extend the Earth’s orbit a bit and cool it down that way. If it isn’t clear already, I think that these sort of grandiose schemes are doomed to failure right from the start. Not because they won’t work, but because of the unintended consequences.

Journalists are not entirely to blame. You even hear people being interviewed on the street. Too much rain is bad, too much hot weather is bad, too much snow is bad. There is drought and at the same time there is flooding. But who decides how much is too much? In my opinion, the rapid change in weather patterns we see now probably are caused by humans.

I’m not convinced that we can fix our mistakes quite so simply. Anyone who thinks otherwise should probably read the book “why things bight back”… In conclusion, I think it’s our entire mindset we really do need to change not just our lifestyle.

This is my PhD thesis, today it is exactly 12 years old.

Untitled-3

If you’d like to read all about the structure formation of natural opal, this is one of the most complete models of opal formation available anywhere.

Here is the link:

Characterisation of Australian Opals — leslie dean brown

At the time I remember my supervisor said to me that it was one of the most well-presented theses that he had ever seen.

Not necessarily the results, but the quality of the illustrations and I guess you could say the “design layout”.

I always want to be proud of my own work and do things to the best of my ability.

Today I was able to open up my original word document file that was almost 12 years old.

To my surprise, it kept the original formatting and page breaks. And why shouldn’t it? Although I am not so keen on the changes that have been implemented to Microsoft Word between since then.

Okay so truth be told,the original word document came in at 281 pages and the printed copy came in at 282. So something was not right.

It turns  out that one graph had to be pushed down by one line and the original date was also restored. I was so paraoid that I would forget to change the date, the field updated itself automatically.

The reason I am doing this and sharing it again here is that my thesis was finally digitised by the UTS library this week, but the quality ain’t all that great, because it was rescanned from the printed page.

Hopefully google robots will scour my site, find the pdf and index it so anyone can access it.

So I’m deciding to generate the pdf myself (I never got around to doing that).

I i irony

Why do we try to minimise human physical work by any means possible?

I‘ve noticed that Western society totally idolises an athletic body shape but resents the physical exertion required to attain it.

As far as I’m concerned, every time you switch on any form of electrical equipment, you’re basically signing an invisible contract that reads:

“I accept that as a consequence of using this device, I risk becoming physically and/or mentally unhealthy.”

We choose to avoid using our muscles at each and every opportunity and then suddenly wonder why we’re obese. We drive to work, drive home and then drive to the gymnasium (if at all).

So many have become too lazy to cook or make anything for ourselves – we invent power tools & kitchen utensils to do it all for us. Take this scenario for instance:

Rather than whip a cake using a wooden spoon the old-fashioned way, we’d now sooner collectively sit in front of a computers all day long, earn enough money for a mechanical cake mixer which can do it for us (basically employing a whole host of product design engineers, entrepreneurs, the sales & marketing department, and everyone else who works in the wholesale and retail chain).

But in so doing, have we really saved any time? And is it really any easier? It certainly doesn’t sound any more efficient. That’s because it’s not!

Even so, we’re now sending a global message that we’d rather do things this way and “bugger the consequences”. We don’t even question why we don’t do it the old way anymore.

We basically do it because everyone else does. Is it the fault of employers who continually expect a higher standard of work? Or does the blame lie with the consumers themselves, who insatiably demand “the latest and greatest”.

We become irritated just thinking about the repercussions. What repercussions? We blindly swallow some kind of pill to mask the long-term consequences of doing things which are unnatural… be it for cholesterol, obesity, stress, or some other kind of “disease”.

Perhaps it is our own mode of thinking which is the true disease?

Despite all this, some of us would still rather be ‘fat’ & ‘schizophrenic’ than utilise our muscles. Is laziness a human condition, or what? These days, I don’t think of laziness as laziness, but rather, the ultimate form of sustainability. Perhaps laziness is good or us humans in the long term? Perhaps it is a long-term srvival strategy?

There is currently no international standardisation for comparing the mental health of different countries. Granted, this is a difficult thing to measure. But I’m willing to bet that there is a direct correlation between the incidence of mental health problems in a society and the amount of energy it consumes per capita.

As we rely on artificial machines to a greater extent, we also now tend to isolate ourselves from our natural environment. It’s as if the very purpose of technology is to extract our dependence on -our very existence in- nature itself. We are fast becoming co-dependent with modern technology. Take away our machines and I expect that chaos would quickly ensue. At the same time, modern man is writhe with mental crises; as a species, it seems as if modern [westernised] man is failing to adapt to an environment which we ourselves have created.

If ever I had a conspiracy theory, this would be it: that we are training the next generation to live without the presence of the natural world. We encourage this behaviour, either consciously or subconsciously, because we expect that the natural world as we know it won’t last very much longer. I find this thought horrendously depressing.

People today entertain themselves indoors with computer programs and plasma screens. It’s not real entertainment, it’s virtual entertainment. We even eat packaged, artificial food (okay although a part of it might actually be real, it certainly looks 100% synthesised).

We’ve augmented our communications with technology so much, that we are fast losing the ability to communicate naturally. We’re becoming completely dysfunctional. I don’t even need to go into it. Pretty soon, we won’t even be able to survive without anything artificial. Imagine, a species so ‘advanced’, that it can’t survive without its own creations. I find that incredibly ironic. Well, I suppose that’s why I call this blog Vida Enigmatica (Strange Life).

Ain’t life ironic – we can’t survive without technology now?

Characterisation of Australian opals

If you’d like to read all about the structure formation of natural opal, this is one of the most complete models of opal formation available anywhere.

At the time I remember my supervisor said to me that it was one of the most well-presented theses that he had ever seen. Not necessarily the results, but the quality of the illustrations and I guess you could say the “design layout”. I guess I always want to be proud of my own work and do things to the best of my ability:

This is my PhD thesis, from 12 years ago.

Today I was able to open up my original word document file that was almost 12 years old. To my surprise, it kept the original formatting and page breaks. And why shouldn’t it? Although I am not so keen on the changes that have been implemented to Microsoft Word between since then.

Okay so truth be told, the original word document came in at 281 pages and the printed copy came in at 282. So something was not right. It turns out that one graph had to be pushed down by one line and the original date was also restored. I was so paraoid that I would forget to change the date, the field updated itself automatically.

The reason I am doing this and sharing it again here is that my thesis was finally digitised by the UTS library this week, but the quality ain’t all that great, because it was rescanned from one of the original copies.

So I’m deciding to generate a brand new, clean pdf myself (I never got around to doing that, because I was compeltely over it at the time). Hopefully the google robots will scour my site, find this pdf and index it so anyone can access it.

The problem with modern agriculture.

I know there is a problem with ‘pests’ in agriculture. I know.

But from the point of view of the fungus, the wheat is the pest. Right? That is how nature/biodiversity works. If one species reaches plague proportions, like a vast field of wheat with nothing else growing in it, another comes in to take advantage of it.

That is the reason why we don’t see quintillions of wall-to-wall cockroaches, rats, or anything else taking over whole cities, countries, continents and eventually the entire planet with nothing else in sight. Because as soon as that happens, natural predators have a field day with them until the balance is restored.

That is the fundamental problem with modern agriculture isn’t it? The monocrop. So I don’t see how spraying ever-increasing quanities of poison onto the one species of plant you are trying to grow is going to change this fact. Even if you genetically engineer new species of wheat, the same principle applies. It’s like asking nature to change. It won’t ever happen because that’s the ‘nature’ of nature.

I think you need a different approach, to grow different species together.
Maybe let the birds and frogs take care of the insects?

Same goes for humans, if there are too many humans, a disease will eventually come along and wipe half of us out too.

Why do I seem to ‘hate’ the rich?

Ecologists have always said that one of the greatest threats to our natural environment is habitat destruction.

One of the main gripes I have against ultra-high net worth individuals is that they cause the most environmental degradation of all groups on this planet and they don’t tend to offset this with direct contributions back towards the natural environment.

I think the following advertisement nicely sums up the ‘attitude’ that some rich people seem to have:

bentleyfinger

So the reasons that I question ‘rich’ people are:

  1. Because rich people are usually responsible for more environmental destruction than poor people, they have brought about more degradative environmental changes.
  2. Because rich people are primarily motivated by money, they are more likely can be bought out (corrupted) with even more money.
  3. When the rich do give, they tend to give back to humanitarian causes. And if they do give, is it really enough of an offset? Not always, but often. One exception I have found is Mohammad Bin Zayeed; the man started his own species conservation fund. Another is the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation.

Why is this a problem? Well, because the only physical thing (that I know of) that stops our Earth from becoming uninhabitable is all the life forms found on Earth that stabilise everything for us. The biosphere.

Any biologist will tell you that, realistically, what is going to happen is that as nature continues to “bite back” with ever-greater intensity, productivity (and therefore profit) is just going to go down eventually… it has to. It must! Less biodiversity is ultimately going to lead to less profit. Do all investors and directors of the board actually realise that? Do they realise that infinite growth on a planet with finite resources is a physical impossibility?

So not only will it be harder to make profit feeling the increasing effects of climate change (like with the recent New York blizzard for example), but more damage will be likely to occur due to storms and other weather extremes. I’ll say it again. Less biodiversity is ultimately going to lead to less profit. Why do I say that? Why do I think it will lead to less profit? Read on..

So we know that there are other planets out there. We’re not living on the only planet. Planetary geologists like to compare the planet Earth with Mars and Venus. All of these three planets are very similar in size and yet they have distinctly different environments. These other planets show us what is possible. As of today, both of these other two planets are essentially uninhabitable. Yes we could put a person on Mars and they might survive for a while inside an artificially heated, pressurised and oxygenated atmosphere, but would they be self sufficient? The answer is no definitely not at first.

As is, nothing grows there on Mars. Nothing. Not even the most basic life form. So that means no food. Worse, there is no water. And worse still is that there is no oxygen.

What about Venus then? Well again, even if we could get there, even if we could live there, most businesses would be more viable back here on planet Earth than on the planet Venus. Wouldn’t they? Maybe the exception would be companies that need to utlise lots of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid.

Let’s take sulfuric acid. Let’s go with that example. Sure its useful to us here on Earth for all sorts of industrial purposes. So say we started to mine sulfuric acid on the planet venus. Even then we’d first need to get robots over there, wouldn’t we? And then we’d need to get the sulfuric acid back here on Earth.

But what are the transportations costs? How much fuel is burned? And doesn’t burning all that rocket fuel fuck up the Earth’s atmosphere even further? Well yes it does. What about if the Venus mining corporation had to pay carbon credits on all the tonnes of rocket fuel? And once there, how would the rocket get back to Earth? It would have to take enough fuel and liquid oxygen for the entire return journey. Because there is no oxygen on Venus. So now you tell me. Would it be a profitable enterprise?

Think about this (and keep in mind that I am one of the few scientists who have also set up my own business, so I do know a thing or two about profitability). Well in my professional scientific and business opinion, if you wanted to set up a business on the planet Mars, it would be more economically viable to locate your business at the South pole instead.

Why do I even bring this up here? What’s this got to do with rich people? What’s this got to do with money? Well, I don’t know of any businesses that are viable on either the planet Mars or Venus. Do you? Not even the most basic lemonade stand would work on the planet Mars or Venus. Would it? And rich people tend to forget this fact.

The newest space mission is estimated to cost $1.5 trillion dollars. That is a lot of investment money for anyone. So where is the ‘ROI’ going to come from that lot? Here’s what I wrote in another post of mine:

To me, it’s the most expensive & inefficient way to create the most boring food menu imagineable. Really. I mean, just think about how much those first few thousand lettuce leaves are going to cost! A billion dollars per lettuce leaf. That’s really great NASA. Thanks.

You see, if we had to pay for our oxygen supply, our water supply and our food supply down here on Earth like we would have to on Mars, then I’m sure that most businesses on Earth would become bankrupt within a matter of weeks. So economists (and rich people) are forgetting to take nature’s services into account. And when they do, I think they’ll realise that a forest is a very valuable place indeed.

 

Synthetic orange.

Suppose we could obtain two different types of oranges:

  1. Firstly, we can synthesise and assimilate the following chemical compounds:

    limonene, myrcene, valencene, linalool, octanal, decanal, ethyl butyrate, α-ionone, citronellal, and α-sinensal, E-2-octenal, 1-octen-3-ol, Z-4-decenal, E, E-2,4-nonadienal, guaiacol, γ-octalactone, and m-cresol, O-glycosylated flavones, flavonols, phenolic acids, ethyl acetate, 6-C-β-glucosyldiosmin, 6,8-di-C-glucopyranosylapigenin, 6,8-di-C-β-glucosyldiosmin, 2-oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4- lactone-2,3-enediol, beta carotene, 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid and heteropolysaccharide.

    This is my version of an artificial orange, a “chemical cocktail” by the way.

  2. Secondly, we can grow a tree, harvest the fruit, peel the skin and simply eat the orange.

Do you think that these are essentially the same thing? I think that’s a very good question to ask. Do both sources of food essentially provide the same nutrients?

Because I think that although we can synthesise many many complex molecules such as these, we can’t actually ‘manufacture’ a wholly artificial fruit that is identical in every way to a naturally grown one. Can we?

And even though it takes an enormous effort to characterise these natural chemical compounds and synthesise them, and nature does it for free with soil, sunlight, air and water, we still try. Without a plant seed, or a tissue culture sample, or a DNA strand, there is no way we’ll be able to do it either.

What’s my point? Well, without any prior knowledge on the subject of the human digestion process, I’ll make an assumption that the structure of food is needed to aid in both the chemical breakdown of the food and the timely extraction of its nutrients. I’ll bet that introducing the same mixture of concentrated liquid chemicals simultaneously into your gut won’t do your stomach lining any good. Time has shown us that there is always a price to play for taking shortcuts, especially with concentrated synthetic chemicals. Indeed, cancer is now one of the greatest of all threats to our biology – in fact it is now common for people to suffer bowel cancer due to the lack of fibre in their diet.

You might say that my two versions of an ‘orange’ are both essentially the same thing. Certainly while the same constituents may be present in the artificial chemical cocktail, the microstructure of theis “artificial fruit” is completely absent.

But aside from that, who actually wants to eat synthetic food? Do we not have time anymore to simply peel an orange? Or is there something else going on? Something deep, dark and insidious? It is my belief that without even realising it, we’re creating an artificial world for ourselves, with almost no control or direction. As technology invades more and more of our lives it erodes the natural; every part, everything from our food to our transport and even our entertainment are now designed by other people. We seek to study everything and replicate it, including life itself. Why?

What am I saying here? Well, I am just saying that all things considered, I think the natural food sources will always be the healthier than the synthetic alternatives.

“We made it happen.”

Industrial offshore history…

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WTF am I talking about? What am I whinging about this time?

Yes, I know. This blog is becoming like a diary of my personal life quest to maintain a strong sense of values, ideals that will hopefully lead this planet on to a better future, not a worse one. It’s becoming almost like therapy for me, writing this blog. Truly.

And so whether you’re a regular follower of my blog or a casual reader, here’s yet another whinge for posterity’s sake. Here’s what someone posted on LinkedIn today:

“industrial offshore history we made it happen …..gorgon”

And I really had to bite my tongue this time. Because this dude is a 1st degree connection. They’re talking about this project. I felt like commenting:

What exactly did you do?
Get paid to drill a hole underwater?
Take a blurry photo?
Bleach the reef?
Thanks a lot.
Thanks.

Hello! Global warming not mean anything to you? Hello?! For fuck’s sake. They’re fucking celebrating. *mutters further under breath*

These are the blurry faces, ladies and gentlemen, of seven dimwitted natural gas miners in Western Australia. Eight if you count the idiot who is taking the photo.

These are the lugheads who aren’t listening to the cleverest people today. I’m not talking about me. There are plenty of people who are smarter than me. They just don’t listen. Is it any wonder people are becoming so depressed? Is it?

Yes they may have a lot of braun –that’s pretty obvious from the photo– and they may work very hard in some truly horrible conditions, but they don’t have a functional brain between them. Haven’t got a fucking clue. They are probably be getting paid 100k, 150k or even 200k per annum. But where the fuck is their personal responsibility? Company accountability?

Let me tell you, future person from the year 2350, it barely exists today. It barely exisits. I feel like I’m on a planet full of morons. Can you believe that government authority actually allows this? They allow it and they encourage it. We have solar panels that can be refined from friggin’ beach sand, silicon being one of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust, and an almost endless supply of photos coming from our sun. And people still insist on burning chemicals to get energy now.

Honestly, we’ve got a bunch of lying politicians making their own rules for government. We’ve got stupid nimwits like my local gardener (spraying pesticide all over the place, thinking he’s doing a good job). And we’ve got people being paid shiteloads to ruin mother Earth, which is currently our only fucking home.

Will this blog post eventually get pack to these people? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m not aiming to be popular. I’ve noticed that people who were remembered in history, they usually faced an uphill battle their whole life. If nothing else it makes me feel better.

I’m trying to reinstate an indigenous tradition. Air, water, food first. Environment first, then business. Not the the other way around. You’d be surprised to learn that 99% of people today have it backwards.

Why I am so concerned about the state of the world.

I am worried and very concerned, yes. My background is originally materials science.

From my perspective, the problem is that there is an environmental cost to every single material that you buy — be it gold, cotton, steel, or whatever. People forget that. The economy may benefit from materialism, but the environment certainly doesn’t.

Now, keep in mind that when I did my degree over 15 years ago, the ‘environment’ wasn’t even really discussed in that course. It was all about the properties and structure of materials.

First off, there is a lot of energy required to make materials. So if the country of manufacture uses coal power to generate their electricity, and they are not offsetting those emissions, then whatever physical goods you buy from them is contributing further to climate change.

Why? Because almost all materials either require either energy, heat, or other chemicals (which, in turn, require heat) in order to produce them. That’s a bit of a worry in itself. Because people are generally becoming more materialistic.

So for instance, hunters that shoot animals and think that is a ‘sustainable’ way of life, well I have news for you. If your gun is made of plastic or metal, where does that come from? It all comes from mines. And plastic comes from oil&gas. And your bullets. What are they made from? That too comes from mines. And the gunpowder contains chemicals like sulfur and potassium. And they have to come from somewhere too. And mines don’t last forever…

Currently, the manufacture of every single synthetic material results in carbon emissions somewhere along the line, if only from the energy that is required to create them. I think the correct term is “embodied energy”. [Read more…]

Nature’s resilience.

A few lessons I think we can learn from all this:

  1. Because of Murphy’s Law, nuclear fission is not the way to go
  2. Humans should stay out of natural spaces and leave them alone wherever possible.
  3. Humans should not clear stop clearing so much land, because if we clear too much and things start going extinct everywhere, nature won’t ever be able to recover.

 

LinkedIn has hit a new low.

I have been very vocal on LinkedIn defending the Earth. Who speaks for Earth? Animals and plants can’t defend themselves and if miners and developers had their way, there would be no natural spaces left.

I choose LinkedIn because that is the place to influence the most powerful people. Not facebook or snapchat or whatever.

Now it seems LinkedIn has hit a new low. Because last night I was told by Thomas Bohlmann:

“leslie dean brown that is OK Humanity is not going to pay you to live or eat. Time to get real job and make a difference in your life. families lives and make a difference in your community.”— Thomas Bohlmann

Such arrogance. How rude. How inappropriate. It was on this update. Unbelievable that someone would try to undermine anothers’ work choice on a work platform.

I think that’s funny that illustration is not valued by some people. Who do business owners go to when they want to lure back more customers or grow? Well, they go to designers. And if it’s really important, art directors. Creative directors. Creative officers. And who do they then go to? Artists and musicians. That is the only way to bring back a company from the dead. Make a commercial or redesign it.

Development is not progress

I believe we cannot save the world by simply buying things all the time.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.

Even if we all bought 100% eco things 100% of the time instead of the plastic crap that everyone buys today, they are still ultimately things and it will mean that the demand for timber and other eco fibres will go up further, leading to further deforestation elsewhere (more plantations of whatever crop, be it corn for renewable plastic, bamboo or hemp for fibres, etc).

Personally I think the only real ‘solution’ for the entire human civilisation is … to do nothing. And by that I don’t mean “don’t change”. I literally mean: do nothing. For people to simply work less. Work a four day week. Work a four hour week.

We should be more like the Aborigines! We should look up to the Aborigines! The original (and best) custodians of this land.

More sleep and more meditation. That’s the only hope for humanity, for people to be more mindful. And that is the best that I can think of (after several years of thinking I might add).

And I can tell you first hand that it’s very hard to live with less, because we have all been brainwashed with “more more more”.

Of course it’s a huge problem because half the global economy is based on blatant overconsumption. I think one of the best things I ever did was to live in Spain — it taught me to be happier with much less.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t all try to be more eco, but what I am promoting these days is simply minimalism. So I would rather buy a wooden broom than have a vacuum cleaner (for example). Because I see the broom as being much less wasteful over the long term.

Unfortunately, when you begin to look at where all of our starting chemicals come from, the industrial processes used to get them, and where everything else is mined from, you realise how big the problem is.

People don’t want mines in their own backyard. And so the ONLY other place to get them is the natural spaces that are left. That is a very big problem. If only because “accidents happen”.

From my point of view as a former materials scientist, I find that life is so special, we should be fighting for every shred of biodiversity on this planet. We couldn’t even hope to artificially make anything like near as complicated as a fly or a worm from first principles using artificial methods (without cheating using genetic engineering etc).

[Read more…]

Here’s something manufacturers and industrial designers need to think more about: backlash on planned obsolescence.

If there’s one thing in this world that I can’t stand, it’s companies like Microsoft and Apple…

Who seem to make things go obsolete well before their time. And no one can tell them not to. They just keep getting away with it. Why? Probably because they make a lot of money getting away with it. That’s why.

But there are no laws to stop them getting away with it. And what this materials scientist thinks right now is “by fucken oath there should be [laws to stop them getting away with it]”. That is coming from an ex materials scientist. Right.


I think you all know what I am talking about. I’m talking about ‘old’ printers that don’t work with newer computers simply because the ‘drivers’ have ‘issues’ with the “operating system”. I’m talking about new software that won’t run on old hardware. I’m also talking about new hardware that won’t run old software. I’m talking about Apple’s proprietry connectors.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. I can even remember my dad saying about 15 or 20 years ago way back when I was a kid that Apple (you know, Macintosh it was once called) forced you to use their special cables and connectors, and thus were able to charge a premium.

At the time, I took what he said with a pinch of salt. I thought “well it’s their computer system, I suppose they would want to do that. Who can blame them?”. But now, fast forward twenty-odd years and my old man is dead [RIP, he died last year] and what he said to me in the 1990’s is looking even wiser now than it did when he said it all those years ago. Because it just so happens to be true. This man, my father, would be 90 years old if he were alive today. He was old but he knew something that I didn’t. That something is called ‘wisdom’ and all early adopters from what I’ve seen tend to suffer from a severe lack of it.

Back in the day, we used things called serial ports and parrallel ports to plug in our printers. So they got the information from one cable and they got their power from another completely separate cable. The thing is, they were slow. Really slow. But when USB came along, all those printers and mice and things became much less useful. The same thing happened to compact discs when Apple decided not to include a CD drives on their latest desktops.

People will always need to buy new peripherals to work with new plugs on their new computer system. That is now happening with USB-C connectors. Do you want to know what I think? I think USB C can go and get fucked, that’s what I think. All of my stuff (two external hard drives, external sound card for microphone, graphics tablet, mouse, wireless solar keyboard, external webcam, flash drives, the entire bloody lot is USB2 now isn’t it?). USB2 and it is plenty good enough. I’m sticking with it.

Yes, I’m talking about Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on it’s newest smartphone. Now, keep in mind that I don’t even own an Apple iphone. In fact I have never owned an Apple iphone. And here I am, compelled to write a blog article about how narky it makes me feel. Because knowing what I know, I probably won’t ever own an Apple iphone. I’m writing this from an imac retina. I don’t own an ipad. And right now, that is the way it is going to stay. After buying just one Apple product, I’m fast becoming anti-Apple. And the headphone jack decision is my last straw. It is the catalyst to me becoming “anti-Apple”.

So I’m going to just say it here in black and white. I’m going to share with all you strangers the reason it makes me so narky. Because this is my blog, my little ‘space’ and I can say pretty much whatever the hell I want. Right? There’s this thing called “free speech” in the West that not enough people take advantage of… this is vida enigmática… [Read more…]

Our environmental footprint

Most of the global economy is based on the idea of selling physical products. And if you’re not selling something yourself, your clients are people that do.

B I’ve noticed that in some environmental discussions and debates, Westerners automatically assume that their country is less polluting than poorer countries. I don’t think pointing the finger at China really helps. And here’s why:

I think our blatant consumerism in the West doesn’t compare favourably to the third world, because all of the things that we buy have a kind of “environmental footprint” if you like. And note that I’m not even really talking about CO2 emissions here (even though the US carbon emission per capita is 17.56 metric tons while that of China is ‘only’ 6.19 metric tons per capita). Carbon is not the only element on the periodic table although it is the one that goes into the atmosphere more than the others.

If China pollutes rivers or whatever making loads of stuff for the West, who is really doing (causing) the polluting? The chinese manufacturers? Or is the Western consumer demand for those products ultimately to blame?

My main backround if materials science. One of the more eye-opening subjects I found out about (in terms of environmental degradation) is called “extractive metallurgy”. Extractive metallurgy is the study of chemical processes that we use to extract an refine metals from their ores. Basically, in a nut shell, all materials have to come from somewhere. Ususally it’s either the Earth’s crust itself or sea water.

In most of the processes, you need either need huge amounts of electricity and/or high temperatures and/or huge amounts of other chemicals to obtain the desired elements and/or compounds.

For example, here is just one of the many steps in the refinement of germanium:

GeO2 + 4 HCl → GeCl4 + 2 H2O

In this step, the reactive gas chlorine is being used to make germanium more reactive. So chlorine, which is toxic, is used in one of the processes to extract the element germanium from its oxide. Okay.

And here is just one of the steps in tellurium refinement:

HTeO−3 + OH + H2SO4 → TeO2 + SO2−4 + 2 H2O

In this step, sulfuric acid is being used to make tellurium more reactive. Okay.

And where are germanium and tellurium being used you ask? They are two semiconductors that are the basis for integrated circuits and other electronic components in all sorts of electronic devices. Not so good.

In fact, many other nasty chemical compounds are used in the extraction, refinement and manufacturing industries. Many others.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think the worst offenders are the electronic consumer devices, simply because they contain the most number of hard-to-extract elements. The harder-to-extract elements require more chemical treatment steps. That’s just one of the reasons why they these elements are so expensive (not just that they’re rare). In fact I can probably go so far as to invent a new theory, which goes something like this: “the higher the unit price of an element, the more damaging its extraction process is to the environment.” But I digress…

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of chemical elements used in computers and extracting them from the ground and processing them taxes the environment (especially when you consider all of the planned obsolesence we see today). Our current way of life creates more and more electronic waste that cannot be recovered or recycled (except perhaps the gold bits)

I recently asked a few questions on Quora and I’d like to share those questions and answers with you now. Listed here are some of the toxic chemicals and semiconductors that are used in electonic decices. Go on, take a look. Can you begin to see how big the problem is now?

The point is, nasty chemicals are used at all steps of the extraction and refinement process. We just don’t ever see them being used in industry. Oh but they’re there alright. They’re being used all the time.

Suffice it to say that if Westeners think they pollute the Earth less than a typical 3rd-worlder, in my eyes, they are sorely mistaken. [Read more…]

Discrimination is second nature.

Every time you select a piece of fruit, based on the condition of its skin, you’re judging the contents.

No one likes to eat a soggy banana or a rotten apple. We’ve come to learn that if a banana is bruised & blackened on the outside, inside is most likely a soggy fruit mush.

Even 3 year old children know the difference is in the taste. They won’t eat it. Although sometimes, despite multiple bruises and other exterior imperfections, the interior is not as bad as we think; we are rewarded by what we find inside – 100% intact fruit! Succulent, delicious. Generally though, after years of practice, we learn to judge fruit correctly…

There are two ways of describing this situation:

  1. Some might say I am discriminating against all fruit with a certain type of skin (be it the colour or the texture); I am pre-judging, I am being critical.
  2. Others might say that I have a distinguished, discerning or refined sense of taste; I am a perceptive, particular and sensitive person.

One of these sentences contains positive statements whilst the other definitely has negative connotations. Clearly, something is wrong, and I think you’ll easily spot the pattern in the words below-

Synonyms for the adjective “discriminating”:

analytical, astute, authentic, canny, careful, choosy, clever, correct, cultivated, defined, definite, detailed, discerning, distinct, distinctive, distinguish, eclectic, exacting, exact, explicit, genuine, incisive, ingenious, insightful, intuitive, factual, faithful, fastidious, finicky, fussy, judicious, just, keen, literal, methodical, meticulous, observant, particular, picky, proper, prudent, refined, right, rigorous, scientific, scrupulous, selective, sensitive, skillful, smart, specific, strict, subtle, systematic, tasteful, true, unerring, unmistakable, veracious, wise.

Synonyms for the verb “to discriminate”:

assess, be bigot, brand, categorise, classify, collate, compare, contrast, delineate, designate, differentiate, discern, draw distinction, evaluate, extricate, disfavor, favor, hate, incline, judge, pigeonhole, know, note, be partial, perceive, portray, remark, segregate, separate, set apart, show bias, single out, specify, split hairs, tell apart,treat differently, typecast, victimize.

So we can describe someone as being discriminate or discriminating, but the act of discriminating against something without enough knowledge is forbidden.

Whenever you turn on the radio and choose a station you are being prejudiced towards new music styles and discriminating against them by not listening. I prefer cotton over wool, because I’ve found that wool makes my skin itch. Am I biased towards cotton plants or racist (specist) against sheep? Whenever anyone thinks about making any kind of informed decisions, discrimination is second nature.

[Read more…]

Natural materials

Message to the beauty industry

Someone recently wrote this on LinkedIn. And I think it is because of some of the more ‘critical’ things that people are writing on there. Here is what was said about us:

I am not sure that calling consumers vain, stupid or irresponsible is going to win hearts and minds. Many consumers will use these products to address real dermatological issues such as adult acne – if you’ve never suffered from it you are very, very lucky. It is not vanity to want to present yourself to the world blemish free.

Raise awareness, educate and inspire to use natural products like crushed apricots etc but as any parent, spouse, manager or mentor knows, constant streams of negativity do not win respect, admiration or a desire to follow/change.

I have taken a while to respond to your reply. Because I was thinking about how best to do that. Firstly, it’s not just consumers that are being “vain, stupid or irresponsible”, it’s the businesses that are as well! Perhaps ignorance is a better word to describe it?

Firstly, from a materials point of view, I do not understand why anyone would want *additional* exposure to synthetic polymers. Plastics frequently contain plasticisers and half of those are known to be carcinogenic… we touch plastic items all day long and I for one don’t think it is all that good for us.

Okay, so many plastics do not contain plasticisers you might say. Well here is something else that people should know more about. (antimony (III) oxide is used as a catalyst in the production of PET)

So yes, if you eat fish, or indeed any food that comes from an ocean and you use creams containing microbeads, and those same microbeads are found in one-third of fish that are being caught around the world, yes you are being kind of stupid. Sorry, but you are. I think all ecologists would probably agree with me on that one (because they cannot be considered good for the environment). Microbeads that is, not ecologists. Some things just need to be said. [Read more…]

Is a ‘circular’ electronics industry possible?

I think one of the biggest problems that humanity will face in the not–too–distant future is a lack of synthetic biodegradeable semiconductors.

Okay, so I’ve put that thought out there into cyberspace and now I suppose I should explain it. Why do I think this is going to be such a problem?

As we are all too much aware, human civilisation is fast becoming dependent on technology. You might say that the 1st world is already highly dependent on technology. And a big part of current technology includes electronics devices. Electronics drive everything from robots to computers. Without electronics, we go back to the analogue era. I’m sure that I don’t even need to explain that any further, do I? Without electronics, we’re screwed.

So earlier this year, I asked two questions on Quora:

  1. What are the main semiconductor compounds used today?
  2. What elements are used in the manufacturing of circuit boards and electronic components for consumer electronic devices?

It doesn’t make any sense to totally rely on something that we can only make in limited quantities, yet we are doing just that. Because the trouble is this: the way in which we produce electronic devices today is completely unsustainable. We mine the Earth for new minerals and the only element we recover from all of our electronic waste is gold (well, okay, we do sometimes also recycle lead and copper). But what about recycling all of the other elements that are used in electronic components?

Are we recycling tantalum? No. Are we recycling indium? No. Are we recycling gallium? No. Are we recycling arsenic? No. Are we recycling cadmium? No. Are we recycling selenium? No. Are we recycling tellurium? No. Are we recycling germanium? No. Are we recycling samarium? No. Are we recycling neodymium? No. Are we recycling niobium? No. Are we recycling antimony? No.

[Read more…]

Why do not more people care?

Or do they just not know what to do?

What I personally find unbelievable, incredulous in fact, is most people’s indifference to what is happening to this world. Are people merely in denial or do they simply not care about what is going on?

I think we’re getting to the stage where the environment should be getting top priority in all the media outlets, not the lowest priority. Citizens of this planet should be very concerned. They should be talking about it more. Because the problems won’t go away by themselves.

So this ex-scientist repeats:
Without biodiversity, not only will we stand less chance of long-term survival (I’m talking about the centuries and millennia to come), but it won’t even be as an enjoyable world to live in… less natural wonders to look at and be inspired by and less choice of food.

Value of natural ecological services

What this angry scientist has to say about climate change:

Here I go again… why am I angry? Do scientists even get angry? Yes. Yes they do. Well I am angry. Very fucken angry!

I‘m angry at politicians in the mainstream parties. Because they aren’t doing enough to mitigate an environmental catastrophe. Most politicians today only care about one thing: money. The economy. Whoop-de-doo.

Scientists, if you remember from highschool, are the clever people. They are the nerdy ones with poor social skills. You’d think most countries would be run by the smartest of individuals. Are they? No. See, I think that’s where we’re going wrong. Our countries are run by politicians.

Likewise, I am angry at climate change deniers. Because they are now claiming that “climate change is a government conspiracy” (right, well if that is true it has to be the dumbest conspiracy theory I have ever heard, because the governments are the ones who support burning coal for fuck’s sake!).

Actually, I lie. Half of it is worry, not anger. For example, what’s actually worrying is that some people think an average temperature increase of a couple of degrees in only a few decades is at all “natural”. What’s worrying is that some people still don’t seem to grasp the concept of “rate of change”. I have seen on LinkedIn that the biggest climate change deniers are frequently either working for oil companies, have a vested interest in contruction, or are simply “uneducated fools”.

I find some people’s responses to climate change infuriating. Scientists are (mostly) a VERY clever bunch of people. If climate scientists are ringing alarm bells and making videos like this one, it’s enough to make me pay attention and completely change my lifestyle.

Right. I’ll say that again, but in a different way, because it bears repeating. Because I know that people skim read things. When the leading climate scientist, James Hansen, says (back in 2012 mind you) that we have a climate emergency, well, it’s enough to make me sell my vehicle. It’s enough to make me think up a new career choice, about how I can make the world a better place for future generations to come…

In science, we have to have a kind of ‘faith’ too. Scientists have faith in other scientists. We mutually respect each others’ fields of expertise. If I were to say, as a materials scientist, that magnesium has a hexagonal close packed atomic structure, I would hope the other scientists would give me the benefit of the doubt about that. And that is how the whole science community works. Things are checked and rechecked. Publications are reviewed. These people are working on these problems their whole lives. [Read more…]

Who am I going to vote for in Australia?

A friendly reminder to both labor and liberal parties: without the environment, there IS no economy.

The world is changing and I think politics needs to change along with it. I think both labour and liberal are great at doing one thing: stalling.Maintaining the status quo. That’s it.

“The big risk in this election is that we would end up with an unstable, chaotic, Labor-Greens minority Government as we’ve seen before.”

Actually, I think the really big risk is that we’ll end up with a chaotic planet. I’m sure most people don’t care, but I’ll be voting for the GREENS. Because the price of labor/liberal winning –forever– is simply too great now.

The planet does not care whether or not liberal or labor is in power. Science does not care about politicians and the way they play their games. Atoms do not care. Reactions and interactions and natural forces simply do not care. And what I mean by that is that the consequences of not changing fast enough will happen —whether labor is in power or liberal.

This world is fast getting beyond the point where the green parties could make a difference… even if they won many elections all over the place.

I hate to be all doom & gloom and everthing, but my analogy is that I suppose it doesn’t really matter who is or was driving the car when the accident happens.

I think we need to hand over the control to more people that actually know what they are doing and can think longer-term. I think prevention is better than cure. That’s why I’m voting for Greens.

This is Pluto speaking here.

>sign the petition to reinstate Pluto‘s full planet status<
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

Hello.

This is Pluto speaking here.

Look, I wasn’t very happy when some scientists took away my “full planetary” status in 2006 without even consulting me directly. And I’m not alone.

I’ve been thinking about it – and this whole ‘dwarf’ designation has never really sat well with me ever since. And my moon Charon is not to thrilled about it either… because that would make her the moon of a dwarf planet, aka a “dwarf moon”.

Especially when you say that I’m a dwarf planet, and then go on to say “which is not really a planet”. Imagine how Jupiter would react if you said: “Jupiter is a gas giant planet… which is not really a planet!” !!

And then you gave me a number. What do you call it? “Minor planet designation”. Wait a second. Let me look that up. Let’s see here, what have I got, I knew I had it somewhere… “134340”. That’s it. “134340”. That doesn’t sound very special to me. One minute I’m named after a God. And the next thing someone has placed this completely arbitrary bogus number IN FRONT OF my name. Not after it mind you. BEFORE! Like this: 134340 Pluto. One-three-four-three-four-zero-pluto. To a planet, this is invective! [Read more…]

What is the environmental cost of consumerism?

“We’re very very disconnected from what we consume. So because of the widening degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed we no longer have any real appreciation for the embodied energy, the embodied destruction, the embodied suffering that goes in to every stage of the supply chain in the things we buy.” — Mark Boyle

I‘m sure that most consumers don’t care less what chemical elements are used in the manufacture of all the products that they buy. I’m talking about all the elements and compounds required to make all of these products function like they do. But consumers should care. We should care about what products are made of, what they are made from.

But with things like consumer electronic devices, customers simply don’t think about their ‘ingredients’ much. I think the problem with this world today is that consumers don’t question the true origin of synthetic materials, let alone how they are extracted and processed.

I think people really need to wake up and ask where their materials are coming from, learn about all the many processing steps each material requires (extraction, refinement, manufacturing, production) and also ask what happens to all these materials at the end of the product’s life. In many cases, even with recycling of plastic/paper/metal, the majority of materials on the periodic table aren’t being recycled and are ending up in landfill (and/or the ocean).

I think each product sold should have an ‘ingredients’ label showing exactly what materials are in it. That way, people could [eventually] reference which materials have the highest ecological impact…

The obvious exception is of course food. Wherever food is concerned, then consumers quite rightly want to know what they are consuming. We want to know all the food ingredients. We want to know what we put into our bodies.

[Read more…]

Help fund the birdLife migratory birds & flyways programme!

What is the point of creating high definition televisions, sharper lenses and ever-more megapixels, if we’re only going to witness the destruction of nature in ever-greater detail and clarity?

I hope you like the special video I put together and that you’re in a good mood what with the music and everything. Please do watch it in full 1080p high definition with the volume up!!

I would really love to see this particular project 100% funded! www.justgiving.com/BirdLife-migratory-flyways

It’s now been sitting at 34% for literally weeks on end. So far there have only been 22 donations. A total of ££3,403.50 has been raised of £10,000.00 target.

Welcome to the BirdLife Migratory Birds & Flyways Programme Fundraising Page
For millennia the miracle of migration has inspired mankind.
But now the pressures on migratory birds have got to such a level that they’ve become one of the most threatened groups of species and the natural phenomenon of migration is under serious threat.
By making a donation today, you are joining a unique community who are helping to monitor the movements of migratory birds, unravel the mysteries of their amazing journeys and protect them all along the way.

Please give generously.

Hope for the planet

I went to David Suzuki’s “hope for the planet” talk last Tuesday and I am feeling inspired! I think it was worth going, if only too see so many like-minded individuals in the one place at the one time.

Towards the end of the discussion, one young attendee said that she saw the audience as “agents of change” and asked what the single biggest piece of advice that the speakers could give to the audience. And Naomi Oreskes answered that particular question; that she couldn’t give one generic answer, because it all depends on our field of expertise. I thought that was very wise. And so I am using the tools at my disposal:

carbon-foot-print

I might as well use this opportunity to tell the whole world that like David Suzuki, I too find it COMPLETELY OUTRAGEOUS that people put the economy over and above the environment. Without the natural environment, there wouldn’t even *be* an economy!

I want people overseas to know that Gina Rinehart spent $22million on a campaign to destroy the carbon tax in Australia in 2010. She went on to invest $200million in network ten and another $280million in fairfax media to sway public opinion. Luckily she has sold most of her media investments in 2015 and has stopped trying to become one of the members of the board of directors…

I think that was a despicable attempt to control the media and thus sway public opinion the proposed carbon tax, which would have hit the mining industry hard. I see her attempt to buyy out the media as a form of environmental corruption. Inn fact last week I invented might have a new term called ‘EC’. EC is a term that originates from PC (which means politically correct). You probably already guessed it; EC means “environmentally correct”. So I think that Gina Rinehart may well be the richest person in Australia –or the richest woman in the world– but she is just not environmentally correct.

Oooh yes I think that the carbon tax should definitely be reinstated in Australia. Most definitely!

The trouble I see is that this: we know the extra carbon dixode we are putting into the air comes from burning the fossil fuels such as coal and crude oil. So if we have to reduce the amount of carbon going into the air to the level before the industrial age, not only will we have to put back all the forests as they were before all of the mining (to restore the original carbon cycle), but we’ll also have to find a way to offset billions upon billions of tonnes of of carbon that have been mined and essentially burned into the atmosphere. Hmmm

High definition destruction

It always amazes me how all of these latest technologies showcase *nature*. I find that quite ironic. I find it ironic because we get the copper and other elements that are contained within electronics from mines. And it is frequently places like the forests in Papua New Guinea that are mined to get these elements.

What is the point of high-definition television, holograms, visual special effects, if we are just going to watch the destruction of nature in ever-greater detail? Or fake representations of nature? I can go outside and see it in higher definition than any screen will be able to display. It’s called “atomic resolution”. I.e. real life.

I don’t understand people. Watching nature makes us happy. As we distance ourselves further and further from nature, we think that we can live separate from it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yet most of us carry on our daily lives almost in fear of the natural. We go on poisoning it. Controlling it. Dominating it.

What is the point of faster or more comfortable airlines if the destinations are not as pristine as they used to be?

What is the point of creating high definition televisions, sharper lenses and ever-more megapixels, if we’re only going to witness the destruction of nature in ever-greater detail and clarity?

A common observation is that nature provides much inspiration even for 3D models. So I encourage people to donate to environmental charities instead of buying the latest technologies all the time. Half the reason we are in so much shit with the planet is because we have forgotten how to give back to nature. We are always taking and never giving back. So I encourage you to stand up, speak up . That way, you might *truly* feel better about ourselves, our civilisation, instead of feeling this ‘guilt’ for what we are doing.

The truth is, unfortunately we do not value nature as much as we should. We do not see the work that it does for us. Trees create oxygen for us for free. If we had to extract our own oxygen from carbon dioxide, how much do you think that would cost us?

 

Philosophy of green economics: promoting a new oxygen tax.

I think many people operate on the assumption that our technology makes us somehow ‘superior’ to all other species; thus we feel like we are more independent and separate from nature, we have become more detached. And therein lies the problem…

If you do think along those lines, perhaps you should ask yourself: Where does your oxygen supply come from? Where does all of our fresh water come from? And who, or what, actually cleans and maintains the health of rivers, lakes and oceans which have provided us with food for hundreds and thousands of years?

Who actually gets rid of nature’s organic waste? No, it’s not your local sewerage treatment plant. It’s bacteria. It’s algae. It’s molluscs. It’s crustaceans. That’s who.

Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

And who renews the nutrients in the soil? And I don’t mean who fertilises the soil, I mean, who breaks down the fertiliser? It’s not the farmer. All farmers do is plant crops, remove ‘weeds’ and ‘pests’ and then harvest those same crops. In that sense, farmers don’t ‘grow’ crops — crops grow themselves! Farmers maintain crops. They guide crops so that they are more productive. The farmer doesn’t pay his legion of plant employees, does he? He doesn’t pay the organims that do all of the really hard back-breaking work right down in soil, does he? [Read more…]

Is societal collapse due to our own basic human stupidity?

I think one characteristic of humanity is that as a whole we are inherently stupid, very stupid!  And I think I know the reason why…

Looking back at former civilisations, it is always noteworthy how blatantly ignorant humanity was about the consequences of its own actions. We look back now and think we know better than we did before. Do we?

Even knowing what we know, time and time again we over-estimate our current intelligence level. Not only do we fail to learn by other people’s mistakes, but even when we know what is good for us, we are reluctant to change.

I think many people today are becoming too complacent. I think we think that we can still out-smart anything and everything that comes our way, that our technology will always provide us with an answer. Will it?

[Read more…]

What is the most valuable thing that exists today?

If you were to take a trip into outer space, you’d quickly find out that the most valuable things to us humans are the very simple resources we need to survive.

I TYPE “what is the most valuable thing in the universe?” into google and nine of the top ten ‘results’ talk about money. I might as well have typed “what is the most expensive thing in the universe?”.

It’s not the same thing though, is it? So let me tell you something about ‘value’. The most valuable things in the world cannot be bought or sold. To begin with, things are only worth what people are prepared to pay for them. Anything that can’t be recreated, replicated or reproduced by man somehow is deemed ‘priceless’ – it is a a term which essentially means we cannot place a true value on something that is irreplaceable.

We live in a very special place and every single day of our lives we take it for granted. The average place in the universe is devoid of oxygen, has no atmospheric pressure, no water, no food, no gravity and is 270.45°C degrees below freezing. If you were starving, dying of thirst, freezing or gasping for oxygen, I’m sure you’d find that all of those over-priced garbage items on any “most expensive things in the world” list would suddenly become completely useless to you and therefore utterly worthless in the whole scheme of things.

That’s why the cleverest scientists believe that the most valuable thing to us humans is [Read more…]

The ultimate rant from an environmentalist.

So I was signing a whole bunch of petitions on care2 just now and came across this text written by a man named John Smith, which was left as a comment!

I don’t believe in any form of god, but I think this man is at his wit’s end already and I know exactly how he feels. I thought I’d save it for the sake of posterity, and to hopefully encourage some of you [Read more…]