Monday, March 8, 2010

67 / Desalination

If there is such a thing as a "right" relationship between the world that humans create, and the natural world, the idea that human beings should "live within natural limits" might be cited as a fundamental premise of such a "right" relationship. Ian McHarg, author of Design With Nature, advanced this thesis (and proposed it as a basis for future construction of the human world) in the late 1960's.

Water, so essential to all life, is available within the natural world, and human beings have traditionally captured water for use within the world they create by locating water sources that are part of a natural hydrologic water cycle.

Desalination, to which the City of Santa Cruz City Council is about to make a contractual commitment at its meeting tomorrow, is a water source not limited by the usable water that may be produced through the natural hydrologic water cycle. Instead, desalination treats the oceans as a "water mine," and all of this water then becomes potentially available for diversion into the world that humans create, avoiding "natural limits." Usable water becomes one more "industrial product," in effect created by the application of massive amounts of energy to the raw materials of the seas.

In this arena, the "limits to growth" might not be the amount of raw materials potentially available, for the oceans are vast, but the ability of our planet to support the greenhouse gases produced by our industrial efforts.

One of the facts about desalination is its dependence on the intensive use of energy. Initiating new energy intensive projects as the foundation for future growth seems contraindicated, in the face of the global warming crisis that threatens the continued existence of human civilization on Earth.

1 comment:

  1. A model for doing desalination properly might be Perth Australia which has built a completely wind powered plant supplying 30 million gallon per day (over ten times larger than Santa Cruz's investigation).


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