Category Archives: Future

What does the future hold for us?

Living in Fear and Hatred

I am excited by all the cool things happening in the technological arena. Advances in the controlled hydrogen fusion arena, advances in solar cell technologies, and new nuclear fission technology that can destroy existing nuclear waste, hold the promise of a sustainable infrastructure for the world with the capacity to eliminate pollution and poverty.

How people relate to each other threatens to withhold those promises. The ongoing conflicts between Israel and the rest of the Arab world is a case in point.

Israelis want to be able to live without threat of attacks, to not have to worry about incoming missiles, or car bombs, or kidnappings. Reasonable enough.

Palestinians want to live with freedom and dignity and to have the respect of their neighbors. That’s also reasonable.

Israelis deny the Palestinians their freedom and dignity. They refuse to recognized their elected government. They continue to hold around 10,000 Palestinians prisoners in their jails.

The Palestinians deny Israel security. After Israel withdrew from Palestinian land and granted the right to self-determination, Palestinians continue to lob rockets, blow up shopping malls, and kidnap Israeli citizens.

Both parties have denied the other that which should be a fundamental human rights. Many innocent parties get caught in the cross-fire. They are killed, maimed, or their livelihoods destroyed.

Technology isn’t going to fix this problem. Humans need to learn to live with trust, forgiveness, respect, compassion, and love of our fellow man. Technology will only help us travel down the path of destruction faster if we continue to live in a state of hatred and fear.

We Should Be Doing This

The Chinese are not content to wait until 2016 for ITER to come online to start working out the final issues involved in bringing fusion power online.

The Chinese are building a reactor called EAST which is expected to see first plasma around August 15, 2006. They began construction earlier this year which gives you an idea of the ambitious timeline.

EAST will be the first Tokamak to use superconductive coils to generate the magnetic plasma containment field. Copper coils used in existing research reactors have electrical resistance which consumes power producing heat limiting power shots to about sixty seconds. Commercial power reactors must operate continuously dictating the use of superconductive magnets.

Using superconductive coils, EAST will not be subject to coil heating. Power shots over fifteen minutes long allows some remaining questions to be addressed.

One major unanswered question relates to the performance and endurance of the diverter. The diverter is a device that skims the helium waste off the outer surface of the plasma. Helium removal is necessary in an operating reactor because a build up of helium absorbs energy squelching the fusion reaction. Questions relating to heating and abrasion of the diverter can only be answered by longer power shots.

Another concern for commercial reactors is long term plasma stability issues that may not present themselves in existing research reactors. EAST will allow power shots to last long enough to either reveal those instabilities or to determine that they do not exist.

East is not as large as ITER will be and so will not operate at full scale commercial power generation levels. It will allow testing and characterization of all the requisite technology that ITER will require.

It doesn’t bother me that the Chinese are doing this. It does bother me that we, in the energy hungry United States, are not. The Chinese understand the urgency of getting away from fossil fuels for their energy needs. For some reason, we, in the west, do not.

High Power (Breakeven?) Fusor

A fusor is a device which uses an electrostatic field to accelerate deuterium (or a mix of deuterium and tritium) ions and cause them to collide with sufficient energy to overcome the coulomb barrier and fuse.

A fusor consists of two concentric grids placed into vacuum chamber with deuterium introduced at a very low pressure. The outer grid is charged positively, the inner grid negatively. Deuterium ions are accelerated by the voltage gradient towards the inner negative grid. Most of them pass through the grid towards the center of the device where some of them collide and fuse.

The ions impacting the inner grid heat the grid. This heating limits the power level and fusion rate which can be obtained. The current amateur record is 5×10^6 neutrons per second, which equates to about .03 watts of fusion power using 4 kw input power.

The original inventor, Philo Farnsworth (also the inventor of the cathode ray tube) and his team created a device that achieved 10^12 neutrons using a deuterium tritium mix. Breakeven, requires on the order of 10^14 to 10^16 neutrons per second would be required. Even 10^12 neutrons per second requires shielding.

The present state of the fusor device makes it useful as a neutron source but not as a power generation device. To achieve breakeven the reaction level would have to increase from between 100 and 10,000 times the present record. Even if you replaced the grids with very heat resistant materials these power levels could not be achieved with the existing design.

For a deuterium-tritium mix the ideal energy of the colliding deutrons (neutron + proton) is approximately 60 KeV. The present fusor designs comes close to this, accelerating deutrons through fields approaching 30 KeV. Deutrons that hit head-on have enough energy to overcome the coulomb barrier and fuse. Present devices are operated at very low pressures so there are few collisions.

If the grid could be made to repel deutrons just as they were passing, then the ions would be deflected through the holes between the grid wires instead of colliding with the grid. If this could be achieved then all of the energy would go into accelerating the ions instead of heating the grid.

My idea is to operate the fusor more like a particle accelerator. Operate it in pulsed AC mode instead of DC. The frequency would be chosen so that just as the particles get to the outer grid, the outer grid is supplied with a positive voltage and the inner with a negative, but just as the pulse of particles is passing the inner grid, the polarity is reversed and the ions are repelled away from the grid and steered through the openings between the grid wires. The repulsive force after they pass they will accelerate them further.

Eliminating the collisions would allow you to operate at the optimal voltage and density necessary for maximum fusion yield. With an AC system you could even use multiple concentric grids in what would basically be a concentric version of a linear accelerator.

If the heating from the fusion reaction heats the grids excessively, you could build them out of small diameter tubing instead of wire and run a coolant through the tubing which would allow you to simultaneously cool the device and extract thermal energy.

I don’t have the means or skill to build such a device so I am throwing this idea out in hopes that someone experimenting with fusors might find this approach interesting and give it a try.

Here are some related links:

Brian McDermott’s device is probably the most well constructed amateur fusor. At this point he still hasn’t achieved anything close to Farnsworth record fusion rate but it’s still in process.

Solar Works Even In Seattle

I took these pictures of a solar installation at the Carkeek Environmental Education Center in 2005. This installation provides 3.6 Kw of peak power and provides for about 50% of this buildings energy needs.


I was recently contacted for permission to publish the following photograph in a book dealing with the subject of sustainable energy. The reason the author was interested in this particular photo is that it dispels many of the current myths regarding solar energy.

For example, it is often said that solar energy can only work in areas that receive a lot of sunlight such as southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Nevada. This installation is in Seattle Washington, only about one hundred miles south of the Canadian border, and Seattle has the distinction of being the US city that receives the least sunshine in a year. Even with these handicaps, this installation generates half of the energy requirements of this building.


Another commonly held belief is that a solar installation requires defoliation to provide adequate exposure to the panels. This installation is surrounded by lush plant life.

Silicon solar panels are expensive, presently around $5/peak watt for small to medium sized installations, but silicon solar cells are extremely stable and last virtually forever so your initial investment will generate returns for decades. After about five years silicon solar cell output typically declines by about 10%, remaining constant after that. You will want to take this into consideration when you size your solar array.

If you are a do-it-yourself and willing to build your own panels, very reasonably priced solar cells can often be obtained through E-bay or surplus electronics dealers.

Shell Oil and Eskom Meters The Sun

While searching the web to find out what the latest developments in solar technology were, I ran across this article relating to Shell Oils rather disgusting approach to solar power.

In South Africa, Shell International Renewables Limited and Eskom are working on a system to provide electricity to customers in rural and remote areas using solar power collected on their roofs.

So far doesn’t sound too bad does it? But here’s the rub, they’ve designed this system so that the panels and batteries can’t be connected to any other device and only work with their controllers which have a metering unit, security device, token reading unit, and pre-payment device. The unit can not be activated without a compatible magnetic card or token.

I guess it comes as no big surprise that if anyone could find a way to meter the Sun, it would be an oil company.

Three sixes is the number of the beast and of man.

We made it past June 6, 2006, or 06/06/06.

Here is another interpretation of the meaning of the number.

First, a little background. Some versions of the Bible say the number is 666, some spell out six hundred and sixty six, and still others say that it is three sixes.

There is actually scriptural support for all these interpretations and for the number being 616 rather than 666. The scrolls found from the time of Nero use the number 666, the scrolls found during the time of Caligula use the number 616, and apparently there is a way you can manipulate their names to come up with these numbers. But ancient Greek scrolls have the number written out as three occurrences of the letter that represents six, and since they did not use the Arabic numeric system, this does not equate to six hundred sixty six.

I’m going run with the three sixes interpretation because it is the earliest and I’ve found a meaning in it.

The most abundant and stable isotope of carbon is carbon 12. Carbon 12 has six protons, six neutrons, and six electrons. Carbon 12 has three sixes.

If you look at the major problems of the world today, most relate to carbon, wars being fought, countries being occupied, populations repressed, for one thing, oil. What is oil? Oil is a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules. These are carbon chains with hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon backbone.

Global warming, it’s caused by Carbon Dioxide, which is what we get when we burn any hydrocarbon, oil, natural gas, coal, etc.

So carbon could justifiably be referred to as “the beast”. We are presently utterly dependent upon it, and it is destroying us.

And what of 666 also being the number of man? We are a carbon based life form. So we are largely made of the same carbon, upon which we’ve become dependent, and which is destroying us.

We need to recognize the beast and free ourselves from dependence before it destroys us.

The Middle East

On his syndicated radio show, Matt Drudge was objecting to the news media coverage of the Israeli attack on Lebanon. In particular he was upset with the showing the bloody mangled bodies of Lebanese civilians whom Israel has bombed. The reality is grim. Suggesting that the news media should not cover it is burying our heads in the sand.

We should change that reality rather than ignoring the horror of it. When we invaded Iraq, we invaded a country that had nothing to do with the attack on our nation, a country that did not have weapons of mass destruction, but it was a country that had the second largest oil reserves in the middle east after Saudi Arabia. Our preemptive strike set a rather bad example.

Our presence in the middle east and our bad example has emboldened Israel to pursue the same policy. If you can’t get back at the people who attack you, just kill a bunch of innocent civilians.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth only gives you blind toothless people. The present situation is even worse, the Israeli response was not only misdirected, as was our response against Iraq, like our response against Iraq, it was totally disproportionate and has resulted in the injury and deaths of a large number of innocent people.

We need to eliminate our reliance upon foreign petroleum in order to have the possibility of a balanced middle eastern foreign policy.

We also have to get out of this mode of living in fear, whether it is fear of attack or fear of shortages of resources. If we had spent the money that we wasted during the very first year of our occupation of Iraq on wind power instead, we would have displaced the energy equivalent of all of the oil we import from the middle east.

If you are thinking yes, but grid power is not equivalent to liquid fuels, it is true that they are not directly equivalent. However, we generate a large percentage of our electricity by burning natural gas. If we displace the electricity coming from natural gas with electricity from wind, that natural gas can then be reformed into liquid fuels. And actually synthetic oil from natural gas is far cleaner than natural crude in that it lacks any impurities such as sulfur.

All that revenge accomplishes is the perpetuation of human suffering.

Going Forward

We need to evolve spiritually and reconnect with all that is.

We need to change our world view. Without doing this there is absolutely no hope for a better sustainable world. We view ourselves as disconnected individuals competing with everyone and everything for the resources that we believe we need.

We are all part of the same whole. When our actions affect the whole negatively, they affect us negatively. We may see some apparent short term gains, but in the long run our fate is the fate of the whole, everything that is.

We need to shift our focus towards the well being of everything that is, for the entire universe, and then for our planet, and then for our country, and then for our local community, and then for our families, and then for ourselves.

The Bibles’ Genesis story describes the separation of man from God. When Adam disobeyed God, he was afraid and embarrassed. This story is metaphorical. When we do something that in some way harms other beings, we feel embarrassed to admit what we have done, especially to those we have harmed. We feel afraid of retribution. We build a psychic barrier between ourselves and all that is.

This process is self-reinforcing. Isolated from all that is, isolated from spiritual sustenance, we feel empty and hungry. We acquire to feel secure. This drives us to take actions without considering the well being of others.

Isolation from all that is isolates us from each other. We are not isolated physically, but emotionally. We do not feel what others feel. We can not empathize and are more willing to inflict pain on others. We would not willingly inflict pain if we felt the pain we inflicted. We do not feel the joy of others. We are missing so much joy.

Reconnecting is a challenge. In order to be willing to drop the psychic barrier that separates us from all that is, we have to feel that we do not have anything to hide. That can only happen if we are 100% honest with each other and willing to admit and ask forgiveness for our misdeeds. The fear of retribution and social ostracism makes this extremely difficult.

We can make it easier for each other by being non-judgmental and forgiving. This allows others to feel safe and removes the need for a psychic barrier. The more heinous the crime against us, the more we need to forgive. Allowing those individuals to reconnect with all that is, will allow them to feel their victims pain. This will be a more effective deterrent to doing harm than any physical punishment we could humanly inflict.

This will be difficult. Our survival depends upon it. Without reconnecting with all that is, we will not be able to fully adopt the world view that is necessary to achieve a sustainable future.

We need to address population and poverty.

The earth has a finite carrying capacity. It can only support so many human beings at one time. Exceeding the earths’ carrying capacity is harmful to all living things. It is not a sustainable condition and will eventually lead to a painful population crash via starvation and disease.

Population and poverty go hand in hand. With the exception of immigration, all developed countries have a negative population growth. Population is still growing in developing countries where poverty is epidemic.

The global elimination of poverty will result in global negative population growth. The human population will begin to decline globally naturally. Couples will simply have fewer than the 2.1 children that are necessary to replace them and as a result the population will shrink.

The elimination of poverty globally requires a combination of a more equitable distribution of resources and growth of the global economy. Growth of the economy is traditionally tied to an equal growth in energy consumption however there are some exceptions. Energy is one major issue we have to successfully address in order to achieve a sustainable future.

We need to address energy needs with conservation and renewables.

Energy production has to shift from non-renewable polluting fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, to sustainable non-polluting energy sources such as wind power, solar power, geo-thermal power, tidal power, wave power, ocean thermal power, ocean current power, hydro electric power, and bio-fuels.

Energy conservation can reduce the size and expense of this task and shorten the time frame to its’ completion. Energy conservation can take many forms, energy efficient building designs, more efficient transportation, designing our cities to be more energy efficient.

For example, more compact cities with less urban sprawl reduce the transportation energy costs. Designing mixed residential-business neighborhoods, rather than segregating residential and business into separate zones, reduces transportation energy costs by allowing goods and services to be produced and distributed where they are consumed.

One way this may be accomplished is to design apartment buildings with a mixture of residential, office space, and retail space. Put the retail space at street level, office space directly above the retail space, and then living space above the office space. This allows the office space to serve as a noise buffer between retail and other business activity on the street level and affords residents at least a third story view.

Heat produced by lighting or equipment in the business space and office space can be readily vented to the exterior during the summer but allowed to rise in the winter reducing the residential heating costs. The residential units above the office space act as insulation reducing the office space and retail heating costs.

Until our energy production is 100% renewable and non-polluting, there will be a trade-off between the needs of reducing poverty to reign in population expansion and environmental harm caused by utilizing polluting energy sources. We must eliminate poverty and stop population growth as soon as possible, even if it means some increase in energy production and pollution in the short term.

Between 1974 and 2006, the ratio of economic output to energy consumption doubled in the United States. Japan still produces twice as much economic output per unit of energy consumption than does the United States, so there is still much room for improvement in the United States.

Many of the renewable energy sources available to us are intermittent in nature. Germany has invested heavily in solar and wind generation. What they have found is that the geographical distribution of wind generation capacity and solar has provided overall reliable generating capacity. We have a much larger land area here in the United States, so there is even more opportunity to exploit geographical diversity.

The electric power grid must be upgraded in order to make heavy use of renewable energy sources. Converting to ultra high voltage DC transmission can rectify many of the existing grid deficiencies.

To do so we must substantially upgrade our power grid. Using ultra-high voltage DC transmission instead of high voltage AC transmission greatly reduces power transmission line cost and losses while improving capacity and reliability. It also allows the non-synchronous interconnection of grids.

Power transmission lines experience two primary sources of loss. The resistance of the wire causes the wire to heat up and the voltage to drop and power to be lost as heat. These losses are often referred to as “copper losses” even though most transmission lines utilize aluminum conductors. The second loss is via electromagnetic radiation.

A third source of power loss is via coronal discharge but this loss is negligible compared to copper and radiative losses in AC high voltage power transmission lines.

With AC power transmission, radiative losses increase with frequency and voltage. Copper losses decrease with voltage. Thus the design operating voltage of an AC transmission line is a trade-off between copper losses and radiative losses. Losses are also higher in 60 Hz transmission lines used in North America as compared to 50 Hz transmission lines used in some other parts of the world.

With DC transmission there are no radiative losses. This allows the voltages to be raised higher reducing copper losses. Line capacity is higher with a DC transmission line because the average voltage equals the peak voltage. With AC transmission the peak voltage is 1.414 times the average voltage and so the line must be operated at a lower voltage level, equating to lower capacity.

Another advantage of DC lines is there are no losses related to power factor. With AC lines, the load can cause the current to be somewhat out of phase with the voltage. This lowers the power that can be transferred. With DC lines, no power factor issues exist. DC current can’t be out of phase with voltage because there are no phases.

DC transmission is also less affected by space weather. Solar activity induces ultra low frequency current in transmission lines that can destroy transformers at the substations on either end of an AC line. However, in a DC line, these very low frequency currents do not adversely affect the DC/AC conversion equipment at the substations and thus the lines are much less vulnerable to space weather.

Given that the Earth’s magnetic field, which protects us to a degree, is declining in strength, converting our power infrastructure to DC transmission lines now can avoid outages during a future magnetic reversal which is likely to occur.

DC lines also lend themselves well to intercontinental power transmission. The radiative losses of AC lines are extremely high when they are run for long distances under oceans because the conductive salt water acts like a partially shorted secondary winding of a transformer. DC lines suffer no radiative losses and this is particularly significant for undersea power cables.

At voltages above 2 megavolts, coronal discharge losses increase to a level where they compete with copper losses. It is not advantageous to operate DC lines above two megavolts. Sweden operates the worlds highest voltage DC transmission line at 1.6 megavolts.

We should convert our transmission lines to ultra high-voltage DC, interconnect the east and west continental grid via DC transmission lines and consider intercontinental connections. A high voltage undersea transmission line would be practical across the bearing straight.

DC interconnections do not have the problems with cascading grid collapse that plague AC lines because the DC/AC conversion equipment can adjust voltage, phase, and power levels instantaneously. Thus interconnecting the eastern and western grids in this manner would not decrease grid reliability. Converting the entire transmission system to DC transmission would greatly enhance reliability and capacity.

In order to utilize renewables to meet our energy needs, we need increased capacity and reliability of the grid system. It is needed to provide geographical diversity to offset the intermittent nature of solar and wind power generation. Increased capacity will also be required as renewable generated electricity displaces fossil fuels in many applications such as home heating and providing heat for industrial processes.

Load leveling facilities will be required to cover the variable nature of electricity generation from renewable sources.

The switch to renewables will require load leveling facilities. Pumped hydro and Redox Flow cells are potential solutions. Pumped hydro involves pumping water from a low reservoir to a higher reservoir during periods of excess power production, and then allowing that water to flow through turbines to generate power when demand exceeds production. A Redox flow cell is a type of battery in which rather than having solid electrodes and a liquid electrolyte, there are essentially liquid electrodes and a solid ionic membrane acting as the ion transport medium. Redox flow cells use electrodes of liquid vanadium-sulfate in different oxidation states. The power capacity of the cell can be scaled to megawatts. Storage capacity is determined by the size of the vanadium-sulfate storage tanks. This makes this type of cell a practical battery for utility load leveling.

Other options involve the use of smart meters and variable rates so that individuals and businesses have financial incentive to defer loads which can be deferred during high demand periods. Smart appliances which can communicate with the utility can make this more effective than relying on human adjustment alone. Many energy intensive industrial processes can be scheduled for off-peak times and interrupted during a power emergency via automatic load shedding facilities.

We need to re-explore the nuclear option. Fast spectrum reactors can burn existing long term nuclear wastes. New technologies can address safety issues.

The rate at which renewables can be scaled up is not infinite. We need to consider other non-renewable energy sources that might be less harmful than burning fossil fuels with the attendant increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and resulting global climate change, acidification of the oceans, and other negative environmental consequences.

We have created a huge amount of long lasting nuclear waste. We owe it to future generations to eliminate this waste rather than leaving an ecological disaster that future generations will have to address. 95% of the energy generation potential of the original uranium ore is still present in nuclear waste. The spent fuel, laden with transuranic elements will need to be isolated from the environment for at least 20,000 years.

Fast spectrum reactors can greatly reduce the volume waste, extract the remaining energy content, and reduce the time that the waste must be isolated from 20,000 years to 300 years.

Conventional light water moderated reactors generate transuranics during their operation and burn only a small percentage of their fuel. Only select nuclear isotopes can fission through the absorption of slow “thermal” neutrons. Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 are the most common fissile elements. All transuranics can be fissioned with fast neutrons.

Fast spectrum reactors can burn the transuranics and extract the energy potential remaining in existing spent fuel. Transuranics are the portion of nuclear waste that has a long half-life. Fission products have a short half-life. This is how this process transforms a 20,000 year problem into a 300 year problem. Extracting 19 times the amount of energy from the waste as we did from the initial uranium fuel eliminates the need to mine additional uranium.

A controllable “safe” fast spectrum reactor design exists.

Conventional fast spectrum reactors are difficult to control. Accelerator driven reactors eliminate the potential for a runaway reaction by operating at subcriticality. The reactor is designed so that the neutron gain is 97% of that required for criticality. Remaining neutrons are supplied by a particle accelerator.

The output of the accelerator does not increase with reaction rates. There is no potential for a runaway nuclear reaction. If power is lost the reaction stops.

A fast spectrum reactor with on-site pyrometallic fuel reprocessing eliminates transportation of high-level nuclear waste. Uranium, plutonium, and other transuranics are not separated from each other. They are made into fuel and re-used in the reactor on-site. There is no isotopic purity of the uranium and plutonium. The potential for fuel to be diverted to weapons is eliminated.

The fast spectrum / pyrometallic reprocessing fuel cycle extracts nearly 100% of the uranium or thorium ore energy potential. All of the transuranic isotopes can be used. U-238 can be burnt as well as U-235 and Thorium-232. All existing transuranic waste elements can be burnt.

High grade uranium ores can provide energy for several hundred years with conventional reactor technology. The fast spectrum pyrometallic fuel cycle can extend that to several thousand years. Using lower grade ores, economical with this fuel cycle, can extend nuclear fissions usefulness to millions of years.

Controlled nuclear fusion is the Holy Grail of energy production.

The Holy Grail of energy production is controlled nuclear fusion. There is no melt-down potential, no potential for the large scale release of radioactive materials. Minor releases of tritium is the worst case scenario for a fusion power plant accident. Enough deuterium exists in the earths oceans to provide power for the next 15 billion years.

Science problems associated with controlled hydrogen fusion have been solved. Engineering, financial, and political problems remain. Nuclear fusion plants breed tritium from lithium. There is some question regarding whether the worlds lithium supplies are adequate.

Existing fusion reactor designs utilize deuterium and tritium. These elements are relatively easy to fuse. There are advanced fuel cycles that do not create neutrons and which can produce electricity directly rather than requiring thermal conversion, however, these fuel cycles require higher temperatures and densities than we can presently produce.

Energy production is the human activity most damaging to our environment. Energy is also the predominant limiting factor to economic growth. For both of these reasons clean renewable energy production should be our highest priority.

Most current food production is also not sustainable and environmentally damaging.

We pave over fertile flood plains for housing and commercial development. Then we burn or cut down forests and irrigate deserts to grow food. We over-water and leach minerals out of the soil. We over-fertilize using petroleum derived fertilizers, and turn streams, rivers, and river deltas into huge oxygen depleted death zones extending hundreds of miles out to sea.

Flood plains are fertile because past floods have deposited minerals from weathered rocks upstream. Flood plains will flood again. Rich soil of flood plains should be farmed.

Farmers often grow the same crop year after year which depletes the soil. Over-watering further damages the soil by leaching out minerals. Petroleum derived fertilizers replace lost minerals, a practice which is not sustainable. The leached minerals and fertilizers flow into streams and rivers causing surface algae blooms which deplete oxygen below the surface. We eat the food we grow or feed it to animals, produce waste which usually is inadequately processed, dumping more nutrients into the streams, rivers, and oceans.

We must use our land intelligently. Farm land that is suitable for farming such as flood plains instead of converting forests and deserts into farms. Rich naturally irrigated soil reduces the need to fertilize and irrigate. More complete processing of our sewage can allow the reuse of minerals. We need to stop animal waste from livestock from entering streams and rivers.

Drip irrigation is used in Israel where water is scarce and expensive. Water sensors are buried at a depth corresponding with the depth of the crop roots. When the soil is sufficiently dry to require irrigation, water is dripped into the soil until the sensors detect it and then it is shut off. Dripping rather than spraying reduces evaporative losses. Watering to root depth prevents minerals from being leached out of the soil reducing the need for fertilizers.

Soil can be rebuilt through the use of compost, mulch, manure, and other organic fertilizers. Nitrogen fixing crops such as alpha or clover can be grown and then plowed back into the soil.

Meat production is extremely land intensive and environmentally damaging. We need to raise animals in a way that limits the harm to the environment. The greenhouse effects of methane , cow farts, are two hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide.

We need to minimize environmental damage caused by resource extraction.

Extraction of resources environmentally damaging. We do additional damage when we discard the products produced from those materials. We need to eliminate our waste streams and reduce resource extraction by recycling everything. Recycling is often energy intensive. That limits the degree to which we can recycle. Addressing our energy supply needs will make it possible to increase the percentage of recycled materials and reduce environmental harm.

We need to consider the environmental costs of resource extraction and minimize the damage to the environment and use the extracted materials as efficiently as possible.

This article was intended to be a summary statement of the major problems we must overcome on the road to sustainability and to present some potential solutions.

This article was not intended to be specific, detailed, or exhaustive. I will elaborate on problems and technological or procedural solutions in future articles.

The single biggest challenge we face is to change our world view from one of being isolated individuals competing for limited resources, to a connected focus on the well being of all living things.

Many people oppose movement towards sustainability because they believe it means we must lead a simplified marginal life. In my studies of the issues I have come to the conclusion that all of the resources we need to live a full comfortable life in a sustainable manner exist.

After more than three decades of being immersed in technology, there are things to be said for a simpler life style. Complexity takes away from the human experience of interacting.