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Friday, November 9, 2007

Making Electric Cars Practical, by Jim Hasper, Guest Blogger

I feel that the only way to significantly reduce CO 2 emissions is to completely stop burning fossil fuels. The way to do this is to move to a total electric and hydrogen fuel economy. As a registered professional engineer who has worked extensively with industrial furnaces, I can tell you that there are very, very, few industrial processes that absolutely require the burning of fossil fuel. Most could be served by electric heating. Those that absolutely require combustion could use hydrogen as a fuel. The hydrogen, in turn, could be produced through the electrolysis of water. Facilities for doing this could be located in proximity to major users, so long distance transportation of the hydrogen would not be necessary. That leaves only the industries that use fossil fuels as a feed stock for producing materials such as plastics and lubricants. Even here, the actual processing could be done with electricity or hydrogen, so that the fossil fuels would not have to be burned.

Of course, generating this much electricity would be a problem. Even now, coal fired plants produce most of the electricity and also produce a large portion, if not most, of the CO 2. Converting to wind, water, or solar power are the ultimate answers, but these will require a long time to develop sufficient capacity to entirely replace coal. As an interim measure, I support using nuclear power. These plants could be built relatively rapidly and would greatly reduce the CO 2 emissions. Air pollution from these is far, far, less than from coal fired plants. As far as the hazardous waste, the physical amounts are relatively small and I'm sure that means could be developed, given the will, to safely handle them.

Automobiles are another major source of CO 2 emissions. Even hybrid vehicles still emit sizeable amounts of CO 2. Again the answer is the use of all-electric vehicles. Motor and battery designs have improved to the point that an all-electric vehicle is or soon will be feasible. One of the drawbacks, however, is the time needed to recharge the battery.

I have an idea that would eliminate this problem. My idea is very simple - design the vehicle with an easy-to-remove battery pack and encourage all manufacturers to use a common design for this component. Different sizes would be needed for the various types of vehicles, but all vehicles of the same type should use a common design. When the battery needs to be recharged, the user will drive into (or land at) a filling station, where his discharged battery will be removed and replaced with a freshly charged one. The design would permit this to be done in less than a minute - open the access door, release the clamping mechanism, and slide the discharged battery out. Repeat the procedure to install the freshly charged battery. The handling mechanism for the batteries would permit this to be done with a minimum of manual labor.

The user would pay only for the electricity stored in the freshly charged battery, not for the battery itself. He would also receive credit for any electricity remaining in a partially-discharged battery. The program would work similar to that used for the sale of propane for grills. - you initially buy just one tank, then just drop it off at the suppliers store when empty and pick up a filled one, paying only for the propane in the tank.
The vending company would stock a supply of the various sizes (probably only a few needed) of batteries. Batteries would eventually become un-rechargeable, but the replacement cost would be born by the vendor and would be recouped over time as a small portion of the cost for a freshly-charged battery, again similar to the cost of eventually replacing a propane tank. Batteries that were obviously damaged, as in a collision, would not be accepted for trade.

How would the needed network of such stations be developed? Either by some ambitious entrepreneur or in the same way that the network of gasoline stations was developed after the invention of the automobile. General stores first carried small quantities of gasoline for the few cars in existence. As the cars become more common, specialized filling stations developed. As entrepreneurs discovered that filling stations were profitable, more and more stations were developed. Eventually, the oil companies discovered that there was additional money to be made in retailing the fuel that they formerly only wholesaled, and began building their own stations and buying up the privately owned ones. The rest is history, as they say.

I began writing about this in April of this year. Just a week ago, I heard that Shai Agassi, the former head of the product and technology group at SAP, the business software developer, is planning to do exactly this. Not that I'm claiming any credit for his idea, but I am very pleased to see that someone is getting serious about this.

Click for Earthchurch website.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Diversity Within Earthchurch

I'm only talking about diversity of ecological footprints. Let's call them EF's for short. A person's EF is the total of all of his impacts on the biosphere. For example, when you sit in your warm home in the winter, there is some fuel being burned to generate the heat. The burning of the fuel puts some contaminants into the air. And so on. Our EF is a composite of many things. Automobile and aircraft use are important components, but so are many things that we don't even see, such as the diesel powered ships that transport the goods from China. When you buy a nice shirt that was made in China or Indonesia, some pollution was enabled, since a diesel ship and then a truck was used to bring it to you. Of course there was energy used to manufacture the shirt, and the cloth from which it was made. Laundry, especially the drying, also uses a lot of energy.

Within our Earthchurch group we have a wide diversity of ecological footprints. In my opinion we need to welcome them all. We have two people who have a very low EF. They have a lifestyle based on walking and bicycling, and a minimum of purchasing new things. Jay wrote about that when we were discussing saving money and helping the planet. At the other end we have some members who have a high EF lifestyle, living in large homes, putting lots of miles on large vehicles, taking a couple of plane trips each year, and buying lots of stuff. The rest of us are spread across the EF spectrum. My own EF is in the middle, perhaps a little less than the north American average. That's mostly because I'm retired and don't drive to work every day. I own a small car, but I also walk and bicycle quite a bit. I don't buy a lot of stuff. I haven't flown since April of 2001, but that's because it's become such a hassle. I hate waiting in lines. Also, I like it where I am.

We need members all across the EF spectrum. Our long term goal is to help change the mind set of many millions of people, worldwide. That's what it will take to rescue the biosphere. If we were to restrict our membership to those who are already living a low EF life, we would fail in that endeavor. The high EF people represent the mainstream, at least in north America. Furthermore, the high EF people typically are more influential than the low EF people. Our
community leaders, of all kinds, are almost always very high EF people. This is true worldwide. An extreme example is Al Gore. He has brought his ecological message to more people than perhaps anyone, and he also lives a very high EF lifestyle.

There is no possible way that we can convince millions of people to quickly shift from a high to a low EF lifestyle. They LIKE their high EF lifestyle. So we need to take a long term approach, and hope to change things over the next decade or two, or three. The low EF people serve as an example, perhaps a model, for the direction that human beings need to move. Our members who are currently high EF can also take a long term view, and look toward lowering their
EF gradually, over the coming decades. Perhaps they will buy a small car next time. Perhaps they will install a solar water heating system. Given a long term viewpoint, there are many things they can do.


Click for Earthchurch website.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Save Money & Help the Biosphere

Things you can do that save you money while also reducing pollution and other planet harming activities:

Indoors, in the winter when you are heating the house, wear a sweater and other warm clothing, and turn the thermostat a few degrees cooler. You will save money on your heating costs. You will still be comfortable. You just have to wear more clothes in your house. That's not much of a sacrifice, is it? And a dollar saved is a dollar earned*. Another advantage, not often thought about, is that when you go outside there is less of a sudden change, so you may be less likely to catch cold or other illness.

Use less gasoline. You can do that by putting on fewer miles each year. Don't make unecessary trips, combine errands, choose closer destinations when there is a choice, etc. When it comes time to get a different car, get a smaller one, or a more fuel efficient one. When it comes time to move, move closer to where you work. Or maybe you can get a job nearer to where you live.

I asked for suggestions on this topic on our Earthchurch discussion list, and I got dozens! There are too many to list here, but here's a selection:

Take the bus instead of driving. (also, walk or bike)

If you drive, set up a rideshare system so several people can leave their cars at home.

Have an automatic thermostat that lowers temperature at night and raises it during the time you are at home.

Get up earlier and go to bed earlier, to save using electricity for light;
also get fluorescent bulbs.

Use solar barbecue instead of coal, gas, or electric.

Take shorter showers to use less hot water hence less energy cost.

Wash your clothes with cold water, using a cold-water detergent.

have fewer or no children

live in an apartment

buy services instead of things

repair things instead of trashing them

Get some canvas grocery bags and take them with you to the grocery store.

tell others about the things on this list


*A dollar saved is worth quite a bit more than a dollar earned, because it's tax free!
Click for Earthchurch website.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What if it was another species?

What if it was another species?

Let's just take raccoons as an example. I know this is bizarre, but
suppose we were to discover that those cute raccoons were digging up coal and oil and burning it, and were also running various industrial processes that dumped mercury and lead and hundreds of chemicals into the air, soil and water. And in addition they were cutting down huge tracts of forest, using some of the wood, burning some of it, and letting some of it rot. Furthermore, they had increased their population to over 6 billion, and were inhabiting almost every region of the globe. And finally, both their population and these activities were predicted to steadily increase. Measurements showed that the composition of the atmosphere had changed markedly. Even the seas were slightly more acid, and poisonous chemicals could be detected in them. Raccoon trash could be found on the shores of the most distant pacific isle.

How would the human race react? How would YOU react to that news?

It seems pretty clear that the raccoons would be treated as worse than rats, and we would make war on them, trying to kill as many as possible.

But, as you know, the human race is doing all of those things. Because it's us, our attitude is different. Few people will advocate killing large numbers of humans in order to protect the biosphere. Although I love the earth and its plants and animals, I also love my children and friends and myself. I want the humans and the biosphere to both survive and be healthy.

That will not be easy to achieve. The present day habits and attitudes of the dominant human cultures are leading us slowly toward catastrophe. There are potential solutions, but they are complex, and require sustained effort by all major nations. The fundamental requirement is to change peoples attitudes and expectations, even aspirations. If most people in the world struggle to acquire a large vehicle and a large home we cannot avoid the catastrophe. Although science and technology played a major role in creating the problem, they are essential ingredients for solution.

I'm hoping that Earthchurch will help to change peoples attitudes, and to support the required technological innovations.



Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mystery & Spirit

Since we use the word "church", people will expect us to have some ideas about spirituality. Well, we don't have an official position about this subject. Each individual member is free to have whatever point of view they choose.

My personal point of view is that yes, something exists outside of what is studied by science, and you may use the word "spiritual" to describe it, but no one really knows anything about it, other than their own personal experience. I think these personal experiences should be respected, without forgetting that they are personal experiences. But that's just my personal viewpoint.

If our church needs a point of view, I recommend the acceptance of
mystery. As I see it, each of us is surrounded by mystery, we are
immersed in it, swimming in it. Most of the time we don't think about it, but we don't really know or understand why the world is the way it is, or what causes it, what lies behind it. Science provides us with a great deal of information about the physical world, but it cannot answer these fundamental questions. It's important to point out that traditional religion is also unable to provide satisfactory answers. When you say: "God made the universe.", it immediately suggests the question: "How did God come to be?". Whatever answer you give to that question could simply be applied to the first question, without bringing in the God hypothesis.

We might also recommend certain practices that are often associated with spirituality, such as meditation. I meditate fairly regularly. I do it because it seems to help me to function better, and also as an attempt to be in direct contact with the mystery.



Monday, September 17, 2007

What's in a name?

Shakespeare's Juliet said: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Thus our organization could be the same irrespective of it's name. However, in practice, most people are not as wise as Juliet, and names do have an influence, especially when a new organization is being built from scratch from the ground up. A few of our members have objected to the word "church". I sympathize with them; I'm not a fan of churches in general, but we have not found a better word. We need an organization that can grow very large if we want to influence governments and corporation to take good care of our biosphere. And we probably need to impact people's world view, because materialism and the dedication to economic growth is a key part of the problem.

There are problems with any name. I googled on Earth Fellowship
and found several organizations using those words in various
combinations. The ones I looked at were all associated with pagan
and/or Wiccan beliefs, which is somewhat different than what we are into.

Some of our members are Humanists, and many humanists are atheists, with a strong anti-religious bias. But "humanist" does not automatically imply a strong anti-religious attitude. I consider myself a humanist, but I'm not opposed to all religious beliefs. I'm opposed to any kind of fundamentalism, including dogmatic, devout atheism. The truth is that there is a lot that we don't know, and probably a lot that we are incapable of knowing. I like the quote from J.B.S Haldane: he said something like "The universe is not only stranger than we know, it is stranger than we CAN know."

Einstein was a humanist, yet he had a religious view, in the broad or
general sense. He was in awe of the universe. He often used the word
"god". He seems to have believed in god as a mysterious unknowable
permeating the the universe. I suppose you could say he was a
pantheist. I would have no trouble calling myself a pantheist. Many
famous scientists have had views similar to this. And of course many
were Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhists or Hindus.


P.S.: On Oct 10 we changed our name to "Earthchurch". (From "Church of Earth")


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Confession & Brief Book Review

I recently finished reading "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. Excellent and very unusual book! It's about the human race and the biosphere, but not a detailed prescription of what to do or not do. It's about the story that the human race is enacting. This story is explained to a human student by a genius gorilla!

The confession is that, in my previous blog article, I took credit for the idea that mankind is waging war on the biosphere. Well, I actually got that idea from the book, Ishmael. It's the war analogy that's new. Prior to reading Ishmael I would have said that man is fouling his own nest, or something similar.

Anyway, I found the book inspiring, entertaining, and consciousness
raising. I don't want to say more for fear of being a spoiler. I suggest
you read the book first without reading more about it. But if you want to read reviews there are lots of them already on the internet. Just google "reviews of ishmael".



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

At War with the Biosphere

The biosphere, AKA Gaia, is the blanket of living things that covers the planet earth. It consists of trillions of organisms, of millions of
species of plants, animals, fungi and microbes that permeate the soil, the air, the water and the land surface.

It occurred to me recently that humankind is at war with the biosphere. This is a really dumb thing for us to be doing, because we are part of the biosphere, and we depend on it for survival. It MIGHT be possible for us to survive after eliminating most of the biosphere, but that's not at all certain. At present, green plants supply the oxygen that we breath, and that we use to burn our fossil fuels. We eat living things, plants and animals, although not many wild ones, except for seafood. But we need bees to spread pollen for many of our crops. We need earthworms to loosen and aerate the soil for them. And there are many other interdependencies, not all of which are even known.

Even if we can manage to survive without an intact biosphere, our lives will be much poorer without it. Imagine a planet where the only place to see the plants and animals that were formerly wild is in parks and zoos. These places of course will be extremely crowded with people, so you might have to wait an hour to see a deer in a pen. Except for the parks and zoos the land surface of the planet will be covered over with farms, solar collectors, windmill generators, and cities.

The waters will be worse. Forget about fishing, you won't be able to catch anything besides jellyfish and ugly sea creatures. The fish that we eat will all come from tanks. The worlds oceans will be full of algae.

We are waging this war primarily with 3 types of weapons of mass destruction. Fire is one, used deliberately to clear forests for planting. This is not done in the advanced countries, but is still widely practiced in the 3rd world. The second is chemical warfare. Farm runoff, mine effluent, pesticides, herbicides, smokestack emissions, and industrial chemicals are steadily polluting the air, soil and water of the planet. The third weapon is earth moving machinery, used for logging, forest clearing, mining, road building, etc.

If we want a good future for our children and grandchildren, mankind needs to change our ways.



Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Global Warming Controversy

There is no doubt that global warming is occurring. Melting polar sea
ice and glaciers worldwide proves that. There is controversy as to
how big a role human activities play in that. The IPCC report is the
most believable and authoritative assessment available; also the most credible by any objective standards. It concludes that human activities almost certainly are the major factor behind the warming.

It is a serious issue for at least two billion people worldwide, but not
this year, or next. The really serious effects are 20 years away.
These effects will be flooding of low lying regions, more hurricane
damage, more floods and droughts, and much suffering due to heat

For people who live in north America and not on the west coast,
the shit will really hit the fan when you can no longer afford your
air conditioning bills. The rising costs of energy meets the larger
need for energy, for air conditioning.

Although I regard global warming as a serious problem, I think that other environmental problems are more serious and immediate. I'm referring to deforestation, and pollution of our waters, air, and soils. These have already greatly impacted the natural world, and will be more serious in the future. Many species of plants and animals are on their way to extinction. Of course humans would also benefit from cleaner air and water.

However, the things that could be done to reduce global warming are, in many cases, the same things that could be done to reduce pollution and deforestation.



Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hijacking a Word

I would like to hijack a word, like the gays have done. The word "gay" has pretty much lost the former meaning, and is almost exclusively used to mean homosexual. There are other words that have been given new alternate meanings in our time, such as "special" and "black".

The word I want is "church". I don't want to take it over completely, just to reduce the strong ties to Christianity.

Here are the 3 meanings that Webster's Online gives for "church":

1. A group of Christians; any group professing Christian doctrine or belief; "the church is debating the issue of women priests".

2. A place for public (especially Christian) worship; "the church was empty".

3. A service conducted in a church; "don't be late for church".

The MSN online dictionary gives 6 definitions. The one that is most appropriate for us is: "2. religion's followers as group: all the followers of a religion, especially the Christian religion, considered collectively". (You can see the other definitions here: Notice that they say "especially the Christian religion", implying that the word church could apply to us if we are a religion.

The Church of Earth is supposed to be like a religion or church in several ways, but not in all ways. We are not Christian, and we don't have fixed beliefs except for a reliance on experience and science. But we want to provide most of the benefits that churches have provided in the past, especially before there was much science. So I want to bring the word and concept of Church into the scientific age.

Also, we are not exclusive. A person may retain their religion, and still be one of us. We are a social and political organization.

I don't really know how to do this except to keep stubbornly pushing. If a few thousand people would join us we might have a shot. I'm not in a big hurry.

The Unitarian church has done this, but we can't use their method. They started out as a Protestant Christian church, and then very gradually gave up the Christian part. It took them a very long time. I may not be in a hurry, but I don't want to wait as long as it took them! However, they can be an example to us. If we create an organization that works, and lasts, we can emulate them in respect to the word "church".



Friday, August 3, 2007

New Cards

Input from several people led to this redesign of the card. The artwork is by Danny Cain. Beverley suggested that we reverse the slogans, and several people agreed with her, so we did that.

So far, I'm the only one using these cards. I carry them with me most of the time, and if I find myself in a conversation with someone who is concerned about the future of the biosphere, I will give them one. I expect in the future that many people will use them, with different titles. My hope is that they will use the cards in a similar way as I do. This will be a way of recruiting new local members.

I think we can be quite flexible about titles. Some possibilities are: organizer, recruiter, speaker, .....


Friday, July 27, 2007

The Basic Idea

Although our website has this information, its spread around a bit, mostly in the FAQ. It ought to be collected in one place, and be easy to find on the website. So here is my first attempt at gathering the basic ideas together. It won't go on the website until it's been discussed for a few days on the mail list. Then I will modify it, and send it to webmaster Maurice.
The basic idea is to have an organization that fills the role of a church in peoples lives, but adapted to the 21st century.

adapting to the 21st century means:

- acceptance of what we don't know for sure. (God, afterlife, etc.)
- confidence in experience and science for what we can know.
- admiration and protection of the living earth. (the biosphere)

Filling the role of a church means:

- organization based on local groups of people who know one another.
- regular meetings that are a positive experience for the people who attend.
- education, to supplement the standard sources of education.
- environmental activism via local projects and petitioning governments


Friday, July 20, 2007

Bowling Alone

That's the title of a book I'm reading. "Bowling Alone" was recommended to me by Peter, one of our mail list members. A surprising thing I learned there was that none of the famous environmental organizations is driven by local groups. All of them are professional fund-raising organizations whose members merely send checks. Whether its Greenpeace, or the Environmental Defense Fund, or Friends of the Earth, or any of a dozen others, the general style and pattern is the same. These groups are professional lobbying organizations, with headquarters in Washington, DC. (Some of them use a different city.) They get their members by means of bulk mail! In fact they mostly use the same mailing lists, which they buy from companies that sell mailing lists. The majority of the "members" do not even know who the other "members" are.

This is not what I want for the Church of Earth. I'm hoping for an organization built upon local groups of people who know each other. It may not be easy to achieve, since this is going against the trend of the times, but such an organization will be much more durable and effective. This is an old-fashioned idea. It was the normal way of doing things 40 years ago. That was when the U.S. could put men on the moon, and bring them back safely. Rescuing the earth from deforestation, pollution and global warming will be a larger challenge than that.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Living Planet

"The Living Planet" is a video documentary series by David Attenborough, who is justly famous for this sort of thing. I've been watching it over the past several weeks. There are 12 one-hour episodes.

An Australian website had this to say about it:

David Attenborough presents his epic portrait of the earth's environments and how plants and animals have been adapted to their physical surroundings. Filmed on 5 continents, the Living Planet begins with the discovery of how huge forces formed the earth, how continents move and how the planet has become so varied.

The next ten episodes then concentrate on different environments of the Earth: the frozen Poles, the northern forests, jungle, grassland, deserts, the sky, rivers and lakes, tidal shores, islands and oceans.

The final episode then ties in the human angle looking at how humans have changed the Earth's habitats, destroying but creating new ones. It also investigates what future may hold for the whole community on our amazing living planet.

It occurs to me this could be something like scripture for the Church of Earth.
Not Scripture - "The Living Planet" :)

It's available on 4 DVD disks.

This was filmed almost 30 years ago! I wonder how many of the creatures that he filmed are now in danger of extinction, and which of the regions that he filmed are still in a similar condition.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How the Church of Earth Began

I had this idea early in 2007, but it just stewed in the back of my
brain until late April. It seemed that the idea would not let go of me,
do I decided to take it seriously, and see if a little flame could be

The motivation is to help save the planet, which I think is in
serious long term danger from pollution and deforestation. A church
seems necessary, rather than a club or society, because only a church
can grow to a very large membership. Only a very large membership can influence public policy.

The basic idea is to create something that plays the role of a church in peoples lives. The focus of attention is the biological earth. So you
could think of it as an environmental lobbying group, but with a social
dimension. I want to have a building and regular meetings. I want the
meetings to be enjoyable, with humor and music a regular occurrence.

There will also be an educational dimension. I want people to learn
more about the biological earth.

I made a bunch of cards. An early version is shown here. The slogans
on the card briefly explain the core principles. Although we are a
church, we differ in these important ways from most established
churches. Although we use the word "church", our orientation is toward science rather than traditional lore.

The general plan is to start on the internet, with a mailing list and
website. As soon as possible I hope to see local groups form, and
eventually to have local congregations, and church buildings. A key
part of the plan is that I don't plan to be in charge. I expect many
other people to assume key leadership responsibilities.


(See the FAQ at the website for more details.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Do I want to write stuff in a blog?

I don't know if I want to use a blog or not. I'm not fond of writing except for short items; what you might call mini-essays. Some of those are already online at . I also write a lot of email, and some of those are also mini-essays. I suppose I could put the best of those in this blog.

I'm into science and unconventional philosophy.

I'll post a photo so you will have some idea of what I look like.