[ExI] Paleo diet and sustainability, yet again

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Wed Apr 13 16:11:29 UTC 2011

On Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 12:11 AM, J. Stanton <js_exi at gnolls.org> wrote:
> Keith Henson wrote:
>>>  seven billion people is far, far
>>> beyond the sustainable population of the Earth even if you posit nearly
>>> free
>>> energy . . . .
>> That is utter nonsense.  With really low cost energy you can make
>> fresh water out of salt and pump it inland a thousand miles.
> See: soil salinization.

> "Estimates indicate that roughly one-third of the irrigated land in the
> major irrigation countries is already badly affected by salinity or is
> expected to become so in the near future.  Present estimates for India range
> from 27% to 60% of the irrigated land, Pakistan 14%, Israel 13%, Australia
> 20%, China 15%, Iraq 50%, Egypt 30%."

And with lot of energy, i.e., lots of pure water available, it's easy
to reverse.

>> Likewise, you can salvage phosphorous our of sewage and ship it back
>> to the farms.
> Plants are not made entirely of ammonium nitrate, potash, and phosphate.
>  Just to choose one example:
> http://www.mineralresourcesint.co.uk/pdf/Mineral_Depletion_of_Foods_1940_2002.pdf

I made up hydroponics solutions in junior high school and grew a
(small) greenhouse full of plants in it.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulfur and magnesium, traces
of iron, boron, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, copper, cobalt, chlorine,
selenium and silicon.

> Also see: giant dead zones (larger than Connecticut) in river deltas due to
> fertilizer runoff.
> http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/
> I'm not sure your understanding is at a level that allows you to throw
> around terms like "nonsense".

“Closed Ecosystems of High Agricultural Yield,” H.K. Henson, C. Meinel
Henson, Proceedings of the Space Manufacturing Facilities (Space
Colonies) Princeton/AIAA/NASA Conference, May 7-9, 1975.

Have you done all the steps from planting wheat to baking bread?

Have you lived for years on meat you raised yourself?

I have done both.

> Cheap energy doesn't solve the problems of
> agriculture any more than cheap caffeine solves the problems of sleep.
> Frankly, this is a self-cancelling argument.  If anyone is worried about the
> impact of eating meat (or anything else), then by definition these are
> issues of concern.
> There's a reason most of us go into technology or theoretical disciplines:
> it allows us to work on well-constrained problems in a restricted space.
>  These are not such problems.  Soil alone is a complex biological system --
> let alone entire ecosystems of which it is but one part.

So what?  Tomatoes, for example, are largely grown in *sand.*

> There's a reason I
> posted the references I did: most people have no concept at all of the
> realities of the cycle of life, and either romanticize it, oversimplify it,
> or ignore it because its constraints are momentarily inconvenient.  And
> we're still a long way from free energy.

Sunlight is free.  Collecting it and putting it in a useful form isn't.

>> I am really getting annoyed at the postings on this list.  I would
>> think the people who post here should understand Extropy.
> Tirelessly working to overcome limits is more productive than ignoring them,
> wishing them away, or claiming they don't exist.
> It's easy for all of us to see the fallacies in attitudes such as
> Singularity Utopia's, because that's our field of expertise.  It's harder
> for us to see the fallacies in our own attitudes as applied to fields that
> are much more messy and complicated -- and generally outside our expertise.

You obviously don't know who you are responding to.  I have spent the
last year working on www.stratosolar.com, the three years before that
working out a way to get the cost of space based solar energy down to
where it could displace coal by under pricing it.

As for the singularity . . . it's very much of a mixed bag, and in the
_best_ case it is the end of the human race as we know it.


> Finally, recall that it's only the educated middle-class and above that
> advances knowledge: filling the world with poor people whose entire life is
> devoted to simple survival doesn't accomplish anything but making more
> people poor in a vicious positive feedback loop.

A self perpetuating underclass is a very recent (last 200 years)
anomaly in human history.  I have been talking about this *on this
list* for more than three years.

The upshot of his research was that in the Mathusian era in England
people with the personality characteristics to become well off
economically had at least twice as many surviving children as those
in the lower economic classes--who were not replacing
themselves.  This, of course, led to "downward social mobility,"
where the numerous sons and daughters of the rich tended to be less
well off (on average) than their parents.  But over 20 generations
(1200-1800) it did spread the genes for the personality
characteristics for accumulating wealth through the entire population.

	"In the institutional and technological context of these societies,
a new set of human attributes mattered for the only currency
that mattered in the Malthusian era, which was reproductive
success. In this world literacy and numeracy, which were irrelevant
before, were both helpful for economic success in agrarian
pre-industrial economies. Thus since economic success was
linked to reproductive success, facility with numbers and wordswas
pulled along in its wake. Since patience and hard work found
a new reward in a society with large amounts of capital, patience
and hard work were also favored."



> There's a reason we don't
> see headlines like "New Cancer Treatment Discovered by Illiterate Liberian
> Slum-Dweller" or "Bangladeshi Subsistence Farmer Invents More Efficient
> Refrigerator, Production to Begin In 2012".

> I'm inclined to drop this subject now, because it is not terribly germane to
> the purpose of this list, and it's unlikely to win me any friends or allies.
>  However, I do ask that people keep in mind the degree of irritation they
> justifiably evince when someone who knows little about spaceflight or
> computation makes sweeping generalizations -- and that it is possible to be
> on the other end of that particular equation.

Yes.  Often.

H. Keith Henson: Beamed Energy and the Economics of Space Based Solar
Power, Beamed Energy Propulsion: 6th International Symposium, American
Inst. of Physics, 2010 ISBN 978-0735407749

Power Satellites, Carbon Dioxide, Synthetic Fuel, Sequestering Carbon
as Synthetic Oil and Fresh Water from Seawater
Keith Henson, H.

BEAMED ENERGY PROPULSION: 6th International Symposium. AIP Conference
Proceedings, Volume 1230, pp. 348-352 (2010).

    A small number of people have been working for the past year on
ways to reduce the cost of power from space to the point that it could
entirely displace fossil fuels and even put carbon dioxide back in
empty oil fields as synthetic oil. The challenging part is reducing
the cost of transport to GEO by a factor of ~200 discussed in another
paper in this volume. Given low cost power, synthetic fuels, carbon
sequestration, and fresh water from seawater become economical.

What have you been doing?


PS.  You might want to read back into the archives of this list.

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