HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD
by Masse Bloomfield
The world needs saving. Limits to Growth, written in 1972, used a computer program to generate a chart from 1900 to 2100 showing five parameters. The five parameters are population, resources, food per capita, pollution, and industrial output per capita. The chart shows population peaking at about 2050 with about 12 million individuals and then dropping to six billion by 2100. The reason for the drop in population is the reduction in available resources for both food and resources. Pollution increases to a peak at about 2040 and then falls to almost zero by 2100. Food per capita peaks even earlier at around 2000. Even as food per capita is dropping, population still increases. By using the chart from the Limits to Growth, it is possible to outline the problems facing humanity with the exception of global warming. For the material problems, energy can easily be a solution. Besides these material problems, we need to educate everyone and provide universal health care.
The problems related to materials include pollution, reduction in food per capita and reduction of natural resources. We know what and where the problems are. We also know what to do to save the world. But we let time slide by and the world gets a little more polluted and not as well educated and there are more people to feed. We have more pollution to get rid of. We have way too many sick people. Then there are asteroids that need to be diverted and there are hurricanes and tornadoes that could be reduced in strength. And we need to solve the energy problem. We have things we can do to solve these problems.
First we have to feed everyone. There are too many people going to bed with empty stomachs. This has to be corrected. We can correct this problem with algae that turn pollution into feed for animals or fertilizer and under some circumstances can be used for human food. Algae, in this case, can produce solutions to two problems. The algae can clean up the pollution and they can also provide food.
There is a system in operation to clean up sewage and produce food in the process. I wrote a book The Automated Society (1995), in which I define a future food factory. The food factory features a closed system with sewage and garbage as input and food as output. We need to use algae as the first step as a way to recycle sewage and garbage. The system as I conceived it, is low tech. The system is based on the fact that some microorganisms will remove almost all the pollutants from a sewage and garbage stream. There is a system in use for a fish pond that removes pollutants and recycles water for a fish pond. The system is called the Aquatic Bioenhancement Systems (ABS) treatment system. The algae become feed for the fish. It is nearly a closed cycle. Another ABS system was used to clean up liquid cow manure. Because this system is low tech using pumps, trays, scrapers and organisms, I believe it could work anywhere. The system could be used to clean up sewage, organic garbage, recycle water and at least produce food for a fish pond. The pond in turn would produce fish for food.
This system should be able to clean up most organic pollutants in any body of water. Here is a system available right now that will go a long way to clean up pollution of water resources and produce food or feed for animals or fertilizer. Right now, not fifty years from now. Eliminating organic pollution from rivers is possible with this method. And we need to clean up the rivers so we can clean up the oceans. Here is one solution for water pollution.
Whether we process the algae as feed for our fish farms or use algae as food, it would go a long way to solving the food per capita problem. Farms and ranches could become secondary producers of food. But what are we doing to bring the algae solution to places in the Third World that need increased food production? Nothing. We let people go hungry instead of looking for solutions.
Next. Let’s look at pollution of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. These gases are the cause of global warming. I looked for ways to counteract global warming. I have two ideas; one about artificial global cooling and the other about reduction of CO2 emission from electric power plants.
We can cool the atmosphere spraying water at high altitudes. I believe a research project spaying ice crystals at 35,000 feet is in order. We do have one data point that is available about the ice crystals effect on atmospheric temperature. When all the commercial airplanes were grounded after 9/11, the atmospheric temperature rose. Without the contrails from airlines, more sunlight was available which caused the temperature of the atmosphere to rise. My suggestion is that we spread water at altitude where it changes to ice to increase the blockage of sunlight thereby reducing the temperature of the atmosphere. In other words, we need to produce more contrails. Then by controlling contrails, we can have a thermostat for the atmosphere.
I also came up with the idea that we could reduce the strength of a hurricane by reducing the sunlight reaching the ocean where the hurricane is expected to travel. That would be the first line to defense. Then by dumping tons and tons of ice into the ocean in front of the hurricane, we might even be able to reduce the fury of the hurricane even more. The expense of trying to reduce the force of a hurricane is worth the effort when you look at the damage done by Katrina to New Orleans. Remember this would be an experiment.
I doubt if anyone knows the results of using ice crystals at altitude or dumping ice into the ocean. This is a research project to lower the temperature of the ocean and thus reduce the strength of a hurricane. Someone with a public voice should be talking about it.
Also we should be adding algal scrubbers to electrical power plants which remove CO2 from smokestack gas. The algae can produce biodiesel fuel. There was a demonstration of this system in operation in Arizona built by GreenFuel Technologies. The system failed. That problem may be fixed by using algae that attach to the walls of their container. GreenFuel used free floating algae. These attaching algae might reduce CO2 emissions from electrical power plants and at the same time produce algae capable of transforming the CO2 into biofuels. We could also install ion exchange resins to take out harmful elements from the smokestack gas such as mercury and sulfur.
To solve the energy problem, there are alternative energy sources besides wind power, hydroelectric dams, geothermal wells, nuclear power, solar photovoltaic cells and solar thermal plants. These include such things as tidal power both as turbines in tidal streams and as dams holding turbines in a dam wall. Wave power in the ocean as well as shore line plants are possible. I think turbines in rivers should be in operation. We should be able to take off a percentage of the Mississippi River in a diversion so as to produce power and provide some flood control. Test turbines in the Mississippi River as well as diversions along the Mississippi River can produce power. We need to prepare a design study to build the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Plant. Construct a biomass research energy production facility. Grow algae. We might be able to grow enough algae to replace foreign oil imports. There are many ways to produce power and supply energy. We need to build alternative power plants to reduce our dependence on coal and natural gas.
I see no way that we are going to reduce the emissions from automobiles any time soon. Even the hybrids and most low emission cars spew CO2 into the atmosphere. When we produce millions of automobiles every year and they all emit CO2, we need to try to work
to try to reduce those emissions. We may be able to get to artificial global cooling with seeding the atmosphere before we are able to reduce the total amount of CO2 from automobiles.
We don’t have an asteroid problem right now and there are no asteroids or comets forecast to hit the earth in the next five to ten years and I think the next asteroid to have an orbit close to earth is going to be a near miss. We need to get the International Space Station equipped with asteroid and comet surveillance equipment. We can do that now. Sooner or later we need to get the space station into an orbit where it can launch anti-asteroid and anti-comet vehicles whether manned or unmanned. The chances that the earth is going to be struck with a celestial body is certain. The last meteor and/or asteroid strike was the 1908 Tunguska strike in Siberia. This strike flattened trees in an 800 square mile area. The uncertainty comes with the when. We need to be Boy Scouts on the problem. We need to be prepared. Preparing for the eventual celestial strike should not be difficult. But we are not prepared at the present time. I am sure that we will be prepared and again the question is when.
Then there is the ozone problem. This problem is nowhere near as important as the global warming problem. It still has to do with the atmosphere. We need ozone to reduce the amount of ultraviolet rays from the sun reaching the earth. Chlorofluorohydrocarbons reduce the amount of ozone in the atmosphere. We can reduce these compounds by using sodium hydroxide in the ice crystals used to reduce global warming. The sodium in the sodium hydroxide will combine with both the chlorine and the fluorine, removing them from the atmosphere.
There are at least three natural phenomena which cannot be controlled. Those three are earthquakes, the resultant tsunamis and volcanoes. Humans may have to live with these natural events no matter what their aftermaths may be. One of the research projects possible to ameliorate earthquakes is to lubricate the fault line. This can be done by drilling pipes into the fault line and adding a lubricant so that the plates can slide by each other with small earthquakes. The small earthquakes reduce the probability of a large earthquake. It is an idea and it might even work. Once a fault line snaps, there is nothing that can reduce the size of the earthquake and if a tsunami is a result of an earthquake along the ocean floor, the best we can do is have tsunami warning systems in place. We need to have a lot more tsunami warning systems in place. The best we can do with volcanoes is to try to get out of the way. If we get another Mount Tambora, we are in big trouble.
In conclusion, it seems to me that the most important save the world project is artificial global cooling. Next would be the building of fish ponds using algae for feed in Third World nations to alleviate hunger. I wish there were some way to build solar satellite power plants using current equipment, but this is not possible. I think it is necessary to have a space tug able to harness material from an asteroid or the moon and process that material into solar power satellites following the process given in the book The High Frontier by O’Neill (1977). I believe if we are able to use the solar power satellites, most of our other problems could be solved. These power plants would make hydrogen economical which could be used in automobiles. But this is something for the future.
Sometime in the future, we are going to build human colonies in space. With the colonies that O’Neill describes in his book The High Frontier, there should be no limit to the number of humans possible. And with the food factory in full swing on earth, again it is hard to put a limit on the number of people that could be supported on the surface of the earth. There seems to be no limits to growth if we only follow the suggestions in this paper and the guidelines given in The High Frontier by O’Neill and in my books Mankind in Transition (1993) and The Automated Society (1995).
Can we save the world? We certainly ought to try!