Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our relationship with the police

I recently saw video of Police pepper spraying students sitting at UC Davis, because some of them had tents nearby and wouldn't remove them and, because the crowd of people who had come to watch the confrontation completely dwarfed either group. I wasn't shocked or surprised, and that fact had me deeply dismayed. In the sort of world I want to live in, the public should have the utmost respect, and complete trust, in their Police force and that force, to the extent any human group can, should live up to that respect and trust.

Of course the state of things is not particularly either groups fault. It's a feedback loop between the two. It's hard to see now how the relationship started to break down, maybe it was the place where police were left in the increase post-ww2 economic social stratification, maybe it was that the police were too often put by their superiors on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. At this point it doesn't actually matter, it's been long enough that the original slights were by players who are no longer in play.

So what can we do to change it? The first thing is that we can recognize that there is an economic factor here, and be willing to pay more for the police, current and retired. We can't trust our legislators to represent us in that relationship, so maybe we need to start a charity that just works toward health and death benefits for first responders, hopefully with out the obnoxious fundraisers employed by most F.O.P. and with out the ambiguity of also protecting those police accused of violating the public trust. Another thing that can be done, but not by the lay men is separating the duties of the police so that domain related distrust is limited those cops working in that area, so that most cops can just do their jobs, without the collective distrust people have for all policemen. The other big thing we need to do is stop treating so many laws like we are above them. We should all be embarrassed when hearing about the violence in Mexico, that we are contributing to it. And finally as we normalize things in our relationship with the police, we will need the police to be willing to eject those that are too enamored by their own authority, and to accept that they should be the best and the brightest, and those that aren't don't belong, at least at any higher levels.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not seeing the forest or the trees, for the leaves.

Apparently the International Energy Agency has warned that if we don't change things, in 5 years we will have irreversible climate change. Personally I'm scared, once the climate change is irreversible how will we ever go back to the jurassic climate required to support cloned Dinosaurs?

The biggest Climate myth is Climate Stasis. Everyone who believes in Dinosaurs and ice ages, believes in Climate change. Even when it seems like the climate is static, it's not, because the length of time in that climate pattern is increasing. The climate is the sum of it's inputs and states, all climate change is irreversible. Every instant of every day for the whole history of the earth irreversible climate change has been going on. 

I wish people would suck it up and admit how little we actually know about the climate. Everything is a player in the climate and maybe now that we've got a decent collection of earth watching satellites we can finally get a grasp of all the inputs, but a system that has cycles that last decades, centuries or maybe even millennia, is not all of a sudden going to be cracked by us, especially cause there's not really a lab to experiment with these things.

The biggest sign that we don't know what we're talking about is that, we are concerned about our impact on the climate, and we want to stop impacting it as much so we want to stop getting energy in ways that impact the composition and instead we want to syphon energy right out of the weather systems. Have you heard of the conservation of energy? Wind energy isn't free, wind energy takes energy from the air currents that move atmospheric water around. But it's not like with the rise of wind energy we've seen an increase in weather systems stalling and causing flooding and draughts? Oh wait, we have.

It's unbelievably frustrating to see the public debate be between people who are willfully ignorant and people that are willfully arrogant. It would be really nice for some people to say, hey we don't really have the best grasp on the big picture, but if thing keep going the way they have been, then whatever the cause it's going to cause problems for us, and maybe we can or can not stop it, but instead of betting the farm on our ability to stop the trend, let's look at things that improve our survivability and maybe will buck the trend.

It seems to me that one area that could really benefit the world are micro-grids and ways to recycle small scale waste into them. That is to say that there is a lot of waste energy that we don't bother collecting because storage and transmission make it cost ineffective. One of the challenges with solar houses is rigging the houses grid to take/store the excess so that you have energy when solar is unproductive, but if you look a little wider you'll see that in addition to excess solar energy there are lots of other sources of waste energy that could be tapped and stored, if that doesn't have to go to far. And if we design home scale electrical systems to take these small inputs, then there will be an incentive to design in energy capturing technologies, into the bigger "waste" producers to reduce the cost of operations. 

Another area is refrigeration and cooling. Yes we could probably design much more efficient refrigerators by understanding that if your refrigerator isn't densely packed then every time you open the door and lose all the cold air you're making it do a lot of work. why we haven't made it to a 3 sections design, with the bottom third being a drawer and greater control on the temperature of each section, with ice disposer in the door, is beyond me. But if we got the base cooling that much more efficient all the better, and if we could better move heat around a house or building then we could do without a lot of the production of cooler or hotter air. 

And my last rant on this whole general area, is that many of the people that I have known that have been very pro, let's do the environment right, have also been very supportive of "historical" districts and building preservation. Historical districts don't often make sense because they freeze in place buildings that had been seeing major renovation every 20 years. If the history of a building is to change, then you're not preserving it but not letting that continue. Beyond that however is the fact that may of these buildings are vastly inefficient and keeping them around and making people use them is contrary to the goals of lessening our impact on the world. 

So in summary, we need to stop being so arrogant and ignorant about where we stand with climate science, and should not ignore basic laws of physics when looking for ways to fix things. While we aren't masters of climate science that should be ok, we're finally in a position to start learning, but it will take a while. It's okay to come up with hypotheses as long as you are open to competing ones and established ones having to be altered or thrown out. Climate science is important. But beyond grand declarations there are problems that can be addressed and solved. Those smaller problems should have as much of our focus as the larger ones.