Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Downfall of Capitalism and Democracy

The social dilemma of our time is the downfall of capitalism and democracy via grotesque inequality. With so many people in poverty and 400 Americans owning more wealth than half of Americans combined, I must ask, what is capitalism without ethics?! How can such a corrupt system that works for so few persist? How can America even call itself a democracy when it benefits a minority, not the majority? 

From living paycheck to paycheck to homelessness, the struggle of the middle and lower class is obvious, but the solution… not so much. Capitalism was suppose to be the system to give everyone an equal opportunity to achieve the ‘American Dream'. Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ was suppose to ‘advance the interest of society’. Democracy was suppose to ensure all were heard, and the majority were helped by taxes and law makers. 

The 2008 multi trillion dollar taxpayer bailout helped the rich who created bad loans that were guaranteed to fail, get richer! While the average American taxpayer saw their hard earned money go right back to the top percent of elite bankers. Although the systematic fraud of Wall Street effected millions of Americans, not one senior banker was arrested. After the home mortgage crash, senior level bankers were often referred to as ‘untouchables’ and many ended up giving themselves bonuses after the bailout. While millions suffered from losing their homes and unemployment, future generations became locked into the enslavement of paying government loans through taxation, and the Department of Justice protected those at fault, and sealed the deal… capitalism was officially at it’s worst in the U.S.A. Democracy and capitalism were intended to protect the majority from the very people that are now unfairlly benefiting from it the most. Because many high level Wall Street executives have close ties to politicians and the White House, grotesque inequality has destroyed the concept of 'justice for all’ in law making. 

The question, how can the American people ensure grotesque inequality doesn’t interfere with democracy and capitalism still burns for me because there are too many people suffering due to the manipulation of laws and the games of every industry; power generation, agriculture, education, politics, banking, even religion. Answering, how Americans can ensure grotesque inequality doesn’t interfere with democracy and capitalism has been so challenging and tricky because reasonable inequality is in a sense inevitable, and even required. Not everyone can work the same job, make the same paycheck, that’s what drives the motivation behind being able to build your career, achieve something greater if you put the work in, and provide for your family in a capitalist society. At the same time money plays such a huge role in what gets funded and built, what doesn’t, who is heard, and who is silenced, so grotesque inequality does interfere with a healthy democratic and capitalist society. 

Critical thinking means asking the hard questions that will lead to a better built world and talking about topics that make people uncomfortable. Democracy and capitalism should not benefit the wealthiest more than the rest of the population in such a grotesque porportion, and because it currently does, we need critical thinking to expose this injustice more than ever. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Future Fuels

The constant increase in consumption of coal and oil has boosted the U.S. economy, but it comes at a cost to our environment and our middle class. Thanks to the newest technologies at work, coal and fossil fuels pollute less particulates when burnt than the previous century, but they do still contribute largely to the human carbon footprint, pollution, and the greenhouse gas effect here on Earth. These fuel companies also tend to stay mostly in the hands of the very wealthy, causing the rich to get richer, which creates a very unbalanced economic growth. In order to transition to a zero-carbon footprint, which will protect the environment, and balance economic growth for all, which in turn provides a high standard of living for the majority, the United States must transition our energy dependency from fossil fuels and coal to solar and nuclear supplies.

In the journal article Energy and Quality of Life, Pasten and Santamarina claim ‘energy consumption is inherently coupled to quality of life and population’. (2012). The two authors show several graphs side by side that display the correlation between electricity use and the increase in water access, life expectancy, years of schooling, and the decrease in infant mortality rate. The data for this article comes from 118 countries with populations larger than four million. Pasten and Santamarina’s data proves that reducing electricity is not the best solution to better balance economic growth and environmental protection; rather, the balance should be found in obtaining a cleaner energy fuel source for all people.

Burning hard black coal produces 90 g/MJ of CO2, and natural gas produces 51 g/MJ of CO2. (Lacy, 2012, p. 9). Solar on the other hand, produces 0 g/MJ of CO2. By transitioning to solar we eliminate our carbon-footprint and save the Earth from overheating. Along with zero CO2 emission, using solar panels does not produce any pollution.

The solar industry is growing faster than many anticipated. Science Alert, a popular science magazine stated in 2016,This year, solar energy prices in the country dropped to around parity with coal for the first time ever, hitting about 6 US cents a kilowatt-hour (kWh), while coal tariffs range usually range in between about 5–8 US cents/kWh.” (Dockrill, 2016). The trend in the solar industry shows that by switching to solar from coal, economic growth is not compromised. All over the world solar is becoming more affordable and growth of economies are continuing. In India, the Minister has officially received a record low biding for new solar projects, priced at 5 cents/kWh, from a French firm to develop 250 MW of electricity. (Upadhyay, 2017). Because solar is available everywhere, creating an economy based on solar would also eliminate the tensions among countries that oil has created. Clearly solar is a fantastic choice for better balancing economic growth for all, and protecting nature.

Nuclear fuels, natural and enriched uranium, also produce 0 g/MJ of CO2. (Lacy, 2012, p. 9). These fuels already make up 13% of the world’s total electricity, which is more than solar does. (p. 1). And now thanks to very inspiring engineers from all over the world, 4th generation nuclear reactors are safer than ever and can now recycle nuclear war heads for an energy source that heats and powers our homes.

Nuclear energy has built up quite a taboo reputation among the public but the facts aren’t always presented fairly. Dr. Patrick Moore in the Nuclear Energy Primer states, “Even though there have been three serious accidents at nuclear power plants during the 60 years they have been operating, nuclear energy is still one of the safest energy technologies we have invented. Not one person was killed by radiation at either Three Mile Island in the USA or at Fukushima in Japan, and according to the best experts there will be no discernable health effects form either incident. Chernobyl was an exception as the Russians designed a reactor that was inherently unsafe and will never be built again. Even so there were very few deaths – 56 according to the World Health Organization – compared with other major industrial accidents.” (Lacy, 2012, p. vii).

Nuclear is safe and the truth is, solar is not enough to replace oil and coal. We need the power of uranium and according to Lacy in his Nuclear Energy Primer, we do not have to mine anymore uranium! The fuel source has such a big ‘bang for its buck,’ 28,000 GJ/kg compared to oil at 44MJ/kg, that with the ability this technology has to recycle nuclear waste and war heads, we have enough uranium fuel source for the next 10,000 years. (p. 22).

Hydrogen (H2) cells, which can easily be fitted into trains and cars, have a byproduct of clean water. The reason we don’t use hydrogen cells often is because of the enormous amount of energy (burning of fossil fuels) that it takes to generate hydrogen gas (H2). Hydrogen is not found plentifully on Earth, it immediately forms with oxygen to create water. With the power of nuclear we have the option of obtaining huge amounts of energy, making the generation of hydrogen cells much more likely to replace oil in cars. With a byproduct of water, hydrogen and nuclear can eliminate all the car pollution in our cities!

With no emissions or waste byproduct, and with the ability to recycle weapons and eliminate oil in cars, nuclear energy takes the economic power out of the hands of the few in oil and delivers enormous amounts of energy and economic growth to all, and keeps Earth clean!

In Sustainability as a Founding Principle of the United States (2010), Michael Crow states, "In the twenty-first century we must at last declare sustainability a core aspirational value of the American people, on the same level as liberty and justice and equality.(p. 305).

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Crow, and to me sustainability looks like solar and nuclear energy, and feels like balance of economic growth and environmental protection. 





References:
Crow, M. (2010). Sustainability as a founding principle of the united states. In Moral Ground:      
           
            Ethical Action for A Planet in Peril.

Dockrill, P. (2016, April 20). India says the cost of solar power is not cheaper than coal.
            Science Alert. Retrieved from http://www.sciencealert.com/india-says-the-cost-of-solar-
power-is-now-cheaper-than-coal
Lacy, Ian. (2012). The world nuclear university primer in the 21st century. London, United
Kingdom: World Nuclear University Press.
Pasten, C., & Santamarina, J. (2012). Energy and quality of life. Elsevier, 49, 468-476.
            Retrieved from http://pmrl.ce.gatech.edu/papers/Pasten_2012a.pdf
Upadhyay, A. (2017, April 13). India gets record low bid to build solar power, minister says.
Renewable Energy World. Retrieved from http://www.renewableenergyworld.com
/articles/2017/04/india-gets-record-low-bid-to-build-solar-power-minister-says.html