ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Oh, and Happy Solstice! (the real reason for the season)

...from somewhere near the far right boob area, Northeast Wisconsin East River Valley Estuary.
May Grace dwell in your soul. Not just this holy day season, but throughout the coming year!
Thanks for reading my stuff! Blessed Be! Namaste'. Ubuntu.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Four Families Moved Away

I met some people the other day who were dead set against having wind turbines anywhere. Especially anywhere they would have to see them. They claimed that four families had moved away in response to wind turbines going up in their area. What they claimed that they do was a collection of things that I wanted to understand. There must be some sort of cohesive understanding of what these ideas are based on, right? How they "learned" these things only becomes important when you begin to understand how much money, time and effort have been put into studying and teaching these false claims to others. One of their claims is that turbines are getting louder. I am hearing/feeling the throbbing of our local coal fired electric generating station four and a half miles away. But to be fair, it produces more power than 200 wind spinners. Using machines to do work is not quiet by any means. These people also said that all the turbines interconnected so that when one went down, or stopped running all of them stop producing power. The most interesting complaint was that if enough turbines are put up, it will slow the Earth's rotation, lengthening days, reducing gravitational forces and creating climate change. These extremely strong-headed folks also made an outrageous claim that each turbine gets what they claimed to be an $11,000 subsidy each year just for being there. So I went out, trying to find out if any of it was true.

I hate taking the word of others only because I have been burned by doing so in the past. I try to be impeccable with my word, but to do so means not accepting the claims of others until the facts behind them are understood. Sometimes, even the motivations of those speaking need to be taken into consideration before one can understand their claims completely. It seems that virtually none of what these folks had to say was based on fact, however, as fervent as they were, it is hard to envision a process by which they could be educated out of their delusion.

What I found was, that there is a subsidy that was set in 1992 at one point five cents per kilowatt produced. (that number has been annually adjusted for inflation.) To get a thousand dollars each month, you would be producing 100,000 Kw. Aka 100 megawatts (mw). I went on to study even more critically, trying to find out where he got that number. For perspective, the Pulliam power station, which sits at the mouth of the Fox River, the main tributary feeding into Green Bay produces 350-375 mw, but it does so continuously, nearly without stop. It seems that if the wind towers are producing 1.6 megawatts, each, which would lead to the subsidy being in that 10-11,000 dollar range, It would take over 200 wind turbines to equal the output of our nearby coal-fired power generating station and they would have to spin 24/7/365. Wind is intermittent and I frequently see whole groups of turbines sitting idle. When I began to understand the meaning of this, virtually all of the other claims became questionable at best.

First, noise is the result of inefficiency, the wind turbines that I have sat under and walked around are quiet, very quiet. In fact, that is part of why they seem so beautifully elegant to me. The quieter they are, the more efficient they are and the owners know this and have a vested interest in running them as efficiently as possible, especially if their subsidy is based on their production of energy. The fact is that turbines have actually gotten quieter, to harness as much energy from the wind as possible.

Even in the most blustery conditions, it seems that on the large wind farms there are one or two turbines that are not spinning.  There would be no point in running all of the others if a single stopped turbine was taking all the energy produced by the others away. Considering the costs of putting even a single tower up, running them this way would not be worth the subsidy. I'm not an expert, but these machines are smart now, if they are not running efficiently, the things stop themselves, which occasionally requires power, but broken down ones mean jobs, for real people, like me, not a guy blasting away at a mountain or setting explosives deep in a mine, technicians at turbines are high tech versions of me and probably get far better wages than either me or coal miners. Good jobs. I have lived in the Coal Region of PA and can attest to the death, destruction, desperation, misogyny and mayhem that boom-bust economies foster. Turbine technicians, on the other hand, could sleep in their own beds at night if we had wind farms abundantly in windy areas. The economies of scale are making wind far cheaper to install than coal or even natural gas generating facilities. I'm not a technocrat, but conservative thinkers should all agree that fossil energy will only exacerbate climate change. I have a ticker on one of the blogs I follow that shows a graph of how many Hiroshima bombs of energy have been released to the atmosphere since 1970. Over four billion four hundred million and counting.  Reviewing now, so forgive me, each of the 400 million is a thousand thousands. The billions are thousands of millions...Take your time, think it through. Four thousands of millions. We all saw the pictures of the sorts of clouds and energy released when that amount of energy happens all at once, but when it happens slowly over time from many areas of the globe, the way we release it, from millions of discreet, often mobile sources spreads the release over millions of discreet environments. Wherever humans congregate, releasing their BTUs near others, giant invisible high pressure ridges build up over the cities, roads and towns, which in turn act like invisible mountain ranges. Expanding air is the result of burning. I have seen these effects since the early eighties and continue to see them get more pronounced and more pronounced over the last thirty years. I have even seen repeated events where this high pressure ridge actually gets sandwiched under colder, dense air for days on end, stagnating and picking up the pollution released over several days into a giant bolus of nasty air, before "fresh" air blows the nauseating bolus somewhere else. This is the result of fossil energy and renewable energy gets extra points with me on this fact alone.

The idea of slowing earth's rotation is actually pretty funny on the face of it, but I had to look into the energy available, the relative amounts of energy in natural phenomena and the affect that wind has on keeping the Earth spinning and the more I understood, the more ludicrous the claim becomes. A single hurricane  contains more energy than humans use in a year. But even if we lined the entire coast with wind turbines, and somehow all the turbines took a direct hit from the storm, we would not reap even 1% of the energy that one of these storms contain. I also discovered that winds don't effect the spin of the Earth much at all. The winds are more likely affected by the rotation of the Earth more.

My most recent theory is that the four families that moved away were just able to use the wind farms and turbines as a timely excuse. Anyone keeping up on the lives of farm families knows that they are under extreme stress already, mostly stemming from their reliance on fossil energy and one more thing to worry about is often just enough to push them over the edge. Restless sleep, exhaustion and the host of supposed medical problems that farmers are attributing to the turbines is much more likely to be from chemical exposure, contaminated wells and/or financial stress than the nearby wind turbines. In fact, many people prefer to sleep with white noise in the room.

Ironically, we have had more than four families leave our neighborhood in the past year and the closest wind turbine is more than a dozen miles away. Crushing debt burdens, homes and farms that are financially under water and having to pay more for flood insurance to cover the increasing claims, primarily from uberwealthy home owners on the coasts, are more to blame in my neighborhood for the hollowing out of our community than wind spinners. Heck, even the crippled job market and the policies of our horrible slate of currently "serving" Teathuglican operatives in Wisconsin politics has more to do with people moving away than wind turbines. We need to look hard at why so much is going into the process of misinforming well meaning people. Oddly enough, the ultrawealthy are spending more to try to stop wind towers from going up than the industry spends on building them.

We have a problem Houston... 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nine Intrepid Fans

ECO-Tours has put out the call for help from our followers, our tribe as it were. We are wordsmithing and redesigning a flyer and would like trusted eyes to see what they would change/improve. Your suggestions will be humbly accepted and as we embark on our next journey, we will be able to connect with more people, the better our materials are, so those who choose to join us in this task, consider yourself thanked in advance!

We can offer to either e-mail you a PDF format copy or send hard copy if you prefer the feel of paper in your hands. The draft we have is pretty rough, so don't be afraid to tear it apart or completyely start over. We need a clear, concise way to encourage readers to host classes and/or enough information to inspire them to become students.

At a cost of $35, the value is many times higher! Every bed that I have added biochar to has yielded double the harvests! What I am going to offer, only through this blog is that our helpers on the flyer project become eligible for a half off the baker's dozen special, instead of getting a free class with a dozen paid students, you can get the free class with only six paid students! Half the work for the host, twice the time to practice your technique!

Twelve sided structure encloses maximum space with minimum of material.
It is well to realize that the current conditions exist because we humans, or our ancestors, did something in the past. We humans made the decision to set ourselves at odds with nature, or outright against her. Mother Earth is beyond our ability to quantify, so the raping of the planet is beyond our comprehension. The living planet presents far too many relationships to keep track of all of, so we may never understand the depth of our damage. It does not take any great stretch of the imagination to understand that the dust bowl days blew away nearly all the humus on the Great Plains. Precious soil that mother Nature builds at the rate of only one inch every ten thousand years. It left. There were reports of ships having great storms of dust 300 miles out at sea, where after the storm, they would have to sweep dirt and mud off the hull. Those soils were lost from Kansas, Oklahoma, and a dozen other western states, remnants of those soils may still be settling to the bottom. More important for this post, they never came back. Using biochar, and aggressive composting, we can build soils at thousands of times the rate that nature would, but when we do, it is best to do it in raised bed situations where footfalls can be eliminated. soil, especially healthy soil, has air in it, any footfall or traffic can compact the ground, leading to less healthy conditions.

Another secret to maximizing soil creation is mulch. In addition to keeping soils well composted, mulch helps keep ultraviolet rays from the Sun from sterilizing the soil  surface. Intact mulch helps to preserve soil organisms that help moderate conditions and whose waste products are important parts of the soil biome. It may seem out of place, to include a picture of the earthship (dodecagon) design, but it helps to imagine the microbial landscape as well. Even the tiniest organisms reflect the compact shape...conditions can be menacing, so they expend as little on outside as possible to contain and protect their vital protoplasm and structures. Like us, microbes are over 2/3 water and they too help to stabilize soil temperatures and moisture. Sheer mass of microbes in healthy soil equals about the combined weight of a cow and her calf, per acre! Biochar has fourteen acres of surface area per handful. Slowly, let those two ideas merge and play in your mind for a while. Fourteen acres of surface area. If that amount of area were to be colonized with as many microbes as healthy soil contains, it is like adding a mass of microbe to the soil equivalent in mass to fourteen cows and fourteen calves. These microscopic plants and creatures metabolize carbohydrates, fats, protein, etc, creating heat and  exchange gasses, just like we do. I have a few beds that have had biochar added at a rate of one kilo per cubic meter (2.2 pounds to 1.2 sq. yards.) and these soils always produce an extra two weeks in fall, freeze up as much as one moon later and in sporing are ready to go that much earlier in Spring because the microbial community is thriving in them. They thaw out sooner and are ready to plant a few weeks sooner than similar untreated areas.

Getting these concepts encapsulated in just a few words is the main mission of this effort. If we could get the thrust of the message down to just nine words, or less, which ones would they be? Reverse atmospheric carbon one fire at a time? Begin sequestering carbon today? Roast wood for posterity? What do you think would motivate people the best?