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Recommended documentary about alternative energy

 
pollinator
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There's a very good documentary being shown for free on youtube at the moment. It's called Planet of the Humans. However, there are many people and companies looking to have it taken down, taken away from public viewing altogether, in fact, not just from youtube. So if you want to learn a lot (I sure did), you may want to view this sooner rather than waiting because there seems to be quite the push to have it be removed.

 
pollinator
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Here is a review of the problems with the movie. I'll watch it before I judge. If the article is correct it sounds like a hatchet job... if their contention that they are using 2009 solar data is right then its worthless as the economics have drastically changed since then.
https://www.greenqueen.com.hk/opinion-michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-film-trashes-clean-energy-offers-zero-solutions/
 
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Thank you for posting this, Annie. I hope everyone watches it. Definitely important information for people to know.

Hurray for permaculture in our back yards!!
 
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I just watched the entire movie and read a little bit of the review linked to, and I think both the movie and the review have some valid points.

1. Industry is all about making money, and if any corporation thinks it can make money by claiming something is "green" they will do so regardless of whether they need to bend the truth to do so.
2. The movie is correct in pointing out a number of "elephants" in certain rooms - but the review is also correct in the general lack of emphasis on solutions. The movie seemed to be all about figuring out just how bad the bad guys are, and far less about how much humans are participating in their own downfall by frequently wanting cheap, disposable, no effort solutions to very real problems.
3. Economics is all about growth - we still don't really have environmental groups seriously talking about "shrinking" and what that needs to look like. What would "ungrowth" look like? What would economics look like in a world with a shrinking population? The experiences after the Black Plague were that the poor showed an increase in their standard of living as the rich were forced to pay closer to a living wage to the remaining work-force. Current world economics shows huge amounts of money controlled by an extremely small segment of the population. I did not feel as if there was anywhere near enough mention in the movie of people having the power to just use less power! We can choose to refuse to wear clothes that goes out of fashion in barely a year. We can refuse to leave lights on in every room or use a dryer to dry out clothes. We can refuse to by pop (I'd love to know if the movie's claim that Coke is the biggest contributor to plastic waste is completely true or just one version of truth, but there is *no* law saying people have to buy Coke or their products - just crafty advertising.)
4. The movie has several people talking, and a seriously good chart, about the human population issue. But again, it has no one talking about a realistic plan to reduce population without tremendous collateral damage. If humans reproduce at only a "maintenance" level of one parent/one child we will still have a shift in the traditional economic situation of having a greater number of "workers" supporting a smaller number of "retirees". To actually reduce below replacement level, we will have a top-heavy situation of even fewer workers supporting proportionally more seniors until population stabilizes at the new lower level. China tried to do so without looking at and planning for these issues and that attempt is still playing out all the unforeseen consequences the one-child policy created. Historically, population reduction primarily occurred through illnesses or starvation. (War generally results in an overall increase in population statistically.) I noticed they didn't suggest to some of those billionaires they interviewed that they contribute to a fund for free birth control to every woman on the planet who wants it. We need to remember that those billionaires benefit from overpopulation - more people needing or wanting to buy shit. I have noticed how few wealthy families I've met or read about, had more than one or two children, three at the most. It can't just be chance! I can remember reading a list about the things everyday people in North America could do to reduce their footprint on the planet, and having one less child was huge compared to anything else. Of course, the movie said nothing about permaculture and how raising a child permaculturally would be quite different. I do think they made a valid point that the huge jump in population started with burning more coal, then more fossil fuels in general, but we, as a species, need some way of creating a soft landing for the mistakes that have been made.
 
Sonja Draven
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Those are all good points, Jay, and definitely things that could have been improved.

I chose not to have kids, don't fly, etc. I could pat myself on the back and go about feeling self righteous. But what about if I want to do more? What about people who had kids and would still like to make the world a better place?  I know a lot of other ways to reduce consumption so personally didn't mind the lack of it in the movie, but it would have been improved by showing something.

I also don't care for the way documentaries cut the dialogue to paint people in the worst light, attempt to manipulate your emotions (like the orangutan at the end) or similar tactics through out and this one was no exception.

What I liked about the movie was the way it shown light on the companies and people who are profiting from destroying our world but looking like heroes on the surface (Gore and McKibben for example). I also like that it showed that renewable sources of energy (solar, wind, etc) aren't remotely as green as they are painted to be (biomass from full trees, solar plants run and created with fossil fuels) and aren't going to fix this for us.

I got shamed a lot when I lived in Portland for not paying extra for green energy. Every farmers market had someone pressuring people to sign up. I couldn't afford it. Instead, I focused on reducing my consumption as much as I comfortably could. My bill was quite low.

But I still dreamed of solar panels and wind energy and even took a class so I could do them both someday on my property. In that class, I saw some of the problems with their lack of efficiency, high cost, etc but that was really downplayed by the instructor and the text and I had no idea of the extent of the problem.

After watching the movie, I'm extra committed to reducing consumption of resources, period.
 
Annie Collins
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I very much agree with your points, Jay and Sonja. It would have been wonderful, and a very good opportunity, for the film makers to be more clear about what changes we can implement to help solve the problems. The take-away for me was definitely less consumption and lower population, but it wasn't clear enough or driven home all the way. They could have given concrete examples and shown lots of visuals with charts, etc. They already had the audience; I feel the opportunity was missed to give more answers for people to think about and hopefully start to implement. I know there are discussions and such out there already, but every opportunity one has to reiterate the point should be fully implemented. And this opportunity was a great one and a bit missed, unfortunately. More answers, and clear answers that people could start right away would have been nice to see.
All in all, however, I think it is a thought-provoking documentary and it is wonderful that close to 6 million people have already watched it in just 2 weeks time. (I'm also very surprised that youtube hasn't taken it down yet.) An in-depth follow-up with concrete ideas about what people can do now in their own lives to start really making a difference would be wonderful to see, especially now, with the worldwide restrictions on human activity showing how quickly nature can start to heal (so much less air pollution, cleaner water canals, etc.).
 
Jay Angler
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Annie Collins wrote:

The take-away for me was definitely less consumption and lower population, but it wasn't clear enough or driven home all the way.

I agree that's a big take-away that I also got, but most people just don't realize how deep a hole humanity has dug for itself in the last ~100 years. If it was possible for every human on the planet to stop buying single use plastic drinking bottles starting today what would happen? We've had a taste for some of that sort of thing with the lock-downs from the corona virus. A big group of people out of work with little to no safety net, few alternative skills to turn to, and not enough farmers/gardeners!

Similarly with population control. We've already seen examples of it being done badly. My country, Canada, would be below replacement level if we didn't absorb so many immigrants. But in return for their being allowed in, they're trapped in the lowest paying jobs usually with the highest risks. Again, to use the virus as the example, our abattoirs and our seniors residences have very high levels of new immigrant or temporary foreign workers and both those industries have been employed with inadequate safety equipment, and are seeing massive outbreaks. The industrial food system is also on a foundation of foreign temporary workers who usually arrive by airplanes (which require huge resources and fossil fuels to build, maintain and operate).

Permaculture is trying hard to change both the attitude and the skill levels, but we're a drop in the bucket and I don't recall hearing the word permaculture even once in that movie! Encouraging everyone we can to start building community, to think in terms of returning to human-scale management of our communities, to choose to value quality of belongings over quantity, is vital to changing the eventual outcome. Most importantly though, we need to help people realize that just maybe the permaculture lifestyle is more fulfilling than the consumption society.
 
pollinator
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I've watched the first 20 minutes or so.

I think the comments on this thread would be good to share on Youtube comments if you haven't, or on the livestream.

The point about solar plants being built that would be a net waste of embodied energy makes perfect sense, that that's economically motivated.  For an individual, buying a very efficient panel and reducing consumption makes sense.  But if you're starting a power plant, you can buy the cheapest panels and make a show, like the Lansing, MI plant in the documentary.  Or 2009 panels.  What's to stop you? longterm payback is seldom as motivating as quarterly returns.  So the individual producing electricity locally (so less loss in transit on the grid, as Paul and Shawn point out in the Building a Better World book) makes sense, plus reducing use, plus lowering population.

It's almost impossible to source electricity sustainably from the grid, with so many invisible components.  To do it locally is more viable...wood gasification? of course switching heat to something actually renewable, passive solar and rocket mass heaters...

On the subject of population, for those who already have kids and want to do more, how about "sharing" your kids? adopting some of your single or childless neighbors? some elders? create community in the old village style way (but with whatever's helpful of the new too)?  Ask them to help with the work of raising the kids, let them help you be taken care of so you have more energy available to be present with your kids.  I would really like to be more of service and present in the lives of children here in my neighborhood, but of course our culture is still nuclear-family-based.  And even saying something like that, as a male, probably gets a reaction of "danger" from most people.  But in some way we need to pool resources, including the privilege of bringing a new body into the world.

As for elder care, again, we need to think outside the box and reduce our segmentation.  In the anthroposophical retirement home, everyone works according to their ability, the "residents" as well as the co-workers.  This idea can be abused on a national scale, but on a local scale it can be worked out to be fair and harmonious.  (It can also be done dysfunctionally and abusively on a local scale, but there's at least a chance).  The idea of needing to keep producing more bodies to take care of the old is not a solution.  That's like taking another drink to cure a hangover, the research shows it doesn't work longterm.  

These are days when people are more open to hearing new things.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Also, why do we let power plants just fall apart, as the doc is showing? why not recycle those metals or just repair the turbines and mirrors?
Maybe someone around there wants to dumpster dive a bit?

And another thought--once the wind turbine/solar array is built, you may as well purchase power from it for the decades of its life rather than from a coal or oil plant.  

I just got to the biomass section--that's really depressing.  I'm not sure about the wood gasification process, certainly on a large scale that's not ok.

My former roommate, a computer chip designer who's doing some soul searching now and leraning biology, said it's amazing how nature can do everything we do with machines but it does it at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.  
 
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  While many things pointed out in this documentary really need to be brought to light it still doesn't answer the question... So, what can we do?   Besides using less and getting rid of over population.   Yes we all need to use less and more wisely, but it is a silppery slope when you start talking about reducing over popultation.  Yes we are getting very populated but who gets to decide if people have a right to have children?  
And while this pointed out some of the green energy methods it did not talk about all of them.  It is good at showing some of the real drawbacks green energy faces but gave no solutions or even ideas in the making.
  I know someone is working on a battery that is much more enviromentally friendly and stores a great deal more energy.  There are Also other forms of wind energy that do not cause as many problems and are longer lasting.  Like the tall blade that sways back and forth but has no moving blade to injury birds or parts that wear out quickly. And what about engergy from water?  
  I think he was trying to get to peoples emotions and make us angry ...which it does make me feel that way about much of what he said.  I am glad I watched it because it brought up things I did not realize.  I just don't think he looked at all the ways we can have a better system than what is in place now.   If you only tell people all the wrong things and never offer solutions they go away thinking. it doesn't matter what they do they are screwed anyway.  Or what they have been doing is useless.  
 I think one solution is for homes to produce much if not all of there own energy.  But of course this will not make much of a profit for big companies, so they will not bother to invest in ideas for that.  
There are ways we can improve our systems.  But we as individuals are going to have to work to find them we can not rely on government or corrperations to do so.   I don't think it is hopeless. But I know it has to change. We just do not have the resourse to keep living as we have been.
 Most people want to do the right thing they just don't know what that is.  
 
Jay Angler
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Lyda Eagle wrote:

Yes we are getting very populated but who gets to decide if people have a right to have children?

There are several examples that I know of that if women have access to free or cheap safe birth control, most of them will choose themselves to have fewer or no children. Yet even in modern countries such as my own, far too many women don't have easy access. I'm past that stage, but family doctors are critically short locally, so if I needed a prescription for birth control, I'd have to wait in line at 7:30 am for an hour just in the "hope" I'd get an appointment for sometime that day. (Disclaimer - I had two children and they replaced 4 grandparents, so a 50% drop.)

Lyda Eagle wrote:

I just don't think he looked at all the ways we can have a better system than what is in place now.   If you only tell people all the wrong things and never offer solutions they go away thinking. it doesn't matter what they do they are screwed anyway.  Or what they have been doing is useless.

I totally agree. Those in power seem to believe (probably because it's in their own best interests) that people don't want to use less energy or buy less stuff. I think this movie had a great opportunity to encourage people to look at how much energy they use for so many things, and encourage them to find alternatives - real energy use like clothes dryers rather than light bulbs which are not going to make or break the next 50 years! If you haven't read Paul Wheaton's "Building a Better World" book, it has plenty of real-life solutions (like less lawn cut 4" high like a shag rug instead of short like a putting green) that will save significant energy if enough people did it, particularly if the areas that are no longer lawn, have perennial food crops on them.

Lyda Eagle wrote:

I think he was trying to get to peoples emotions and make us angry ...which it does make me feel that way about much of what he said.

I admit it more made me feel depressed. I've been trying for decades to convert people around me to simple things like clotheslines and edible landscaping. They had the opportunity to send that message to a lot of people and they didn't.

Lyda Eagle wrote:

There are ways we can improve our systems.  But we as individuals are going to have to work to find them we can not rely on government or corrperations to do so.

Yes, we need to have local focus and local economy! We need to encourage mentoring between teens and twenty+ who often can come up with wild and outside the box ideas, and older, experienced technical people who can help find ways to make those ideas reality. Having open-minded governmental officials supporting  that process is fine, but we can't expect them to do it for us. It's one of the reasons I like the PEP program here on permies - it's getting people to try simple tasks that are fast becoming lost arts like mending a sock - socks are cheap, just toss it and buy another. We need to cultivate a "fix-it" attitude! (Disclaimer - #2 son ripped his fairly worn farm pants this week, so I removed part of a pocket and machine stitched it over the rip - good for a little longer!)
 
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