Taking another break from Metaphysics I wanted to discuss today the idea of Renewability. I tend to talk about tons of things and sometimes I am quite redundant so if this is a topic I’ve covered previous I apologize.
There is one major factor that limits our ability to be rather creative with our automation of processes. It has been a question late at night for me if currency would have a purpose in a civilization that has optimized recycling and renewable energies and meshed those with entirely automated production facilities. If nobody has to work to provide humanity with the supplies to survive and the luxuries we desire would there be a purpose to currency? Probably, but I think it would stick around for the few who actually like it. That bit of philosophy aside lets continue.
We already have the technology to build structures that generate more power than they use annually. This doesn’t take into account other technologies that are particularly user and nature friendly like wind power and hopefully in the future I believe its called fusion. I’ve read in multiple places that you need to cover roughly the area of Arizona to produce enough energy (with quite a bit of excess) to power the US yearly. That may sound like a great deal of space but you figure that Arizona has 113,998 square miles of surface area. The entire US has a surface area of 3,537,441 square miles! That means we’d need to cover roughly 3% of the united states in solar paneling, which might cause one to ask “Dear Lord! You crazy penguin! That’s 3% of the US that nobody could live in!” but that’s the wonderful thing about Solar Paneling. The less distance you put between you and the Sun the better, mainly because (as far as I know) our atmosphere is a big jerk when it comes to light which is why you tend to find astronomers cuddled together on the top of mountains with big telescopes :).
So once you have all this power and essentially an infinitely existing source (considering once the sun is gone we’ll be gone too in one way or another) you start dealing with other resources you require. Firstly is the obvious one of water. With copious amounts of energy we start looking towards methods of renewing water. I would figure there are quite a few very simple systems that could be used, like evaporating and recollecting water and filtering it through large sand (or sand like) basins. This way we’d have essentially infinitely renewable water, likewise desalination plants could take in water from the oceans and do whatever they do. Hopefully figuring out a system that doesn’t kill sea life of course :). Also rain water collection and filtration plans to tap into the wonderful transportation system of the Earth.
Food I would think would be incredibly simple to keep up with. Tower like Hydroponics facilities could act like massive green houses that would supply tons of, insecticide free, food for everyone in there region. Likewise building it like a tower helps to supply you large amounts of food and use up little in the way of land. The excess that comes from the facilities that is inedible (whatever that be as long as its organic) could be used as fertilization for various gardens and such across the nation.
So you have food, water, and energy. Now we just have to deal with transportation and housing (essentially). For transportation I’d look into fuel cell systems to use the extra energy that is continually saved up from the solar power that is generated nationwide. Likewise I’m sure they’ll devise other successful systems of transportation, for those that have never tried you can bicycle pretty long distances pretty easily as well ;). Not that I expect the world to switch to cycle energy tomorrow. The only real casualty to switching to electrical energy would likely be that people will have more trouble breaking speed limits, which is likely not a big casualty.
Finally the deal with housing. Certain plants find themselves being very handy for building. In particular Bamboo, it spreads like a weed (might be considered one) and can be used for basically anything wood is used for. The general argument against it that I read about is that it can destroy land by growing too voraciously, however I imagine if you had these hydroponics towers you could grow bamboo in a self contained area. It wouldn’t take much area to grow more bamboo than you’d be able to use yearly.
Anyone who has ever used products made out of bamboo can attest to its amazing versatility. It’s sturdier than most wooden tools I’ve used, seems to resist bursting into flames well enough to keep me alive, and frankly it looks sexy. What I’m trying to get at is the only thing I can see that is keeping us from being entirely (or well into the 90% range) renewable is the greed of a very small portion of people. It’s a shame too, renewable energy is beautiful (ever seen a solar panel? It’s like thousands of tiny rainbows :D) and it smells great (relatively speaking ;D). Plus I doubt you’ve ever heard of a wind farm leaving acres of land radioactive and unusable, or heard of solar panels turning one of the worlds largest cities into a smog cloud.
I do feel that within 10 years any nation with a reasonable level of revenue, like say the US, could become a completely self sufficient entity that could then spend much of its excess cash on positive projects to help further humanity. Unfortunately none of this really arouses the interests of political parties and so there will likely be many years (I hope not before they end of my life) of crude energy sources that-well frankly-should have stopped existing long before I was even born. It’s unusual the diverse levels of technologies we use, it’s like watching cave men dropping atomic bombs it just feels weird.