Humankind: Finding Our Place in the Natural World

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Where are we headed in the love-hate relationship of HumanKind with Nature (that is: the biotic and abiotic parts of the only planet we have from which all our resources are drawn)?
 
It can’t be much farther in the current direction. So who will turn the ship, and how? The WHEN of the matter must be NOW!
 
So I gave some thought to our evolving place in the natural scheme of things, and doodled it out on the back of a digital napkin.
 
Seeing something helps me comprehend a complex topic a little better. And write about it. FWIW.

What is Your Barbeque Footprint?

Labor Day for many marks (or used to mark) the end of summer and the return of the kids to school. By that time, Floyd County students will have been in sweltering classrooms for almost a month. But that is not the point. Labor Day may also be at or near the end of the outdoor grilling season. And that brings us to today’s burning questions:

► Where does my charcoal come from?

► What is my BarBeQue Footprint? and…

► What is this stuff anyway and now does it compare to Propane?

All this was triggered a few weeks back when I was at Lowes (a once or twice a year visit) and found on sale two huge bags of Kingsford Charcoal. Heck, this might be a lifetime supply at our age!

But given the fact that wood from just behind and above us most likely ended up as pellets for European Power Plants, I wondered about the history of these particular black briquets and how responsibly they are produced, and where.

Well first I found out that all sorts of organic matter can be burned while oxygen-starved to create the high-heat low-smoke product we call charcoal. It contains no COAL, by the way.

Olive pits, grape vines, and corn cobs make good charcoal. Hmmm…

► Idea: a corn-cob to charcoal industry from ag waste in Floyd and other rural counties?

Barbecuing sustainably: How not to burn rainforests in our grills | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | https://www.dw.com/en/barbecuing-sustainably-how-not-to-burn-rainforests-in-our-grills/a-44543655

Comparing the BTUs of charcoal to propane, here’s the scoop: There are 91333 BTUs in a gallon of Propane and 4.7 gallons of propane in a 20 gallon tank. So that’s about 430,000 BTUs in a typical full tank.

There are 9700 BTUs in a pound of Kingsford briquets. This makes a tank of propane approximately equal to about 44 pounds of charcoal. You can price the two and do the math. Only consider that charcoal burns hotter, gives your grilled meats and veggies the smoky taste most folks want from cooking outside, and did not come from fracked gas through pipes in sone good person’s former back yard.

The Science of Charcoal: How Charcoal is Made and How Charcoal Works https://amazingribs.com/more-technique-and-science/grill-and-smoker-setup-and-firing/science-charcoal-how-charcoal-made-and

But where DOES Kingsford charcoal come from—and one should ask because SOME comes at the cost of burning tropical trees. I asked Kingsford and was told they product comes from domestic lumber mill waste only.

Kingsford (charcoal) – Wikiwand https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Kingsford_(charcoal)

And final trivia fact: this well-known company derived from Ford Charcoal–as in Henry and Ford Motor Co. Early on each car was trimmed with wood and there was a lot of waste. So the idea: let’s make charcoal. And early on, the only place you could get it was at your Ford Dealership!

So get grillin before the autumn’s chillin.

Everything You Need to Know About Charcoal | HuffPost https://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-goldwyn/charcoal_b_858606.html

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Graphic created using two free tools:

Free download Light Flame Fire Explosion – https://www.kisspng.com/png-burning-fire-png-decorative-material-464/download-png.html

Objects icons – by Adioma https://adioma.com/icons/category/objects

Giant Hogweed is Here

I recently had the opportunity to ask one of the most knowledgeable botanists I know as many pertinent questions out of my confused and confusing plants folder as I could tastefully work into the conversation.

“Have you run across Giant Hogweed on your place?” He lives on a sizable parcel of Floyd County property that he knows well, both as a farmer and as a retired botany-educated professional. He said “Why yes I have.”

It had recently been observed in Virginia, but not the southwest part of the state.

Dangerous Hogweed Plant Found in Virginia

We talked about the so-what, and he was not optimistic that its spread could be contained, given the effort it would take and the general apathy of local citizens–even other farmers.

I contended that, even so, it made sense to me that, for sake of prevention of the health impact of this plant, we should educate folks. And so…

The best source I have found for comparing similar plants is from a New York source–a state where Giant Hogweed is long and well-established. If you want to be knowledgeable and possibly save yourself or someone you know from a really really bad time, give it a careful look. There are helpful illustrations here of five plants that bear resemblance to and could possibly be confused with Giant Hogweed.

Giant Hogweed – New York Invasive Species Information 

And I’d hope that our local network of naturalists, farmers and hikers would communicate about observations. Catching these populations when there are few individuals and they are not 20 feet tall would be preferable. We don’t want our kids coming in contact with this. And animals–who may not react to the exudate–can carry it on their coats and transmit it to human skin that way.

We Once Lived Large. So Long, Energy Slaves

I had an epiphany some years back, and until this morning, I had thought that this particular insight had been free of any influence but the AHA observation: how much human or animal muscle it would have taken to push my car up the ramp at Dixie Caverns and have it going interstate speeds in 20 seconds!

In my ruminations to myself I saw these agents of motion as “energy slaves”–maybe a hundred or more of them, doing the heavy lifting when all I had to do was apply a little pressure under the ball of my foot.

I thought about this then, wrote about it since, and have never been able to forget that insight. But it seems this notion had occurred to others before me–no surprise–and I probably had subconsciously read their accounts and used their terminology in my own moment of “independent” discovery. I can’t be sure of the source but I know that it represented a personal paradigm shift with lasting impact.

But it is at least validating to find that one prominent thinker that had a similar AHA moment before me was Buckminster Fuller. You can scroll through the “cartoon that is a classroom” at the artist, Stuart McMillen’s page.

Energy Slaves

And what I (and Bucky) also began to grasp, with no slight uneasiness as the daydream unfolds, is how, even if we hold current population constant, we are never, in anything like a smooth lateral transition, going to replace carbon energy slaves with any alternative forms currently under hopeful development.

In fact, pursuing this topic is how I ran across the Fuller cartoon in the first place, by way of an article at EHN called “The past and future of Buckminster Fuller’s energy slaves.”

https://www.ehn.org/commentary-the-past-and-future-of-buckminster-fullers-energy-slaves-2594474398.html

This commentary expresses the sober understanding that leads me again to the conclusion that, perhaps in the lifetimes of our children, our taken-for-granted carbon slaves will have been emancipated by finally taking more energy to obtain than the energy they can produce. EROI–energy return on investment: it takes a barrel’s worth of energy to extract a barrel of oil. Game over.

We’re not quite there yet. In fact, there is still a lot of carbon energy in the ground. How will we choose to use it as we shrink our resource footprint, take responsibility for our procreation, and put planet and people before economic profit?

Peak Oil

Nothing Ordinary: Planet Floyd

I promise. Not fake news. Not an alternative fact. I did see this. On Goose Creek. Yesterday. It’s Planet Floyd. Trust me. I’m a stable genius.

The above is true. Except for the stable part. And the genius thing.

I did see this in one of our many, many, many dog walks around the loop up and around the valley.

Nevermind that this two inch mushroom was embedded in a carpet of moss. That somehow disappeared. I don’t know how that happened. Ask my staff. The ones that are left. A few still have their tongues, but not so many can find them anymore.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes open. See it. Say it. Y’all.