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When does change happen?

If you are of a certain age, or if you are widely read; if you happen to be a better-informed medical doctor, or better-informed lawyer, then you will know that certain treatments that were prescribed within medicine in the past, turned out to be either harmful to the human health, or utterly ineffective to cure ailments and diseases.

Take Soothing Syrup for one. This, to those who don’t know were the range of lozenges, syrups and powders which some ‘creative’ do gooders used to manufacture, shops used to stock and sell, and which some parents used to buy, to administer to their ill-mannered children, so that they calmed down Yes, in the 19th century, people used to drug their children to dormancy, so that the children were inactive(an unchildlike state), to make them chill; I can imagine that this was done so that the parents could get on with their lives undisturbed; abandoned responsibility…. plain negligence.

It’s a bit like giving sleeping pills to children (a practice I strongly condemn, and which I think is somewhat inhumane), to help them sleep… only that this was a lot worse. They used to shove lozenges that contained heroin! And morphine! morphin sulphate, chloroform, morphine hydrochloride, codeine, heroin, powdered opium, cannabis indica,” down children’s throats. And in some cases leading to fatalities.

It was irresponsible to say the least, it was wrong and criminal.

But nobody seemed to know better then. During the developmental days of Pediatrics, it seems as though few people visible enough knew better. It wasn’t until later in 1910, that the above article exposed the dangers of Soothing Syrup, and shortly after the American Medical Association listed it as a ‘Baby Killer’. However, it wasn’t withdrawn for sale in the UK until 1930.

I’m not writing this blog post to discuss Soothing Syrup or any of these reversals in medical practices and therapies. That’s not what this is about. My point is, at what point do you realise a society is going down the wrong path, and something has to be done to change course? At what point does that realisation happen? And who gets to decide which course to take? What about if their decision is flawed? What about if what they advocate is either harmful or ineffective?

Climate change. I know, I’m no expert. Although, interestingly, I’ve looked at what some experts say( see more here  and here). And while most agree that something ought to be done, it seems what they don’t agree on is the extent and measures that must be done. Further, as often with these things, special interests (on both sides of the divide) have encroached in. Greed in the form of dollars exchanging hands for a favourable expert opinion … which is sort of sad. Which fool sells their grandchildren’s future for 10,000 bucks?

Still, in Germany, a grassroots movement is gaining Momentum. Berliners are looking to buy-back their grid. With the precarious situation in Ukraine, and Russia’s strange relationship with the west, I can understand why green energy investment is increasingly becoming crucial. In the UK, some innovative people are listening, and acting. And while there are many initiatives across the country, this one, in Plymouth has found the way.

At the recent climate change summit, it seems even the Chinese are showing positive signs to do something about climate change, although only time will tell how serious those promises are. As a Chinese proverb puts it: Dig the well before you are thirsty.

So, these endeavours by Germany, the UK and now the Chinese are on the surface great because you just need a few visionaries to embrace these initiatives, and lead by example, replicating them in their own backyards. Before long, it will be a full-blown movement. And maybe then our future’s energy will have been preserved.

Some of the petroleum-centric corporations won’t like it, and I can imagine they will react against it, like they’ve already done, although you’d think that they know getting to grips with climate change is in their best interest, and their long-term survival. In any case, Petroleum is finite, so you can’t run an oil/ gas well forever. Thus, if they make serious changes to the way they operate, and invest heavily in green tech, it’s only in their best interests.

I hope they do.

Update – 23rd November : Shocker: Top Google Engineers Say Renewable Energy ‘Simply won’t work’


  • I think the premise from which the Engineers began this research was flawed. If you begin research with a goal for an overnight transformation, an attempt to change everything, everywhere immediately, of course you will run into unspeakable problems. Of course that approach will require huge amounts of resources, and you will get the runaway cycle the engineers describe. It’s obvious that there will be huge amounts of resources required to achieve that overnight switch, which in the real world is unworkable, as they have concluded….But what about a phased or gradual switch? One industry at a time:- Okay, we’ll start with public transport, in particular buses, replace the current ones in one city with electric ones. Then after buses, a years later – after we’ve studied the impact, we’ll gradually replace buses in other cities aswell, then begin to change half of our street lighting into solar-powered street lights, then, 2 years later, we’ll install some of those electric generators which operate using waste material in half the hospitals across a region, say the North West of England, hand-in hand with replacing all the roofing on all the public car-parks in the region with solar, and study the impact. In about 4 years, we’ll begin installing Geothermal harvesting systems to power the heating in our primary schools and colleges, again in specified regions, say the South East and South West of England. As that initiative is rolled out across parts of the country, we’ll increase our investment in LPG engines and technologies and give subsidies / tax breaks to motorists who switch, hand in hand with encouraging the development of wind power technologies made from recycled materials. If the Scottish environmentalists oppose increasing offshore wind farms, how about tidal energy technology? Oh, and what about a law that says that solar roads must be installed in all new residential and industrial road development sites across the South East and South West? One other thing, we’ll reduce your council tax by a third and halve your TV-licence if you commute to work by bicycle…a fact that will not only make people healthier (and save the National Health Service millions in the long run), but it will reduce congestion and lower your carbon emissions. If this kind of approach is replicated across other countries, and gradually increased in scale and scope, there will be savings achieved, and in my view it is these savings that must be compared with the equivalent spend had we remained on fossil fuels. That kind of gradual approach is precisely what is going to reduce our reliance on petroleum… NOT a theoretical overnight switch, when most building are still powered by inefficient lightbulbs…why not begin the small changes first, and measure the impacy, before you go all out? Switching from fossil fuels to eco-friendly sources must not take 20 hurried and egoistic filled years, instead it must take 40 – 100+ years of careful phased transformation, for it to be practical and truly successful. Any research on the matter must take that in consideration, if it is to be believable.
  • Secondly, the Google model on the face of it appears to assume that you will be operating with currently known materials. Now, I know you probably ‘currently’ can’t get away with NOT USING copper, glass, carbon fibre or neodymium to construct your solar cells, but what about finding alternatives of these. Or of steel? In an age, where 3-D printing is opening up new possibilities, in a world of Graphene, maybe in future not only can I print my turbine blades(which will be much more efficient than current ones), but I can probably use some blades carved out of recycled wood, covered with layers of nanomaterials and that includes some Graphene composite….or some other composite materials that’s yet to be developed. Or some other material that is currently being tested, but has not yet achieved widespread use. In other words, Google engineers are assuming that cheaper or perhaps natural alternatives will, or cannot be found in the future.  That’s a dangerous, if not arrogant assumption to make.
  • Their approach appears to be geared towards a centralised and industrial led transformation, and that’s one of the problems. Instead of having this massive centralised approach to move everything away from petroleum, what about small individual increments, by individuals. So to give a small example, a Local council in an area, say the South East (or if in the US, a US State) can decide  to grow bamboo (which has some admirable advantages)  in a suitable area, and in 4- 5 years time begin to build houses with sections that make widespread use of that bamboo (treated of course) as part of the raw materials, saving them money on using conventional more expensive, but less ecofriendly materials. As the project develops they can incorporate other recycled items which are readily available, like used tyres, composite materials, etc…which although not exactly sexy, are cheaper and cleaner on the environment.
  • It may be Google Engineers who have undertaken the research, but it doesn’t mean that they are always right. How many things have Google got wrong in the past? Weren’t these inventions made or led by the same engineers who are now telling us to give up on green tech? There are other tech companies out there with more cred, including Tesla,  and guess what, unlike Google, they think Clean tech is better for economic growth than fossil fuels.
  • There are countries out there that are experiencing desertification, and very little appears to be done to curb the loss. Illegal logging is rife in most poor countries, and more often than not, the timber finally finds its way to western much richer countries where the likes of Google make their vast profits. Why can’t a government led movement in one of these countries begin to curb illegal logging and encourage wood recycling and reclamation of wooden products, than letting manufacturers bring in more and more timber, whose origins are extremely doubtful if not outright questionable? Google with its weight can help here, they can go as far as offer incentives to small timber companies operating in such countries where illegal logging is an issue, to encourage them to plant more trees, and forests, and as the forests mature, the owners would receive more incentives, be they financial incentives, or technology (computers, mobile phones etc) to supplement their incomes and also help them and their communities integrate easily into the global village. Further, why not encourage initiatives such as these which are designed to reverse dessertification (also see here)?


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