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MelancholyMan
09-07-2008, 06:25 AM
I'm researching a YA set in a dystopian future. Part of the milieu will be a completely Green society, from distilled renewable fuels to vegetable derived plastics. Basically I want to replicate our ability to manufacture technology and have power but it must all be environmentally friendly - even if it isn't as efficient, fast, or high volume.

What are some 'green' technologies that should be in it?

-MM

hammerklavier
09-07-2008, 06:37 AM
For energy production: wind, geothermal, tidal, biomass, solar, and hydro power. They aren't necessarily environmentally friendly as they all take up a lot of space, or involve damning rivers, etc. There is always an impact to everything, just ask Newton.

For manufacturing, a heavy emphasis on recycling to reduce the amount of mining that must be done. Going back and mining old land fills. Plastics might be cheaper if you're not burning most of the petroleum from which they are made.

Things made of glass or ceramics are fairly environmentally friendly.

Mumut
09-07-2008, 07:56 AM
Solar, gas from sewerage, wave power, tidal pull.

pdr
09-07-2008, 08:42 AM
each home or building sending all sewage and some green rubbish to a methane digester which then provided gas for the house to heat and cook with?

Think about things like small industries to wash and sterilise the glass bottles and jars used to sell milk and fruit and other foods and drinks.

Think about green transport like lots of bikes and their manufacture, electric cars, trains and buses.

Think of paper making using plant materials. Cloth made from plant materials and animal fibres in factories using water power looms.

Think small all the time. Each community has its own electricity, each house would make its own power, etc. don't go for large factories as they are not environmentally friendly.

stuckupmyownera
09-07-2008, 04:10 PM
Do some research on the hemp industry. I don't know why we aren't already utilising this incredible material!

Hemp grows very fast and is very hardy, with no need for pesticides or fertilisers. The seed is incredibly nutritious and contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than the highly acclaimed soya bean. The oil is also incredibly good for you - high in omega3 and all those other things we seek in a health food. The oil can be used to make plastics, fuels, paints, etc. The fibre makes excellent paper and clothes and so on. In fact, hemp's extremely durable fibre is supposed to last longer than cotton, improving with each wash instead of deteriorating, and it has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties too. And an acre of hemp can produce four times the amount of paper than an acre of trees.

In short, the stuff can be used to make ANYTHING, from cellophane to TNT, foodstuffs to building materials, beauty products to paint. Henry Ford even made a car out of hemp, which ran on hemp!

Why aren't we growing more of the stuff??

stuckupmyownera
09-07-2008, 04:16 PM
One more thing:

It's not a 'technology', but personally, I think the key to a 'green' society is living more locally and re-establishing a sense of community in our local areas. The biggest ecological evils surround international transportation. If we were happy to build self-sufficient communities who cared for each other and farmed all their needs - as far as possible - in their own locale, the world would be a much healthier place, ecologically, politically and socially. That's the way we used to survive, after all. It's only in the last couple of hundred years things have gotten a bit crazy!

MelancholyMan
09-08-2008, 05:26 AM
Why aren't we growing more of the stuff??

Because it is illegal. Hemp is a controlled substance.

Great ideas and thoughts. Please keep them coming!

-MM

stuckupmyownera
09-08-2008, 10:03 PM
Because it is illegal. Hemp is a controlled substance.

Industrial hemp is not the same as the psychoactive cannabis strain. Ignorance is the only reason it was made a controlled substance. You can grow it with a licence, and the industry is growing, but not nearly fast enough.

:)

pdr
09-09-2008, 09:54 AM
it was the cotton growers lobbying which had hemp banned.

Sarpedon
09-09-2008, 05:07 PM
Everything will be denser. We'd live in megastructures, where people can live and work and do everything in one place, more or less. Lots of things that are impractical now (like many forms of recycling) would become practical if only transportation costs were lower.

Recycling would take backseat to re-use in any case. At times I've wondered how much energy might be saved if there were a government mandate that all food products must be sold in reusable, standard sized glass or plastic jars. There'd be a set number of sizes, and the only thing the manufacturer would put on it is a label. There are lots of products that you can get a deposit for returning a bottle, but to mandate that for every product would make a difference, I think.

Don't forget Fusion Power.

and Genetically engineered microbes. These are the wave of the future. Forget plant based fuels-they aren't worth it and can never be. You can program an algae to produce deisel fuel. You can program them to produce starch, cellulose, proteins, fats, whatever. All far more efficiently than growing crops and raising animals. Real food will someday be a luxury.

wombat
09-10-2008, 12:20 AM
For years I've been carrying around the idea of a future society basically mining our garbage dumps - digging out all tons of the useful stuff we've thrown away and reusing it. All the plastics especially - maybe recycling, although brings up the issue of the power needed to do that, or maybe just cleaning it up and using it. Depends maybe on how good a shape society is otherwise at that point.

I'm not sure how practical it would really be, but I like the idea of digging for petroleum once to make the plastics and then, digging it up again out of the garbage dumps.

ideagirl
09-10-2008, 07:45 PM
What are some 'green' technologies that should be in it?


You've gotten some good answers to that question, so I just want to point out that it's not just the technologies that will be different; it's also the normal habits of everyday life. Go to your local food co-op, for example: you'll see bins of bulk products (granola, shampoo, dish soap, what have you), and people bring their own containers to fill up from those bins, paying by weight. Having entirely new packaging every time you need more shampoo, granola, whatever is hugely wasteful; letting customers simply refill old containers means you don't have any packaging to recycle in the first place. We already have systems like that, so I would imagine futuristic green societies would too.

If you brainstorm, you could come up with more examples like that. What would people DO in a green society? They'd walk and bicycle more; they would either live on small farms, raising their own food (veggies, eggs, even meat), or they'd live in mixed-use neighborhoods where you could do everything--live, shop, work, go to school--within walking or biking distance (and one green society would probably feature both those kinds of lifestyles); etc. etc.

There are also small "technologies" that green-oriented people already use, so it would seem odd if somehow this didn't make it to a green future: yogurt and ice-cream makers that let people make their own; solar ovens, which are basically microwave-oven-sized greenhouses for cooking food with the sun's rays; roof gardens, which provide both food and insulation (warmer in winter/cooler in summer); composting toilets (instead of water toilets); and so on. The current issue of Ode magazine has an article on a family that lives like this; you might be interested in seeing all their little adaptations.

FireflyHeart
09-10-2008, 10:33 PM
This is all so cool! A place where people talk about things like this instead of fight about it. Did I die and go to heaven?

What about the economy? Ours is based on people buying things so it has to keep growing all the time to come up with new things to sell the same people that bought the old ones. And commercials on TV are all about making you feel fat, or unloved, or ugly so you will go out and buy these products that will make you skinny and beautiful. A green economy would have to run differently than that but I don't know how.

vixey
09-10-2008, 10:43 PM
Not much to add, but Ideagirl's post made me think of hanging clothes on a line instead of using a dryer.

Sarpedon
09-10-2008, 10:45 PM
In architecture school, I had a guy tell us how much energy would be saved if people gave up toast and ate bread as bread. I don't remember how much, but it was huge.

vixey
09-10-2008, 10:56 PM
Do some research on the hemp industry. I don't know why we aren't already utilising this incredible material!

Wow! That was quite an education. I just googled it and it seems there are a few states trying to move the hemp industry forward. I wish the feds could get their heads out of their behinds and see the value of something like this.

MelancholyMan
09-11-2008, 12:43 AM
Wow! That was quite an education. I just googled it and it seems there are a few states trying to move the hemp industry forward. I wish the feds could get their heads out of their behinds and see the value of something like this.

Have you been paying any attention to this election cycle? It is surprising they haven't outlawed food because some people eat too much.

-MM

wombat
09-11-2008, 01:54 AM
yogurt and ice-cream makers that let people make their own;

Is this really greener? Aren't these some economies of scale in making things in larger quantities? Like because once you've heated up a really large amount of milk, it will cool slower than a little bit?

Of course if you take this as far as the toast example, the greenest thing would be just drinking the milk as is.


Not much to add, but Ideagirl's post made me think of hanging clothes on a line instead of using a dryer.

Ooo, clotheslines. This is great, because it would be such a perfect visual image.

pdr
09-11-2008, 02:17 AM
forget money. People would barter, swap and trade using a kind of credit system. E.g. In the early 19th C in the UK families with a pig would share the pork with those neighbours who helped feed the pig. Women who helped deliver a new baby and look after the family could count on reciprocal treatment when their baby was due.

vixey
09-11-2008, 02:23 AM
forget money. People would barter, swap and trade using a kind of credit system. E.g. In the early 19th C in the UK families with a pig would share the pork with those neighbours who helped feed the pig. Women who helped deliver a new baby and look after the family could count on reciprocal treatment when their baby was due.

This happened more recently here during the Depression. My father-in-law's father was a country doctor in PA in the '30's and was often paid with eggs, handiwork, chickens, etc.

vixey
09-11-2008, 02:42 AM
Sorry, MM - saw this and had to post. (Hey- It's almost seven and I've just finished a cocktail...)

http://engrishfunny.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/unrecycling2.jpg?w=538&h=403

MelancholyMan
09-11-2008, 05:33 PM
Sorry, MM - saw this and had to post. (Hey- It's almost seven and I've just finished a cocktail...)

http://engrishfunny.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/unrecycling2.jpg?w=538&h=403

And thus we finally have an answer to that age old question, is the green you see the green I see. Uh, that would be, "No."

ideagirl
09-11-2008, 06:26 PM
Is this really greener? Aren't these some economies of scale in making things in larger quantities?

It's greener in the sense that it uses far less energy and packaging (or no packaging at all, if we're talking a family that lives on a farm and has its own cows/sheep/goats, or neighbors with cows/sheep/goats whose milk they sell or trade to other neighbors). There may be economies of scale from making things in larger quantities, but from a green perspective, those economies of scale are far outweighed by the cost (in energy and resources) of packaging and transportation (which, in the case of yogurt/ice cream, is not just the cost of taking the stuff from source to store and then from store to home, but also the cost of keeping the stuff refrigerated during the trip from source to store).

This reminds me--in a green society, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of bartering going on, creating a parallel economy in addition to the "money" economy. Like, if I have a bunch of fruit trees and you have a bunch of chickens, we might trade fruit for eggs. (And remember, apples are one of the things--potatoes are another--that keep in perfect condition for months, if you put them in a cool place like a root cellar; so we could be trading apples for eggs all year long, not just in apple season.)

And for that matter, if I have an apple orchard and you're a lawyer, there again, we might trade instead of having me pay cash for your services. The rural economy worked like this until surprisingly recently; I know I've read about people in the 1930s who worked as doctors and were paid in chickens and such.
<ETA: Oh, Vixey already said exactly that! :-) >

MelancholyMan
09-11-2008, 07:30 PM
It's greener in the sense that it uses far less energy and packaging (or no packaging at all, if we're talking a family that lives on a farm and has its own cows/sheep/goats, or neighbors with cows/sheep/goats whose milk they sell or trade to other neighbors)

I think this would only be true if the population density is low. With a high population density this would be a disaster. It is in fact why the new strains of flu always come out of China. There are billions (literally millions) of these little family plots and sanitation is basically impossible because you can't teach a cow to take a dump in a toilet. If population density is high then farming would still need to be centrailized.

Which begs the question, would a truly Green society require population controls? In ages past, cultures with very small ecological impact were kept less dense through infant mortality and other means of culling. Whenever food and leisure time become freely available, resulting in a lower death rate, the population balloons and environment impact goes off the charts.

Higgins
09-11-2008, 07:53 PM
Henry Ford even made a car out of hemp, which ran on hemp!


What was Henry Ford smoking when he made a car that ran on hemp?

Higgins
09-11-2008, 07:56 PM
Is this really greener? Aren't these some economies of scale in making things in larger quantities? Like because once you've heated up a really large amount of milk, it will cool slower than a little bit?



It's greener to make cold things locally because you don't have to drive the refrigerated stuff and the refrigerator for hundreds of miles and run the refrigerator on the truck the whole time.

wombat
09-12-2008, 05:37 AM
But I still have to take the milk home. In a package, refrigerated. Whether it's made into yogurt for me already or not I'm still transporting the same amount of cow juice.

Sarpedon
09-12-2008, 05:24 PM
And, as pointed out, having your own cow is unsanitary.

The better solution is to have everyone live closer together.

MelancholyMan
09-12-2008, 06:02 PM
And, as pointed out, having your own cow is unsanitary.

The better solution is to have everyone live closer together.

Better huh? Better is the enemy of best. So to truly live green, we need to live a certain way in addition to adopting more eco-friendly technologies and practices.

So what about the person who doesn't want to live that way? What happens to him? Does he get to go on being un-green. Or at least what the rest of us consider un-green. Or do we 'encourage' him to live more green.

I'm not questioning your reasoning here, Sarpedon. I'm fleshing out a plot and running it to ground. So by all means, run with me!

ideagirl
09-12-2008, 07:03 PM
I think this would only be true if the population density is low. With a high population density this would be a disaster.

Ya, which is why I pointed out that a green society would probably consist of two distinct patterns: (1) high-density walkable/bicyclable urban neighborhoods and (2) low-density farms. Those living on the low-density farms would require no packaging at all to make their own ice cream and yogurt, while those living in urban neighborhoods would--in a green society--get their milk from the nearby farms, and thus require far less energy for transportation and distribution than we do now, and they would also require less packaging because if you buy milk in bulk for the purpose of making yogurt, you're using less packaging than is used to make tons of little one-serving yogurt pots.


It is in fact why the new strains of flu always come out of China. There are billions (literally millions) of these little family plots and sanitation is basically impossible because you can't teach a cow to take a dump in a toilet. If population density is high then farming would still need to be centrailized.

But not at a national or state level; rather, farming in a green society would be centralized at the local level--e.g. a farming area surrounded by urban areas, whose food needs that farming area supplies. And note, this doesn't mean you'd have a limited range of foods to eat; there are always greenhouses, for growing things that can't grow in your natural climate. I have a photograph of myself standing next to a banana tree in Iceland; they have huge greenhouses about an hour outside Reykjavik, which are powered by geothermal hot springs and provide vegetables and fruit to Reykjavik year round.

stuckupmyownera
09-12-2008, 07:20 PM
Why would you want to teach a cow to take a dump in a toilet??
Toilets are another evil of the modern world. Faeces - human and animal - should be composted and its nutrients returned to the earth, not treated with chemicals and flushed out to pollute the sea where it doesn't belong.
What makes sanitation impossible if you keep cows?? I've never heard of cow farmers being especially prone to flu. They wash their hands and keep their boots off the dinner table. Simple.

Sarpedon
09-12-2008, 08:02 PM
The fact of the future lies in economy of scales. This hippified one with nature system would only work with a drastic reduction in the earth's population.

Basically, I think the future will be in taking humans OUT of the ecosystem as much as possible. Food production becomes an industrial, not an agricultural process, transportation is made efficient by reducing the distances, and so forth.

There need not be any force involved. People are already moving to the cities in great numbers, purely for economic reasons. If food production became a process of growing genetically engineered microbes in vats, the rural economy would collapse, and everyone would move to the city, especially as everything increases in price due to transportation costs. You don't have to get all dystopian about it unless you want to.

With so much land abandoned and returned to nature, suddenly a great number of ecological problems go away. We could even come up with a sustainable way of harvesting tracts of forests, which wouldn't be disruptive because of the sheer amount of reclaimed land.

And of course, there will always be deviants who want to live in the countryside, but so what? Without industrial products, they can't become numerous or harmful.

ideagirl
09-12-2008, 09:33 PM
The fact of the future lies in economy of scales. This hippified one with nature system would only work with a drastic reduction in the earth's population.

Hey, tell Western Europe that, because it's working pretty well in many countries there. (See reference to Iceland, above; you'll also see patterns like I described in Germany, France and Spain.)

MelancholyMan
09-12-2008, 10:48 PM
To hit a couple of points:

sutckupmyownarea, no one really knows why the flu originates in China. It is thought that the influenza virus mutates easily and so the high density of humans living with animals and all walking around in rice paddies and using them as a communal bathroom and everyone coughing on each other results in a sort of genetic biomorpher. Each year, without fail, the new flu strain can be traced to China. Hence HongKong flu, Swine flu, etc.

ideagirl, this idea of centralizing food production into a industrial system quite unlike a farm is interesting to me. The latest issue of Popular Science has huge skyscrapers that take the farm and stack it vertically with green houses, hydroponic gardens, fisheries, etc. They would be placed in cities so that the food used in the city would actually be grown there and they would be powered by using sewage to make methane. The problem with it's greenness is that many of the most ardent ecophiles revile against industrialization and things like genetically engineered crops in favor of the 'organically grown' label. The greens and the organics are not synonymous but the intersection of these sets is definitely not empty. So while this makes sense, I wonder if a hard-core green government would go for it.

sarpedon, I think your comment is probably pretty close to the truth, if there is a truth here, in trying to get humans out of the ecosystem (despite the fact that we are part of the ecosystem). I would add to that, trying to reduce the sheer number of humans on the planet. But as far as a novel is concerned, it pretty much has to be dystopian or there's nothing to write about. Everybody getting along and at one with nature would be a grand thing but it'd be a really boring story!

The biggest problem is that we've killed all the foxes and there's nothing to keep our population in check. But just as microbes in a Petri dish will eventually drown in their own waste products, access to resources and accumulation of waste products will ultimately curb our swelling numbers. And I'm afraid our numbers will do the same thing as the bacteria.

stuckupmyownera
09-12-2008, 11:26 PM
...in trying to get humans out of the ecosystem (despite the fact that we are part of the ecosystem). I would add to that, trying to reduce the sheer number of humans on the planet.

So the greatest problem we have is the efficiency of modern healthcare and medical research, causing longer life, causing overpopulation!

Anyway I thought of another one if it's any use. Straw-bale building. It's fantastically insulating (against sound as well as cold/heat), and fantastically economical since it's made from a waste product and locks carbon up, whereas if the straw was burnt it would release the carbon to the air. You can't build loadbearing walls more than two storeys high, although you can use it to fill in timber framing to any height. It's actually more fireproof than timber buildings (compare trying to set light to a thin stick to trying to set light to a phone directory) and biodegrades when it's finished with.

You can even use hemp straw :D

dirtsider
09-13-2008, 12:05 AM
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080912/ap_on_re_us/fishing_for_energy;_ylt=ArXMe4uHjSMk.XO3cQw7K2NH2o cA

This is one thing that's being done now that you can use for your story.

Sarpedon
09-13-2008, 12:10 AM
Ahem;

Strawbale construction ALSO uses up valuable floor space with unnecessarily thick walls; requiring more use of structural concrete, the most ecologically damaging of building materials. And you most certainly can NOT build with timber to 'any height.'

stuckupmyownera
09-13-2008, 12:39 AM
Ahem;

Strawbale construction ALSO uses up valuable floor space with unnecessarily thick walls; requiring more use of structural concrete, the most ecologically damaging of building materials. And you most certainly can NOT build with timber to 'any height.'

Ahem.

Sorry; I meant you can use the straw as fill-in up to any height to which you can build with timber framing.

And there are alternatives to concrete, y'know.

:tongue

MelancholyMan
09-13-2008, 12:45 AM
So the greatest problem we have is the efficiency of modern healthcare and medical research, causing longer life, causing overpopulation!

Bingo. In the minds of some. I happen to like being alive and well, thank you very much.


Anyway I thought of another one if it's any use. Straw-bale building. It's fantastically insulating (against sound as well as cold/heat), and fantastically economical since it's made from a waste product and locks carbon up, whereas if the straw was burnt it would release the carbon to the air. You can't build loadbearing walls more than two storeys high, although you can use it to fill in timber framing to any height. It's actually more fireproof than timber buildings (compare trying to set light to a thin stick to trying to set light to a phone directory) and biodegrades when it's finished with.

You can even use hemp straw :D

I can see the firefighters standing outside the burning building, slack-jawed, just sort of drooling and inhaling deeply. Yes, hemp is not only going to play a big part in this book, but in the making of this book if I can lay my hands on some! ;)

I must say, I really have gleaned some great ideas from this discussion and filled several pages with notes. Thanks much to all who contributed.

-MM

pdr
09-13-2008, 02:57 AM
you are starting from scratch with your world?

I think you will find that if you have a group of settlers all eco minded and starting together then you'll have not cities, but small communities and everything individual. Each family would have their own methane digester or equivalent and would be expected to provide their own food.

I think there would be a strict charter. When I was writing about it the youngsters got kicked off planet to see what horrors had happened on other worlds and only came back if they'd sign the charter and live gently on the planet. Even chopping down one tree or making pasture etc was not possible as it upset the ecology.


How serious are your people?

MelancholyMan
09-14-2008, 04:30 PM
How serious are your people?

Think about having Rachel Carlson or Al Gore in charge.

I don't want to say too much about the plot just yet for fear of biasing responses, but yes, they are very serious. They are starting from scratch but it is more of a planned utopia designed for a very specific number of people and absolutely, positively, no more, no matter what. The resources are abundant but relatively limited. I.e., easily attainable but not much of it. And pretty much nowhere else to go. Almost like a biosphere but without the shell. Think of being trapped on an 50 square mile island out in the middle of the ocean but wanting to keep most of the conveniences of today. :D

ideagirl
09-14-2008, 08:59 PM
The latest issue of Popular Science has huge skyscrapers that take the farm and stack it vertically with green houses, hydroponic gardens, fisheries, etc. They would be placed in cities so that the food used in the city would actually be grown there and they would be powered by using sewage to make methane. The problem with it's greenness is that many of the most ardent ecophiles revile against industrialization...

That's far from the only problem with its greenness. Other problems include the vast quantities of water and energy that would be required to build such skyscrapers and keep them functioning: getting methane to the skyscrapers, getting clean, nutrient-enriched water to them and up to all the floors, in far greater quantities than skyscrapers normally need (since skyscrapers normally only have to have bathrooms for the people in them--not bathrooms for the people AND special nutrient-rich water systems to keep acres and acres and acres of crops irrigated AND water to support entire fisheries). I mention nutrient-rich water because that's another less-green factor: Normally plants get the necessary nutrients from the soil, but the water itself has to provide them when farming is done hydroponically. That's an extra energy drain (getting/making the nutrients and bringing them to the skyscrapers), not to mention an extra expense. Ditto the food for the fish.

So I guess my point here is, since there is already a system that works quite well to grow food--namely, farms and orchards supplemented with greenhouses--and having such a system near population centers resolves the energy problems associated with distribution, I'm not sure why a truly green society would feel the need to reinvent the wheel by building special skyscrapers for this. The key issue in a green society is how to distribute the energy that is available: why would they pour so much energy into these skyscrapers, when having nearby farms and greenhouses would accomplish the same task with far less energy?

And remember, in 1950 Popular Science predicted that by the year 2000, we'd be flying from NY to San Francisco in two hours via rocket ship, eating food derived from sawdust, and living in sheet-metal homes whose interiors were entirely synthetic:
http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/10/05/miracles-youll-see-in-the-next-fifty-years/?Qwd=./PopularMechanics/2-1950/next_fifty_years&Qif=next_fifty_years_00.jpg&Qiv=thumbs&Qis=XL

You can read the entire February 1950 article, and view the original pages, at that link. Quote: "There are no dish-washing machines, for example, because dishes are thrown away after they have been used once, or rather put into a sink where they are dissolved by superheated water.... When Jane Dobson cleans house [in 2000] she simply turns the hose on everything. Why not? Furniture (upholstery included), rugs, draperies, unscratchable floors--all are made of synthetic fabric or waterproof plastic." It also predicted that in 2000 we would routinely prevent hurricanes by spreading oil over the ocean beneath a developing hurricane and setting the oil on fire, causing the hurricane to rain itself out before it reached Florida. Um... okay. I notice they were essentially correct about "shopping by picture-phone" and cooking meals in 75 seconds (i.e. the web and microwave ovens), but not much else... And that article represented the height of scientific thinking at the time, just as those hydroponic skyscrapers are at the height of the scientific thinking of our time. So I wouldn't put all that much stock in those predictions...