Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Our Greatest Need

A Vascular System for the World Belt


By John Taylor; 2010 July 06, Rahmat 15, 167 BE

The first thing a world government will do after its formation is to end permanently the structural iniquities that are now crippling the potential of the majority of the human race. This is part of a management principle that we shall be calling "go for the need." It is a moral imperative, a basic for both triage and compassion, that our leadership solve the most urgent difficulties first.

It is the thesis of People Without Borders that the quickest way to solve the crying needs of the present hour is to initiate the construction of the World Belt. The World Belt is a concentrated line stretching around the world, connecting each continents and deserts with all others, carrying within it at least three essential infrastructural necessities, power, travel and housing.

Energy and the World Belt

The first necessity, electrical power, consists of an underground HVDC power line that transfers any amount of energy around the globe at the speed of light. Because HVDC power lines are superconducting, they double as a massive energy storage facility, in effect an invisible battery. The World Belt, therefore, is ideal for connecting renewables, solar and wind, which are free, but notoriously intermittent. Only half the planet is illumined at one time, and wind turbines, even in prime offshore locations, are often becalmed.
Nonetheless, their potential is all but limitless.

The world's deserts alone take in more than enough solar energy, once they have been connected to populated regions, to supply more electricity than the human race is ever likely to need. As we have seen in early chapters, the spirit of the cosmopolis is, nevertheless, to make use of locally derived facilities wherever possible. Thus, in spite of an abundance of cheap electricity available from central sources, the World Belt will do everything possible to make every locality energy independent, through conservation, distributed heating and cooling, solar cooling towers, and other easily implemented techniques, many of which are among the oldest technologies known to pre-history.

Travel and the World Belt

The second function of the World Belt is a network, built underneath every "basement," of high speed evacuated tube lines. It has been known by engineers who are also dreamers for over a century that tube transport is the fastest (going at least ten thousand kilometres an hour), safest and most efficient way to get from point A to point B. It is also the most environmentally friendly. The World Belt's capsulated tubes could replace the almost fifty thousand airliners in the air at any given time around the world, each of which is spewing massive quantities of greenhouse gasses into the most sensitive place imaginable, the upper atmosphere.

Although this transit system is technically feasible, it requires but one thing to keep it out of the realm of fantasy, the removal of national borders. As soon as people are liberated from these invisible barriers, a pipe dream will instantly become a necessity.

Tube transport not only revolutionizes express, long distance travel by using magnetically levitated capsules running in a vacuum -- but it is also is the best technology for short-run trips of less than three hundred miles, which at present are the undisputed domain of trucks and automobiles. These capsules run along dedicated tubes that are powered pneumatically, that is, pushed along by pumps that create differences of air pressure. Pneumatic capsulated tubes have been known for decades as the most efficient travel technology for distances less than three hundred miles.

Housing and the World Belt

The third major change initiated by the World Belt is on human shelter. A long hillside housing development runs near, alongside or right over the Belt's power lines and its long distance evacuated tubes. Throughout this monostructural housing setup is incorporated a sort of vascular system of pneumatic tubes, similar to the nerves and blood vessels that serve the needs of every cell in the human body. These pneumatic tubes combine with RFID sensors to establish a sort of physical internet of interconnected, redirectable capsules in the pneumatic system.

A recent news report describes how such a system is achieving newfound energy efficiencies in an otherwise fairly conventional looking housing development in Sweden,

"Residents of Hammarby Sjvstad, a district on the south side of Stockholm, Sweden, don't let their waste go to waste. Every building in the district boasts an array of pneumatic tubes, like larger versions of the ones that whooshed checks from cars to bank tellers back in the day. One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility. Meanwhile, wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, from whence it emerges as biosolids for more compost, biogas for heat and transportation fuel, and pure water to cool a power plant, which also runs on biofuels grown with the biosolids. Looking at a chart of all this is enough to induce dizziness." (Local Power: Tapping Distributed Energy in 21st-Century Cities, By David Roberts, Scientific American, June 15, 2010 <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=distributed-energy-urban>)

Swedish authorities estimate that this system of tubes, combined with other conservation techniques, will enable the region to produce half its own energy independently while using only half the energy of the average Swede. This of course does not factor in the many other potential transport savings that the use of pneumatic tubes for letters, postal delivery and other point-to-point transit of small packages.

Needless to say, the efficiencies of the World Belt will have tremendous implications not only for economic prosperity but also on how citizens govern themselves, especially if we take the "go for the need" principle seriously. For example, it will break down the barriers to pure face-to-face democracy, until now an all but impossible ideal for human governance. Although it is not generally realized, this is perhaps our greatest need of all. I want to discuss next time how the Belt might do that.


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