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Tag Archives: Renewable

Megacities and the Scale of the Future

  by Mike Macartney

Demographic trends in society are pointing towardsmegacities, defined as populations of 10 million or more, as the future for how most people on the planet will live. There are 21 such cities today and they include Cairo, Mexico City, Lagos, Los Angeles, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Manila, Moscow, Tehran, London, Paris, and others, growing every day. Tokyo was at 34 million in 2011. These cities and what supports them are at the core issues of scale and sustainability.

  • How large will these cities grow?
  • How will people in the future supply them with energy, food, water, transportation, jobs, housing, education, health care, and not least of all, entertainment?
  • How will these cities fit into national models – will they become city-states like earlier times in human history?

Scientific groups like the Santa Fe Institute are studying that very sustainability. Other, informal web based groups of people like New Geography are also thinking about what cities and human society will become.

The issue of scale may be the defining issue of the 21st century. The solutions are not simple or even invented yet. For example, it is well known in investment circles that alternative energy does not scale like the Information Age cornerstones of semiconductors, telecommunications, and software. Because of the laws of physics in the universe we live in alternative energy requires large investments in land, labor, and raw materials. These are needed to provide grid energy systems like the current fossil fuel and nuclear powered electrical grids. Innovation in alternative energy is not information or knowledge based. It is execution and implementation based. Even if we think we know how to do it, we still have to get it done. Very large physical scale collection and distribution systems are required to implement alternative energy solutions. Presently, the profit for investment in large-scale energy systems ties to large-scale tax systems. These are linked to government subsidies and government funded infrastructure build-out to solve the scale problem. Will the same go for alternative energy?

The scale needed for alternative energy competes directly with the scale needed for agriculture, housing, environmental preservation, and transportation. One example is the Three Gorges Dam project in China that displaced over 1-million people. Hydroelectric power systems are solar energy systems. The water behind a dam is stored solar energy. Very large amounts of land are required for hydroelectric systems just like for proposed solar, wind, and biomass systems. All the systems require very large solar collectors to operate in a grid power model. Efficiency can never be greater than one. There is no Moore’s Law of exponential growth hidden in the current efficiencies of a few tens-of-a-percent and 100-percent in alternative energy collection components. Are grid power systems the future of alternative energy?

The solutions to the scale problems of megacities with high consumption rates of food, energy, and living space are complex and competing. Complexity is one of the areas of study by scientific think tanks like the Santa Fe Institute and government funded institutions like Harvard University and MIT. How do you think scale will be achieved to support megacities in the future?

About the Author

Mike Macartney

Mike holds a BS and MS in mechanical engineering with emphasis in heat transfer and computational fluid dynamics. As a staff system engineer he developed advanced cooling systems for more than 15 different spacecraft and missiles, ranging from cryogenically cooled sensors and pre-amplifiers to on-orbit problem resolution of failing spacecraft. Mike has managed over 200 proposals for advanced aerospace systems, and terrestrial IT systems and custom code development for corporate customers.

Mike has advised start-up companies and high-tech incubators wishing to “spin-in” technologies from NASA and the National Laboratories as well as helped Russian enterprises do business in Silicon Valley. Mike has been a founder in three start-up companies for enterprise SW and publishing as well as a trade show manager for NASA technology transfer activities, and an executive liaison manager to facilitate business cooperation between aggressive Fortune 500 competitors. Mike has developed reengineered business processes for quality control, proposal development, and lean manufacturing.

He currently operates a small publishing company, Shoot Your Eye Out Publishing

 

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The Sky is Laughing at Me – a Young Woman Comes of Age

- Anonymous

I’m sitting on my bed looking out of my windows at the canyon, and out at my campus. Even though it’s almost summer, the sky is filled with grey clouds, and its dark outside. The light seeps through crevices in the storm, only to illuminate the fluttering of the leaves on the trees that are swaying in every direction. I don’t sleep because the howling wind encloses my corner room, and is slapping against my windows.

So, I’m sitting here, watching. It’s amazing how the earth can be so full of energy. But that energy is neither good nor bad, and it is not happy or sad. This energy is movement, and existence. It’s not complicated, it just is. This energy just happens, it can’t be controlled, and it can’t be predicted. It affects everyone at different times. Sometimes bad things happen as a result of storms, but sometimes people are lucky enough to safely observe them from inside their comfy rooms, and comfortable lives. I am sitting on my bed, but I know my heart is outside, struggling, swaying, in the dark, and howling. But at least, it is existing.

A little bird just perched itself up on my window sill, and then quickly flew away. For a moment, as I glanced over I felt a flutter of happiness for something so small to exist among the storms in life. But this was fleeting, as the black bird flew away against the backdrop of the storm.

When the trees stop moving for a second, there is a tangible tension. You know they are waiting for more wind. They are still for a second, stiff with anticipation of what to come. But when the wind blows, the move fluidly and without ceasing. The wind decides when they move, and in what direction they will go. The clouds play too, and let a little bit of sunlight through, so that everybody can witness this. This is a game. There is an energy between them, and I feel that I can sense it.

Is there a tension between them and me as well, that I foolishly think is blocked by the window and wall that separates me from outside? Am I a part of this game of existence? Is it possible for my energy to be neither good, bad, happy nor sad, and can I just simply exist? Can I just be, or am I more?

Who do I want to be? Do I want to exist, or do I want to be more? I want to be one with these trees, and the wind, and the clouds, and the darkness. I don’t want to fear. I want to move when I am pushed, and sway when there is force against me. Let the stresses of a storm press against me, that I may discover who I am in the silence of its passing.

At one time I found happiness in an idea of who I wanted to be. I wanted to be the woman my boyfriend loved. I wanted to be popular among my friends, loved by my family, the funny girl at parties, the nerdy student who always attended, and eventually the beloved teacher who also had her own kids that she and her husband adored. Like the light shining through the clouds illuminating the movement of the trees, it is so clear to me now that I can still have all those things. I am still moving even in this storm, and in this darkness. The only thing that has changed is that now they won’t all be with “him.”

So I am a tree, and I wait for the next set of wind to move me. I feel stiff with anticipation and anxiety because I do know more is to come. I’m still, and in a storm, this feel unnatural. I am nervous, and I don’t like it. But I can’t escape the truth because of the glare the sun is giving me dares me to realize the game is not over yet.

As the black bird perched atop my windowsill allowed me to admire it for a second before flying away, so “he” brought me the same glimpse of happiness. He stopped at my window and for a second I knew him, and he let me see him and love him. Away he flew, and the moment of rare happiness was left with a void and empty foreground atop an abysmal set of storm clouds. But since that moment, I have seen other birds fly by, and even though they are mere shadows cast by the rays of the sun piercing the black clouds, I know they are in this storm too. I wait for one of these birds to rest for a second, and let me see it. At least I know there are other birds.

Like these trees, I want to let life move me. I want to be flexible, and experience everything that happens around me. I want to see, I want to play, and I want to be.

Eventually I may get used to waiting for wind, and my energy will just exist. I don’t want to be this sad person that I have become. I know I can still have a nice life, and just one variable has changed. I want to close my heart to him, but open it up to love this deeply in other areas of my life.

I want to sincerely serve others. When I tutor I want to love the students in the after care center so much that I can’t wait to get to go there. I want to love my family, and enjoy hearing about everything they say, feel, hear, think, see, eat, do…everything. I want to be thoughtful and considerate. I want to be kind, and in tune with people’s needs. I want to listen to my friends, and hug them more often. I want to compliment people more, and appreciate them for what they do. I want to be friendly and welcoming. I want to be easier going, and less bossy. I want to be a lover, and a sweet girl. I want to feel free.

I want to feel. I want to know love in all the parts of my body like I do now. The way I know in my bones, stomach, heart, soul, mind, and everywhere that I loved him.  I want to know that sort of love, but for others. I don’t’ want to know love in my bones, heart, soul, mind and gut because it makes me weak and sick. I want to experience a love that I feel in my toes, and fingertips because it makes me better, and emboldens me. I want to love so powerfully that I feel it in my core, and I want to be somebody that helps people.

I don’t want there to be room for badness, sadness or anger in my body anymore. When there is no wind moving me, I want to stand tall and firm. I don’t want to wait nervously, but instead excitedly. I want to anticipate storms and embrace them as they come, as a confirmation of my existence. I am strong. I am. I am part of this, and I am more than this. I am more than an energy because I have life. Even though life is where the good, bad, happy and sad come from… life is what makes you free. I can do more than exist as an energy does, because I can live. I can be a tree, and await a storm,  but I get to choose how I wait. I can wait nervously, or I can be joyous for what is to come. Storms are solely energy, neither good nor bad, happy nor sad…so I can choose. I have choice. I can choose if this is a good storm, a bad one, a happy storm, or a sad one. It exists, but I live it.

I’m the one moving with the wind. Life is a choice, and I can choose who to be and what dreams I have. I can love people to my roots, and touch the world with my branches. I can wave to birds passing by with the flickering of my leaves.

I can’t control this storm, but I can control me. I can be an energy that is good, and I can live a life that is happy. The sky is laughing at me because the light I see shinning through already knew what its message was all along, but sometimes it’s hard not to get lost in the darkness.

I am a tree, and there are other trees with me, but I know now that he was just a bird.

 

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