Just give me the warm power of the sun
Give me the steady flow of a waterfall
Give me the spirit of living things as they return to clay
Just give me the restless power of the wind
Give me the comforting glow of a wood fire
But won't you take all your atomic poison power away
That was an anti-nuke anthem and a lovely tune. Looking back, though, this song reveals some of the naivete of the time. Sure, it feels good to be against 'atomic poison power', but take a look at the alternatives...
- Warm power of the sun -- solar energy -- OK, that's good.
- Steady flow of a waterfall -- hydroelectric -- Um, maybe not so good, when you think about the ecological damage of something like the Three Gorges Dam.
- Spirit of living things as they return to clay -- Hm, I think that refers to fossil fuels, like coal and oil, probably the primary cause of global warming.
- Restless power of the wind -- windmills -- OK, I guess, if you don't mind how they look.
- Comforting glow of a wood fire -- Well, yeah, I agree that I love a wood fire as much as anyone, but it's far from an environmentally friendly solution.
A recent news story says "Wood stoves are big culprits in climate change":
Cooking stoves fuelled by wood or crop residue are contributing to climate change significantly more than expected, say researchers.
Scientists have found that smoke produced by these stoves, which are traditionally used for cooking and heating in developing countries, contains twice as many soot particles as laboratory experiments had previously indicated.
When released into the atmosphere, the black, noxious particles — which are darker than those produced by grassland or forest fires — absorb light and increase atmospheric temperatures. . .
[B]urning firewood produces 800,000 metric tons of soot worldwide a year.
By comparison, diesel vehicles generate about 890,000 metric tons of soot a year. Both sources together contribute 10 per cent of the soot emitted annually into the atmosphere.
It's ironic, isn't it, that easy answers like 'no nukes' and 'comforting wood fires' don't always make sense in the real world. In fact, building more modern nuclear power plants might be a sensible replacement for fossil fuels.
And for those of us who really enjoy the ambiance of a wood-burning fireplace, maybe we can have our cake and eat it too. Imagine a completely clean in-home system that could burn wood and then scrub the smoke and soot in a nano-built chimney...
One of the first products of molecular manufacturing will be efficient molecular sorting systems. It will be possible to remove the harmless and useful gases from the combustion products--perhaps using them to build the next products--and send the rest back to be re-burned.