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Thread: (Un)sutainable development

  1. #1
    Queen hunter Array Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Exclamation (Un)sutainable development

    This thread is a direct continuation of the thread that I have started long ago about how pointless current US elections are.

    I have waited for US elections to pass and that euphoria tones down so that I can continue. Also I would not recommend this thread to anyone who needs to get some sleep this night and I am not joking about this.

    Today there is dangerous trend that everything that has to with environment comes down to debates like

    1. Global warming is real
    2. Global warming is not real,
    1. Yes it is
    2. No it is not
    1. You are work for big oil
    2. Prove it!

    So I will ban the global warming from this thread completely so that I can represent the other pieces of the puzzle. Which are also quite alarming and they don’t usually come to the surface because of the global warming
    People who wants to talk about the global warming the thread is
    I have tried to keep it as short as possible while keeping my point visible.

    I will start with more known parts of the problem.


    It is a public secret that we are running out of oil, actually we are also running out of natural gas. But we have coal reserves for next 150 – 200 years. Problem with oil is that we have reserves for some 20 years but you cannot extract it rapidly enough to meet the demands, almost the same thing is whit natural gas which will be depleted in some 40 years.

    Plus extractor doesn’t want any increase of production so that he can earn more money with time.
    So from this is easy to understand that we will need replacement for current energy sources but this could prove much more difficult then it looks like.

    First candidate is always nuclear energy but nuclear energy has some major flaws beside security. Today we have some 450 reactors around the world creating some 15% of world energy and catch is in that 15%. To raise this to 75% we will need to build 1800 new reactors in a next decade or two. And actual problem is that nuclear power plant is very sophisticated piece of equipment and only few experts with a lot of practice are qualified to operate it. In the last 50 years world has build 500 nuclear power plants (let’s say 10% are dismantled) and mostly they are built when they were far more popular.
    Who will build those 1800 reactors in next 15 years and who will operate them?

    You need at least 15 years of high education and 10 years of experience in the «field» to get competent expert and than you can let him to build/design his first power plant.
    But if you let inexpert to build one you are probably creating one big problem on the long run. I think that the problem with nuclear option is obvious.

    Ok, we could just build larger reactor that are spending more fuel and give more energy plus there will be much lower number of reactors in the world.
    (I am not sure that this is even possible)

    But this will not solve another problem with nuclear power plants. Which is that we have uranium, which is ultra rare chemical element in nature (why is it that way it is long story) for next 60 – 80 years. It looks like no one is too concerned with this fact.
    But if you increase production by 400% you have uranium for
    15 – 20 years. Deeper in earths crust there is more uranium but if you need a lot of energy to extract it the entire thing will not work and temperature grows with depth.

    In the end is entire thing actually worth the trouble?

    Wind power - is good but it is too weak and take a lot of space if you compare it with other sources plus if there is no wind entire thing is useless. I would say that this is very good technology to be back up and fill the gaps in network.

    Hydrogen - this is very popular today but I am skeptic.
    In case that engineers manage to creating hydrogen technology that could wholly replace oil there are some other problems.
    It was said that only good source of hydrogen is ineffective one, when you get it from water of more effective when you get it from natural gas. Only problem is that we are running out of natural gas and if we increase production to help us with this we will get nothing. Because we are out of natural gas with that speed in a 10 years
    Plus, where will you put all that carbon that stays behind when you take hydrogen.
    But I think that largest problem is never mentioned.

    Imagine this: one big road with 8 tracks some were in 7:30 am
    Thousands of cars stuck in rush hour and people just want to get to work, all accept one. Try to imagine what would happen if some terrorist of depressed lunatic fills his van with explosives and detonate it in that rush. It will be one really good firework.
    Also who will find him in this crowd of cars and prevent a detonation.
    Maybe I have a hole but I think that hydrogen is not good choice.

    Hydro-electric source is also questionable.
    First we will be using almost all water to for farming and food production.
    But problem with dams is also that they need large time to be constructed and lake that is created will take much space (farming land)
    Also it is very hard to construct them in some geological environments (made of clay).

    Sea streams and tides
    Sea steams could work but this is very expensive and you need mechanism to get electricity to coast or put them near coast where entire system is less effective.
    Power plants that work on tides to fill and then use low tide to empty are pure destruction of coasts.

    Solar energy
    I think this is best choice, especially if we manage to make entire technology more effective. It is relatively cheep you can put them near consumption area so you would not lose 50% in «transport».
    Only real problem is that storms and strong winds could destroy it.
    It is not good for cars because it is too weak but this is still number one for me.

    Some organic sources that are used today will be impractical to use and we will need all available land for crops since population is booming.

    Fusion – is excellent but it is in experimental phase for decades and only god knows when will be fully operational.

    Geothermal - is also excellent but you can’t get it in all regions of the world unless you invest a lot.

    To succeed we will probably have to mix everything.
    The problem is that we are running out of oil and natural gas and we don’t have something to replace them in a need.
    Also we can’t turn to coal since it creates huge amounts of gases that are very dangerous for human health in bigger concentrations. When they come in contact with water they are turning it into an acid. As oceans are becoming more and more acid place they will be unable to support marine ecosystems that are feeding large piece of world population. Also in undeveloped world there is a drastic deforestation since people need more places for crops and they need firing wood what in the end again creates gases that raise level of acidity in oceans.
    Deforestation also leads to stronger erosion of something known as horizon O.
    What is the most useful layer of soil.


    From previous chapter it looks like food production will surely drop by a large amount and billions of people will have large problems in their lives because of it.
    Crops will be destroyed by almost every phenomenon such drought, strong winds, floods, fires, starving animals and regional conflicts for resources. What will be because wherever the phenomenon occurs it will hit something that has to do with food production since everything we have must be used to support huge population.
    Production of meat will also drop because there will be lack of food for animals. Also flood can demolish entire production facility just like that and it would take a lot of time to get it back on track.

    Many people think that civilization can build plants for cleaning of sea water from the pollution and salt and all problems will be solved that way.
    Here are some reasons why that will fail if someone tries it on the larger scale.

    1. First you need to build huge plants on a coast that could create huge amount of fresh water and use large amounts of energy in process

    2. Where will you put all those thousand and thousand of tons of salt since you can’t put it back in the sea near those plants.
    But if you do that salt will once again pass through your plant. Also that salt will have hard time to melt in water. So you are risking that plant will be cut of from sea if you are dropping salt near it. So you are forced to transport all that salt far away with large energy costs.

    3. Also imagine how big infrastructure you need to replace all the polluted rivers and how much energy you will need to pump billions of tones of water far from sea just to prevent societies from collapse.

    Sorry but I think this is not going to work.

    Seas today are on the edge because of over fishing and changes of acidity because of burning of fossil fuels.
    So many species migrate and food chains are destroyed and because of that everything will fall apart by principle of chain reaction. About 2/3 of people rely on oceans for food by a large degree.
    What means that oceans have to produce huge mass of food every day.
    Plus the effect that sea organisms eat each other as well. People think that oceans are huge and they will always function. But that is an illusion since almost all activity is the upper 150-200 meters. (about 450-600 feet). Everything below is uninteresting for this purpose and it is impossible to get something out of this depth without very sophisticated equipment.

    Someone could say “Ok, we will just build huge fish farms and problem is solved”. But to feed all that fish (which are high in a food chain) you will need also a huge amount of some other species to feed them with while they grow and you need food for these species as well.
    But if you grow too many organisms close to each other they will spend all oxygen in water and die or the quality will drop for a larger degree.

    So you must separate entire thing, but it takes a lot of time and energy (we are short on energy by the way) to transport food to food which is food for us and then drive entire thing 1000 km or miles to consumer.
    Would you eat fish that is 500% more expensive then today?
    Of course you would, you don’t have much of a choice.

    From history maybe someone remembers that old civilizations used to have few fields for crops and each year they used one of them to give time for soil to regenerate.
    Today we solve this with fertilizer but there is one unknown thing about them and my mineralogy professor explained me this.
    Fertilizers to be produced need some minerals which contain specific chemical elements. But problem is that minerals in nature come in geological environments where also uranium can be found.

    So even after separation some amount of uranium end up in fertilizers which end up in fields. If I understand correctly concentration of uranium in soil is raising because of that.
    I bet that I do not live in only country where this is problem.
    Concentrations are very small but with enough time they will be a problem.
    Personally I have seen people using Geiger counter on vegetables and I am asking
    “Did anyone else have the honor?”

    But the biggest problem with food production is amount of water that is available.
    On all continents the amount of available water is dropping for the last hundred years.
    What is a consequence of:

    1. Huge population boom, there is a 5 times more people on the planet then 100 years ago.

    2. Pollution. In the last 60 years there is a huge boom industrial production of all kinds. Which are needed if civilization wants to support large population.
    But the problem is that there are byproducts and unwanted effects in the process.

    Here are some numbers from my hydrogeology textbook.

    The number says the amount of clean water per person in cubic meters per year.
    Cubic meter is a cube with edge one meter long. 1 meter is about 3 feet.
    1950 1990

    Europe 5900 4100
    Asia 9600 3300
    Africa 20600 5100
    N.America 37200 17500
    S.America 105000 28300
    Australia 112000 50000

    I can't get this right but up there are years so the frist colum of numbers is for 1950 and aecond is for 1990.

    I have numbers for the decades between this, what you need to get the point. The trends are still in a same direction as the poll says since world is going in the same direction – more people, more industry. Drop between 1980 and 1990 is much bigger then one between 1950 and 1960.
    The underground water in calculated in this poll since it is primary source. This probably looks like much but it isn’t because we are talking about entire year. This amount also includes water for plants you will eat, for animals you will eat, water for showering, water for washing your car, water for industry that will create goods you consume and …….
    Even if this numbers are 30% wrong trends are unsustainable.

    Long ago older cultures have used farming land on a different way.
    They have used one part of the land for farming and the other was resting. With time they substitute them and it worked.
    But today we don’t have enough space to do that. We don’t have enough space for or current needs. What mean that we are forced to use artificial methods. Otherwise we will have collapse and maneuvering space is very narrow.
    Since population in booming there is no way that trends can be turned in the other way and you can’t order people that they can’t have children. There is no way that something like this can pass even in the developed world which has low birth rate because of the culture and in undeveloped there is no chance since societies are still traditional.
    The number of children per mother is dropping on a global level but modern generations are far more numerous in number
    Here is one numerical example
    1. generation- 5 children
    2. generation- is 5 times bigger , 3 children
    3. generation – is 50% larger , 2 children

    But parents don’t die when they have children so when you have 2 parents with 2 children you are not at 0 you have 100% increase. The point is not that we will decrease number with time the point is that we are spending more then it can be produced/ regenerated and we are destroying the system.
    In about 2 years from now there will be 7 billion people on this planet. So let’s say that in the next 10 years billion women and billion males will have children. If they have only one child we will have another billion and there is no way that everybody will have just one. Of course old and smaller generations die but world still has a strong surplus.
    In a case that we get another 1.5 billion and about 0.5 billion dies as old (generation is smaller). So we have extra billion. One billion divided in 10(years) = 100 000 000 extra every year. Divide that with 365 and you get about 270 000 per day. What means that you need to build 270 elementary schools for 1000 children each day just to get the most basic education for those children. Not to mention high schools and colleges and place for a job. This is simplified but it is obvious where this leads us.
    Plus we are in the middle of global economic crisis, energy crisis and crisis of food and fresh water. I think that forming a logical conclusion about this is really no that hard.

    Also there is a one problem with water supply lines and sewer system that is more or less unknown.
    Many places/cities in the world are experiencing very strong immigration and they base their economic growth on that. But what I know from my hydrogeology classes is that this can’t continue like this anymore.
    Since we need bigger and bigger water supply systems, will have to stretch it more and more from the city. So that it can pump enough water for growing population.
    The other part of the problem is that cities have pipes that have flow of some size.
    But as cities grow in wide and height pipes in some parts of the city are no longer enough to deliver enough water and take it back via sewer system.
    Since city is growing sewer must be routed even further since city is growing plus pipes that are old leak and we have looses of water and sewer that leaks. Not to mention that sewer and clean water not can come in contact.
    Even if you want to change the speed of flow some gig changes will have to be made.
    What means that the world needs a lot of construction in this segment of infrastructure
    what will be quite expensive even if we imagine that there is no economic crisis.
    Since world urban population is growing we will not have much of a choice.


    Some pictures are not showing the pollution but the ones that do, say a lot (especially satellite pictures).

    Here is what you get when you google "China pollution" for pictures. Take a look at first few pages.(that should be enough)
    Pollution china

    If you Google “pollution India” you will get something similar.

    Now someone could say “Why should we care?”

    You should care because that entire part of the world is the biggest producer of almost everything what people are buying today at stores and malls.
    Human body can live in some level of pollution and it can for sometime but you can’t expect that people can live in this kind of environment for decades and survive.
    Plus they are staying without farming land, food and clean water and they are doing it with an alarming rate.
    When 3 billion (10xUSA) people that live in a triangle Pakistan, China, Indonesia start to die, the entire production will stop. Since workable environment no longer exist.
    It is enough that in a 10% of the region things become bad enough to cause a total catastrophe since that will destroy economic chains in the region.
    Plus things like this will cause riots of massive proportions since millions and millions will stay without any options. I mean 10% is 300 000 000 people ready for everything and actual reality is that at least 80% of the region is heading into the “twilight zone”

    What that means on a global scale?

    It means the total economic meltdown on a global scale.
    Everything we buy today at the stores is mostly from that part of the world almost all the clothing and shoes, machines or house (TV, radio, dishwasher ….), all the little things you buy as Christmas presents, and a lot of products that are product of chemical industry and many other things.
    Or they produce something that your local industry turns into the good.
    If it happens that future will turn that way everybody will bankrupt since there will be not enough things to sell out there and economic meltdown is the only thing that can happen in that case.
    The other parts of the world will not be able to do much in this situation and there is no chance that they will be able to replace so big production in a time that can be described as “over the night”. Plus they will have all the problems already mentioned in the thread.
    In best case will have martial law on a global level.

    I am sure that my arguments can be soft up in some parts. But can someone cause enough damage to kill the entire thing? I accept counter arguments only if they are scientific and logical.

    To all of those who plan to reply I must say that it would be desirable that they think a little about interactions of arguments in the post before they reply.

  2. #2
    IRL is not real Array Cimarron's Avatar
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    So why is everyone silent? (39 views so far, zero responses)

    Does everyone agree, can they not find a good counterargument, or are they just uninterested?

    Or do people have no patience for long posts?

    You can't spell "justice" without ISTJ.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Array Maabus1999's Avatar
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    Aug 2008


    Should have broken this into several posts by topic. Makes it more readable. A few bullets:

    *Not all reactors put out same wattage. Most today put out a ton more power then the ones we have now, so 1500 is too large an estimate. Besides you should NEVER rely on a single source of anything to supply a necessity (i.e. power) so I wouldn't go more then 50-60% here. French do 90% which is crazy (unless they have a huge natural supply I don't know about). National security/economic issue here.
    *Uranium can be reprocessed on site with the technology (just get it from the French) so fuel time-line and if you mentioned environmental issues are mitigated more.
    *Education time line is exaggerated. Just look at the Navy program. Also no one usually designs anything by themselves these days. Also it isn't THAT complex to make power off nuclear, but the safeties can be sophisticated.
    *Nuclear can be scaled very well from massive power output to anything you want. A company named Hyperion is actually looking at making residential reactors: Underground Mini Nuclear Reactors to Power Homes Within 5 Years? - Switched

    Yes this would work.

    Wind: Is fine source of "extra" energy but I foresee its long term competitive cost never matching solar due to material cost vs. kilowatt hour.

    Hydroelectric: This is no longer looked at seriously (when it involves dams) due to the environmental damage they have been discovered to cause.

    I would like to see tidal generators though as a possible "extra" energy source.

    Solar: Best source for the residential problem However it can not be the 100% solution most likely in a ground based format as it does not provide "on demand" power for Industry. We need real power plants that can go 24/7 to do that. It can power the residential grid, small commercial operations, and electric vehicle charging grid though. We also lack the ability to store long term power in large amounts to offset solar's variable power output for industry.

    There is some great technology coming out though for solar (3-D cells, extended EM cells, paint on cells, anti reflective cells, etc..) that will make it very efficient if they keep getting money to research ways to drive down the cost per KW/hr.

    Now in the future (100+ years) we can maybe make on demand solar power with power stations in orbit that are constantly receiving solar power and "beaming" it by tunneled microwave or another quantum method. That would provide industry with what it needs.

    Fusion: The mother of all power plants. However, it also needs fuel (like uranium). If we go the fusion route, expect space mining to be very profitable in the 22nd century.

    Fuel Cells: Great concept but we need to find metamaterials/substrates to fix the Palladium problem. There is LITERALLY not enough palladium to make fuel cells to power all the vehicles we have in the world. However, I have seen a lot of research from many companies that are very close to cracking this problem so we may be able to use this as a small scale power plant solution.

    Natural gas: There is a good amount, more then oil. Right now natural gas is one of our main sources of "on demand" power (I have no idea why coal can't do it but the power companies say only natural gas can provide it) so we need to keep looking for this through out the century why we work on new sources.

    Oil: get off it ASAP. ASAP. it has no value save chemical industry (plastics) and heavy vehicles(aircraft), and that may change soon too. We should not be using it in vehicles and should be looking at having an electric car charging grid with the ability to charge vehicles in under 10 minutes that have a range of over 250 miles. If we can do that, it is as good/better then gasoline powered cars. Problem is the source of electricity is still hydrocarbons, so it does a wash for pollution. However it kills the oil problem which is going to cause WWIII before (clean) water does. Solar is the key here for the charging grid. 2020-2030 is my personal vision for this to be complete.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Array millerm277's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Nuclear-Agree with what you've said.

    Wind-Getting more efficient every year, but I have my doubts that large-wind will improve that much further. The good news is, I think it's pretty competitve at this point with fossil fuels, and comes in sizes big enough to be a significant source for electric companies. Off-shore wind farms need to get off the ground as well. Small-wind is getting very interesting and rapidly improving in efficiency and cost, and I forsee it becoming pretty popular.

    Hydroelectric-New dams are out, but there's lots of tidal/in-river pilot projects going. I expect to see a lot of in-stream and ocean/tidal ones added, as well as the addition of turbines to existing dams that lack them. Micro-hydro is interesting as well, and relatively cost-effective, for small brooks and streams that have good flow.

    Solar-The cost is dropping so rapidly, and there are so many new technologies coming out...I predict this will continue to lead the way as far as consumer adoption, and supposedly should become cost-effective without tax credits in the next 3-4 years. For large scale stuff, the Solar Thermal plants are interesting, and already proven (and continuing to improve) technology, as are other things such as the Stirling engine based solar plants and such.

    Coal-Tighten up emissions regulations on them (Not talking CO2 here), and restrict new development. The tighter emissions regulations on it should also put more of the renewables on equal footing cost-wise.

    Natural Gas-Relatively clean, we don't seem to have a shortage, for what it's used for currently, not a big problem. (Peaker plants for bringing power online quickly and such.)

    Oil-In power, get rid of any remaining plants immediately. In cars, keep increasing the CAFE standards.


    Fusion-Awesome, but it's at LEAST 10 years out from what I've heard, so not especially relevant right now.

    Fuel Cells-Research is good, get the range up a bit more, and we've got a pretty viable alternative, although it'll take a lot of infrastructure investment, along with a renewable way of GETTING the hydrogen.

    Electric-Keep investing in battery tech. Costs need to come down. Has some potential major advantages if they can be made low-cost, especially with linking them into the grid.
    I-95%, S-84%, T-89%, P-84%

  5. #5
    Banned Array
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    I just want a big furnace I can chuck bunnies into. And rainbows.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Array Maabus1999's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flak View Post
    I just want a big furnace I can chuck bunnies into. And rainbows.
    I will second this if it includes kittens.

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