¿Did you think the footprint was not a link?

¿Who needs farmland, anyway?

The below is a photo of farmland being replaced with buildings. The curving edge to the left of the buildings is a wall made of dirt and cement, whose purpose is to keep the water from flooding over the land which was deposited by the action of the river over many tens of thousands of years. The ecological integrity of the valley is thus being further destroyed. The process that builds farmland narrowly along the river is no longer wanted. The river no longer flows as it did before modern man arrived, continuously, with changing meanders that gradually built up the soil. Now, it is either dry or floods with a rage when the monsoons arrive; because of the asphalt that has been built for the automobiles which accelerates runoff, the roofs, the disruption of natural drainage; because the lands along the river valley have been overgrazed to the point of eroding away the thin layer of soil, leaving rocky hillsides hundreds of thousands of years away from recovery.

31° 51' 8" N; 110° 58' 27" W; Continental, Arizona

Since this picture was taken, late 2000, the entire block of trees to the right of the one where the white square is located have been taken out, awaiting conversion to asphalt and buildings. The impetus toward overshoot is unbroken. The faith that food will always be most easily imported over long distances is what drives the momentum, that, and the ability to profit from selling smaller plots to apartment dwellers...

This is ecological gerrymandering, the modification of natural water flows for the pursuit of private profit, passing the consequences on to other lands along the water way, to other people in future times. It is manifestation of inability to live in harmony with the ecological reality. The logical conclusion of this type of behavior is a cemented river bank on both sides, with the final elimination of any wildlife that might have endured, the reduction of human carrying capacity to complete dependence upon imports and fossil fuels.

¿What is the value of a hectare of this soil deposited over hundreds of thousands of years, an area 10,000 square meters in size as indicated by the white square? In terms of money, it is what the farmer must sell it for when the bankers thump on the table for their money, or will sell it for when the $$ overwhelm his desire to farm, and what the buyer is willing to pay for it, thinking of what he will have to invest and what he will in turn be able to sell it for, after being cut into a myriad of smaller private properties.

In terms of solar emergy the ecological value is quite surprising.

To figure this value out, one has to first calculate all the energy used in the US economy in terms of those obvious sources of energy such as oil, natural gas, and coal. (energy overview) shows the quads of energy consumed on a monthly basis, and adding up the figures for the last twelve months gives us the annual rate at the time of last updating —at this moment, as of the end of July, 2000, that amount was 93.56. (July 2007:, 100.753) Quads is short for quadrillion Btu. Quadrillion is far from being a gadzillion, but still a big number with 15 zeros. A Btu stands for a British Thermal Unit, the amount of heat required to raise a pound of water 1° F. In as much as it is more intelligent to use the metric system of measurement, these numbers have to be converted to a different form. (The US likes to show how dumb it is by being one of only two countries in the world to still use the old British system of measurement, which even the Brits have tossed.)

There are 1054 joules in 1 Btu, so 93.56 quads converts as 93,560,000,000,000,000 x 1054, which equals 98,612,000,000,000,000,000, (July 2007: 106,168,366,000,000,000,000) or using scientific notation which allows you to store the zeros in an exponent, 98,612 x 1015, (July 2007: 106,168 X 1015) which is the same as 9.8612 x 1019, (July 2007: 1.06168 x 1020) which is easier to write if you can't throw the number up high as 9.8612E+19.(July 2007: 1.06168E+20)

Rounding off a bit, that gives us 9.86E+19 (July 2007: 1.06E+20) joules of energy used as fuel in the United States in the last year back beginning with April, 1999.(April 2006)

This will allow us to consult a benchmark calculation derived from studies in 1983, where the energies often taken for granted are considered,— the sun evaporating the sea water that creates the rain clouds, the rain falling, the mountains rising out of the plains that provide the first step in soil formation, and the pull of the moon on the seas; where one type of energy when made from others takes into consideration that chain of dependence, such as the years of sunlight that grew the plants that fed the dinosaurs....

So we first need a transformity value for dinosaur blood, or crude oil, which enables us to understand that amount of energy in terms of the quality of its ability to do work, or be useful. This is calculated in terms of solar energy which is central to life on the planet. That is, we are needing to know its solar eMergy equivalent.

From our transformity table, we find that the amount of solar emergy contained in a joule of crude oil has been evaluated to be 54,000 SolarEmergyJoules per joule, or 5.4E+4 sej/J.

That gives us 5.4E+4 sej/J x 9.86E+19 J = 53.24 (July 2007: 57.24 )[and E+4 x E+19 = E(19+4)] sej;

Or rounding again, 5.32E+24 sej of dinosaur blood equivalent exhausted in 1999.(July 2007: 5.72E+24 sej)

To this, the adjusting constant of 4.08E+24 sej derived from the 1983 sej/$ benchmark must be added, resulting in 9.40E+24 sej/yr. (July 2007: 9.80E+24 sej/year) This is to include those flows of energies generated by the nearness of the moon and sun, the center of the earth, those which are not derived from fuels.

Now, it is necessary to know what amount of money has changed hands for goods or services within the US in the same year, or what is called the Gross National Product. (National Income and Products Account Table) shows a GNP for the second quarter of 2000 of 9,318.9 billion (July 2007: GDP replaces GNP with about 0.2% difference: 13,755.9 billion) dollars or 9.319E+12 $.(July 2007:1.376E+13)

9.40E+24 ÷ 9.319E+12 = 1.009E+12 sej/$ ratio as of the end of second quarter, 2000, (July 2007: 9.80E+24 ÷ 1.376E+13 = 7.12E+11 sej/$ ratio), or in other words the value of a dollar in terms of Joules of Solar Emergy.(July 2007: the 2007 dollar is worth 70.6% of the 2000 dollar)

Lastly, our transformity table gives the value of 1.88E+09 sej/g for the Solar Emergy value of Continental sediment per gram. Desert alluvial soils can be deep and fine through the ancient process of deposition through changing meanders, a process which is almost everywhere now disrupted. The soil under consideration is two meters deep along the edge of the river.

Thus, to calculate the value of the hectare = (1.88E+09 -transformity per gram) x (2m -depth of soil) x (2.6 g/cm3 -density of soil) x (1E+06 cm3/m3 -cubic centimeters per cubic meter) x (1E+04 m2/ha -square meters per hectare) ÷ (1.009E+12 sej/$ -SolarEmJoules per dollar ratio) = 96,888,000 em$ (July 2007: 137,235,000 em$)

¿What does it mean when this value is so much greater than that being paid to convert the agricultural potential to simply a flat space for building? It means at the very least that most people have little idea of the ecological cost of the processes that provide us life, and furthermore, it means that very few give a damn.

Energy circuit: A pathway whose flow is proportional to the quantity in the storage or source upstream. [This refers to the fact that the transformation of energy into different forms always has a relation to the quantity of energy at the prior step. The farm can only produce in relation to its area that is exposed to the sunlight, and each step afterwards will relate back to that original limit.]
Source: Outside source of energy delivering forces according to a program controlled from outside; a forcing function. [The sun shines as it shines and provides the energy to drive the global climate and photosynthetic system, and there is no way we can ask it to send more. We just have to do with what we have.]
Tank: A compartment of energy storage within the system storing a quantity as the balance of inflows and outflows; a state variable. [In the above, this represents the number of people in the farm family, and increases when the family has another child. Another tank represents the quantity of plants that are on the farm at any particular time, whether in the form of annual crops in the field, perennial trees, or seeds. It diminishes when a harvest is taken off the land. A third tank represents the nutrients stored in the soil which has accumulated from the erosion of rocks, and is added to by fertilizer from elsewhere; and the water which is stored in the top soil, or either behind a dam or underground—it can diminish or increase according to the sustainability of the type of agriculture practiced. A last tank represents money in the bank: if you are a farmer it probably was borrowed and really belongs to the bankers who reap the interest payments without the effort of sowing.]
Heat sink: Dispersion of potential energy into heat that accompanies all real transformation processes and storages; loss of potential energy from further use by the system. [Transformations of energy from one into another kind are not perfect. Some is lost at every step. The mule and the man do not change all of their food energy into strength at the plow, they both sweat; the tractor blows heat away from the engine with the radiator cooling system.]
Interaction: Interactive intersection of two pathways coupled to produce an outflow in proportion to a function of both;control action of one flow on another; limiting factor action;work gate. [If the farmer doesn't plant the seeds, care for the weeds, watch the water and fertilizer, there is no crop. If the sunshine doesn't fall on the plant or the plants get a disease that stops the photosynthetic process, there is no crop. It is a joint effort between nature and man.]
Consumer: Unit that transforms energy quality, stores it, and feeds it back autocatalytically to improve inflow. [The output from the land is transformed into the life of the farm family: conscious beings are thus maintained from plant life, who in turn seek ways to make the farming even more beneficial.]
Switching action: A symbol that indicates one or more switching actions. [The harvest can only happen when the crops are ready; thus, the seasons are the timing mechanism which switches on or off the movement of farm products through the system to the market.]
Producer: Unit that collects and transforms low-quality energy under control interactions of high-quality flows. [The farm produces with the shining of the sun upon the green of the leaves —this is the most basic energy, the process that gives life to the earth, and is the arrow coming from the left. The amount produced is influenced by the farmers effort and the added fertilizer —this is the high quality energy that comes in as the arrow from above.]
Self-limiting energy receiver: A unit that has a self-limiting output when input drives are high because there is a limiting constant quality of material reacting on a circular pathway within. [The chlorophyll in the plant, once it receives enough light, does not respond favorably to even more light, which may even result in the plant's death: it can only transform so much and that is it.]
Box: Miscellaneous symbol to use for whatever unit or function is labeled. [The plants do not convert all their energy into food for humans; they also require energy for their own living process. This is shown above as a box, R, for respiration, feeding back to the photosynthetic process.]
Constant-gain amplifier: A unit that delivers an output in proportion to the input I but is changed by a constant factor as long as the energy source S is sufficient. [As long as the family judges the resources from the farm to be sufficient to justify having more children, the family will extend; if the resources are inadequate for more children, and they come anyway, it will eventually result in their leaving the farm in order to prosper. ¿When the world is full and there is no other place to go?]
Transaction: A unit that indicates a sale of goods or services (solid line) in exchange for payment of money (dashed line). Price is shown as an external source. [Price, as an external source, commonly drives the energy system with a mind all of its own —within the limits of what is possible. For example, the Japanese are bonkers for shark fin soup and pay a high price for the fins. The result is that sharks lay dead rotting each without one fin along the hidden nooks of Mexico's coastline, and the caloric return to the Japanese is so many times less than what was expended. This criminal wastefulness, strictly in terms of energy, can be seen throughout the economic system.]

The above graphics are from Ecological and General Systems: an Introduction to Systems Ecology, Revised Edition; Howard T. Odum; 1994; pg. 8-9.

Energy Systems Overview of the Mississippi River Basin Using emergy analysis to determine the most productive human relationship with the environment.

Spreadsheet templates to more easily endeavor the emergy calculations for a nation, a private residence, an agricultural process. USA.xls residence.xls agriculture.xls


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