Saturday, July 28, 2007

New to Plastic Manzikert?

Here is a rough and quick guide - the tags are below, and everything I've blogged will fall there somewhere.

I recommend the education posts, as they seem to be the most relevant. Or at least, I can act the most authoritative in them.

Global Warming Endgames

The world is not going to end - that must first be accepted before any of this has purpose. Rapture and Mayan Apocalypse notwithstanding, humans are going to have to find a way to survive the climate change they'll have forced upon the world.

Second assumption - humans aren't going to be able to prevent/reverse global warming. Bleak, but at the least, a scenario worth preparing for.

Now, my science to back this all up - the debate is useless without science. However, I'm not a climatologist, and other than a natural interest as a concerned citizen, my big focus is how people will react to this. Proactive doesn't seem to be a serious plan, and so I'm guessing people won't seriously react until the process is irreversible, and I'll be using this science (and the handy 'what if? at the bottom of the page) to speculate what humans will do when the sea level goes up 5 meters.

5 meters wipes out the area of the earth where currently ten percent of human lives. Minor climate change precipitates invasions and conflict (there is some speculation that this is part of the problem behind Darfur), and invasion and conflict, more often that not, beget further invasion and conflict. In this brave new century, with its drained petroleum, massive population growth, and shortage of land made only worse by the submergence of valuable, densely populated land, conflict on a large scale seems to be an inevitability.

Added to this mess, the climate change will produce, well, climate change, making land that is currently arable not, and adding an uncertainty to this conflict. Albuquerque, fantastic city at 5,000 feet that it is, stands a good chance of being unlivable. Migration will be huge, everywhere.

Survivability will be much easier to focus on the nation scale. Countries with lots of land, lots of varied land, and an average elevation of more than 20 meters will survive, especially if these countries already have economic resources. Coastal nations, poor nations, and nations that occupy a small area will suffer. Since there is a lot of overlap for those areas, global warming will create a sick irony, with the wealthy countries that caused global warming being the ones that survive.

There's more to be said, and there plenty here to be refuted. A tip of the hat to John Fleck, whose ideas and bleak musings are partly the inspiration, and partly (lets be overt) borrowed with hopeful future consent. The specifics of the endgame, the reshaping of the world during and after such a catastrophe as we seem to be plunging into, will be mused about more later. Or turned into fiction, which is perhaps a more appropriate venue.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This one's for Coco

On a comment thread on the Duke City Fix which was about carbon offsets, I said I was in favor of nuclear energy. This prospect, this using uranium for some something positive and good, is apparently terrifying, so I'll start by re-stating what was said, to your shocks and gasps

"I'm for nuclear power. The US has plenty of Uranium, and it's been thought of as an alternative to oil dependency since the fifties. The risks are their (there), but we have the power of SCIENCE! (as said by a cheesy comic book narrator), and cleaner, safer nuclear technology is something worse (worth) serious consideration. And, as an added point, it'd be good work for the labs to be doing in this post-cold war mentality. Using nuclear energy for the benefit of the nation, rather than as an aggressive tool, is fine by me."

(There are plenty of typos, and so the edits are in italics following the original wording)

That's already been said. My reasoning follows, and my research comes from an MIT study, The study has an observation worth repeating - "it would be a mistake to exclude any... options from an overall carbon emissions management study".

This contains two important points - Nuclear Power is not the only option, but it is a valid option. There are flaws, of course - it's more expensive than carbon dioxide emitting power generators. That's an economic problem, and as the world moves away from fossil fuels, that disadvantage will go down. The other three disadvantages the study points out are all tied to fear - fear of the reactors being safe and of the consequences of accidents, fear of nuclear waste being used for terrorism (state-sponsored or otherwise), and fear of the radioactivity of the waste that nuclear power plants generate. These are valid fears, but they are hardly insurmountable. Of course, overcoming fear of nuclear technology will be impossible if no effort is put into developing the technology that will lessen the fears and make nuclear power safer.

I'm for nuclear power because it seems a waste to forgo a potentially valid source of energy in the face of hysteria, and it seems pointless to let fear get in the way of developing safer technology. At the least, it can serve as an immediate good, as a temporary resource until wind farms, solar farms, and other, more environmentally friendly energy sources are made cost effective. Nuclear power is a more-known quantity, and could more easily and more immediately replace coal-burning plants, and other electricity generating devices that contribute to global warming. Power needs are not going to decrease, and being able to meet those needs, at least for the next 50 years or so, with nuclear power is a better option than giving up electricity.

Fear of a reactor meltdown is the most valid of fears concerning nuclear power, and in that, it creates a good check against it ever being something terrifying - people will not let power plants be built if they feel the risk is too great. If technology cannot demonstrate that new reactors are safe and pose incredibly little threat, people won't be in favor of them. For new developments to be economically viable, they must be safe enough to be built. Since the power needs will exist, people are going to want to build them, and since this is in the public interest, government money will flow to these projects. Market forces, aided by government research and tempered by citizen concerns, should be able to fill a need that society has. Safe reactors are the only kind the public will let be built build, and safety standards will be strict.

The storage of waste is a problem that can only be met with either further research or a disregard for people and the environment. Not being a terrible, cynical person, renewed research is the course worth advocating, and as earlier mentioned, I think it would be a much more useful application of the scientists at the Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs than other projects regrading nuclear power that they could be working on. Energy is always preferable to bombs.

Dirty bombs are a possibility from nuclear waste, but there are processes, such as "once-through" fuel rods, that reduce that risk to the point where it can be made negligible. Not absent, but negligible.

Science, which promised so much in the heady days of "duck and cover" can now, more likely than not, deliver on safe, economically feasible, and more-environmentally friendly energy.

We can have the technology. Let us not just abandon it out of fear.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No Child Left Behind

I've finally got around to signing up for my Tulane classes. As of this writing, I've signed up for exactly one, called "No Child Left Behind". The class aims to take advantage of New Orleans as a city that has consistently some of the worst public schools in the nation, and see how NCLB is affecting that. It also means doing volunteer grunt work in the schools, which will hopefully be as worthwhile as it is frustrating.

While I had to turn down a Graphic Novel class to take this one, I will still probably benefit in being able to look at APS with comparison to something worse. (Too much Burque Babble hurts the optimism)

Monday, July 9, 2007

More Political Spectrumming

The Left-Right spectrum, an artifact from the French Revolution, is currently aligned with policies towards government spending, or at least thats how the terms 'liberal' and 'conservative' read.
It's a group that is effective enough to still be in use, but it seems superficial. The debate and the spectrum seem to be about something else.

The Revolutionary is generally the furthest to the left that the spectrum goes, and the revolutionary is motivated not by increasing government spending. Rather, the revolutionary is motivated by a driving need for change that must be achieved immediately. Those directly opposed to revolutionaries are the powers-that-be. They exist for the purpose of stability.

And so, the spectrum seems to be drawn from

Rapid, Sweeping Change


Ironclad, Entrenched Stability.

Filling in more gaps would allow leave something like this

Revolutionary - Rapid, Sweeping Change ~ A New Order (and/or System) ~ Anarchy

Leftist/Liberal - Change ~ Meaningful Progress ~ Instability

Moderate - Occasional Change ~ Progress slow enough to never be at the expense of stability ~ stagnation

Conservative - Infrequent, if any, Change ~ Stability ~ Detached, Outdated Government

Reactionary - No Change, None, Ever ~ Stability at the cost of all else ~Police State

The have-assed columns here are for degree of change ~ focus of political position ~ accompanying fear/risk

This gets more interesting when comparing two-party and multiple party systems. More on that later, maybe