Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News YOU : Fix the Environment

  1. Apr 25, 2005 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The Environment - What will it take to reverse current trends?

    In the thread entitled “Economic Problems,” the topic of environment and responsibility arose. Can individuals make enough difference to reverse the current trend toward global warming? Or is this futile without efforts by corporations as well? And how much of these efforts, whether individual and/or corporate, depend on government initiatives? Why are we not doing more about the environment?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2005 #2
    I think it has alot to do with finding economically viable alternative resources that environmentalists will be ok with.
    Nuclear has potential it seems but it has been all but illegalized here in the US.
  4. Apr 26, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Economics are a factor:

    But are economics all that keeps humans from altering the current trends?
  5. Apr 26, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    His point seemed to be that there is an economically viable alternative out there, at least for generating electricity, in the form of nuclear plants, but for reasons other than economics the general public seems to be opposed to them. Does Gallup have any numbers regarding citizen opinion of nuclear power?
  6. Apr 26, 2005 #5
    have anyone heard about "Permaculture"?

    what they say is that the human can not consume in a year more energy that what came from the sun in a year, that is the only renovable energy we can use... They have "Ecovilles" all around the world, they don't need to use gas, oil. etc.. they have solar kitchens, they heat the water with the sun, they plant their own food, they are vegetarians, and they can survive only with they resources, they build their own houses and even their own briks, they use cience to improve their lifes and to consume the less energy they can. Pluss they don't need nothing from the state.

    http://www.permacultureactivist.net/pcresources/Resourcpg2.htm#PcTechOnline [Broken]
    The Solar Cooking Archive http://home.verio.net/ [Broken]
    Sustainable Building Sourcebook: http://www.greenbuilder.com/sourcebook/ [Broken]
    Alternative Technology Association (ATA) http://www.ata.org.au/
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  7. Apr 26, 2005 #6
    I feel individuals can make a difference, but can only do so much. For example, how many people could realistically practise "Permaculture" concepts? People need to continue to put pressure on government and private enterprise and public awareness. California wants stricter regulations on vehicles, but the federal government is blocking this because American automobile manufacturers don't want the added regulation. In the meantime, if a person wants to drive a smaller vehicle they are taking a risk of collision with a large SUV.

    As for nuclear power, I assume it is still perceived as dangerous, producing hazardous waste, and not that cost efficient?
  8. Apr 26, 2005 #7
    The GEN Network

    The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is a federation of 15,000 diverse communities worldwide that are committed to sustainable plus living. The GEN network has a rich and diverse variety of Living and Learning centres in 3 geographical spheres. This means that good models already exist where people live together and are manifesting practical examples of sustainable plus living.

    Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka is a network of more than 12,000 self-sustaining villages that focuses on participatory community development with no poverty and no affluence, agriculture, micro-banking, livelihood training, cross cultural-meditation, and pre-school development. The Tanamalwila Living and Learning Centre located near two national parks in the Southeast of Sri Lanka, focuses on permaculture, species diversity, human rights and peace initiatives. It offers regular courses to community-linked people in Southeast Asia

    http://www.gaia.org/education/living.asp [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  9. Apr 26, 2005 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Gottcha (I read TheStatutoryApe's post again). And I did find this:

  10. Apr 26, 2005 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To this I found:

    There is more break-down to the data. As mentioned in the other thread, Republicans are not as supportive of environmental measures:
  11. Apr 28, 2005 #10
    I'm thinking that most people, at least here in America, aren't going to want to give up their sterios, TVs, movies, video games, and computers. And it looks like that would be required. Unless ofcourse we find more efficient means of harnessing and using solar power.

    Yes, thank you. And I can't swear by it's viability or cleanliness but it sounds like they have come quite a ways from what I have read.
    Seeing what Gallup has to say I think it's only expected. I remember watching Captain Planet when I was a kid and pretty much anything nuclear was vilified. There's also so many comic books out there about mutants coming from radioactive waste. And the Simpsons has an "evil" nuclear plant as well. Not suprising that the majority of younger people have a bad view of it.
    There is the one problem of what to do with the waste but apearantly they have found a way around that, or at least most of the way around it. Argonne labs came up with the I.F.R.(Integral Fast Reactor) which involves fuel recycling and quite a few safety measures. There used to be a thread on it in Michio Kaku's forums that are hosted here but I couldn't find it which is too bad because one of our members who is in the field of nuclear technology was discussing it there. Here's a link to a description though....
  12. Apr 28, 2005 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Unfortunately, many US citizens are ignorant of nuclear power. The idea that the thing can just spontaneously blow up and destroy a city is too widespread.

    I think another annoying thing is many people see nuclear power like they see that Taser weapon. They think "ok someone MIGHT die, so we shouldnt use it" when the reality is, if you didnt use it, people would die anyways and at a higher rate. To anyone whos not familiar, recently a lot of people got ticked off with the Taser because there were reports of people dieing (who were on drugs or drunk as hell or had serious medical problems) when being hit with it and they wanted them completely taken out of law enforcements hands. The company president came out in an interview and said it perfectly though; "The standard isnt perfection, the standard is the alternative". Same with nuclear power. Sure theres a chance of a problem... but its either you take that chance, our your stuck with dirty coal and gas power plants which according ot the same people, are killing so many people or will kill so many people because of global warming. And yes of course theres alternatives to the alternatives like solar and wind... but those are unpredictable.

    @ the zero-energy civilizations

    Their whole civilizations are probably 100% impoverished when put to the US standard of poverty. Heck, i can go out and live in a world where i had no debt... by living out in the forest... but im living in the forest, what can i say lol.
  13. Apr 28, 2005 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    To be honest, Burnsys is right .... if the world were to last for an infinite amount of time. Realistically, we only have to make the 'stored' fuel and the environment last as long as humanity.

    The environmental concerns are caused by the inefficiency of the fuels - how much excess heat and by products are created, not only in burning it, but in creating it in a useful form. For most fuels, the problem with reducing the waste and byproducts is the cost of converting all of the fuel into work. Every fuel has the same story - we use the part that's easy to convert and discard the rest, either in emissions, solid byproducts, or wasted heat.

    Nuclear energy is the most efficient fuel available today, but it's efficiency is a little exaggerated. Because it's popularity is limited, we tend to only use the most efficient raw sources. If you have to enrich your lower grade sources before using them as fuel, that high efficiency drops quite a bit (the same story with petroleum - having to use lower grade and/or harder to reach reserves means oil isn't naturally as efficient a fuel source as it was in the early 1900's). Nuclear would still be the most efficient, even it were popular enough that lower grade sources had to be used.

    The real problem with nuclear energy is that its problems are presented in a manner easier to see. People don't ignore pollution that acts on them immediately. It's a little easier to ignore pollution that won't kill you until you're old (just like cigarettes).

    Regardless of the fuel source, you're going to have pollution problems unless you convert all of your fuel into work, and that's unrealistic. At best, we can convert a higher percentage of our fuels into work with our existing technology. Supply and demand will never promote the most efficient use of fuel from a waste/byproduct point of view. It only promotes efficiency from a cost point of view - the more expensive the fuel, the higher the percentage that is converted into work; the cheaper the fuel, the lower the percentage that's converted into work.

    If you want cleaner fuel processes, you have to artificially raise the price of the source through taxes which are then fed back in to subsidies for increasing the percentage of fuel that's converted to work, reducing the amount left over for waste. Kind of a circle process to be sure - tax them, then give the money back to them. Obviously, it's the consumers that wind up paying for the increased efficiency and there's a net reduction in standard of living (at least as measured in material goods), but some of the competitive advantage of pollution is reduced.

    When you start looking at the specifics, you need to know a lot of unknowables. Given a certain amount of pollution, how long is the environment sustainable? How long does the environment have to be sustainable? It only has to last as long as the human race, but how do you estimate the lifetime of the human race? Even if you knew the answers to those questions, you'd then have to determine if you can even get there from here? How high can energy prices get (either through supply and demand or artificially through taxes) before it's too expensive to sustain a population that keeps increasing?

    Realistically, pollution and energy sources just might be limitations on how long the human race can live, just like cancer and other diseases put a limit on how long one individual human can live. You can do things to extend the lifetime of the human race, but you can't make it immortal.
  14. Apr 28, 2005 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In my state (Arizona) we have a nuclear power plant and provider (APS) for electricity. When the plant was built (very costly and took years) certain areas were determined to be serviced by APS versus the original provider (SRP), which generates electricity from dams. People actually purchased homes in part based on the area provider--SRP being cheaper. Aside from the nuclear power being more expensive, the plant produces hazardous waste in comparison to the dams.

    Still, even if one gets past these kinds of comparisons, the scenario only addresses electricity. The big polluters are automobiles, and not just from burning fossil fuel, but loss of freon from air conditioners (leaks and frequent automobile accidents). So when I think of the environment, I am more concerned about alternative transportation than I am my electric bill, and wondering how nuclear plants are supposed to address this problem.
  15. Apr 28, 2005 #14


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Yes but the dams produce downstream silting, which endangers the environment, which nukes don't. There is NO power source that is environmentally safe, scalable to high powers, and utterly without medical effects.
  16. Apr 28, 2005 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Great--I hadn't thought about that! :frown: Have you seen the turbines that can be placed on river bottoms--these kind of look like miniature windmills?
  17. Apr 28, 2005 #16
    You mjight want to investigate the concept of head as it pertains to hydropower.
  18. Apr 28, 2005 #17


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yes, that's it--thanks. But it made me think this could only be used in rivers upstream from a dam or where there are no dams at all due to silting.
  19. Apr 28, 2005 #18
    selfAdjoint, is that thread on IFR still around? I can hunt for it myself, I was just wondering if maybe it was deleted or where I should look for it.

    You're right, getting rid of the fossil fuel plants wont get rid of the greenhouse effect or the other large scale environmental problems but it should help out the people who live in the vecinity of these plants.
    As for automobiles, they are already pushing for hybrids and hydrogen cell batteries but they still need to get the energy from somewhere if not from gasoline. If we don't have an alternative energy source to charge those batteries we'll still be using fossil fuels to power our cars it will just be indirectly. So theoretically if everyone gets on the ball in the differant sectors of energy usage eventually we should be able to ween ourselves off of the fossil fuels and it would seem that nuclear would be the quickest route.
  20. Apr 29, 2005 #19
    I do not know what you mean.

    Do you mean microhydro or the specific variation on microhydro that you were previously referring to that involved zero head?

    Dams, to my knowledge, do not cause downsteam silting. Therefore, you might profitably use it downstream if whatever you are referring to is sensitive to silt. Upstream of dams there is no current -- and therefore no chance for hydropower -- unless you go upstream a long way.
  21. Apr 29, 2005 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It is a form of hydropower. But after reading more on those sites, I couldn't find anything to show the same concept as was shown in the TV program. It was many small windmills installed into riverbeds.
    My question on silting was in response to selfAdjoint's post, and if silting is a problem, it would seem the new concept I saw would need to be a distance away from dams, or as you say a long way upstream to even have a sufficient current.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook