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- Posted: Fri, 01 Feb 2013 22:33:42 +0000
Je Nique vos Merdiers
When you have half the population density of fargo north dakota all over the earth, and calculate how much farmland is needed, how much available arable land is available, and whatnot, and how much you could produce with the amount of water and fertilizer in the world, and including ranchland and cows n stuff, you get about oh 60 billion or so.
Metabolic efficiency is lower at low population densities, sprawl is bad for ecosystem health, and so is monoculture farming. You are never going to support 60B people on a Western diet with geoponic monocultures, we are already destroying the ecosystem with less than 10% of that population acting in the way you've described.
With recycling and the awesome size of the earth there's not much of a problem with natural resources like iron and silicon.
It depends how often you are recycling them. There is such a thing as "entropy" for materials, they cannot be recycled infinitely.
Since energy can be alleviated with Thorium, and in the future hopefully graphene solar panels, we'll be fine.
Uh, I think you have that a little backwards. Solar energy is what we can do now. Thorium is not. We already have the facilities to produce high-efficiency CIGS cells, and some people I know at a Dutch hackerspace called Labitat are building a 3D printer-like device that can produce CIGS cells with powder metallurgy in a small workshop. It's feasible that it could even produce the latest development in solar tech, which is a micropatterned metal screen on the surface of the panel that reduces its reflectivity by 're-capturing' light.
Energy is your biggest concern since resources are abundant and what we need is transformation, say into cars or ammonia, instead of say, nitrogen and oxygen.
Not true. Solar energy will eventually reach a point where there is a surplus of energy for most of the day, with capacity only being reached at a modal or bimodal time each day. That surplus energy is going to have to be stored or used, or else it's going to waste. And since it's already falling from the sky, there is no reason not to store or use it, because the other possibilities for it are producing heat or being metabolized by autotrophs. At that point, we have a few choices:
1. Use the stored energy to gradually reduce the amount of solar energy captured
2. Build increasing amounts of storage and have ever-larger amounts of reserve energy
3. Use the excess generated energy for an "idle process", to do things like recycling, refining, computation, or scientific research.
Energy seems like it's scarce because fossil fuels are scarce. Fossil fuels are based on the same energy source as photovoltaic technology, which is the sun. But fossil fuels have a much lower conversion efficiency than PV, a very low replenishment rate, and by using them we are gradually reducing the effectiveness of all other forms of energy including fossil energy itself. The faster you extract and use it, the lower its efficiency.
Thorium has similar problems, except that it is created by thermonuclear processes that only occur near the end of a star's life, so it has an even lower replenishment rate than fossil fuels. It is a high-quality energy now, but anyone who studies energy, economics, or anything of the like knows that under the existing social paradigm, higher extraction efficiency (in this case, extraction of energy from the ground) just leads to higher consumption. Thus, the most likely outcome, if we switch the thorium energy, is that the economy will continue to be based on money flows decoupled from most observable measurements, and energy use will increase until thorium becomes a low-quality energy. Then, the people of the future will be having the exact same discussion we are having now, which is that solar energy will never be as efficient as thorium.
In reality, it's materials that are scarce, at least while we're confined to this planet. Energy falls on our heads daily, and will continue to do so for billions of years. Materials take billions of years to create, and cannot be recycled infinitely. Building long-lasting physical products that can be divided into small/standardized modules so their design can evolve over time, as opposed to being replaced completely, should be a very high priority for civilization, after the switch to ecologically/economically sustainable energy/agricultural technologies.
Graphene is somewhere around 40,000 dollars per pound. Most of that is in energy costs. By reducing energy costs, we can produce graphene cheaply, which would allow us to say, coat the poles of the earth in graphene solar panels, and get enormous amounts of electricity.
But that's not possible until we have cheap graphene solar panels. As far as "3-D printers" go, it's really not that amazing of technology. You can say, make a 3-D plastic mold from a computer model; they've been doing this for quite some time.
But producing graphene still present a great deal of difficulty due to it's costs. The best, highest quality methods require craploads of electricity.
Thorium, also is available. There are already small reactors and liquid salt designs available. All you would have to do is scale it up. Since uranium already powers 20.9% of the U.S.'s electricity with 104 reactors, and thorium could be just as powerful, up to 200 times more powerful, and there's no chance of a melt down, it's relatively safe etc. there aren't many issues.
As far as the earth can never support 60 billion people?
Perhaps ironically, you're already suggesting we can produce an infinite amount of energy from solar panels, right now?!?! So if that's true, we can feed enormous amounts of people. With aquaponics, we can grow fish and crops without fertilizer and without producing nitrate rich polluting water (the fish waste feeds the plant, the plants clean the fish water). Since fish food can be made from spirulina, which basically can grow in water and with sunlight, you can have an ultra efficient process that doesn't require fertilizer at all, that is traditional fertilizer. So with a bunch of properly designed greenhouses, and with enough energy, we can feed however many people we want.
As far as being a moron and using a less efficient method because you're afraid people will actually benefit from it?
There's always ways to increase the cost arbitrarily if people go over their limit or use too much, or just increase it arbitrarily with say, a tax. Using a less efficient design when power can be scarce is a very silly thing to do. Considering that 90% of electricity goes to industry and business, I'm not sure raising the price for your average person would really help much.