From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Insulate Britain Was a Bargain

Insulate Britain ( is an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion which demanded that the British government fund insulation for all public housing by 2025, and, by the end of 2021, the government must create a plan to fund retrofitting of insulation of all homes in Britain by 2030. Someone estimated that it would cost £5 billion to insulate all public housing by 2025, which I’m sure was “too much” for conventional wisdom. 

Insulate Britain demonstrated for these demands by blocking major highways around the UK, a dozen or more times, starting in September 2021 through February 2022 when the group announced "with a heavy heart" that the series of protests had failed in their aim to force the government into taking action. One poll from October 2021 showed that only 18% supported the protests while 72% of those surveyed opposed the protesters' actions, with 10% that "did not know." 

Energy prices are soaring in the UK and, according to columnist Caitlin Moran, "the present UK Energy Rebate Scheme will cost £9.1 billion for just one year"

and the Guardian reports that 
"UK must insulate homes or face a worse energy crisis in 2023, say experts 
Cutting heat loss from houses will be more effective in the long term than subsidising bills, according to analysis" 

 Looks like Insulate Britain was offering a bargain. 

Addendum: Other groups like Home Energy Efficiency Team [HEET] have done (and do) weatherization parties ( while back in the 1970s I was part of a group which did solar barnraisings ( 

 Incidentally, HEET has gone on to pioneer geothermal energy microgrids as a replacement for natural gas (

There is such a thing as positive protest too.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Energy as a System, Systems as Synergy

 MIT has designed a program which maximizes the production of wind farms by operating the wind farm as a system, not individual wind turbines.  Reducing downwind turbulence within the whole wind farm can increase energy production by 1.2% to 3%, a result validated by field trials in working wind farms.


When you think of these things as systems, there are previously hidden benefits that become apparent. When you don't, you have the present situation and BAU forever and ever amen.

Another example, from Edwin Black's book, Internal Combustion:  How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives (NY:  St Martin's Press, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-35907-2), about the Milwaukee Road, an electric rail system and the advantages thereof: 

"Sometimes electrified railways seemed to defy the laws of perpetual motion. For example, when the brakes were applied or the train traveled down a slope, the engine actually returned electricity to the grid. Regenerative braking and similar power returns helped the engines pay for themselves. In some mountain ranges, if timed correctly, a heavy downhill train could actually regenerate enough electricity to the grid to power another train passing it uphill. Thus both trains would travel in a minuet of seemingly energy-free motion. That might have seemed to violate the laws of physics, but not the rules of General Electric's wondrous workhorses, which were designed to observe this maxim: It is better to give than receive when it comes to electrical power. Those engines lasted not for years but for decades. Their endurance was measured in millions of miles. They were monumental vehicles that created economic prosperity and environmental balance everywhere they rolled."

Regenerative braking on electric trains is a technology that is over a century old and coming back to the fore, both on railways and with trucks.

Yet, thinking in systems is hard for most of us.

Donella Meadows' Guidelines for Living in a World of Systems [my comments] may help:

Get the beat of the system. [music and dance]
Expose your mental models to the light of day.
Honor, respect, and distribute information.
Use language with care and enrich it with systems concepts.
Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable. [system failure is too often the first clue to what’s important]
Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
Go for the good of the whole. [Sarvodaya, a concept from Gandhian economics*]
Listen to the wisdom of the system.
Locate responsibility within the system.
Stay humble - stay a learner.
Celebrate complexity. [and recognize simplicity]
Expand time horizons.
Defy the disciplines.
Expand the boundary of caring.
Don't erode the goal of goodness.

More in my notes to Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems at

* Sarvodaya, Swaraj, and Swadeshi
Part of a series of Notes on Gandhian Economics

As for getting the beat of the system, here are roughly detailed plans for 145 countries to go 100% renewable by 2035 or earlier from Mark Z Jacobson et alia: [pdf alert]

According to this carbon countdown clock (, at the current rate, the most CO2 we can emit to stay below 1.5ºC rise is 400 Gt, starting from 2020, and that carbon budget will be used up by about July/August 2029. 

We are at 290 Gts carbon budget left as I write [September 3, 2022]

Would be good to run the thought experiment of 100% renewable by that climate deadline, July/August 2029, now that we have the model for one by 2035.

That seems to me to be the beat of this system.  Imagine 100% renewable by summer 2029 and backcast from there to see what we have to do today, and all the other todays from now to then if we want a more livable planet.

Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous behaviors that will avoid extinction.  
R. Buckminster Fuller

We don’t have much time and should get cracking.