Thermal depolymerisation seems to be the greatest idea in science fiction. You can use this process to turn human waste into oil. If it has carbon, they can get gas and oil from it. Anything from offal to sewage to plastic. Thing is, this not science fiction, this is something that has been going on for a while. I quite liked this particular example of the capabilities of this process:
“A 175lb (79kg) man could, theoretically, yield 38lb of oil, 7lb of gas, 7lb of minerals and carbon and 123lb of sterilised water.” – Jerome Burne, The Guardian, Thu 22 May 2003.
So we can potentially make oil, so maybe peak oil isn’t a major problem, but that isn’t the subject under discussion here. What does need discussion is whether such a process is a good idea or not. At first glance, it looks great: oil would no longer be unsustainable, and we wouldn’t have anymore waste disposal problems, so we would be able to sustain the modern lifestyle while increasing environmental hygiene. Or would we indeed be improving environmental hygiene?
What about climate change? I shy away from the term global warming as a term since it seems less accurate. In all 21 years I’ve been living with a good view of the Drakensberg Mountains, I can sincerely say that the severest snowfalls have been in the last five, with the exception of 1996 which was a highly anomalous year, it snowed all the way down onto the plains. Just ask the people in Europe about their current snowfalls, and you may find some doubting global warming. I know there is climate change, anyone who can’t see that should hop in their spaceship & return from Mars. The term global warming is simplistic, even if average global temperatures are on the increase according to meteorological bureaus around the world, they are after all the least reliable source of information we have. Not sure about that? Check the weather forecast out sometime.
Perhaps I am somewhat disillusioned by the fact that climate change give rich people another reason to tax everyone else. Carbon tax, what a great idea, we’ll tax people for their carbon emissions, does that include breathing, that is after all carbon emission. The people who think this is a good idea travel around the world in aeroplanes charging huge sums of money to talk about this, so I’m really sorry if I wonder if there isn’t something in what the critics are saying. Furthermore, the arctic is melting as a result of whatever is happening, & will expose more oil wells. In anticipation of this, governments who border on the Arctic circle are busy trying to get their slice of that pie. Does this sound like a bunch of people who are worried about what oil use could do to the planet. Issues like this could cast doubt on what we learn from mass media, but is increasing the oil supply a good idea if what we are being told about climate change is true?
If the our current oil based lifestyle is destroying the planet, why would we want to invent ways to speed this process up? Let’s face it, oil from waste would do that – there’s a lot of waste out there. Do I have a solution to the issue of not being able to meet the energy needs of modern society? No. Do we want to sustain this society if it could potentially cause our extinction? No.
I’m no Derrick Jensen who would propose a return to the stone age. I don’t think returning to that kind of lifestyle is where we need to go, I do think that there are things that we have learnt in the last few thousand years that shouldn’t be thrown out, but I don’t think that trying to sustain things as they are is necessarily a good idea. I think that Jensen opens up the discussion by giving one extreme, but what we need to do is look at the extremes and work out what we must discard and see what’s left, and work with trying to see how we can build our lifestyles around that. Obviously we then need impartial information, and I’m not sure that is what we are getting.
Do I have a better solution to plastic disposal? No, apart from not making it in the first place, we managed for thousands of years without it. Do I have a better idea of what to do with sewage? Well, I could think of a few things, consider Calcutta. Could I think of better things to do with waste from the meat industry? I’m a vegetarian, so you can imagine what my solution is. We could use effective microbes to break down meat waste, sewage, & any other organic waste, this could be used in earthworm farming on a colossal scale, & then you have organic fertiliser – far fetched? Maybe, but surely not impossible.
Why would we use something that could potentially be useful in an environmentally beneficial manner, to destroy the environment? I can’t fathom it, unless (and this is a big unless) what we are being told about climate change is being blown out of proportion in order to get us to beg for, rather than accept, carbon tax. I’m not saying this is the case. I’m not saying climate change isn’t a problem, although I generally argue against it simply to get people thinking. I’m not saying I have all, or any of, the answers, I just think people should step back, consider the big picture and ask themselves, is the behaviour of the Al Gores of the world consistent with their message? As I said in a previous post, I’m not an environmentalist, I’m for people, but we do need an environment to support us.