Washburn

A New World Coming

Today we watched the assembly and installation of the thirty-foot blades of a 100 KW wind turbine on the 10 acre campus of the Woods Hole Research Center on the southern coast of Cape Cod. It was the latest step in the construction of a campus that burns nothing and will, with this turbine and an array of solar panels already operating, soon be a net contributor of energy to the region in addition to operating a 20,000 square foot building housing a scientific staff of nearly 60 active scholars. The campus is the answer offered by a small group of ecologists who have worked for decades on the issues of climatic disruption that have been forced on the world by the contamination of the atmosphere with the waste products of fossil fuels. The current political answer to the global crisis of climate is an expression of intent to restrict the average warming of the earth to 2 degrees C and the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide to 450 ppm. It is now about 387 pp and rising at 1.5-2.0 ppm annually. The problem is that the climatic disruption already experienced, far less than 1 degree C, is overwhelmingly expensive, threatening food supplies globally. A two-degree average change will dry out the tropics without much change in temperature there, while warming the higher latitudes as much as 6-10 degrees C. The continental centers will continue an acute drying trend. It assures accelerating climatic chaos for the world. The current political objectives are irresponsible foolishness, certain disaster for this civilization. One response is here in "The Nature of a House: Building a World That Works," a small book about how a group of scientists saw an opportunity for an experiment and pushed that opportunity about as far as they could in designing and building a new campus on the coast of New England at 42 degrees north. Their campus uses no fossil fuels at all, and the building, soon to be supplemented in the same context with a second building, is comfortable in all seasons. It uses a small fraction of the total energy that other modern buildings of similar size and purpose use. A further innovation will be the use of some of the excess energy produced to charge the batteries of a small fleet of small electric cars to be used by the staff in commuting. The campus has been a magnificent success, a model of what can be done now, to the advantage of all, in shifting from a reliance on an energy system that is poisoning the world, back toward a reliance on renewable energy used in a system that is virtually infinitely sustainable.