Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
I’ve written before about the “no-regrets” option when one is faced with uncertainty. It relates to one of my favorite rules of thumb. I often live my life by my “rules of thumb”, general guidelines for when things aren’t clear. One that I’ve used for decades goes like this:
“Do what you know, and let the rest go.”
I use it when say I’m stuck on a building project, maybe I’m not sure how to install a particular window. It’s easy to get paralyzed by the decision, or to force the decision, or to make the wrong decision. But what I do instead is, I know there’s always things I can do that I know will move the project forwards. So I do what I know will be of use, what I know the project needs, and I let the unknowns take care of themselves for a while. More things are always revealed in the fullness of time, and meanwhile, the workshop still needs sweeping and a hundred important tasks await. I do what I know, and I let the rest go.
These days this same concept is called the “no-regrets option”, a much clearer term but not a rule of thumb. Applied to the vexing CO2 madness, a “no-regrets option” is an action we won’t regret, whether or not CO2 is the secret knob controlling global temperature. I’m convinced CO2 is not, but others disagree. A no-regrets option is one that is of value no matter which side is right.
So I was pleased to see the following in Science Magazine (paywalled here )
I live in the redwood forest. The redwood trees harvest the ocean fog very efficiently. Often in the morning the open ground will be bone dry, while the ground under the redwoods is quite wet, with a slow, steady rain falling underneath the majestic trees. Having watched that for decades, it was no surprise that people have started utilizing the same phenomenon … we’re just not that good at it yet, but that’s changing. I wrote about harvesting fog using nets in my piece called Climate, Caution, and Precaution. Water shortages (along with floods, curiously) are supposed to be one of the Seven Horsemen of Thermal Apocalypse, all the alarmists agree. But we already face this problem today, so how about we attack the problem and not the CO2, duh? That way more people have more water, no matter what CO2 does or doesn’t do.
So I was fascinated to see the possibility of using biomimicry to improve fog harvesting techniques. Since Nature Communications is also paywalled, I did an end run and found the paper from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, available here.
In that paper they elucidate the secrets of the ancients. Here’s how the cactus fog harvesting system works:
How sweet is that? It illustrates a principle I call “NWA”, for “Nature Wins Again”, life always comes up with some ingenious solution.
So what are my conclusions from all of this?
1. Any problems that might result from a few degrees of temperature rise are ongoing problems today, and have been for millennia. Humans have always and ever been plagued by droughts and floods and heat waves and rising sea levels and cold spells and storms and the like.
2. Attacking the problems is the no-regrets solution, duh. Since all of these problems exist today, if we work to alleviate them, we’re better off no matter if it warms or not, or whether CO2 is the culprit or not.
3. Nature itself, that first and best of scientists, has run literally millions and millions of experiments in how to most effectively harvest water from the air. We’d be fools not to learn from and build on that previous scientific work, in this and all aspects of science, and in fact biomimicry is being used in more and more arenas.
4. “Imagination is free,” as my beloved father used to say. Seeing this kind of work reminds me that the only limits to, say, how much water we have are the limits of our imagination.
So what I’m doing is throwing open this thread to a discussion of actual examples of viable no-regrets solutions, whether they involve biomimicry or not. The requirements are that they have to solve problems caused by the weather, and they have to be dirt-cheap for widespread adoption. Here’s one:
Bargain Technology Allows Chile To Harvest Fog For Thirsty Village
July 18, 1993|By Gary Marx, Tribune Staff Writer.
CHUNGUNGO, Chile — The landscape around this poor fishing village is rocky and bone dry. But Daisy Sasmayo’s garden is in full bloom, with flowers, vegetables and a young apple tree.
This once-parched community now has its first fresh water in decades, thanks to an ingenious system of plastic nets fixed on a nearby mountain to capture fog as it rolls in from the ocean.
“When the water first started flowing last year, we went crazy,” Sasmayo said as she gently watered her garden. “We had a huge party and were dousing each other with water. It has changed our lives 100 percent.”
Regards to everyone,
[UPDATE] Secret source WS sends me the paper, my thanks to him, from which I extract this:
Astounding. The barbs act as a one way valve for the coalescing of the drops, pumping the water horizontally without one single moving part … as a man with a portion of a patent for a kind of pump, I can only dip my head in awe.
… what an astounding force life is, exploring and constantly perfecting survival in the harshest conditions.