February 19, 2008

The Internet, the Solution to Global Warming.

Did you know the internet first reared its head in 1957? Now it may have been a short-lived multitasking network, but it was the progenation of the internet. The term "internet" wasn't coined until December 1974 when it appeared in the publication of RFC 674, by fellows at Stanford University.

In 1985 the first 56 kilobit/second network was setup by the National Sciences Foundation. A full 28 years had passed before the internet had grown into a behemoth of a network capable of handling 3 colors and 20 lines of text on a page in under 2 minutes. So what does this have to do with the "solution to global warming." In practice nothing, but by further examining the mechanisms by which a technology became so intertwined into our social and economic lives could help unravel some clues to future advances within the movement for the conservation of Earth's resources.

Just imagine what people would have told you in 1957 if you claimed to be able to take a picture on your phone and instantly share it with every friend you've added into your address book (In 1995 you wouldn't have fared much better and it was a 38 year old technology!). I'm sure they would've written you off as a crazy but here I am in 2008 snapping a picture of Page as I type (good girl Page) and sending it to my Mom. Remember this was two years before The Mercury Project attempted to send a man into space.

So here we sit in 2008 and everytime I tell someone that solar, hydrothermal, insert other non-oil based energy source is going to save the Earth I get laughed at. "But solar is so inefficient," "Wind energy is a money sink," "Nuclear isn't safe (whole different can of worms that I'll cover another time)." I hear these excuses all the time but if I was in 1992 and tried to convince everyone that a website designed purely to let people upload videos would make a fortune there would have been nobody running to back me financially. I would have been told that the internet wasn't capable of those speeds and that it would take 20 years for it to be a useful technology (it would've only taken 13 years, as youtube.com appeared in 2005). But the truth is I would've been one of those few people pushing to make it happen, and putting their effort into a product for the future. Its no mystery why big business financed the early infrastructure of the internet, because they saw profits in its abilities. And they've seen the internet pushed past the capabilities they thought possible.

Scientists are begging now for money into the development of renewable resource research. A quick scan of publications shows hits such as the need for public policy and science to align to fight global warming. And just now you can see the burgeoning of the technologies that will help navigate us towards a lower impact lifestyle, such as hydrogen generated by solar power, or carbon capture for emission free cars. These are such new technologies at the birth of their existence, just like the two computers who first linked together to send a small packet of information a short distance.

Given time and incubation, just like any other challenge man has faced, innovation and perserverance can drive solutions from which there only seemed to be obstacles. These two forces can tackle this challenge we now face to our home planet. Already nations like Iceland have leveraged their politics and industry to prepare for renewable energy sources. In 2001 Iceland was producing 70% of its primary energy supply by renewable means (pdf warning). And now the country has announced that by 2050 it will completely cease the use of fossil fuels by converting transport to hydrogen (another pdf warning). And Iceland is further trying to embarrass those of us stuck in the fossil age (the stone age doesn't seem so stupid now) further by spreading their green mantra to Europe so those damn atheist socialistas can breathe easy. But this is a very small example displaying broad ranging progressive policies in the scope of Earth's immensely large population.

So what can we do in the US? Well first of all our government needs to get on the ball and spend some money on renewable energy sources. Our love affair with the oil magnates has got to come to an end. I will acknowledge that the backbone of our nation was built around oil, but at times sacrifices to the old regime must be made in order that a new regime can improve the stagnation. If you wanna be extreme this guy got freakin' 72 mpg with a Euro version Honda Civic! And he didn't change a thing to the car!

ScienceDebate2008 (blogged on stifledmind here and here) is a public initiative started by one man and a blog that has gotten endorsed by over 100 universities and science foundations that has invited the candidates to come speak publicly about their policy on the environment but also health care and technology. This is important as the last 8 years have been stifling for the progress of renewable energy sources as money is few and far between and keeps getting cut to finance an ever growing occupation in an oil rich country. The point is that there are a lot of random things you can do to start this grassroots movement, but a more important note is that the money for research is controlled by our government so we must demand action from those we elect.

Look at these energy stat projections provided by the National Academy of Sciences and realize this is a serious problem. We have affected almost every inch of our oceans save a toeprint around the poles, and once that buffer system is destroyed we will have a lot of questions to answer. Remember the next time someone tells you that a renewable technology is useless or won't ever be efficient that not so long ago me sitting here and typing to this whole audience was impossible (My Mom loves the pic of Page by the way).

Get out, get loud, and demand action! I agree that we can't abandon oil right now, to do so would be economic and political suicide. But think about the future for a minute and consider the sweeping consequences the likes of which man has never held the power to sway. With that power comes great responsibility and the charge to wield such strength towards a fair resolve. We really can impact our immediate futures either for the better or for the worse, and I think no matter who you support you should always ask that your leader exact his power toward the better.

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Dean said...

Man, I'd missed this one, good post.

GestapoParrot said...

yeah, its one of my favs so far