Net Zero Emissions?

One of the things that world governments agree on – at least generally – is that the amount of energy in our global climate system is increasing. When we try to examine the causes, though, there is less agreement. Some argue that the increase is entirely natural and not “man-made”; others argue that human activities are accelerating the process. For the latter, one of the key factors contributing to the “global warming” is the relatively high level of “greenhouse gas” emissions, arising from the way we live. These gases are known to slow down the emission of heat from the atmosphere. And so the argument goes that if we can reduce their emission to “net zero” – taking out as much as human activity adds – natural processes will then slowly reverse the impact of human activity. But can we do that? What does it entail?

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Public Good

If you look at it bluntly, the job of any government is to redirect private money into works (infrastructure and services) that deliver “public good”. And all the fuss and fanfare that is democratic politics is simply a means of deciding how to prioritise that “public good”. It allows a society to balance the level of redistribution against the general, public perception of needs and fears. But in taking a “consensus” view, democracy invariably puts the power over public spending into the hands of a majority who have – it turns out – very little “need” and quite a lot of fear. And – I suggest – the problem with that is that it emphasises public spending on “defence” above “cure”.

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Chase The Morning

Over the past few weeks, I have been viewing quite a lot of “paranormal” fiction and entertainment. And whether one believes, or not, it got me thinking about the “what if” question. What if it were “real”? How could it work? Is there a theory that would explain all that I see and that wouldn’t contradict what I have learned about physics? And that led me to remember the works of a Scottish science-fantasy author called Michael Scott Rohan. And in particular, his series of books about “The Spiral”, in which he posed the thought that what we call reality is merely the “Core” of a much larger cosmos and that as one slips away from the core, reality is less and less constrained. This mirrors an ancient Eastern concept that the world we call “real” is merely the lower “anchor” for a subtle cosmos that stretches towards (or evolves from) some sort of singularity. There is also a recurring theme of seven “planes of existence”, forming that subtle cosmos.

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Positive Thinking

There’s a fairly large amount of “chicken soup” self-help out there – produced to give comfort to those who struggle with the after-effects of different kinds of trauma. Those people might have been bullied or rejected by peers, or by their family. Or perhaps worst yet, bullied at a distance by people who don’t even know them. Or they might have witnessed such an act of violence on someone else and felt powerless to act. Each bad event in this history creates a very sharp memory that keeps coming back, reinforcing the loss of self-esteem; reinforcing a sense of shame. And in some, that backdrop leads to dark ways to escape the cycle. The core of much of the “chicken soup” self-therapy is a well-meant urging to adopt a more positive way of thinking: to put the bad days behind and to look forward – as those without trauma do. But it’s not so easy.

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As a nation, we are still very bad at recycling waste, although better in some areas than others. We still rely on district councils to send waste to appropriate recycling plants, and their hands are tied by the county councils, which place the contracts. Whilst the latter have had legal targets under EU directives, those expired this year and Brexit means that the focus for setting targets has moved back to the UK government. To compound the problem, not all of those recycling operations were actually recycling; some were simply sorting the raw waste in the hope of selling it to other operations – or, if that failed, sending it off-shore. It is perhaps time, in the wake of Brexit, for a national recycling strategy that would actually work.

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I Remember It Well

One of the more peculiar aspects of sub-atomic physics is that “matter” is not real. Instead, space and time can be described as the probability of energetic interactions that indicate to an observer that something approximating to “matter” is there. Or, I should say “there” (in quotation marks) because we can only – in effect – trace those energetic interactions back towards a region of space time in the past. We are always looking into that past. You could say that all that we perceive as a physical universe is merely an evolving “memory” of all that could have been.

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Walk Gently On This Earth

A great deal of human life – at this time – seems to be concerned with making a “mark” on the world; of showing that we “matter”, if only in that sphere of human industry. It is as if – in waking up a little to the reality of our existence – in emerging a little from the dream of “self” – what we see shocks us to our emotional core. We see a big world – much bigger than we had previously thought – in which an unimaginable number of other people pursue values that are completely different to our own – perhaps even contradict our own. They don’t even know us, but their choices affect our lives. Suddenly we feel like a mere grain of sand in a huge desert – unable to exert any control over even our closest surroundings. In reaction to our powerlessness, we glorify those who do seem to make a mark; we grant them “celebrity”. And we try to emulate their success. We turn a blind eye to the hints that even those people feel crushed at times. The solution, to a more wholesome life? … Walk gently on this earth; we are but visitors – temporary custodians.

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Digital Transformation

This (past) week saw the publication of a review by the Public Accounts Committee of the NHS plans for “digital transformation”. I won’t go into their criticisms of the proposed programme of work. I used to work in public sector IT and I am pretty sure that most of the criticism arose because the PAC took an “outline” programme of work as if it was a “final plan”, just needing approval for funding. But it spurred me to think about the challenges of “digital transformation” that any enterprise faces.

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Stand And Deliver!

Like most people, I suspect, I am receiving an increasing number of “fake” phone calls, the object of which is to make money from me. Some are obvious scams, like the automated calls that claim I have been subject to fraud and I should “press 1 to talk to an advisor”. Like I am ever going to do that! Or those that claim to have detected illegal activity on my internet connection. Some are a bit more subtle, such as the calls that claim to be from “market research” companies, only wanting to ask me three quick questions. The aim of those latter is to enable rogue operations to send out offers, on the basis that you’ve given your permission by answering those questions. And amongst those [illegal but relatively benign] calls are a few that copy the technique for identify theft. It reminds me of the old times of highwaymen – or perhaps of the stage-coach robbers of the wild west.

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Green Energy

As a society, we are now massively dependent on electricity. It can be delivered easily to any point where we need it and we can carry rechargeable “batteries” around with us, wherever we want to go. It’s also a “clean” energy – at least, at the point of consumption. Unlike fossil fuels or wood, the only by-products of consuming it are heat and light – and we don’t yet think of those as pollution. Those batteries are murder on the environment, but that’s tomorrow’s problem. The problem of the day is how to generate electricity cleanly, hence the strong focus on “renewable” generation – taking energy out of the Earth or the Sun’s light, directly. But as a consumer, how can we help the electricity generators and suppliers – which are profit-making businesses, after all – to invest in making electricity “greener”?

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