Jason Mraz, a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, published a thought piece on the Huffington Post titled Global Warming Is No Longer a Future Problem, It’s a Now Event that inspired me to go and find some of his music. He is the kind of observer of the human condition worth reading and listening to.
As I write this, I am listening to Jason Mraz’s award winning album, “We Sing, We Dance.”
Jason’s Huffington Post piece started off with a description of times when he recognized his interconnectedness with a vast society of fellow creators.
The first time I experienced it was in a bath tub in New York City. For no reason to my knowledge I suddenly saw how every tile surrounding the tub was made, manufactured, and grouted with love. I saw how the plumbing was only made possible by a plumber who either loved his job or his family, enabling him to do such a fine job connecting the pipes from below the city streets all the way up to the 23rd floor where I was pruning in the tub. Behind every detail I saw an act of creation by a creature who was a product of creation itself. The material world seemed less material and appeared to me as it really was; an extension of my experience, that which I sometimes call my Self. I didn’t float in the tub figuring it all out or making anything up, it was just a clear and present stream of consciousness that brought me to tears; eventually twisting its way down the drain and leaving me just as watered and weighed down by the gravity of being human trying to maintain or make sense of the memory, as I was uplifted only moments before.
I have had similar experiences while driving a car, diving a submarine, riding on the Washington DC metro system, cruising on a luxury ship, and walking around a recently restored downtown area. When you think of all of the contributions made by so many hands and brains to ensure that each of those activities was not only safe, but enjoyable and inspiring it is almost overwhelming. There are a lot of details in our manufactured world that testify to the absolute joy and satisfaction that can come from a job well done and a complex creation brought to life.
My years have not just been spent observing completed creations. I’ve also had the experience of inspecting a submarine undergoing significant repairs in a drydock, visiting a cavernous factory manufacturing nuclear reactor pressure vessels, and, early in life, working on a luxury neighborhood construction site clean-up crew.
I have a fair understanding of the work involved in the creative process and some of the intermediate mess that is not often visible to the consumers of the finished products. My overall impression from a half-century of observation is that human beings are positive creative forces who achieve more beneficial results when provided with sufficient resources in people, material and power.
That is by no means to say that it is not possible to experience similar inspirational moments in places where there is little or no sign of mankind’s existence. The world without people contains fascinating creations of intricate beauty and complexity. There are an almost infinite number of places where there is no sharp divide between the amazing things that occur without human help and those that require the careful input of thinking and opposable thumbs – gardens are an easy example of what I am trying to describe here.
Unfortunately, though Jason’s education and experience has brought him close to a realization of man as a positive creative force, he has also been influenced by the pessimists who do not fully grasp the power locked inside atomic nuclei. Instead, Jason sees our current industrialized society as an inescapable trap doomed by the limitations of the power sources that he understands – fossil fuels and “renewable” energy.
Global warming is no longer a future problem. It’s a now event. And it’s not a planet problem either. It’s a people problem. The rate at which we consume energy through land clearing, factory farming, and the burning of fossil fuels oil and coal, is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere, contributing to the overall, exaggerated warming of the planet. Our very creation of an industrialised system to make our lives convenient and sweet succeeded in the sweetness, but sadly isn’t sustainable. The proof is all around us. A billion people live without water. More than that live in extreme poverty. War hasn’t found its resolve. And the seasons are only getting stranger.
My experience and study has led me to a completely different conclusion. I’ve cruised the world’s oceans enough to realize just how vast and how deep they are. Water is not a limited resource; clean, fresh, potable water is.
During most of those ocean voyages, I was inside a large submarine powered by a tiny quantity of fuel – 14 years worth for a 9,000 ton submarine could fit under my office desk. We manufactured clean water as fast as we needed it by taking tiny sips from the vast ocean and purifying it with a little added heat.
We made new oxygen by adding a little electricity to H2O and getting rid of the hydrogen before it accumulated in explosive quantities. We had plenty of lights, air conditioning, refrigerators, freezers, computers, ovens, mixers and entertainment equipment. We also had sufficient of motive power to go from one place to another at high rates of speed without discharging any waste gases.
I’ve seen new nuclear fuel assemblies being manufactured. I know where uranium comes from and how safely it is mined today compared to some of the ignorant practices used many decades ago when there was less understanding of our overall interconnectedness.
I also know that the Earth was endowed with an additional alternative nuclear fuel in the form of thorium. That alternative has barely been touched, mainly because it needs initial ignition from either uranium-235 or plutonium-239 before it can be used as fuel. Early atomic scientists recognized its potential, but also realized that there were no constraints on uranium supplies encouraging any near term shift of resources into developing yet another lightly used nuclear fuel.
Several of my friends from two different discussion groups have been engaging in a lively discussion about whether or not they should try to help people understand that nuclear energy is at least as renewable as the energy sources that have received official approval by the Council On Renewable Energy.
In my opinion, “renewable” is a brand not worth trying to adopt; the better measure of effectiveness for an energy resource is reliability, followed closely by sustainability and inexhaustibility. Nuclear fission will last forever – at least as far as earth bound human beings are concerned.
That is good enough. With abundant, reliable, energy-dense fission power, we can make as much clean water as we will ever want. We have the ability to use some well known chemistry to make whatever liquid fuels we need to keep flying and driving to as many interesting places as we need or want to visit.
We do not need to uproot vast jungles to plan palm oil plantations, destroy beautiful ridge lines to erect massive wind turbines, or cover remote desert areas with solar collectors or mirrors.
We do not need to keep extracting and moving as much coal, oil and natural gas around the planet as we are today. We should gradually work to replace our current consumption with as much fission as possible, leaving more of those valuable materials available for future generations and giving time for the earth’s natural systems to mitigate the effects of the inevitable combustion gases like CO2 and methane.
We do not need to routinely dump the resulting waste gases without paying everyone for the privilege of using our common property as a dumping ground. We have a vast infrastructure of machines that are designed to operate best on refined hydrocarbons; there is no need to stop using those machines as long as we all recognize that operators should pay at least some of the cost of mitigating the waste.
In other words – if Jason happens to be reading this – we can all continue to enjoy the interconnectedness and creativity of mankind without feeling guilty that our generation is slowly killing off opportunities for future generations.
We can, and should, build things that last, confident in the knowledge that there will be others who will have the ability and resources to maintain and enjoy them. Those future generations will also have the resources available to expand on what we have done. They will be able to grow and develop an ever increasing base of creations and knowledge because there is essentially no limit to the energy stored inside the nuclei of uranium and thorium resources here on Earth.