Transition Whatcom

Hello all,

I'm new to this group and in all honesty joined as much for the discussion with thoughtful, discerning individuals as the concept itself. I hope to share some ideas and insight and gain some as well. Challenging one another is what makes us grow so I hope you'll both challenge me and welcome the challenges I present. So I'll get right to it. I watched the Rob Hokpins video and spent some time checking out a good portion of this sight. While I completely agree with the fact that we are going to need to change our lifestyles in the face of peak oil I have a concern I'd love to hear responses to. As I understand it, this Transition is proposing we shift our culture as it exists today to one that is not reliant on fossil fuels but instead uses sustainable energy, local food sources, etc. to make for a more "resilient" community. However, as long as we still operate within a profit based monetary system there will always be scarcity, for scarcity (or perceived scarcity) is the single best friend of profit. So what's to motivate any company, be it a clean energy company, a local farm, etc. to actually try to make human basic needs (housing, energy, food, water) abundant? History has shown that the opposite has always been true in a profit system; the bottom line is, no pun intended, the bottom line. Profit ALWAYS comes before social concern in a profit system, ALWAYS. Hence Problems & Scarcity = Profit. It seems that while Transition is working for a great cause, it is actually treating a symptom, not the root problem. Is this acceptable and is every member of this group ok with that? Or am I missing something entirely? I'd love to hear feedback.

- Ethan

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A revolution absolutely does NOT have to include violence of any sort. A peaceful revolution is the only revolution I'm seeking, but a revolution no less. And no, I'm not just talking about "revolutionary acts", I'm talking about a full scale shift in consciousness. I believe it's possible and I have reason to believe we'll see it happen within the next fifty years, with any luck much sooner.

Just to throw a monkeywrench into the other discussion going on here: what if the sauerkraut was made entirely by machines and computers? Sound crazy? It's not that far off. How does that change the economics of the situation. Value of a good is generally determined by A) Scarcity and B) Human Labor. What if abundance was possible and the human labor required was minimized almost to nothing? And to go back to yet another earlier point about people's jobs; what happens when most relevant jobs are being done by robots? Also not that far off. (By "relevant" I mean jobs that actually contribute something to society as opposed to "legal assistants", "advertising executives", etc.) These are issues nobody wants to face but the fact is it's happening right now. Some statistics for you:

"In 1949, machines did 6% of the cotton picking in the South. By 1972, 100% of
the cotton picking was done by machines. When automation hit the US Manufacturing Sector in
the 1950s, 1.6 million blue-collar jobs were lost in 9 years. In 1860, 60% of America worked in
Agriculture, while today it is less than 3%. In 1950, 33% of US workers worked in Manufacturing,
while by 2002 there was only 10%. The US steel industry, from 1982 to 2002 increased production
from 75m tons to 120m tons, while steel workers went from 289,000 to 74,000.

In 2003, Alliance Capital did a study of the world’s largest 20 economies at that time, ranging from
the period of 1995 to 2002, finding that 31 million manufacturing jobs were lost, while production
rose by 30%.

So… where have those jobs gone? - The Service Sector. From 1950 to 2002, the percentage of Americans employed in the service industries went from 59% to 82%. For the last 50 years, the service sector has been absorbing the job losses from Agriculture and Manufacturing. Unfortunately, this pattern is slowing fast as computerized automation takes hold. From 1983-1993, banks cut 37% of their human tellers, and by the year 2000, 90% of all bank customers used teller machines (ATMs). Business phone operators have almost all been replaced by computerized voice answering systems, post office tellers are being replaced by self-service machines, while cashiers are being replaced by computerized kiosks. McDonalds, for example, has been talking about full automation of its restaurants for many years now, introducing Kiosks to replace the front of house
staff, while using automated cooking tools, such as burger flippers, for the back of house staff. The
fact that they haven’t done so is likely a public relations issue, for they know how many jobs would
be cut in the event they did automate.

There isn’t one area of the Service Industry that isn’t being affected by computerized automation. In
fact, if one was to think creatively about the application of technology that currently exists, but is not
yet applied to the service sector, it is easy to see how, almost overnight, the majority of all service jobs could be phased out today, starting with tellers, cashiers, waiters, and phone operators." (Zeitgeist Orientation Guide Pg. 31-32, all footnoted there if you want to check sources)

So how do we handle this? Seems to me the way we think of economics is going to have to fundamentally change and what I'm hearing sounds like an attempt to tweak what we have in a world where tweaking isn't going to be adequate. If goods have almost no "value" due to abundance and low human labor requirements, how does anyone make a living? Furthermore, how do those same people pay for anything when they aren't making a living? It's happening right now folks, just look at the real unemployment numbers (no, the numbers to government publishes aren't real for a multitude of reasons). Just last month Obama said the "economy actually grew for the first time in a while yet we lost another 100,000 jobs". Think about that - this trend isn't going to change. Everyone keeps saying we need to grow the economy to create jobs but historical data over the past 100 years shows economies grow inversely to employment - this is obvious when you think about it, machines and computers outperform/outproduce us in just about every sector and this is only going to continue at an ever increasing rate.
Creation of life, and the beauty & abundance in nature is a magnificent mystery.
I love a good mystery.
May I stand in gratitude & awe of this mystery on this short walk I have on earth.

What can we as humans do to maintain the living health & beauty on this planet we care for?

In ecological terms of Economy, the "ultimate source of energy for life in the physical world is light from the sun" (1) . Plants have the ability to absorb light and capture its energy. The plants combine their sugar molecules with CO2 and H2O, and within those chemical bonds, energy is stored or locked up. Plants then use the nourishment & energy within these chemical compounds to grow their tissues & for their maintenance functions. In using their stored energy, they recycle or release back into their environment CO2, H2O, nitrates phosphates, etc.

Plants also help create soil, and also recycle water locally through their leaves evaporation process. When a forest is cut, most of ecosystem's water that normally would have cycled through evaporation, instead flows down river to the sea. In many regions, especially the tropics, this then results in a drying trend within the local climate. "The interdependence of the physical & biological realms is the basis of the ecosystem concept in ecology" (1).

Plants (plus algae & seaweed), are the 'primary producers 'on this planet. We as humans are ecologically always the "consumers", along with all the other plant eaters like insects & animals.
How can we move towards caring for ourselves, our family & neighbors, and the earth in a way that recognizes our ability to either harm or enhance the health & diversity of our environment?

" Energy flux is the only sound Currency in the Economics of Ecosystem function; - biomass and numbers are static descriptions of the community frozen in an instant of time. The dynamics of the community are measured in terms of change -- rates of energy & nutrient transferal from organism to organism through the structure of the food web.
The unique status of energy as an ecological currency has greatly stimulated the study of community energetics." (1)

(1)-selected quotes from - The Economy of Nature - Robert Ricklefs (pg 10,13, 142)
* * * * * * * * * * *

I appreciate the depth & respect that is often being expressed in these discussions!

I have noticed that I require much less energy to survive while living in the warm/wet tropics, eating from an edible forest & taro fields & sea, then when I live in these temperate latitudes, obtaining food from my garden & farmer's market's providing annual edible crops that do not provide as much carbon matter or nutrient recycling as a forest does. There are many organic gardeners & ecological farmers, that are moving towards creating & caring for perennial edible forest-gardens, that might just provide both nourishment for our bodies & souls, and also reduce our energy & pollution & carbon footprints on the earth.

"... when we finally know we are dying,
and all other sentient beings are dying with us,
we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense
of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being,
and from this can grow a deep, clear,
limitless compassion for all beings." - Sogyal Rinpoche


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

David MacLeod said:
Excellent discussion here, with much food for thought. Transition certainly recognizes that our economic systems are unsustainable and must transition to something else. What that something else is is for all of us to figure out as we go through this process.

I don't think the problem is 'profit' so much as an obsession with growth. Growth is perfectly natural for young systems in nature, but at a certain point it can become suicidal. I think we all agree that exponential growth at some point is not sustainable on a planet with finite resources (ancient sunlight) and a limited supply of 1 renewable resource (current sunlight).

....
Ethan - There isn't going to be endless abundance because there aren't endless natural resources to make it out of, nor are there endless energy sources, near term, to make it with. What most people will be doing, a few decades hence, is raising food and a few related jobs.

In that case, we don't need a revolutionary new economics. If anything, in my opinion, we need fewer people or more fertile land to compensate for the lower productivity of sustainable agriculture.

We are discussing how the very old tools of economic analysis will or will not apply under those circumstances. I think they’ll do just fine - within limits imposed by nature. Others disagree. But I'm not sayin that the entire existing economic reality, including endless expansion, should be presereved. It is just various elements of economic analysis that will continue to be relevant.
There aren't endless sources of energy?! I hate to keep quoting the Zeitgeist Orientation Guide but this research has been done and proves quite the contrary. Let's not be making statements that simply ignore reality, that gets us nowhere except perhaps deluded.

"Energy is the cornerstone of society today. It is one of the most critical factors to all social functionality. The availability of renewable energy resources must first be accessed before anything else. Luckily, the results are staggeringly positive. By the early 21st century, a sea of renewable energy sources have been coming to the surface, many with extreme potential, far exceeding the requirements of the current human population. The age of Oil and fossil fuels, along with all the resulting pollution, is coming to a close. There is no reason to burn fossil fuels at all anymore, other than the profit oriented, vested interest which keeps new energy prospects at bay. Remember, the last thing the Energy Industry wants is abundance, for that translates into a loss of profits in the monetary system.

Now, one of the most important energy sources to recognize today is Geothermal Power. A 2006 MIT report on geothermal energy found that 13,000 zettajoules of power are currently available in the earth, with the possibility of 2000 zettajoules being easily tap-able with improved technology. The total energy consumption of all the countries on the planet is about half of a zettajoule a year, this means about 4000 years of planetary power could be harnessed in this medium alone. And when we understand that the earth’s heat generation is constantly renewed, this energy is really limitless and could be used forever.

Geothermal aside, Solar, Wind, Wave and Tidal energy sources also offer powerful possibilities if harnessed efficiently with technology. The solar radiation striking the Earth's surface each year is more than 10,000 times the world's energy use. The problem then is not availability - it is the technology to harness it most efficiently. From simple photovoltaic panels that can capture energy into storage batteries for private use, to full scale solar power plants, new technology is constantly emerging which is improving this potential. Wind power, while often denounced as weak and impractical, is a lot more powerful than most people think. U.S. department of Energy studies have concluded wind harvested in the Great Plains states of Texas, Kansas, and North Dakota could provide enough electricity to power the entire nation. More impressively, a 2005 Stanford University study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research found that if only 20% of the wind potential on the planet was harnessed, it would cover the entire world’s energy needs.
And then there is Tidal and Wave Power. Tidal Power is derived from tidal shifts in the ocean. Installing turbines, which capture this movement, generates energy. Tapping the flow of the Gulf Stream, Icelandic current and other underwater currents can be harnessed. In the United Kingdom, sites are currently noted as available, forecasting that 34% of all the UK’s energy could come from Tidal Power alone. More effectively, Wave Power, which extracts energy from the surface motions of the ocean, is estimated to have a global potential of up to 80,000 TWH a year. This means 50% of the entire planet’s energy usage could be produced from this single medium.

It is important to point out that tidal, wave, solar and wind power require virtually no preliminary energy to harness, unlike coal, oil coal,
gas, biomass, hydrogen and all the others.

The fact is, energy is nothing but abundant on this planet. The only reason people today think it is scarce, is because of the monetary/capitalist system and its strategic propensity to create scarcity." (again, Zeitgeist Orientation Guide pg. 39-40, fully cited)

I feel like people are making assertions without really understanding the science or facts required to make such assertions. Since this is probably the third time I've cited the Zeitgeist Orientation Guide perhaps some of you out there would care to read it - most of what we're talking about has been heavily addressed and accounted for already. It can be downloaded here: http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/The%20Zeitgeist%20Movement.pdf. I would highly suggest reading this to gain some insight into where we really are today.

Some of these discussions seem to be going exactly the wrong way talking about "getting back" to something...we have to move forward and that absolutely must take into account where we are going, not only where we came from. And where we are going includes machines, computers, robots, nanotechnology, etc. To deny this is perilous and folly to say the least. Let's make sure our facts are straight before we start making statements like "energy isn't abundant", otherwise we risk preparing for a world that simply isn't based on reality.
I certainly respect everyone's opinion out there but there are facts that are not based on opinion, they're facts - and those facts must be treated as such.
Walter - Part of your concept appears to be that capital is captured energy, and sustainable capital is captured energy of sunlight, net of the energy cost of the materials and labor involved in capturing it. That would explain your earlier comments about thermodynamics trumping economics. I hadn’t viewed things that way previously and I appreciate the enlightenment. (Pun intended.)

From a conservation of energy perspective, I can see that my sauerkraut example was a bad one. I take your point that economic value added is always net energy subtracted. But I would simply suggest that the energy loss may just be a cost of doing business – where the business is living - and, for a few products, it must be paid.

My point is that people need more than just food. In particular, they also need at least shelter and clothing. And inescapably, that means value added products (unless the genetic engineers go wild). For example, if you grow wheat and use the wheat straw as a building material, and the wheat itself for human food, and the wheat stubble as animal feed, and the animals fertilize the field, you have a fairly energy efficient process. Even if the process ends up with a net energy loss, it doesn’t matter. If it minimizes the energy cost of providing an essential building material, there isn’t any choice.

Moreover, in the above scenario, processing the wheat into flour might be essential to wring the maximum energy from the original plant. In other words, the question becomes whether the energy cost of the milling is less than the energy value of the flour. If it is, you should make flour. But if it isn’t, I guess you’re better off to downcycle the grain – or maybe make beer.

So there are going to be value added products. The next question is who will make them. As you mentioned, the NABC champions the farmer-do-it-yourself approach. I presume that is partly because small farmers find it difficult to deal with large processors just as they do large retailers. But that might not always be the case.
Small specialist processors – millers, tanners, weavers, smiths, sprouted so widely in the previous low energy economy that I have to believe there are efficiencies to be gained by such specialization. Might not such activities rise again? If so, as soon as there are specialists there will be trade. And that means people will be inclined to buy cheap and sell dear, in the grand old tradition, as they seek (forgive me) to maximize their individual utility.

The conclusion of this discussion is that the energy environment establishes the bounds of what is sustainable and what is not, as you describe. But within those bounds I believe there will still be activity that can be analyzed, and perhaps even predicted, on the basis of conventional economic theory. What you are saying and what I’ve been saying are not incompatible.

I'm coming to a chapter on "green econonmics" in this "Prosperity Without Growth" document. Maybe that will change my mind...
Ethan - In fact I did read one of the Zeitgeist documents after you first mentioned it. It is an appealing argument, but in my humble opinion you should seek a critical review of that stuff.

What you (and they) I guess are saying is that technology will save us again. Maybe. You are perhaps too young to recall the claims a few decades ago that nuclear power would be too cheap to meter. So yes, geothermal is promising, but I think I'll plant my garden this spring anyway.
By all means do. As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I started an organic garden ourselves last year - it's a very rewarding and challenging experience, I know you'll enjoy it immensely. Regarding technology saving us, no I'm not saying technology will save us - technology has no "will" of it's own. It is up to us to decide what we do with technology. What I'm saying is that we must acknowledge and understand what technology is currently available or will be available in the near future. Once we understand what the possibilities for use of this technology are (and only then) can we determine how we're going to shape our society because our society is, after all, completely dependent on technology.

The fact that nuclear power didn't "save the world" is no surprise at all - giving everyone free energy would be completely counterproductive in a profit system. For that matter, the fact that energy is abundant makes absolutely no difference as long as it's being sold for profit. The fact is, we must change our entire way of thinking about economics if we are to prosper as a human race - there is far too much at stake at this point to continue to say "well it didn't work before therefore it won't work now or in the future". Just trying to fathom the ramifications of Kurzweil's singularity theory for instance, leaves one's head spinning with the understanding that things are going to change beyond our comprehension whether we like it or not. The rational way to proceed then must be to accept that we as a species will be undergoing unparalleled transformation over the next several decades and it would behoove us to steer that transformation in as positive a direction as possible while throwing out irrelevant statements like "it's never worked before". Because this isn't before, it's now, and things are changing literally by the minute.

To base our future on our past has very limited usefulness and can be quite dangerous. My earlier point however was simply to clarify what is, and abundant energy is; scarcity is an illusion perpetuated by those selling what is "scarce". As long as we keep telling ourselves scarcity is real, it will continue to be so. We have to break out of this mentality and begin demanding that all resources on this planet belong to everyone, not just the corporations who bribe and blackmail governments into allowing them to hold the rest of the planet hostage while they control the supply. In effect, planting a garden is one of the best things you can do - you're telling Monsanto for example, that you're not going to keep buying their poisonous "food". Bravo. Likewise, if you ride a bike you're telling the oil companies you're not going to contribute to their power hold; and perhaps most importantly, if you stop spending money (or in most people's cases, borrowing it) you're sending a message with your actions that you're not going to support a system that exploits the many for the benefit of very few.

To get back to my earlier statement; this is the revolution I seek. No bloodshed, no violence, no war. Just a complete lack of support for a system that is entirely inappropriate for the 21st century. This is done firstly through communication and education and discussion just like this. But we cannot go around saying "it will never happen" or "it hasn't worked before" or it will be doomed before it even begins and "they" win, which in the long run, means we all lose. Once half this country is unemployed because we've been replaced my more efficient machines (we're getting there quick), there will simply be nobody to support this insane system because we won't have any money to cyclically consume...it's really just a matter of time.
I was watching "Democracy Now" for 1/4/10 and the president of Greece was also saying we need to transition from a capitalist economic system to one that holds greater concern for the planet and our fellow beings and less concern with accumulating paper asset wealth. Unfortunately, we voters world wide are always drawn to the candidate promising prosperity. Somehow the candidate promising that we will all get along and level the playing field never gets much traction.
How do you think this applies to one's mortgage, since housing costs are generally one's largest expense? If you stop paying it, are you saying that you refuse to support the banks who have been paid off in advance of doing anything in particular for their money, in support of creating an economic system that supports housing for all?

Ethan D'Onofrio said:
We have to break out of this mentality and begin demanding that all resources on this planet belong to everyone, not just the corporations who bribe and blackmail governments into allowing them to hold the rest of the planet hostage while they control the supply. In effect, planting a garden is one of the best things you can do - you're telling Monsanto for example, that you're not going to keep buying their poisonous "food". Bravo. Likewise, if you ride a bike you're telling the oil companies you're not going to contribute to their power hold; and perhaps most importantly, if you stop spending money (or in most people's cases, borrowing it) you're sending a message with your actions that you're not going to support a system that exploits the many for the benefit of very few.
Ethan D'Onofrio said:
There aren't endless sources of energy?! I hate to keep quoting the Zeitgeist Orientation Guide but this research has been done and proves quite the contrary. Let's not be making statements that simply ignore reality, that gets us nowhere except perhaps deluded. ...I feel like people are making assertions without really understanding the science or facts required to make such assertions. Since this is probably the third time I've cited the Zeitgeist Orientation Guide perhaps some of you out there would care to read it - most of what we're talking about has been heavily addressed and accounted for already...


...I certainly respect everyone's opinion out there but there are facts that are not based on opinion, they're facts - and those facts must be treated as such.

Ethan,

Please consider the possibility that others here that express opinions that don't entirely line up with yours may just possibly have done a lot of homework on the topic. I encourage you to find some alternative viewpoints outside of the Zeitgeist realm that are well reasoned and supported. Consider them carefully, trying to maintain an open mind that is willing to change if that's where the evidence leads. "Facts" can be slippery things that get colored by previously held opinions and beliefs, and you are as susceptible to that danger as much as the rest of us.

Energy literacy is pretty low in our culture, and we all could use some boning up on the topic. A key consideration is understanding net energy, or energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). "This measure focuses on the key question: All things considered, how much more energy does a system produce than is required to develop and operate that system? What is the ratio of energy in versus energy out?" That's why I was recommending the link to Odum's article, and his books Energy Basis for Man and Nature (out of print, but you can find used copies online), and A Prosperous Way Down, which is available at the Bellingham Public Library.

One source to check out with an alternative viewpoint to yours is a recent pdf publication available online, called "Searching For A Miracle: Net Energy Limits and the Fate of Industrial Society"

"THIS REPORT IS INTENDED as a non-technical examination of a basic question: Can any combination of known energy sources successfully supply society’s energy needs at least up to the year 2100? In the end, we are left with the disturbing conclusion that all known energy sources are subject to strict limits of one kind or another. Conventional energy sources such as oil, gas, coal, and nuclear are either at or nearing the limits of their ability to grow in annual supply, and will dwindle as the decades proceed—but in any case they are unacceptably hazardous to the environment. And contrary to the hopes of many, there is no clear practical scenario by which we can replace the energy from today’s conventional sources with sufficient energy from alternative sources to sustain industrial society at its present scale of operations. To achieve such a transition would require (1) a vast financial investment beyond society’s practical abilities, (2) a very long time—too long in practical terms—for build-out, and (3) significant sacrifices in terms of energy quality and reliability.

Perhaps the most significant limit to future energy supplies is the “net energy” factor—the requirement that energy systems yield more energy than is invested in their construction and operation. There is a strong likelihood that future energy systems, both conventional and alternative, will have higher energy input costs than those that powered industrial societies during the last century.We will come back to this point repeatedly.

The report explores some of the presently proposed energy transition scenarios, showing why, up to this time, most are overly optimistic, as they do not address all of the relevant limiting factors to the expansion of alternative energy sources. Finally, it shows why energy conservation (using less energy, and also less resource materials) combined with humane, gradual population decline must become primary strategies for achieving sustainability."

Download the report here:
http://www.postcarbon.org/report/44377-searching-for-a-miracle
Walter wrote:
Tris – Per your sauerkraut example of buying sustainably-grown cabbage as the raw commodity, if the sauerkraut maker increases the energy value of cabbage by his/her input AND the output is higher than the input, it will be sustainable. I find that unlikely. Sauerkraut has value as a food and as a cultural item, but it is not sustainable. …There is a significant amount of shredding involved in making sauerkraut, so if my raw material cost is nearly equal the retail price, there is no compensation for the time and energy used in shredding the cabbage, nor the time for daily skimming and packing the kraut. If on the other hand, the sauerkraut maker does not pay a fair price for the cabbage (say 25 cents per pound), then the farmer is forced to use petroleum energy, economies of scale, and maybe even exploit his/her workers to sell cabbage at a low price.

The same goes for the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. If they start with sustainably produced inputs and their work is completed with mostly manual and animal labor and with any additional energy collected efficiently from current sunlight, they certainly could be sustainable IF their inputs are lower than their outputs. I find this unlikely. The upshot is that value-added products are value-added because they are measured in cultural or economic terms. I like sauerkraut, so I make my own. I add value because I like sauerkraut. Nevertheless, I am adding more energy into making the kraut without adding extra calories. The process of making kraut is entropic. Likewise with every other secondary industry. There is an awful lot of energy use involved in value-added products.
Tris wrote:
From a conservation of energy perspective, I can see that my sauerkraut example was a bad one. I take your point that economic value added is always net energy subtracted. But I would simply suggest that the energy loss may just be a cost of doing business – where the business is living - and, for a few products, it must be paid.

My point is that people need more than just food. In particular, they also need at least shelter and clothing. And inescapably, that means value added products (unless the genetic engineers go wild). For example, if you grow wheat and use the wheat straw as a building material, and the wheat itself for human food, and the wheat stubble as animal feed, and the animals fertilize the field, you have a fairly energy efficient process. Even if the process ends up with a net energy loss, it doesn’t matter. If it minimizes the energy cost of providing an essential building material, there isn’t any choice.


The above points by Walter and Tris are both very important considerations. I started to paying attention to Howard Odum last summer when I was reading David Holmgren, especially his article on “Energy and Permaculture,” which I turned into a Powerpoint presentation for the Permaculture Convergence. Holmgren points out some basic energy concepts, including: 1) All processes involve degradation of energy – there is always some energy lost as waste, due to the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy); 2) However, a proportion of the total energy can be upgraded to more concentrated forms of energy that are capable of doing more work. Energy quality can be improved, even if the total amount of energy available has been reduced in this process. 3) There are many kinds of high quality energy, and 4) we must consider embodied energy when considering what is sustainable.

When Tris talks about “value-added” I think in some sense it can be considered a higher quality of energy, even if the net calories of energy that can be measured is less than the energy invested. The value of a book, as Odum points out, can’t be measured by the amount of heat it generates when the book is burned.
“Many kinds of high-quality energy are required for complex work. We tend to think of the energy requirements of a process only as fuel, ignoring human work and contribution of materials. These often involve more energy than the fuels. In running a motor car, the fuel is about 60% of the total energy consumed.

Odum goes on to explain... "The energies involved in the long chain of converging works supporting processes such as educational activities is very large. The total energy required for a product is the embodied energy of that product... The embodied energy of a book is very large compared with the heat energy that would be obtained if the book were burned. For clarity in energy accounting, embodied energy should be expressed as calories of one type of energy such as solar equivalents or coal equivalents."
Many energy studies done by apparently qualified persons and taken seriously by policymakers fail to take account of the simple fact that a calorie of low-quality energy cannot do the same work as a calorie of high quality energy. Consequently completely erroneous conclusions are frequently reached. Such problems have afflicted both high- and low-tech proposals. Nuclear power may be the greatest exarnple of an energy "source" which actually uses and/or degrades more humanly usable energy than it produces. Solar, wind, and biofuel technologies, while appropriate for the use of already embodied energies will never sustain high-energy industrial culture without fossil fuel subsidy.

Computer technologies may similarly be appropriate to make use of manufacturing and network capacity already in place but are in reality very energy expensive due to the very large embodied energy. “
- From Energy and Permaculture by David Holmgren
- http://www.permacultureactivist.net/Holmgren/holmgren.htm
Thanks for the link David, I'm reading the report now - looks very interesting. I hate to say it but I think I see a Kindle in my future with the amount of PDFs piling up on my desktop.

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