November 2006

I saw this article today in the Rolling Stone magazine– speaking about scientist Lowell Wood, and his ideas about simulating a volcanic eruption over the North Pole with sulfur ash. This would be done in order to stabilize the rising temperature there. He thinks we can grow the polar ice cap this way, and create a whole-earth thermostat.

At first blush, it seems problematic, as it does nothing to alter the rising CO2 levels, it only effects temperature. And, if I understand correctly, the ocean is suffering in part because of increased CO2 concentrations outside of temperature (is this correct?) Not to mention, any side-effects of the sulfur.

However, if some kind of kooky scheme such as this were necessary to avert a 20 foot rise in sea level, would it be a good strategy?

Perhaps something like this would work well in concert with an aggressive 30-year transition to renewables?

If a massive engineering enterprise (albeit distributed and haphazard) was what got us to this point- is it reasonable to consider that a massive engineering enterprise would aid in getting us out of this dilemma?

Somehow it’s easier to be comfortable with the idea of a distributed uncontrollable engineering project (our fossil fuel era) wrecking things, as it represents the choices of billions of agents, each acting alone in a dance of infrastructural mega-complexity.

However, if we did a massive planet scale geoengineering project, it would just be a few people making a decision that would effect the whole globe. It’s a strange new concept.

Must see to believe.

You must watch the video.

Trust me.

Environmental sustainability guides touting sustainability often suggest that we don’t need products, just the services they provide.

This, in fact, I see as quite accurate- we don’t actually need to own *anything* in fact.

I was marveling at this the other day– with the resources that we have at our fingertips for liquidating the assets that we do have, we can start to create our own service economy before design catches up with us.

Let me give an example:

I needed to help a friend out by acting as a photographer at his event. I’ve got a medium format film camera, and a large format film camera; both of these cameras are quite cumbersome, and pricey to operate on a per-shot basis. What I needed for this event was a nice digital slr camera, with which I could shoot hundreds of photos. I investigated what it would cost to rent such a camera at a camera store for an afternoon and evening.

With the required lenses and flash, it was $200 for one day’s use! I could scarcely believe it. With this same camera selling used on craigslist for $900, I decided I was much better off buying one, using it at the event, and, a few days afterward, selling it for the same or more than I bought it for.

Craigslist is pretty unique, in that I can post an ad that is seen by thousands of people, make a transaction, and nobody gets a cut but me. So it’s well suited to this purpose.

After conducting this camera transaction successfully, I glanced around my room and saw all of this stuff lying around in a totally new light- books– every book has a very specific dollar value on amazon marketplace, a chair and bookshelf– these would be great craigslist items. . . I can imagine a future where we actually put a price-tag on everything we own, and people can browse our inventory– if they think they’d like to buy anything we “own” for more than we’re asking for it, the transaction can take place. . . resources are not stagnating in one place for a long time this way. . .

In an economic infrastructure where assets are radically liquid, all products, by their nature, become services.

So, one direction we can push, for creating a sustainable culture, is to create a culture very comfortable with buying and selling items on a very short-term basis.

In practice, it is very similar to renting, save for that there is no formalized insurance policy if you break the item in question.

It’s a decentralized lending library for everything in existence.

The next better step, for the complete transformation to a products as services, will involve things built to support the kind of handling that all of these items would get, being handed from person to person, and be built such that product take-back was a revenue stream, rather than a expense and a nuisance.

Recycled, recyclable, rebuildable, reparable, rentable, resellable, and compostable. Let’s call it R6C. . .

Reflecting on the elections held yesterday. . .

In watching what’s been happening, it starts to feel to me like a harsh national rebuke of ego/ethnocentrism.

I feel like the new era of politics, has a chance, to be defined by rationality (what actually works, outside of a half-baked static dogmatism, either left or right), radical transparency (information technology brings anything anyone would wish to conceal to light much more quickly, providing the oversight in a new “people powered politics),as well as the respect, tolerance, and decency that come from a post-ethnocentric worldview.

Republicans seemed to run on a platter of ethnocentrism (I want what’s best for me and people who look like me, and deviants should be punished) and, egocentric hoarding of resources at the expense of others.