DIY Energy Options

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One of the most interesting expenses that we all have can be categorized under "Energy". Regardless of where or how you get your energy, most people around the world pay to get consistent energy. One of the things you will find out if you research it, is that energy doesn't really have to cost what it does if there needs to be a consistent cost at all. So many Wars and conflicts have been waged over the control of energy because it has become a basic need. Those that do not have access to energy will at the very least be less productive.

What is true is that energy does have to come from somewhere and having interrupted energy is definitely a comfort. Whether it's the basics of lighting your home or structures in general or powering appliances and devices, so much is relatively impossible without energy. I seems to have become a necessity for life. Our information rides on electro-magnetic waves powered y energy. So where can we realistically acquire our energy?

As you know energy is all around us in the earth, water, wind and sun. Just an opinion, but diversity would seem to be key as a solution to make sure that you can conserve the elemental resources and lessen the impacts to the environment. That said, it is not the way it generally works. We have reached a seemingly obvious moment where acquiring the most popular types of energy at the very least come with painful caveats. Personal and worker safety issues along with environmental safety issues make getting energy from the earth (ie. coal, gas or oil) difficult. It can be easy to criticize the how when there is an incident, but people all around the world will still want their power. Without diversity and operational excellence the industries that acquire and distribute this "Earth Energy" will continuously be under some sort of social pressure.

Acquiring gas is not as easy as people think, acquiring oil is not as easy as people think. The oil needs to be refined, the Gas cleaned, the coal transported. In order to make this "Earth Energy" profitable there is definitely a volume that has to be achieved as well. So drilling a little bit or fracking a little bit is not the goal of industry. Even the way we distribute the electricity after we've harnessed the energy always seemed a little dangerous as well. Elevated or buried lines carrying deadly current through residential communities and neighborhoods couldn't possibly be an issue could it?

Infrastructure and method are key is the point we want to drive home. Ultimately it is these things we are paying for not necessarily the energy itself. The effort it takes to acquire the energy from it's native source, to operate, assume risk and maintain the necessary components of the enterprise are most of the bill we receive each month. For whatever reason "Earth Energy" has been standardized first more or less as you can transport much of the raw material and enter world markets of trade. That said, there are also other sources namely the sun, water, and air.

We have focused a lot on the other methods of acquiring in recent years, but diversity, I would think, should still be a concern as there are bound to be caveats to whatever method we use to acquire energy. Also, it is relatively difficult to start your own oil or gas well. Some basic geology skills are also likely to show you that there's not much valuable in our back yards or immediate communities. "Earth Energy" however popular and evident in industry is probably out of reach for us, but the others you can dabble in with various DIY projects.

At the end of the day most methods of energy generation rely on turbines of some sort. Harnessing a force of some kind to move a turbine to generate electricity which can then be distributed. We've had dams which use gravity and water to achieve this. "Wind Energy" is mostly the same as the blades for windmills get bigger and bigger and placed on shorelines and wind corridors. Probably one of the only popular forms of energy that doesn't use turbines, can be portable, stored easily and are great for DIY projects is Solar Energy.

You can get solar panels with different capacities for your devices, car, home and business. They can be attached to a power bank and in most places the sun is available at least 8 hours a day. In a solar system you can leverage the storage capacity of a portable or stationary battery to extend the life of your energy to times when the sun isn't out. As devices get smaller and smaller, their energy needs also get smaller and smaller,making for the moment the perfect companion to technology at the moment. As countries get on board and begin to subsidize the infrastructure, citizens can take advantage of falling solar cell prices to take an edge off of battery and energy costs. We say all of this to make the case that while we buy charcoal, propane, and gasoline as a stadard, we can also improve our proficiency in some of these other energy categories and buy into consumer grade windmills, lock\dam kits and especially solar.

Food Glorious Food!

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A rough BeginningReal Food

I don't know where you live, but I'm from the city, and in the cities, people are very removed from food production. Convenience and price mean the most to the average city citizen. In the US this can be very extreme, while the affects of packaged mystery food are very real. I really just mean health outcomes after a life of depending on others to make and prepare your food (usually geared towards convenience). Fast food, by now I imagine everyone knows how bad it is for you. There many documentaries and experiments that you can find readily available on the web that drive the point home, but that's not all. Even packaged food found in your average grocer can be raised with questionable methods again resulting is questionable health outcomes. In truth, I have NO idea what is in the meat and real vegetable always seem to be rising in price, so I buy less and less of that over time unless I make a very conscious effort to go to a "Health Food Store". That moniker is hilarious because the mere fact that it is a type of store almost tells you that your average grocer is selling you crap! So we pay for crap to eat and then pay again when our health fails? Total scam. Sooo, as companies figure out how to make franken-food last as long as humanly possible, and run experiments to have us love the food that's killin us, what are some alternatives?

The obvious answer that I can see is to do it yourself. My motivation to eat what's given or marketed to me in part does have to do with the marketing, but there's also the convenience. I'm always trying to do better in the market's that I'm in, increasing profit, earning more (you know the chase) and I don;t have "time" to think about good food, much less pay more for it (as the argument goes). But my people come from share-croppers and various agrarian slave systems, so I figure it HAS to be in the realm of possibility that I could figure this out. And really I spend at least an hour in traffic each day for an approximate total of 10 hours a week. Does it take that much work to get some "free" food to pop out of the ground? Honestly I don't know, but I'm about to find out.

I joined some gardening clubs and solicited the help of some family members who are doing the same thing, to see if I can get anything consistent going. I've planted and grown (I now know that they are not the same) mellons, beans, greens and cabbage so far, but not in the same season and not together. It's been completely scattershot so far with predictable results. So the latest thing I'm going to try is this "square foot gardening" that apparently will give me more than one crop and has some really cool (and organic) soil approaches that apparently work wonders. As an aside, I don't just want to be able to grow my own food, but also want to do it without using the toxic pest control, and unsourced fertilizer that is the norm in this space apparently. It cannot be true that no-one knows how to do this. In any event I've got a long way to go as my space has a lot of weeds and overgrowth to deal with, so we'll see how it goes.;-)

The "Regulated" Markets

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So I recently read this book about the history of debt, originally looking for just how it became a good idea, or at least what the original purpose was if nothing else. What I ended up getting out of it was more about the markets in general than much about a factual reason for debt. To explain the history of debt the author explains the role of currency in each major society. A very interesting point of fact is that currency of different forms develops by itself naturally. Not just for trade necessarily, but more for precious occasions, as gifts, dowries or to compensate for something that is invaluable (which was an odd notion to me at first, but now makes sense). The actual currency and market exchange came in when you were dealing with someone you didn't know or might not see again. Someone outside the micro-community but still inside he macro-community. So as it would then follow, what you were exchanging with or what represented money had to be valued by both parties in this macro-community. The currency could be anything not too abundant or even a simple record of tally. Bark with a value nomination on it, shells, a specific kind of rock, woven cloth, etc.

More or less this follows nicely in the book and was generally expected on some level, but what was rather novel (to me at least) was how the basic free and open trade with currency model (for products mostly) morphs into a levers for control model featuring governments and empires (of course again this is my interpretation). It makes good sense when you think about it, but it is not something I would have necessarily put together myself. Debt, Slavery and War are actually tools of the marketplace to acquire raw materials, manage valuations and labor. Monarchies and governments use these tools to establish control over he markets and to manage services in general. The thing that's hilarious about this is that pretty much everyone knows how it works instinctively without the history lesson. Whether the "markets" are labelled terrorist networks, crime rings, "black" markets or whatever, the tools are the same. It also follows that none of the major obelisks, monuments or structures would have been built if not for some form of population control or labor management. More than likely the whole "economies-of-scale" scam would have to come out of this market management technique as well.

So what's a practical scenario we can think of for how it would work? As far as I can tell, in most government-run societies (or in some corporate-run societies), there is an implicit contract between the people and the government, corporate or private interest-run society where the people needs basic resources and the controlling interest group provides that need to the society. The perceived availability of these necessities probably determines the global value of the society. Once this is known, it's management and marketing after that. All very fascinating, no? What's the craziest part of it to me is that this generally developed in every major society, the same way over and over and over. All of this to say that, the currency is (historically speaking) a natural phenomenon, the markets (and the psychology of debt and interest for that matter) are inventions of control. Different governments call it different things (Capitalism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Monarchy, Constitutional Monarchy, etc) but essentially it's all the same.

In a more detailed step by step, if you wanted to establish one of these markets around an existing commodity, you could (1) scout for the resource your commodity is based on (lets say a rare metal, maybe the rocks magnets come from). Lets say there is a community there that lives around the mine-able resource. You go and stake out the area with a few guys and get to work turning the rocks to the magnets you ultimately need. Lets now say that you have a general success with the prototype, which in this case just means that you turned the rock into a usable form of magnet. One issue is that the process is really labor intensive. The second issue is that there are folks who's homes are on top of or around the area that needs mining. With this (again, generally speaking), you have completed step 1: Acquire a Valuable Resource.

Now that you believe you have something, you need to protect it. The "it" in this case would be "your" resource. Now in reality (to me at least) who owns property? Who owns land? How can you have a "right" to own a space? These are fictional/made up psychological concepts that serve as leverage for power, but have serious real-world consequences. I say this because, ultimately the only way to claim a space in real life is to "defend" it. Breaking this down again, if you are new to a space and you "need" to claim it you have to "take" it. This would be regardless of what natives to the space thing about the space conceptually. Getting back to the example, if there is no one around, the easiest thing to do is to stake the space out and get on with the defense of the space, intending to start work as soon as possible. You could attempt to work with the community on some level, but the minute there is a conflict of interests, you are poised to "defend" yourself. If there are people around then it is likely there are some folks who might not care what you are doing, but there will always be folks who do care. In any event after acquiring or clearing your valuable resource, you need to (2) defend it somehow. In the best case, you just set up shop. In the reasonable situation you negotiate with the locals for the space. And in the worst case you defend your space with walls, a small armed force, etc. However you slice it you would find a way to accomplish Step 2: Defend the Valuable Resource.

You probably guessed by now how the war starts. Even if you don't encounter issues with the locals, your rivals will eventually want the same space you have. Even more so if what you have attained proves to be valuable as an instrument of power or wealth generator. Eventually (and all this is generally predictable), when (not if) there is a conflict, if not prevented, or crushed outright, things would naturally escalate such that the natural outcome is war of some sort. Even if war does not start right away, you will need to get to work in some realistic fashion. If you have the means to acquire a valuable resource and the means to defend it, it's a good chance you have a team or at least one person who is invested in your operation on some level. In the olden days it would be some king or queen. In these days it could be a business person or regional political figure that will eventually need his investment increased and returned. If this is the case then you will have have to start scaling up your operation. This means you need labor. Since you are looking for a provide a good return on investment you are going to have to come up with a scheme to boost productivity. The best scheme to guarantee at this point is the concept of debt. No matter how you slice it, war and debt get you to the productivity finish line. Scalable production takes labor aka people who will work for little or nothing at all. If there are skirmishes, then the losers can be indebted to work or slaved. If there are not skirmishes, you can trade with the local communities to get them to work (keeping in mind to work the debt in there). One example is establishing banking, and products in and around there areas you are operating. The latter option seems like it would take a lot of work. It would probably be easier to just force the locals to work and have them think they can buy their freedom. No matter how you look at it step (3) is to Acquire Labor to Develop and Manage the Resource

You might think this completes the circle nicely for what's needed of a functioning market, but there is at least one piece missing. Capacity for Growth! Sounds reasonable, but most of the time this mostly means making sure you have as close to a monopoly as humanly possible. Growth in this sense can mean making sure there is nothing in your way that would keep you from growing be it government, people, resources, etc. If implementing this doesn't cause more conflict, it definitely creates more workers. If your resource is needed by the community and you work to make sure you have the monopoly, you can guarantee the growth you need and the community who "needs" resources you control can be put into debt to acquire them. Seems to me this is the general point of regulating the markets anyway. Making sure there can only be one system for acquiring resources keeps the powerful in power, and the businesses in business. Once indebted they can be added to the workforce. It also has the nice benefit of creating many mini-markets since any collection of peoples can be sold to. The final step in this fictional account is to (4) Secure Path for Growth.

This invented narrative I created (based on what I learned in the book) could generally explain many implementations of power, and markets for every economy regardless of geography or language. Folks with means and might are able to take advantage of a naturally occurring currency and morph it into a people moving engine with the help of whatever government entity exists and whatever money changers are around. It's also interesting that it covers such a large range of activity going back thousands of years to almost every empire. The contract between the government and the people is really a contract between the government and bankers leveraging the people's labor in every major society. After a given government's establishment and the creation of whatever banking infrastructure, what happens next is generally predictable. Well that's my take on the book and in any event you can give it a read when you get a chance and see what you think!

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