Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Culling the herd

Global warming is a fact. There was enough evidence for it twenty years ago when I was in seventh grade and the evidence today is overwhelming enough to drag you into the alley and beat you up.
We can regulate the power plants and add scrubbers that will clean out 90% of the carbon from the smoke stacks, but the power plants are the least of our concerns. The big concern is our cars. Millions of them on the road belching fumes and toxins, releasing carbon that was removed from the air 65 million years ago.
Part of the solution is using one of the various biofuels. This way the carbon your car is belching is stuff that came out of the atmosphere just last year. It keeps the carbon levels more level.
Ethanol and biodiesel are the big two biofuels. You hear more about ethanol because our existing engines can burn it while you need a diesel engine for biodiesel.
Ethanol is a type of alcohol made by fermenting various plants. Corn is good, sugar cane is better, but nothing beats hemp. But legalizing industrial hemp is another subject.
Biodiesel is made by processing the oil extracted from sunflower seed, soybeans, and, best of all, canola seeds.
The problem that was making all the headlines last week was some UN conference announcing the obvious. If we start directing corn, wheat, and other crops to ethanol plants then the price of those crops goes up. Being farm raised, this doesn't seem bad to me at first. Maybe farming can become a for-profit industry. My brother is getting back into farming now that he's out of school and is thrilled by the price of wheat going up.
But if demand for certain crops goes up the result is likely to be increased clearing of rain forest for farm land. We'd rather have the rain forest soaking up the carbon than have the cropland. Especially since those fields that are formerly rain forest tend to be hard, parched, and barren in three years. Thus more clear cutting.
Another complaint is that the global food supply will fall short of what we need. In other words, we have enough food for everyone in the world now but don't distribute it properly. When we do try it get stopped by local governments so the people starve anyway. Now we won't have food for the people who don't have food anyway.

So, what now? What's the magic solution? We've heard about changing our light bulbs, but those lights are expensive. We could drive less but the gym is a whole six blocks away. We could adjust the thermostat warmer in the summer and colder in the winter or rely on open windows and sweaters but that means we might be uncomfortable. We could have fewer children so the population goes down and we don't need the extra crop land. Yeah, all you OTHER people stop having kids! What about legalizing plants that produce more fuel per acre? But plants that look just like industrial hemp can get you high when smoked. You're not a stoner are you?

You want a magic solution? We need a good plague. Hemp, canola, hybrids, and comfy shoes all are needed anyway, but what we really need is a dramatic drop in population. We hunt deer when there's too many to survive in what their environment can support. The humans need to be culled as well. I don't want a "Rainbow Six" situation where someone releases a plague to kill off most of mankind to save the environment. I'm happy to let nature do it. That's why I'm rooting for the Bird Flu.
You laugh, but it has people who actually know what they're doing worried. The expected variation will infect half the planet and kill half of the infected. It's possible that the fatality will drop so it's just another flu. I hope not. The world could do with two billion fewer people.

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