Dense Environmental Energy
Chapter 2: Human Causes of Droughts & Desertification:
by Gare Henderson, Ph.D.
Primary Climate Modification Hypothesis:
The Gare Hypothesis: "High energy dissipation concentrations, and human
normalization of the planetary boundary layer are intensifying atmospheric
moisture flows contrary to evolved hydrological patterns."
If the network of human settlements, cities and farms, were absent, hydrological balance would naturally be maintained by regional and synoptic poly-cultures that evolve from the availability of surface and ground based fluid phase water. Over the centuries various surface, atmospheric, geologic and planetary conditions have also been long term sculptors of regional hydrology.`
Pressure on regional water supply:
Many regions around the globe are suffering from extensive persistent & expensive droughts. Societies are increasingly resorting to heroic measures to provide sufficient water for primary and secondary human consumption.
Many futurists and political theorists forecast that rising water conflicts will fuel the wars of this century. Regional hydrology evolved over millions of years to levels synchronous with the gravitational environment balanced by levels of sun energy.
An admittedly complex, but largely predictable, water cycle evolved which moves water between its forms, [liquid, gas, solid] with sufficient regularity to maintain its integrity. This water cycle is sufficient to support a thin smear of life on the planets surface. If life begins to overpopulate a region, the natural water cycle is the fundamental checking mechanism that returns life to synchrony and harmony. In short as life concentrates natural systems fail, and create a cascade of failures that result in drought and desertification in both the area of concentration and remote areas which are hydrologically codependent via sources or wind patterns. However, the rules of nature no longer limit the concentrations of life, due to the importation of vast energy sources to power alternatives to natural systems. This phenomena represents the roots of the hydro/energy imbalances that are modern societies.
For example, traditional societies relied primarily on gravity to move sufficient water to meet the needs of cities and agriculture. This limited the location of cities, as they had to follow both water supplies and the evolved terrain. Yet, today with the use of dense fuels such as hydrocarbons we no longer rely on gravity to provide sufficient water despite its relatively low density, [1 gallon of gasoline can pump thousands of gallons of water].
The result is that we build resource intensive systems with little regard to energy sources. Farmers have long realized that a plot of land has natural limits on the life that it can sustain. In agricultural communities this has been dealt with by periodic fallowing of field, or rotating herds between pastures. These methods allow natural systems an opportunity to renew themselves, and thereby sustain years of productive usage.
However, for cities there is no renewal period, and instead cities drain regional water resources, and concentrate oxidization thereby creating thermal sinks that also drain regional atmospheric moisture.
Hydrological and Geologic Forcing : Major water projects: (abridged)
A few troubling trends are becoming increasingly evident. First, is the construction of massive water management projects, such as dams and reservoirs. These projects often skew water distribution, and deny traditional downstream users, [studies show that a dam will reduce the growth of downstream riparian zones (riverside vegetation) by as much as 40% within a decade]. The massive projects often present significant new, and poorly understood, stresses on subsurface geological structures. (Note: These same geological impacts can be attributed to cities due to massive buildings, roadways, traffic vibration, and the cumulative mass of city infrastructures.)
Human kind has decided to ignore these evolved balances, first through extensive monocultures as agriculture and then through massive settlements as cities. These human proclivities steadily overburden the naturally evolved water cycles, and require increasingly heroic efforts to accommodate.
Irrigation, water supply, water distribution, water conditioning, sewage distribution, sewage mitigation, pollution mitigation and HVAC are the steps in environmental domination, implemented over many centuries.
Mankind has overburden the naturally evolved water cycles, and human settlements require increasingly heroic efforts to accommodate.
Irrigation, water supply, water distribution, sewage distribution, sewage mitigation, pollution mitigation and HVAC are the steps in environmental domination, implemented over many centuries, that mankind has fostered.
These systems which have become quotidian for the rich, and ideals for the poor are proving to be un-sustainable for the future. In this section I will examine the ways mankind's dominance of nature is leading to increasingly persistent drought, desertification, dangerous weather systems and ultimately to climate change. If the network of human settlements were absent, hydrological balance would naturally be maintained by regional and synoptic poly-cultures.
The study of geomorphology indicates that most of the earth surface features are theThe study of geomorphology indicates that most of the earth surface features are the result of a combination of subsurface phenomena, tectonic uplift and subsidence, gravity, climate and in recent history human activity. Extremely large anthropogenic concentrations of dense material such as water or concrete, as in cities, dams and watersheds, while small in the scale of the planet, are both persistent and highly concentrated pressures on tectonic structures which evolved over millennia of millennia. These concentrated structures have an impact analogous to a slow motion billon ton asteroid hitting the planet at that spot.
Some care is given, especially by the insurance industry, not to locate vast structures on known fault lines, yet the science of geology is both inexact and incomplete. Consequently when the construction of giant structures is combined with changing water tables and based upon equally in-exact and incomplete knowledge or understandings of surface and sub-surface hydrology, significant regional seismic hazard is introduced.
The costs of adequate geological studies to determine the potential impacts of a new massive water projects are so great, that in 1990 the world bank concluded that "the absence of geological problems should be treated as the exception rather than the norm". There is well established scholarship which attributes 5 of 9 significant earthquakes on the Indian peninsula in the 1980's to dams or reservoirs.
Man 's history of large water projects, like the Salton Sea, Aral Sea, and many others, have resulted in distorted regional hydrology and vast unintended consequences.
These water projects such as the 3 gorges dam, lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, the Aswan dam have all been developed to service growing human settlement's needs for either water or power. In each case the surface water side effects on regional or synoptic hydrology have been deleterious. These projects tend to distort the natural hydrological balance of the region to concentrate hydrology on a specific area. This tendency of hydrology concentration mirrors the energy concentrations that are also characteristic of human settlements.
The combination of these effects gradually lead to regional and more widespread droughts which become apparent when local hydrology is stressed. These actual diversions of local hydrology, when combined with virtual methods such as electrical generation and industrial usage of water enable large cities to act as actual regional potable water drains. Water is diverted to the cities with large water projects, and drawn to the city by energy concentrations, and then often adulterated with fossil fuel residues and then removed from regional hydrology through storm drains.
|References and Recognitions: (note: most illustration link back to their original sources)|
Reduction of non-renewable resources: (abridged)
As regions become increasingly arid, due to drought conditions, groundwater resources are exploited aggressively.
A troubling trend is the tapping of fossil or other non-renewable water supplies. These practices are troubling because they represent the reduction of the potential value of non-renewable ground-water resources, through either depletion or pollution or both. Non-renewable water sources are defined as groundwater that is being depleted faster than it can be naturally replenished. This includes aquifers at many depths, and many that transcend political boundaries. It is forecast that the depletion of groundwater resources shared across political boundaries will be a growing source of direct and proxy regional conflicts. The UN estimates that groundwater supplies about 50% of the world's drinking water.
Large scale ground-water depletions as well as massive surface projects represent significant subsurface geological stresses, with poorly understood long term consequences. The apparently rising incidences of spectacular sink holes, around the world, may be a harbinger of things to come.
Groundwater depletion has led to widespread challenges for international drink manufacturers. Indian farmers have successfully sued the Coca-Cola bottlers in key arid areas for overuse, and underpayment, for regional groundwater resources. In many arid regions around the globe groundwater conflicts are building, and many more will explode as costs increase, problems become evident [required well depths] and better understandings of the finite nature of these resources becomes widespread.
Roughly 97% of the non-frozen fresh water resources of the world are contained in groundwater.
As surface water resources are stressed or unavailable due to the imposition of concentrated human activities more people and industries begin to seek and tap deeper water resources. The density of wells in an area can also lead to pathological flow patterns in groundwater by generating various pressure gradients. These gradients can induce contamination by drawing near surface pollutants , septic systems & waste dumps, into groundwater. The result is that the value of ground water resources is diminished often actually, but always potentially. In some parts of India, minimum productive well depths have grown dramatically within a few years. In other areas the rapid increase in private wells lead to many deaths and serious illness from Arsenic laced fossil water supplies.
In areas where individual wells are dug, all too often, no market mechanism constrains usage, and the result is that when local or regional sources fail the costs of water will increase dramatically and be shared by all. Non-renewable water systems therefore represents the "tragedy of the commons" as applied to an invisible but critical resources.
Thermal Pollution: (abridged)
Atmospheric flows, [winds], are primarily thermal phenomena. Heat from anthropogenic concentrations can act as a spoon in a cup of hot coffee, or an ice cube in a glass of warm Scotch.
Human and livestock settlements are concentrators of energy conversion through vehicle traffic, HVAC, sewage decay and various industrial processes.
The American Meteorological Society defines anthropogenic heat as the "Heat released to the atmosphere as a result of human activities, often involving combustion of fuels. Sources include industrial plants, space heating and cooling, human metabolism and vehicle exhausts. In cities this source typically contributes 15-50 W m-2 to the local heat balance, and several hundred W m-2 in the center of large cities in cold climates and industrial area"
However this view is short sighted and denies the first law of thermodynamics, in that it primarily accounts for sensible heat sources and almost completely ignores latent heat. While anthropogenic waste heat is not considered as a major factor in global warming, it has been demonstrated, even using the inadequate sensible heat only model, to impact local and regional weather, at least in wind manipulation.
The conservation of energy, [i.e. energy can be neither created nor destroyed], dictates that these conversions generate new forms or functions. The primary forms generated by energy consumption are heat, vibration, noise and pollutions. These conversions are primary (point), and (non-point) secondary or tertiary. The primary energy conversions result from the combustion of fossil fuels, the active temperature maintenance of internal spaces (HVAC), and landfills and other sewage management methodologies. The secondary energy conversions are from the remote combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity or to refine fossil fuels. The tertiary source of energy conversion are from the distant manufacture of products that are consumed, which includes energy used in agriculture, various consumer products, and textiles.
The waste heat generated by these processes is diffused into the environment primarily via fluid flows, including atmospheric flows (wind), or water flows as warmed fluid or evaporation. Waste heat is also generated by massive accumulation of dense structures, primarily brick, concrete, and tarred roadways from absorbed sunlight.
The flows of waste heat are often contrary to the evolved hydrological balance for a particular region. For example waste heat continues to flow into the environment after the sun has passed the region, which results in the phenomena known as heat islands. This waste heat is often diffused into the environment catastrophically by storm run-off, which can deliver thermally polluted water to regional water ways and thereby having largely negative impacts on regional biodiversity. Yet the most common form of thermal pollution is the ground level exhaust of window air conditioners. The heat expelled by ground or near ground HVAC installation, especially in dense cities can increase atmospheric temperatures by several degrees on hot days. This is a reversible process in that mechanically expelled cold air, during cooler periods, can reduce atmospheric temperatures in dense population concentrations.
Especially during heat waves, the marginal contribution of HVAC to atmospheric heat, increases energy usage for cooling through out the community. The environmental consequences of thermal pollution can be summarized as stress on biodiversity and increased energy usage due to thermal contagion. This thermal contagion can represent increased economic and environmental stress forcing all residents of the area to expend precious resources on cooling, that would be either less or un-necessary under different circumstances.
Additional tertiary sources of thermal pollution are from concentrations of microbiological activity. This includes landfills, livestock fecal and urine pools, and the concentration of livestock in managed facilities.
Economic pressures: (abridged)
A third concern is that short term financial gains have engendered a trend towards large scale virtual water exporting, often from fragile regions, as fruits, vegetables, bio-fuels, animal products or electricity.
Virtual water imports can have a positive affect in arid regions, and often represents comparative advantages of a region to produce water intensive goods for distant markets. Yet, as demonstrated by the recent surge in bio-fuel production, people often value foreign currency over their regional long term water security. Water is often viewed as a scarce yet inexhaustible supply. Export crops, and industries, are chosen based upon today's dollars with little consideration given to the costs of overcoming terminal local supplies.
Yet there are few actual water shortages on the earth. Cosmologists tell us that all water was formed in deep space, and that the actual water supply of earth was fixed at its formation.
Our shortages are of potable water, water that is free from excessive dissolved chemical or biological contaminants such as salt, nitrogen, or harmful pathogens. Brackish water and polluted water are generally quite abundant. Since water can always be cleaned with sufficient energy, our challenge is to provide and deploy sufficient energy to combat water challenges. Desalination, pollution mitigation, and atmospheric water generation are some of the energy intensive processes of water management. Water transport to balance hydrology already consumes 20% of human energy use, and as imbalances increase this percentage may grow substantially.
With sufficient energy, polluted water can be cleaned, and brackish water can be desalinated.
With sufficient supplies of energy, air tankers, like those used to fight wildfires, could spray water over arid regions and effectively end droughts.
Of course the costs are prohibitive, (especially given that such
flights would have to happen thousands of times to make a permanent impact), when the source of energy
is fossil fuels. Wind or solar are options, but they lack the base
reliability and energy densities necessary for truly regional scale
operations. Later on we will discuss how GSE energy dense
momentum/inertial power can provide sufficient energy for regional environmental
mitigation and remediation.
Summary: Human Factors in Regional Drought:
The earth's natural ecosystem is hydrologically diverse. Unfortunately, we as the masters of technology often find natural hydrological diversity to be inconvenient to our desires. We continue to concentrate populations and therefore energy diffusion in small areas and exceed nature's carrying capacity. The result is that to support our way of life we have strong market driven incentives to increase the productivity of the natural environment, through mono-cultures, power generation, water distribution & pollution. The combination of these diverse factors has led to a growing alienation and lack of synchrony between mankind and the natural environment.
We concentrate energy usage and generation and we subvert the natural diversity which has evolved to maintain regional hydrological balance. This lack of synchrony underlies the human role in drought and desertification.
However, let us not extend hubris, or ideas of human exceptionalism, beyond its reach. There are many factors, outside of human control at work on the earth. Most if not all of these factors, from realms as diverse as dark energy flows, axial wobble, to non-local intelligence are largely beyond our grasp.
Yet, we are at a pivotal point in earth's history. Mankind has the technology to modify key aspects of the environment on synoptic if not global scales. These technologies if supported could generate far-reaching and long-lasting, if not profound, changes in our environment.
If we continue to evolve on the same path we must adapt, to higher temperatures, to increasingly imbalanced hydrology, and increasing un-certainty. We can decide to follow either the path of adaptation or management. If we chose the management path then we will need to establish some admittedly fragile hydrological ideals that we can pursue. Should we green the earth, by establishing tropical hydrology's as much as possible. Should we decide on an ideal average temperature, perhaps a bit hotter, or a bit cooler, and implement policies to achieve and maintain it. Can the next IPCC report give us some leadership that would include a set of climate and hydrological goals for the planet?
Later on in this book we will examine a project that proposes a regional management solution that also includes weather modification.
|References and Recognitions: (note: most illustration link back to their original sources)|
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