This series coalesces around a theme of the need for us to change and alerting the reader as to not just what needs to change, but how we have to change. You've noticed the title is -1?
This is not a politically correct treatise, or disquisition, some are uncomfortable truths, - if you aren't up for a bit of reality – you’d best not go further.
This outpouring started when I chose to write what I thought would be a short article on housing and why it is so difficult to get people to move to panelized, modular, flexible, insulated, up market homes.
My discovery was that housing is a peculiar topic.
It can't be discussed in isolation.
It is woven inexorably with our culture, way of life, education, aspirations, social standing and planet destruction- which means, it is an integral part of our economy, taxes, our prosperity and our downfall.
These factors meant my article was in no way going to short, nor quick. Some of the components dealt with in this topic are important knowledge, so it was decided to undertake a series of articles.
The author is a change freak, and over the years has been involved in many innovative developments.
This series just happens to deal with change and the very urgent need to drastically change ourselves and our way of life.
Einstein is said to have stated "One cannot alter a condition with the same mind set that created it in the first place." He also said “only two things are infinite – the universe and human stupidity and I’m not sure about the former.”
This first episode is really setting the scene, because change by necessity delves into economics, centralization, the ever powerful families and greed. Along the way there'll be little diversions – because I can't help myself. If you take umbrage with any of the statements made I encourage you to research the facts.
In business, when management wants to implement change, it often holds a general meeting of all its staff and asks for the people to “work with me”. The Bible says “he who is not with me is against me...”.
Nature can't vocalize those demands and we, as the inhabitants of this planet, work much more against nature than with it, and yet we are surprised by the consequences when they make an appearance – often at a stage of irreversible damage. But the consequences of not changing mean there is a good chance that not only will we be responsible for the sixth mass extinction, we could be part of it.
The question is do we want to find out?
We live in a world where the disparity between rich and poor is growing – put another way – there are 8 people in the world who control in excess of 50% of the planet's wealth. What chance do you think there is of change – unless the common man bands together en masse demanding change? It has been done before – the abolition of slavery, child labour in the mines, LGBT movement. Is the survival of our planet less important ?
Rumi -the 13th Century Persian mystic and scholar said “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Leo Tolstoy updated that to “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
And these sentiments are very true. Even in February 2020 Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister of the time, was extolling the need for Zero carbon emissions, he is photographed with the great naturalist Sir David Attenborough, neither of whom I have ever heard produce a plan of precisely how to achieve this, and of course there's a reason for that which I'll eventually get to...
Machiavelli said “It is better to act and repent than not to act and regret.” I believe in today's parlance that translates into it is better to seek forgiveness than ask for permission. So here goes...
We don't really think about it much do we?
How our everyday lives adversely impact the planet?
Most of us don't do it purposefully, we are just buying, using, acquiring goods and everyday items we are told by marketing that we need to survive. Nobody tells us that often those everyday items we supposedly need to survive - apart from making some conglomerate billions of dollars- impact the planet massively. The finite resources once bountiful are now scarce, the seas once pristine now contaminated, the stratosphere compromised.
We have young privileged school girls out creating global student strikes under the guise of climate change – what was achieved apart from creating havoc??? She was joined by and old and well practised protester jumping on the climate bandwagon - only to be arrested yet again. Her achievement? The answer has to be not much – she's past notoriety value. Those demonstrators, unless they live in tents, by and large, all live in houses or apartments that will probably be made of brick, concrete, steel and maybe timber. They will all carry a mobile phone and the requisite plastic water bottle.
They want to change the climate? Hmmm.
If they were serious they would a) change the living arrangements;
b) ditch the mobile phone;
c) change the plastic water bottle to stone.
Just three things. When they throw up their hands in horror decrying it’s not possible. You’ll know their screeching about climate change is just an excuse for social strife.
Now comes the nub – let’s have a look at these three points.
a)Change the living arrangements.
Houses, or apartments are part of the construction industry.
New research, when aggregated, demonstrates the construction industry ( which includes demolition) contributes to 23% of the air pollution, 50% of the climatic change, 40% of drinking water pollution and 50% of landfill waste, plus the need for huge amounts of energy - around 40% of global usage. This makes it the largest contributor to destruction of the environment.
Just one of the products used is cement – this ubiquitous product alone accounts for up to 7% of the world's CO2 pollution.
Cement is the primary ingredient in concrete, which in turn forms the foundations and structures of the buildings we live and work in, and the roads and bridges we drive on. By 2050 it is estimated by the industry the output will be of the order of 4.4 billion tonnes.
To produce cement, limestone and other clay-like materials are heated in a kiln at 1400°C and then ground to form a lumpy, solid substance called clinker; clinker is then combined with gypsum = a soft sulphate material composed of calcium sulphate dihydrate ( chalk) - to form cement.
Cement manufacturing is high energy and emissions intensive, because of the extreme heat required to produce it. Producing a ton of cement requires 4.7 million BTU of energy, equivalent to about 400 pounds( 182kg) of coal, and generates nearly a ton of CO2. Given its high emissions and critical importance to society, cement is an obvious place to look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Concrete is the second most consumed substance on Earth after water. On average, each year, three tonnes of concrete are consumed by every person on the planet.
Concrete is used globally to construct buildings, bridges, roads, runways, footpaths, and dams, and it's growing by 2.5% annually. Because of the way we have thought to date - cement is deemed indispensable in for construction activity and thus is tightly linked to the global economy.
The US economy is built on concrete!
According to Amory Lovins (RMI) four fifths of the electricity generated in the United States is used in buildings, it’s hardly likely to change in any world cities where concrete skyscrapers are present. Some of the world’s major companies are producers of cement, and of interest a US company doesn’t feature in the top 10. A company seen the world over, LafargeHolcim, is number one with an Irish CRH coming in at seven.
Which does make one wonder how Boris Johnson is going to get his zero carbon emissions target. His call can be presented in a different way. The population of the UK is 66.4 million; if every person is supposed to use 3 tonnes of concrete that’s 100.2 million tonnes of concrete. 15% of that is cement so that’s 29.88 million tonnes of cement. To make say 30 million tonnes of cement requires 141,000,000,000,000 BTU's, the approximate equivalent of 5.46 million tonnes of coal!
Now if you close the cement industry down, that means the power stations don't need 141,000,000,000,000 BTU's. In addition there would be fewer agitators on the road requiring less fuel, and two of our other scarce resources water and sand would also be issued a reprieve.
I'm not sure the Prime Minister has the intestinal fortitude to implement such measures, notwithstanding, no one has seriously implemented alternate building materials, such as WPC - from waste plastics and other waste streams, which would also minimize the use of steel – but I get ahead of myself.
In conclusion of point a) living arrangements need to change. It would take an epochal energy shift, and investors would need to be able to invest in new technology or methods.
b) The mobile phone. According to datareportal.com in July 2020 there were 5.15 billion unique mobile phone users. They grew by 121 million in 12 months!
The carbon footprint of using a mobile phone: 47Kg CO2 for a year’s usage of just under 2 minutes per day. An hour’s usage 1250Kg CO2.
The energy required to connect your phone to the network and transmit calls is about three times the single phone footprint for a year. On this basis the mobile phones of the planet emit 242 million tonnes of CO2 and going up.
c) The ever present plastic bottle.
Why it has become necessary to carry a plastic bottle of water everywhere is anathema to the writer. Why is it that water is in the bottle anyways? The water from taps in the US, Australia, Europe, most parts of Asia is pottable and therefore very drinkable. It would certainly reduce the plastic waste if this product ceased to exist.
The plastic water bottle is made from HDPE (high density polyethylene plastic), a product of fossil fuel – oil.
It constitutes a major contributor to plastic waste of which there is about 6.3 billion tonnes in the world. And while it is recyclable – 91% of it isn’t.
There is a process whereby all waste plastics can be recycled, plus other waste streams and all of them converted into inert, strong, structural building materials.
Why aren’t the little rich girls out drumming up a storm for future investors?
But that story is for the next instalment.
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