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simple ecology

The humans influence the environment at a planentary scale, though I do not remember learning anything in school about ecology issues, and since i suppose i am not the only one, I try here to sumarise my knowledge on the subject, and ask for some feedback on the relevance/importance/accuracy of these ideas.

I will concentrate only on the big issues – global warming and clean energy.

How do humans generate global warming?

Humans burn fosile fuels like oil, coal and metan gas. Burning those fuels consumes oxygen and generates CO2 (carbon dioxide) and energy. The increased CO2 in atmosphere creates a warming effect – like in a greenhouse.

CO2, like water, has its own path in nature. The plants, through photosyntezis, are the only organisms that can use sun light as energy to transform the CO2 from the air and the water (H2O) from the soil into oxygen and into organic chemicals, that are rich in carbon. This way forests grow, also vegetables, fruits and cereals. For millions of years great forests took lots of CO2 from the atmosphere, grew very big, then old forests transformed into coal and oil – that we managed to burn in the last century, releasing all the CO2 back in the atmosphere at a much faster rate.

Why does biodiesel seem not to cause global warming?

Biodiesel it is almost identical with cooking oil, and obtained from plant seeds, so when burning it we release exactly the CO2 that was collected from the atmosphere by the plants (like sun flower) during the last agricultural season. We do not release in atmosphere CO2 that was before stored into the ground, as oil or coal.

Another big advantage of biodiesel is that all the infrastructure for distributing and using it by the final consumers already exists (diesel engines work with biodieasel, also all petrol stations).

Why does biodiesel is not that ecologic?

Because in the ecuation above we did not take into account that many countries cut off forests to grow cultures for biodiesel. The harm is double: the forests are burned in many cases, and the quantity of CO2 absorbed by the vegetation is incomparably smaller in case of agricultures than of a forest. Biodiesel is ecologic only if the cultivated land was used for agriculture before, but then, it will not be used any more to produce food, the food will be less, so the price of it will get higher – as it happens right this moment.

What should we do to clean the mess?

Two things:

- to use clean energy sources (that do not add CO2 to the atmosphere) – this is beginning right now. The good news here is that right now, with the increased cost of oil, finding alternative sources of energy is an economical necessity and an enormous new market, full of opportunities.

- to find a method to remove extra CO2 from the air – and this is an open subject, and unfortunately not an economical priority.

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2 comments to “simple ecology”

  1. I think the problem is how the economy is supposed to work at this moment. It’s not based on equilibrium but on growth. We are not trying to find a balance but “cleaner” ways to continue consuming and riding cars 500m to the super market. Global economy rather than self-sustaining regions. This should change. I know that it might be cheaper to grow something, ship-it to some other place for processing and shipping it back for consumption but this all costs fuel.

  2. BION I’m impresesd! Cool post!

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