A New Year, New chances…: ‘Homo Vermis’

It is now exactly 10 years ago around Christmas that I struggled with the interpretation of ‘cycles’. Why I wondered, is everyone convinced there are two resource cycles, as promoted nowadays in whats called the circular economy? And why would we treat these differently? And at some moment around New Year I realized the conclusion was inevitable that there is actually only 1 cycle system: that all raw materials are part of 1 type of cycle, and that I could therefore calculate the same way for all raw materials, organic and non-organic. In other words, there are renewed resources, and resources that do not renew, or better, that are not-renewed, but for which renewal is possible and calculable. That is, nature does renew these as well, also metals, only on very long time scales. Man could also do that, restoring those metal cycles, closing and re-concentrating the stocks, provided he invests the energy for that. To prevent exhaustion. The image of those two separate cycles was therefore incorrect.

It was always there, that idea, but I apparently did not dare to give in to it. It took effort to get out of one’s own prejudices and moral imprinting, and to allow new insights.

I walked around with ‘brainpain’ for two weeks in that Christmas period, because I couldn’t grasp the notion, and my head just just kept grinding. The problem I was working on , was that I wanted to bring organic and non-organic materials into 1 equation, without weighting factors or other subjective parameters. Until at last the penny dropped. Until I realized I should not look at the cycles from the perspective of mankind, but from nature’s view, the system. And raw materials do not disappear from the system, they dilute and disperse. And over a very long period of time, they gather again, new concentrated stocks will evolve, through the influence of solar energy (biological activity), gravity, tectonics, and volcanism. But then, it is also possible to concentrate the stocks by ourselves, because they are not lost, jut diluted in the background. And if we can collect (renew) them, an energy investment can also be attached to it. And if we can attach an energy investment to that, we can also translate that into land use, land as a means to make solar energy useful. And so I could also compare the non-renewable raw materials (or the non-renewed raw materials) with the land use of organic substances, say wood, flax and so on. [1]

The missing component was found, which I later called Circular Energy: the energy needed to restore the stocks, something that is already common use with organic material, replanting a hectare of land (and therefore solar energy) for the regrowth of stock, and now also circular energy for the restoration of the non-organic stock, which is still being ignored.

What a relief that was. Although It still lasted several months before I fully accepted that myself: it was right, was it? Didn’t I miss something? But the notion became stronger over time, from whichever side I looked at it.

And confirmed by later findings. I think a good example still is the English student, who collected dust from the streets in his hometown, analyzed it, and found a lot of platinum. That turned out to be from auto-catalysts, and by sweeping it up and filtering it, it was able to get back originally concentrated platinum. The diluted and dispersed platinum was again concentrated after an energy (labor) investment. The natural and millennia long cycle time was accelerated to a few years by a new natural force, that of labor, comparable to a kind of human “worm”.  So to say. A worm rooting in earthly dust, which in turn converts natural waste into a supply of usable elements, nutrients, for the growth of the system. Because humans are nature too, the human worm can close cycles as well! And with that accelerate existing cycle times! That he usually doesn’t do so is laziness or ignorance, it doesn’t matter, the real worm is probably also ignorant.

If that platinum had not been swept up in the street, eventually via rain and sewer, it would have ended up into a river and eventually into the ocean, just as almost everything ends up in the ocean. Also like metal ions, which some companies already want to filter out of the ocean again: we will only behave like a decent worm, when it becomes commercially interesting, when the concentrated stocks run out …. (though that will cost a disproportionate amount of ‘energy’ …)

A good example of that dilution, with the ocean as a huge waste bin, is also plastic, which we now have discovered as ‘islands’ in those oceans. Trying to get out of it again with a lot of energy investment. And that plastic can even be seen as ‘big chunks’. Since humans do not close the cycle, it is now everywhere as micro-plastics, even in beer molecules of plastic have been demonstrated. What that does with the health of the same species is still virtually unknown, but certainly not good at all. Unless our body, just like the real worm, would have to convert micro-plastics into usable basic molecules again. But for that a new evolutionary step in the human species seems necessary. Even worse , it’s now already raining micro-plastics …! Literally. Research by scientists in 4 cities measured the quantity, and in London it turned out to be the highest: ranging from 575 to 1.008 pieces per sq meter per day, and 15 different plastics were identified. [2]

Cycles, of all kinds can be closed and stocks restored, provided that energy is invested and, as in the platinum example, labor-energy. The labor energy can of course  also be calculated as the land required via food energy (and can therefore be included in a one-cycle evaluation). And so the circle is round. Land to make solar energy useful for terrestrial processes, and again as a unit of measurement to close the cycles. Energy is of course the elixir that can make this work. Usually temporarily, until the energy , that is the exergy, the useful energy, is used up: look at the vast universe that is only on its way to decay, to high entropy. Coincidentally , our planet is near a huge nuclear fusion reactor, which in itself is on its way to that decay, but which happens to maintain the energy balance on this island in space: as much comes in as is lost by evolutionary processes , creating a ecological balance here over time. A critical balance, we have examples as neighbors were it did not play out very well: the undercooled planet Mars or the overheated planet Venus.

We were, until recently, in balance. Until the modern anti-worm came out, the Homo Sapiens, and managed to squeeze more out of the system as comes in, to which the system responds, with holding more , causing the temperature to rise. The balance is shifted to a higher temperature level, a well-known characteristic of an emerging disease.

It was an exciting period 10 years ago. It mainly showed me that we should not reason from the perspective of mankind, as we have been doing for the past two thousand years or so, by thinking that we are above nature, that it is at our service. Now facing the limits, and have to learn reasoning on the basis of the system that we are part of. As humans, we are no more than another link in the great physical game that takes place on this earth, a special anomaly in the universe. A tropical paradise, so to say, and if we want to maintain that, then we have to start acting like those other worms, like a “Homo Vermis”, a human worm. Which seems a good intention for the new year ….

I wish you a good year ending and a happy New Year!

 

 

[1] www.maxergy.org

[2] http://www.sumobrain.com/patents/wipo/Platinum-group-metal-recovery-from/WO2010109191.html

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/27/revealed-microplastic-pollution-is-raining-down-on-city-dwellers

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