We’ve always known that the earth is alive. But the idea of it having sentience, or a mind of its own, is a fairly recent idea. Does the earth exhibit the same features as other living, sentient organisms like you and I?
The earth having comparable features to a human being is novel. It has skin in the form of its outer and inner crust, an internal thermoregulation system, trees to serve as hair and rivers that flow like veins. If we realized that our environment was just as human as we are, would we be better inspired to rise to our role as stewards of the earth?
Join Alexander and Jason as they explore the possibility of the earth being a living, breathing, thinking being.
According to scientists, the earth remains an immature technosphere. It has networked communication, transportations, computer systems, technology, and power. However, it is still immature because these technologies are not connected to the earth’s systems. Instead, it takes from the earth to produce these devices. This means that the technosphere is working against our progress.
We need to start supporting and advocating for technologies that protect the earth. For example, lessening our dependence on fossil fuels because they have a negative impact on the seas and atmosphere. Reducing our carbon footprint to improve air quality. Prioritizing the development of technologies that are energy-efficient and eco-friendly.
As long as the technology and energy we use to stay alive are harming the planet, we cannot ensure humanity’s progress.
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Concrete has become synonymous with urban development and progress. It’s responsible for creating shelters, protecting manmade infrastructures from natural disasters, making transportation easy, and more.
However, the environmental cost of creating concrete is often understated. It’s a convoluted process with plenty of extraction involved. As a finished product, concrete also makes cities hotter because it absorbs the heat of the sun, and traps gases from car exhausts and air conditioning units.
In addition, it separates us from our natural environment without providing an alternative for so many important ecological functions. The cost of creating concrete jungles is the loss of fertile soil, animal habitats, river systems, and lush greenery.
Is it time to reinvent the concrete wheel?
One solution that is currently in the works is using concrete to store greenhouse gases back in the bedrock.
“If it's getting released from the ice, earth naturally in its own chemistry and set up, has these pockets. So if we put it back in the porous nature of the bedrock, we can store that and prevent it from being up in the atmosphere; so send it back down where it needs to go,” Alex explained.
Historical records indicate that the Romans were the first to deal with concrete. Despite the test of time, plenty of infrastructures remain standing today. One notable achievement was the creation of concrete that could withstand the test of coastal regions, where saltwater speeds up the process of degradation.
This wasn’t the case for Roman concrete, which even benefited from the microorganisms carried by the seawater. Alex described it as “a symbiotic relationship between the saltwater, the organisms, and the concrete itself.”
Is concrete worth the environmental trade-off? The process of manufacturing and maintaining it makes up around eight percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions. Components that go into the creation of concrete include silica, alumina, iron, limestone, and gypsum —- materials that are extracted from the Earth’s crust by diesel-powered machines and then processed in kilns that generate heat by burning coal or fossil fuels.
The current strategy for producing concrete is incredibly complex and involves plenty of anaerobic processes. Convincing corporations to make changes to the way they create concrete will be a challenge because these entities are already accustomed to this traditional method. This means that they have invested time, money, labor, and effort into maintaining all the machinery and manpower needed to keep these environmentally degrading practices alive.
It’s commodifying inefficiency, normalized and understated to avoid public clamor.
Some companies are already looking into making concrete a more environmentally friendly substance. A company based in Halifax, Canada named CarbonCure discovered a process that takes liquified CO2 from ammonia and ethanol plants, and injects it into wet concrete while it is being mixed. This increases the concrete’s compressive strength and replaces some of the cement used in the process.
It’s an opportunity to repurpose the waste product of other industrial plants while minimizing the amount of time used to form concrete in a kiln, which requires high amounts of heat and pressure — around 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since the system is simple and easy to deploy, CarbonCure has a strong selling point. Concrete manufacturers do not need to implement massive shifts in their processes just to become more eco-friendly; this strategy only requires a little extra hardware.
Convincing the concrete industry to clean itself up won’t be easy work. Alexander and Jason brush on how concrete plays a pivotal role in funding and facilitating criminal activity, pointing out the challenges in convincing malicious actors to invest in ecologically friendly alternatives; but the problem runs deeper than that as well.
Prominent websites such as Taylor & Francis Online, The Guardian, the World Economic Forum have released stories on the seedy underbelly of concrete and construction, labeling the material as “the most destructive material on earth” and “the dirtiest business.”
It’s disheartening to think that even after this podcast, concrete isn’t a standalone villain we can all gang up against. We’ve got an entire industry to hold accountable and demand transparency from.
Climate stability is one of TARTLE’s Big 7. While calling for action won’t be an easy feat, every small act we can generate towards this cause is a small step forward in the right direction. With the TARTLE platform, you have the opportunity to support groups, not-for-profits, or charitable organizations that work towards scientific research and development in this niche.
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It goes without saying that light is absolutely essential to life on earth. This is true no matter where that life is found. From lakes hidden beneath mountains, to the jungle floor, to the depth of the ocean, light is essential. Now, you may be asking yourself exactly what I’m talking about, after all, at least two of those places don’t even see any light. What can light have to do with life in a cave, or at the bottom of the ocean? Well, in both cases, there is a good chance that any life present generates its own light. And in the case of the hidden lake, there is a good chance it would be fed with streams, bringing in a constant flow from the outside. Life at the bottom of the ocean in part depends on the leftovers that filter down from the surface.
That is where the light comes in, providing the base level of sustenance from outside what might at first seem like a closed ecosystem. If you really think about it, there is no such thing as a closed ecosystem. Even thinking of the whole earth as a single ecosystem, it isn’t really closed. It gets its primary energy source from the sun, without which everything would die. No sun equals no plants, equals no animals and therefore, no people.
That’s because the sun is at the base of the food chain, it feeds the plants on land which feed everything on and above the land. The sun also feeds the phytoplankton that forms the basis of the ocean’s ecosystem. No phytoplankton means no fish. That in turn would take away a major food source for many of our birds and other land animals that prefer seafood from time to time.
Unfortunately, some of our practices may be putting the phytoplankton at risk. Fertilizers are causing algal blooms and boats tend to kick up silt in areas near the coast, literally causing the ocean to get darker. Natural factors contribute to this as well, such as rain washing loose soil and plant matter into the oceans, however that is something the ecosystem has developed to deal with. The fertilizers and boats could be adding more strain than the system can sustain.
Researchers at the University of Germany have been conducting experiments to determine what the effects of this darkening might be on the ecosystem. Higher concentrations of material obviously reduce the level of sunlight that can penetrate the water. What is interesting is that the experiments indicated that the phytoplankton didn’t become significantly affected until there was a 62% decrease in sunlight. This shows that the little critters might be more resilient than thought. However, that is not a good reason for complacency. The darkening could continue if unabated, or stay at a lower level but one that still has a detrimental effect.
There are other potential disruptions that could occur regardless of the condition of the phytoplankton. Some marine life that relies on sight would have a harder time finding food. As those species die-off it would make room for species that don’t rely on sight, such as jellyfish. The introduction of a new predator into an ecosystem is sure to further upset the apple cart.
We have to start looking at these things and figuring out how to deal with them. Many of those fertilizers may be getting used to grow food for people. We obviously don’t want to just stop that. However, we should try to find ways to grow more crops without so much fertilizer and we could definitely discourage people from using fertilizers on their lawns.
Finding lasting solutions to these problems is going to take a lot of data. You can help by signing up with TARTLE and sharing your data with environmental researchers. It will help them determine the causes of various problems as well as helping them figure out solutions.
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New Mexico has in the past benefited from its vast reserves of fossil fuels. The state has received massive amounts in taxes from the corporations that have mined those very resources. The state government has even managed to benefit as public opinion and policy has shifted in a more environmentally friendly direction. In 2019, the Energy Transition Act was passed and since then New Mexico has been investing more in clean energy. Some though, have asked whether or not New Mexicans have actually benefited from any of the money coming in.
The clear answer is that they have. The presence of so much industry does a lot to create jobs in the state for a great many people. Not just jobs like working at an oil derrick or a solar panel manufacturer, but secondary jobs such as road construction and restaurants. The amount of secondary and tertiary jobs the energy sector has created just by being there is in all honesty impossible to quantify.
The tax revenue brought in also helps by giving the state money to improve its infrastructure, building new roads, repairing old ones, as well as programs to help the poor. Since clean energy has begun to take over, New Mexicans get the additional benefit of cleaner air and the associated improvements to overall health.
However, that doesn’t mean that it is all sunshine and roses. While that shift in energy production has led to many positive benefits for the state’s residents, it has created a couple of downsides as well. One of them is displacement.
As most know, wind farms and solar take up massive amounts of land. It takes thousands of acres of either to generate what a fossil plant or especially a nuclear plant can do with a dozen or so. That isn’t to say that the land can’t be reclaimed to an extent. Cattle can graze around windmills and shorter grasses at least can grow around a solar farm. And of course, New Mexico has plenty of desert to place these renewable power generators in, making the impact on the locals relatively small.
However, some still have lost access to land because of the construction and the additional infrastructure that is needed to get the material out to those remote sites. Also, let’s be honest, not everyone likes the site of those windmills or the solar panels reflecting all that sun. That means the locals have to deal with loss of land, and loss of peace and tranquility that they had previously taken for granted.
And this brings us to the real problem we’d like to focus on here. Whether it’s fossil fuels, or wind and solar, no one has bothered asking the locals what they think about everything going on. What kind of power do they want? Would they rather have the windmills along the roads or the smokestacks in the cities? Or maybe they would rather have nuclear. As things currently stand, the state just makes deals with the energy companies with nothing more than lip service to the will of the citizens. They offer tax breaks and companies come. Sometimes it’s hard to see where the government stops and the company starts.
Instead, wouldn’t it be better to ask the people what sort of power they’d like to have? What kind of trade offs do they want to make since they are the ones most affected by them? Do they want an obstructed view and cleaner air, or dirty air but no loss of trails to explore? Or good views, clean air, but a slight risk of a significant accident?
Naturally one might be concerned that the average person isn’t equipped to make those decisions. All right, equip them. Take the time to actually educate people without talking down to them. Give them the data and treat them like people capable of making decisions on their own. Show people the data, the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the options. Once they have that data, they could actually make an informed decision and from there, they could let the state government and companies work out the particulars.
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2020 was an interesting year to be sure. We had disease, civil unrest around the world, government intrigue, and even aliens (sort of). We had almost everything except zombies and the four horsemen. One thing we definitely had a lot of was fire. It started at the beginning of the year in Australia. The island continent has regular forest fires just like the western United States does every year. The fires of 2020 were uniquely bad though, getting so bad that in some places, it literally rained fire.
And speaking of the western US, things got crazy there for a while during the summer. Again, there are wildfires in California, Colorado, and elsewhere every year. 2020 though, saw days that were black as night from the ash, nights that were glowing red from the flames, deep red sunsets in the Midwest thanks to the massive amounts of ash in the upper atmosphere and even fire tornadoes. Yes, fire tornadoes. A person could be forgiven for thinking that the world was ending or at least that the millions of acres burning were setting new records.
Obviously from a climate perspective that’s bad. Millions of trees burned down, resulting in a massive loss of the planet’s capability to process CO2, not to mention the millions of tons of carbon added to the atmosphere thanks to the fires. Yet, what does that data show?
While there were definitely massive amounts of land cleared by flame in some areas, even record-setting amounts, that isn’t the whole story. As the data shows, the amount of forests burned down during 2020 was actually less than it was the previous year. So, there was some good news in 2020 after all.
As good as the news that we didn’t burn down half the trees on the planet is, it begs the question – how? One option that comes to mind is that maybe there is just less forest to burn. It would stand to reason given that we keep cutting trees down and hundreds of thousands of acres burn down in a good year that eventually there is just less to burn overall. Fortunately, the data shows that is not the case. The truth is that we are getting better at managing the forests.
Over the years, we have learned through solid data analysis that there are various ways to manage our forests to mitigate the risk from forest fires. These include establishing firebreaks, strips of land that don’t have any trees, to ensure that should a fire start it will only burn down a section of the forest instead of the whole state. Then there are the controlled burns and clearing out of the underbrush that we’ve been doing more of over the last couple of decades. These techniques starve a potential fire of the dry and readily available fuel that can turn a small fire that can be contained in a few hours into a blazing inferno that takes weeks to deal with.
TARTLE can help improve these techniques or find new ones through the data marketplace. With people already signed up all over the world, we can help uncover fire mitigation methods that are incredibly effective but might be unknown just because they were developed in an African village. With a tool like TARTLE that kind of information can be found and improved upon and put into practice.
We can also help identify the activities that we’re doing that are making fires more frequent and worse or are increasing the damage they cause. There may be types of consumption that contribute to forest fires, or it’s possible we could predict where they would be more likely and either avoid building near those areas or at least better protect ourselves and the forest when we do.
The possibilities to find new solutions to old problems with TARTLE are endless. When buyers and sellers plug into our marketplace they are plugging into a tool that can and will be used to help improve the lives of all of us.
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