Archive | November, 2013

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Does Desalination Replace Dwindling Water?

Posted on 19 November 2013 by admin

As the world searches for technological solutions to its problems, it has sharpened its focus on desalination to respond to climate change and dwindling fresh water.  Many people think the issue is simply financial.  How do we obtain drinking water at the lowest possible cost?  But what if your water source is going, going, gone forever? This is when support for desalination is strongest.

Bloomberg reports the desalination industry is booming and growing by 15% per year.  A February 13, 2013 article states, “As the global population soars by about 74 million people a year, water shortages are becoming more severe….At current rates of growth, the demand for water worldwide may exceed supplies by 40 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank sponsored 2030 Water Resources Group.”

The areas with greatest demand for water are countries that view it as key to further economic growth such as Saudi Arabia, China, Spain and the U.S.  The next greatest demand is in countries whose populations are growing and where demand will clearly outstrip the supply of available water such as China, India, and Pakistan.  These governments are willing to pay premiums to insure the future availability of water.

The economics clearly favor fresh ground water where the cost averages around 20 cents per cubic meter of water.  The lowest comparable price for desalinated water is somewhere around 50 cents per cubic meter.  This is a considerable improvement in cost as a result of newer, cheaper methods of desalination that used to cost multiple dollars to produce the same amount of water.

Historic processes include distillation, reverse osmosis (RO), electrodialysis, and vacuum freezing.  Of these, distillation and reverse osmosis are most in demand by local governments.  Cost reduction tends to focus on the reduction of the energy to run a desalination plant. Historically energy has represented between 44% and 60% of the cost of desalination.  Co-locating desalination and energy plants reduces costs.  Trying to transport the resulting water through pipelines to distant locations that are poor, deep in the interior of a continent or at higher elevations is cost prohibitive. This keeps desalination as economic mainly for coastal areas.

Distillation as a process involves evaporating input water and then compressing and condensing the vapor to release heat. The resulting heat is then used for further evaporation of the input water.  The condensation separates the salt and impurities from the fresh water that remains. This often will include sequential stages each of which is at a lower pressure.

Reverse osmosis begins with treatment of seawater to remove particles that would clog membranes.  Then the seawater is pumped at high pressure through membranes that separate the salt from the water.  The water can be improved by having multiple stages of membranes.

Farsighted communities are exploring future sources of fresh water.  Opponents of desalination point to environmental damage in the ocean and surrounding areas close to the desalination plants and collocated power plants.  They are progressively adding additional requirements to plans for these facilities to address areas of concern.

Unfortunately, we are not going to restrain industrial or population growth anytime soon.  We also have not yet found a renewable or clean power source to be used to power these desalination plants. But the reality remains that concerns of environmental damage become less important as water shortages begin to occur.  Governments act to eliminate shortages when fresh drinking water and water for farming and industry are disappearing.

drought chart US JPEG 12013 It is incumbent on each of us to consider our own areas and the likelihood of experienced dwindling water.  Water conservation requirements should be instituted now, before shortages become acute.  This will postpone requirements for desalination plants.  The longer the need is managed, the more time is allowed for further development of the technologies and the cheaper and greener the solutions will become.

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Empathy, Compassion and Hope at Work

Posted on 15 November 2013 by Jerry

We are jaded about reports of scores of people hurt in this or that shooting rampage.  In cases where a bad situation is averted, we either never hear about it or we don’t get enough information to know what happened.  A viral 911 tape, see first link below, drew our attention to Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper who talked a man out of using his assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammo in a grammar school.  Her story and the tape are a perfect example of the power of empathy, compassion and hope.

She displayed great empathy when she established a one-to-one relationship with the potential shooter.  She displayed compassion when she described for him her own life and how she survived periods of personal darkness to come back into the light.  She demonstrated hope when she assured him there was a way out of this situation for him.  Not only was she capable of seeing the similarity of her past personal challenges and the situation the gunman was facing but she was also able to elicit her same feelings in the man she persuaded to give himself up.

That the rampage was avoided, that the bookkeeper talked her way out of a bad situation are not the lessons we should take from this incident.  Empathy, compassion and hope are all emotions that are informed by intellect.  Recognition of the shared circumstance of the lives of two living creatures is what creates these emotions.  They represent the possession of self-recognition and the projection of one’s own feelings onto another, putting oneself in the other’s shoes so to speak.

These higher emotions are a product of the evolution of self-aware life forms.  They are largely learned emotions however. Everyone feels the most basic animal emotions of fear, anger, aggression, etc.  The higher emotions like empathy, sympathy and compassion or predictive emotions about future outcomes such as hope or despair all are developed. Unfortunately too few of us practice feeling these emotions or teach our children and others to feel them.

When you listen to Antoinette Tuff what you hear is her movement from fear to compassion for another human being who is in pain and afraid he has taken the situation too far.  You can hear Antoinette’s dawning empathy as you listen to the tape.  Be patient with the long silences. Hers is not a feigned emotion but a real understanding of what the other person is feeling.   This is what makes the tape so exceptional.

If more of us were aware of our higher emotions and used them more frequently the world would be a better place.  Unfortunately we seek the exhilaration of our most base emotions when we watch movies, when we should be preselecting movies that will help us develop higher emotions such as empathy, compassion, sympathy, hope and optimism.  The same is true for what we should be teaching our children.

We also need to be more conscious of to what we expose ourselves and our children.  The news channels are always reporting the negative events in excruciating detail with far less attention to stories that promote the best in all of us.  We need to change our consumption patterns and be active consumers of all that is good in human kind.

Chapter 7, An Evolutionary Imperative in the book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time discusses the evolution of higher emotions and their dependency on self-awareness.  See pages 69 through 75.  Go to .

Use the following links to obtain more information or access source documents for the article:


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