The enigma of energy

BkkSci is happy to be joined by Neil Willmann, the founder and managing director of Daruma Ecofarm, an ecological engineering design and permaculture research center located in Bang Phra Thailand.

Today, the word ‘ecology’ is in everyone’s vernacular even if there are differences in the usage - e.g. agro-ecoforestry vs. eco-agroforestry. Soon after the word was coined in the 1950‘s and emerged as a budding budding interdisciplinary science, ecological studies embraced a holistic perspective paralleling the wave in social sciences at that time for “whole systems” thinking. As more and more study was done in this new field, one of its leading voices, Howard T. Odum, focused on one element that seemed to hold the key to the entire area: energy. He saw energy and energy transactions as a language that explained all system theory.

Energy remains at the core of the holistic science of ecology. And as the world is facing increasing pressures in population, climate change, food production concerns, and peak oil, all of these are related to or affected by energy. Neil will discuss the landscape of energy from an ecological perspective and explain in clear detail some aspects of our use of energy as it relates to ecology, particularly climate change and peak oil, and our hopes for a sustainable existence on Earth.

Neil is a member of the faculty of engineering at Asian University of Science and Technology conducting research on energy and ecology, and lecturing in the subjects of physics, energy and technology management. He holds degrees from the University of Hawaii and University of Illinois at Chicago in Oceanography and Physics.

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  • pascal c.

    i recommend this report, published by the carbon trade watch (2007) about carbon offsetting: "the carbon neutral myth: offset indulgences for your carbon sins"

    http://www.carbontradewatch.org/publications/the-carbon-neutral-myth.html

    1 · December 9, 2013

  • pascal c.

    the uk govt.'s official carbon calculator: recommended for homeowners/tenants looking to live more sustainably & reduce their carbon footprint, by making energy-saving/efficiency improvements to their residences.

    http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/index.html

    December 4, 2013

  • pascal c.

    wwf's carbon/ecological footprint calculator, quick & easy to use.

    i highly recommend it to anyone interested in measuring the impact of their lifestyle.

    it also includes tips on how to live more sustainably & reduce your CO2e footprint.

    http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/

    December 4, 2013

  • pascal c.

    found this interesting article about lessons we've failed to learn from environmental disasters; incl nuclear power & gm.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/23/europe-failed-learn-environmental-lessons

    December 4, 2013

  • John

    The issue of peer review came up during the questions today, and as a published author I agree that peer review is broken. I'd even argue that it significantly harms modern science. For those interested in why, you can find tons of essays on just this by google search.

    As for climate models being wrong, global temperatures have flatlined and not increased for the last 12 years:
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/global-land-ocean-mntp-anom/201201-201212.png

    This violates the conclusions of every model we have (including the famous 'hockey stick' in Al Gores movie).

    I'm not up for debate on this, just thought some people would be interested in looking up more info . . . people have written lots about it, and it's all on google.

    November 28, 2013

    • Simon M.

      Not wanting to start an argument (uhoh, too late), but this is just a misunderstanding of the statistics of the model. It's approximately equivalent to tossing a coin 4 times and when it comes up heads every time, claiming that it isn't a fair coin.

      November 28, 2013

  • Jeff

    Thanks for taking the time to come and speak to us. Lively discussions for sure and gave us a lot to think about. The other side of the story can be found here if anyone is interested http://industrialprogress.com. Encourage people to see both sides of the debate.

    1 · November 27, 2013

    • Jeff

      But the message of living a less consumption filled life is just plain smart.

      November 27, 2013

    • Simon M.

      At this point in time, even calling it a debate is being pretty generous.

      November 28, 2013

  • Neil W.

    Sorry I couldn't be more inspiring Marion. I wouldn't try to preach anything I don't do myself.. It seems clear however that even with incredible inspiration, the combined effects of the small changes individuals might make are not going to solve the problem. It is the larger solution that we need to focus on.

    1 · November 28, 2013

    • Marian Y.

      If most of the problem is created by many people in the world 'billions of population' and you don't think that changing our habit of consuming less and being more conscious in our behavior on a daily basis, then we will all have to wait till the next big catastrophe to CHANGE. If we hear from 'experts' like yourself what are some of the things we can do, it will help us to be more aware that we are not contributing to make things worst. Even one person can make a difference if the individual carried an important MESSAGE. ie. Malala, just 16 !!!! If everyone thinks that they will just sit and wait for someone to come up with the solution, well, keep waiting.....

      1 · November 28, 2013

    • Neil W.

      You are correct. Just sitting and waiting won't work. And I am not an expert when it comes to finding a solution. But knowing what will not work is also important. I think the solution is bit going to come from science alone (possibly not at all). The problem is a social problem and science is uncovering it. Are there social solutions?

      November 28, 2013

  • Neil W.

    Another important consideration about the divergence of data from model predictions (even if outside of the error) is that this causes scientists to continue to refine the model including looking into things like CRE. And so if the negative feedback of CRE (and/or other things) are added into the modeling and the model becomes more accurate what then? Is it prudent to continue with business-as-usual and go to 800+ GtC in our atmosphere? That would be a 'refinement' to a model that accurately shows that the current ~400 GtC is causing measurable climate change.

    November 28, 2013

  • Neil W.

    I wouldn't argue that peer review is flawed. Another way to say it might be that technical journals no longer serve the purposes that produced accurate peer review.

    http://www.ecnmag.com/blogs/2013/10/peer-review-fatally-broken

    discusses peer review and possible fixes including a link to an alternative to peer review that happens to be on CRE (Cloud Radiative Effect) which directly relates to John's second comment regarding the flatlining of global average temperatures over the last 12 years.

    After the talk a few people mentioned this fact. But this does not men the models are wrong. The flattening of temperatures is within the models predicted error.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/27/climate-change-models-predict-remarkably-accurate-results/

    November 28, 2013

  • Neil W.

    Thanks Pascal. I think you will find environmental science will always be rewarding area to study. I look forward to talking more about that in the future.

    November 28, 2013

  • Neil W.

    Sarika I wish I had more time too. When someone told Saul Griffith that this data was depressing he said something very important. He said that, "knowledge is not depressing. This should be seen as uplifting. Once you know the scope of the problem you can engineer a solution." Many different researchers have different ideas about what the solution is. And Jeff's 'other side' link isn't really an other side at all if the facts are in support of the claims. What IS needed is more understanding, more discussion.

    1 · November 28, 2013

  • Neil W.

    Thanks Jeff. I love the other side of the story. We should look at any side that should work. I have already looked at this site and will drill down a little deeper when there dis time (pun intended).

    1 · November 27, 2013

  • pascal c.

    interesting, informative & insightful - enjoyed neil's presentation greatly.

    November 27, 2013

  • Marian Y.

    The guest speaker has many statistics and knowledge on the subject, however, it would have been more inspiring if he would practice what he preach, by being more conscious about usage of energy.

    November 27, 2013

  • Sarika K.

    Thanks to Neil for a very interesting talk this evening and to BkkSci for organizing the event. Wish Niel had enough time to conclude his presentation.
    We could comprehend the alarming trend but what do the researchers recommend for the common man?

    November 27, 2013

  • SITTISAK

    1st time for me as well, so exciting to joint and the toppic is interested.

    November 26, 2013

  • pascal c.

    1st time for me - looking forward to it, as its what i'm studying at the moment & the field i'm hoping to move into. see you there!

    November 24, 2013

  • Neil W.

    Looking forward to meeting the BKKSCI community!

    November 23, 2013

  • Raj P.

    Gonna try to come topic seems interesting!

    November 22, 2013

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