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mr peabody

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The warming atmosphere is causing an arm of the powerful Gulf Stream to weaken.

In the Atlantic Ocean, subtle shifts hint at dramatic dangers

by Moises Velasquez-Manoff and Jeremy White | New York Times | 3 Mar 2021

The Gulf Stream has shaped climate and history on four continents.

Currents swing west from Africa, ultimately influencing weather patterns from Caracas to Miami to Europe.

Warmer water sweeps past continents, slowly turning into cooler water farther north.

The Gulf Stream propels Caribbean warmth past Cape Hatteras, N.C., before bending toward the British Isles.

But now, in the North Atlantic, there is the “cold blob.”

The fear: Melting Greenland ice will tip the delicate balance of hot and cold that defines not only the North Atlantic, but life far and wide.

It’s one of the mightiest rivers you will never see, carrying some 30 times more water than all the world’s freshwater rivers combined. In the North Atlantic, one arm of the Gulf Stream breaks toward Iceland, transporting vast amounts of warmth far northward, by one estimate supplying Scandinavia with heat equivalent to 78,000 times its current energy use. Without this current — a heat pump on a planetary scale — scientists believe that great swathes of the world might look quite different.

Now, a spate of studies, including one published last week, suggests this northern portion of the Gulf Stream and the deep ocean currents it’s connected to may be slowing. Pushing the bounds of oceanography, scientists have slung necklace-like sensor arrays across the Atlantic to better understand the complex network of currents that the Gulf Stream belongs to, not only at the surface, but hundreds of feet deep.

“We’re all wishing it’s not true,” Peter de Menocal, a paleoceanographer and president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said of the changing ocean currents.

“Because if that happens, it’s just a monstrous change.”

The consequences could include faster sea level rise along parts of the Eastern United States and parts of Europe, stronger hurricanes barreling into the Southeastern United States, and perhaps most ominously, reduced rainfall across the Sahel, a semi-arid swath of land running the width of Africa that is already a geopolitical tinderbox.

The scientists’ concern stems from their understanding of thousands of years of the prehistoric climate record. In the past, a great weakening or even shutdown of this arm of the Gulf Stream seems to have triggered rapid changes in temperatures and precipitation patterns around the North Atlantic and beyond.

The northern arm of the Gulf Stream is but one tentacle of a larger, ocean-spanning tangle of currents called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC. Scientists have strong evidence from ice and sediment cores that the AMOC has weakened and shut down before in the past 13,000 years. As a result, mean temperatures in parts of Europe may have rapidly dropped to about 15 degrees Celsius below today’s averages, ushering in arctic like conditions. Parts of northern Africa and northern South America became much drier. Rainfall may even have declined as far away as what is now China. And some of these changes may have occurred in a matter of decades, maybe less.

The AMOC is thus a poster child for the idea of climatic “tipping points”—of hard-to-predict thresholds in Earth’s climate system that, once crossed, have rapid, cascading
effects far beyond the corner of the globe where they occur. “It’s a switch,” said Dr. de Menocal, "and one that can be thrown quickly."

Which brings us to the cold blob. Almost everywhere around the world, average temperatures are rising— except southeast of Greenland where a large patch of the North Atlantic has become colder in recent years.

Deep beneath the surface, scientists are searching for changes in the currents.

Some fear that meltwater from Greenland is already inhibiting the northward flow of the Gulf Stream.

Atlantic currents are a complex engine powered by wind, salinity and heat.

Potential disruptions in this vast cycle of water, sinking as it cools, cuts to the heart of the scientific unease.

In short, the cold blob may signal that the northern arm of the Gulf Stream no longer arrives with the same strength to the North Atlantic. That a warming atmosphere has, paradoxically, cooled one part of the world.

The science remains relatively new, and not everyone agrees the AMOC is actually slowing. But in both scientific modeling of climate change and in the prehistoric record, a North Atlantic cooling presages a shutdown of the current. “One of the hallmarks of a shutdown is this cold blob,” says Dr. de Menocal. “The cold blob is a big deal.”

In 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León noticed something bizarre off the coast of today’s Florida: Relentless currents pushing his ships backward, overpowering the winds blowing them forward. He became the first European to describe the Gulf Stream. Benjamin Franklin finally mapped it in the late 1700s—he named it the “Gulf Stream”—by measuring changes in water temperature on a return trip from England.



Over the 20th century, oceanographers came to realize that the northern branch of the Gulf Stream was part of a gigantic loop of water, with warm surface water flowing north and colder water returning south, deep below the surface. This was the network of currents that scientists now call the AMOC.

The system was driven by North Atlantic water that, as it lost heat to the atmosphere and grew dense, sank to the ocean’s depths, pulling warmer surface water northward. In the middle part of the century, oceanographer Henry Stommel elucidated the physics of how the AMOC could change. His insight was that, depending on the balance of heat and salinity, the sinking effect—called “overturning”—could strengthen, or weaken, or maybe stop completely.

In the 1980s, Wallace Broecker, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, pounced on that idea.

Colleagues studying ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet were seeing evidence of strange climatic “flickers” in the past. As Earth warmed from the deep freeze of the last ice age, which peaked around 22,000 years ago, temperatures would rise, then abruptly fall, then rise again just as swiftly. Dr. Broecker theorized this was caused by stops and starts in what he called the ocean’s “great conveyor belt”— the AMOC.

The clearest example began about 12,800 years ago. Glaciers that had once covered much of North America and Europe had retreated considerably, and the world was almost out of the deep freeze. But then, in just a few decades, Greenland and Western Europe plunged back into cold. Temperatures fell by around 10 degrees Celsius, or 18 degrees Fahrenheit, in parts of Greenland. Arctic-like conditions returned to parts of Europe.

The cold snap lasted perhaps 1,300 years—before reversing even more abruptly than it began. Scientists have observed the sudden changes in the pollen deposited at the bottom of European lakes and in changes in ocean sediments near Bermuda.

This forced a paradigm shift in how scientists thought about climate change. Earlier, they had tended to imagine creeping shifts occurring over many millennia. But by the late 1990s, they accepted that abrupt transitions, tipping points, could occur.

This didn’t bode well for humanity’s warming of the atmosphere. Dr. Broecker, who died in 2019, famously warned: “The climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks.”

Why did the AMOC shut down? A leading theory is that meltwater from retreating glaciers emptied into the North Atlantic or Arctic oceans. Freshwater is lighter than saltwater, and the sudden influx of more buoyant water could have impeded the sinking of denser, saltier water — that critical “overturning” phase of the AMOC.

Today we don’t have massive glacial lakes threatening to disgorge into the North Atlantic. But we do have the Greenland ice sheet, which is melting at the upper end of projections, or about six times faster than in the 1990s. And according to one study, the subpolar North Atlantic recently became less salty than at any time in the past 120 years.

There’s little agreement on cause. Changes in wind patterns or currents may be contributing, as could greater rainfall. But Stefan Rahmstorf, a physical oceanographer with the University of Potsdam in Germany, suspects that, similar to what happened some 12,800 years ago, meltwater from Greenland is beginning to slow the AMOC.

In 2014, a remarkable project launched in the North Atlantic. An array of sophisticated sensors were moored to the ocean floor between Newfoundland, Greenland and Scotland. They’re starting to provide an unprecedented view of the currents that shape the Atlantic.

Here off Labrador, we can see how waters move deep beneath the surface.

The sensors reveal the hidden workings of ocean circulation, which many consider a climate switch.

Below the waves, scientists are watching for signs of weakening across the North Atlantic.

In this location, cooler waters near the surface flow southward relatively swiftly.

Diving, we see the water begin sinking as it grows denser. This kind of sinking is a key part of the vertical motion of the currents, the engine that drives circulation.

Around 400 feet, the sinking becomes clearer as currents angle downward.

The water grows colder and the current slower at a depth of 600 feet or so.

It is the long-term change in the delicate balance of heat and cold, saltwater and freshwater, that scientists are tracking.

At greater depths, we see currents shift direction, moving westward, eventually joining an ocean-spanning round trip.



In 2015, Dr. Rahmstorf and his colleagues published a seminal paper arguing that the AMOC had weakened by 15 percent in recent decades, a slowdown they said was unprecedented in the past 1,000 years. He and his colleagues recently published another paper that used additional reconstructions of sea temperature around the North Atlantic, some going back 1,600 years, to determine that the recent slowdown began with the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, then accelerated after 1950.

Other scientists have also presented different evidence of a slowdown. The South Atlantic has become saltier in recent decades, according to a study by Chenyu Zhu at Ocean University of China and Zhengyu Liu at Nanjing Normal University, suggesting that more of the salt that once traveled north with the AMOC now remains in the tropics, producing what they call a “salinity pile-up.”

And Christopher Piecuch of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recently argued that the Gulf Stream along Florida’s coast, also called the Florida current, has weakened. He found this by measuring the differences in sea level across the Gulf Stream. Earth’s rotation deflects flowing water to the right; this causes the two sides of the current to have slightly different sea levels—and the faster the current, the greater the difference.

Tide gauge measurements going back 110 years indicate that this contrast has declined, Dr. Piecuch found, particularly in the past two decades. This suggests the current has slowed.

For Dr. Rahmstorf, these lines of evidence bolster the argument that the AMOC is slowing.

In his view, the change is occurring right on schedule. “The long-term trend is exactly what was predicted by the models,” he said.

A 2019 report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a synthesis of the most significant climate research worldwide, says that while the AMOC will “very likely” weaken later this century, collapse is “very unlikely.” Yet Dr. Rahmstorf worries about the unknowns in a system that scientists understand can rapidly shift between different states.

He points out that, in IPCC jargon, “very unlikely” translates to a probability of less than 10 percent. But if a nuclear reactor in your neighborhood had a less-than-10-percent likelihood of blowing up, he asked, “would you be reassured?”

“We still don’t know how far away this threshold is where it could break down altogether,” he said. If we limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times —a goal of the Paris agreement among nations to fight climate change — a shutdown is unlikely, he thinks. “But for unmitigated warming, which is the world’s current trajectory, I think there’s increasing risk where we make AMOC so weak it goes over the edge and collapses.”

“There will be a lot of surprises if we disturb climate that much,”
he said. “It’s not at all predictable how bad things will be.”

Scientists also emphasize that the ultimate consequences of that weakening remain unclear. That’s in part because the world is in such uncharted territory. In the past, Europe became drastically cooler when the current shut down, but today any cooling might ultimately be muted or possibly canceled out by continued global heating.

But if past is prologue, a drastically altered AMOC could certainly shift rainfall patterns, scientists said, making parts of Europe and Northern Africa drier, and areas in the Southern hemisphere wetter. Changing ocean currents might affect marine ecosystems that people rely on for food and livelihood.

A changing Gulf Stream could also accelerate sea-level rise along parts of the Atlantic coast of the United States. In 2009 and 2010, when the stream inexplicably weakened by 30 percent, the Northeast saw seas rise at a rate unprecedented in the entire roughly 100-year record of tide gauges.

And if water in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic becomes warmer because that heat is no longer shunted north, the expanding reservoir of energy could strengthen hurricanes, something that scientists at the National Oceanography Centre in the United Kingdom argue is already happening. Hurricanes derive their energy from heat in the water.

Finally, in a perverse twist, a shutdown of the AMOC could exacerbate global heating. The ocean absorbs nearly one-third of human carbon dioxide emissions. But the sinking of salty, dense water—the overturning portion of the AMOC—is critical to that absorption. So, if the AMOC stops or greatly slows, and that water stops sinking, the accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere could accelerate.

Then there are those consequences that fall in the category of “global weirding.”

Scientists at the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre have somewhat counterintuitively linked the cold blob in the North Atlantic with summer heat waves in Europe. In 2015 and 2018, the jet stream, a river of wind that moves from west to east over temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere, made an unusual detour to the south around the cold blob. The wrinkle in atmospheric flow brought hotter-than-usual air into Europe, they contend, breaking temperature records.

The floats began their journeys in areas called the Iceland-Scotland and Denmark Strait pathways, two places where meltwater originates.

To study deeper currents, in 2014 scientists began releasing floats that drift 1,800 to 2,800 meters underwater.

“That was not predicted,” said Joel Hirschi, principal scientist at the centre and senior author of the research. It highlights how current seasonal forecasting models are unable to predict these warm summers. And it underscores the paradox that, far from ushering in a frigid future for, say, Paris, a cooler North Atlantic might actually make France’s summers more like Morocco’s.

Even so, Dr. Hirschi takes a wait-and-see stance on whether the AMOC is actually slowing.

“I have great respect for what Dr. Rahmstorf is doing. And it may well be spot on in the end,” he says. “But I’m afraid the data, the really robust data, is not there.”

Susan Lozier, a physical oceanographer and dean at the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech, also has her doubts about whether the AMOC is currently slowing. At issue, she says, is how scientists infer changes in the AMOC. We can directly measure many aspects of the ocean, such as temperature (it’s warming), oxygen levels (they’re declining), even how stratified it has become (more so). “There are very strong signals in the ocean of climate change,” she said.

But most studies on the AMOC don’t measure the “conveyor belt” directly. Instead, they use proxies to infer that the overturning has changed.

Such inference can be problematic when considering changes that occur over short time frames, says Dr. Lozier, because the changes observed could have other causes. Consider that cold blob in the North Atlantic, she said. Dr. Rahmstorf and others see it as evidence of a weakening Gulf Stream, but Dr. Lozier notes that shifts in wind patterns or how storms move over the ocean could also underlie the phenomenon. “There are other ways to explain it,” she said. “A lot of our conceptual understanding of AMOC is in isolation of other things going on in the ocean.”

Direct measurement of the AMOC only began relatively recently. A line of sensors between the Bahamas and the Canary Islands, called Rapid, was installed in 2004. A second sensor array, spanning the North Atlantic from Canada to Greenland to Scotland and called Osnap, went live in 2014. (Dr. Lozier is the international project lead for Osnap.)

Neither project has operated long enough to produce clear trends, in Dr. Lozier’s view. What they have shown, though, is lots of natural variability. In 2009 and 2010, for example, the AMOC weakened — “people were like, ‘Oh my God, this is happening,’” she said — only to pick right back up again over the following years.

They’ve also revealed a system of currents that’s far more complex than once envisioned.

Dr. Broecker’s old schematics of the AMOC posit a neat warm current flowing north along the western edge of the Atlantic and an equally neat cold current flowing back south below it. In fact, says Dr. Lozier, that deeper current is not confined to the western edge of the Atlantic, but rather flows southward via a number of “rivers” that are filled with eddies. The network of deep ocean currents is much more complicated than once envisioned, in other words, and figuring out how buoyant meltwater from Greenland might affect the formation of cold deepwater has become more complicated as well.

This is the place scientists currently find themselves in. They suspect the AMOC can work like a climate switch. They’re watching it closely. Some argue that it’s already changing, others that it’s too soon to tell.

“There’s no consensus on whether it has slowed to date, or if it’s currently slowing,” said Dr. Lozier. “But there is a consensus that if we continue to warm the atmosphere, it will slow.”

 
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AutoTripper

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It’s been illegal to harvest C. parthenoxylon since 2004
That’s interesting, as in my understanding it was in latter 2005 that MDMA ceased to be the same product. The debate still rages on about MehDma vs loss of magic.

Well in my 9 years use in that original scene, I’m not aware of such discussions having existed.

No smoke without a fire for myself, on that one. If all MDMA now was exactly like the good old stuff, we wouldn’t see such a debate hit the headlines.

I never realised back then of course, in 2005 when Lyme curtailed all my drug use except organic cannabis, but I got out (of MDMA) at the perfect time, like a basking shark had it’s right good fill of Krill or Sprats, while the going was good.

LSD remains to be the incredible thing it always has been at least.
 

mr peabody

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Psychedelics promote eco-friendly behaviors by altering our relationship to nature*

by Eric Dolan | PsyPost | 3 Sep 2017

Psychedelic drugs can positively affect people’s relationship with nature and promote eco-friendly behaviors, according to research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“In light of these findings, the present results once more raise the question whether a continuing prohibition of these experiences is indeed a worthwhile pursuit,” study authors Matthias Forstmann and Christina Sagioglou said in their article.

The experiences they’re talking about are produced by the so-called “classic” psychedelic drugs, which include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), “magic” psilocybe mushrooms, peyote, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and ayahuasca.

In their study, the researchers surveyed 1,487 about their past drug use, relationship to nature, personality traits, and a number of other demographic variables.

They found that people who had used classic psychedelics were more likely to report that they enjoyed spending time in nature and were more likely to see themselves as a part of nature. This effect was independent of personality and political orientation.

The heightened level of nature relatedness was not found among people who had consumed other types of recreational drugs like alcohol or stimulants.

Psychedelic users who felt their self-identity was embedded in nature, in turn, were more likely to report engaging in everyday pro-environmental behaviors, such as recycling and buying environmentally friendly products.

“That is, the perception of being part of the natural world — rather than being separate from it — that is heightened for people who have experience with classic psychedelics, is largely responsible for the increased pro-environmental behavior that these people report,” the researchers explained in their study.

The study employed a cross-sectional design, which prevents the researchers from making firm conclusions about cause and effect.

Rather than psychedelics promoting nature relatedness, for example, it could be that people who feel more connected to nature are more likely to consume psychedelic drugs. But the researchers do not believe that this is the case.

“As the relationship we found remained significant after controlling for demographic variables and personality traits such as openness to experience, conscientiousness, or political attitudes, it is unlikely that the association we found can be entirely explained by a collection of personality traits stereotypically associated with psychedelic users (e.g. being of the ‘hippie’ type).”

*From the article here :
 
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mr peabody

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H2Pro's E-TAC hydrogen production system is a revolutionary jump in water-splitting efficiency,
and a 20-year plunge in the cost of clean hydrogen.

Is H2Pro's dollar-a-kilo green hydrogen a 20-year leap in clean energy?

by Loz Blain | New Atlas | 10 Mar 2021

Israeli company H2Pro claims its highly efficient water-splitting technology will deliver green hydrogen at less than US$1 per kilogram before 2030. That's a big deal; it would represent a 60-80 percent drop in green H2 prices, down to a level where it's cheaper per unit of energy than current retail gasoline prices in the United States. The Hydrogen Council's current projections don't expect that kind of price drop until 2050, and even then it's a best-case scenario.

Assuming distribution can be ramped up pronto, and assuming a carbon price of US$100 per ton of CO2 equivalent, it could immediately make hydrogen cost-competitive across a range of applications, from buses, trucks, trains and cars to replacing coal in steel production and natural gas in ammonia production and refinery use. Even without a carbon tax, it'd still be a terrific option to replace diesel in road and rail transport.

Some serious players are getting on board as H2Pro moves from the test bench into production – Bill Gates's Breakthrough Ventures, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, Hyundai motor company, Sumimoto Corporation – although the recent fundraising round total of US$22 million looks more like a toe dipped in the bath than a plunge into the water, a rather cautious approach given the company's claims. The devil's in the detail with these things, so let's have a closer look.


A US$22 million investment round aims to move the E-TAC technology toward commercial scale.​

What exactly is the promise here?

In a promotional video, H2Pro says its E-TAC water splitting process is "the first technology to deliver energy efficiency of 95 percent ... compared to 70 percent of water electrolysis." The E-TAC devices, it says, are "inexpensive ... scalable, safer, and operate at higher pressure ... By 2023, we will deliver hydrogen at under US$2 per kilogram, and later this decade, at under US$1." A press release further clarifies: "coupled with anticipated reductions in the cost of renewable energy, H2Pro's technology will enable $1/kg green hydrogen at scale – making it the world's lowest cost green hydrogen."

The cheapest green hydrogen on the planet: that would be massive. Currently, it's already possible to produce "gray" or dirty hydrogen for US$1-1.80 per kilogram through steam reforming using natural gas – a process that emits CO2. H2Pro, on the other hand, is a water-splitting technology, so its emissions impact will depend on what energy source is used to produce it. Getting to US$1/kg with green energy would make this nothing less than a revolutionary technology in the long uphill climb towards zero global emissions.

The other part of the equation is also significant. A kilogram of hydrogen stores somewhere between 33 and 39 kWh of energy, depending on who you ask. In a paper published in Nature Science, H2Pro claims its E-TAC process produced gaseous hydrogen at an efficiency rate of 39.9 kWh per kilogram, where today's electrolyzers consume as much as 48 kWh per kilogram.

Now, this was a laboratory bench test producing tiny amounts of hydrogen, but that efficiency jump, and a promised full-system efficiency of 95 percent, is certainly something to celebrate. One of the key knocks on hydrogen as an energy storage medium is the many inefficiencies in its usage cycle; typically, you lose around 30 percent of your hard-won renewable input energy the minute you split your water. Reducing that to 5 percent would make green energy go significantly further, even if the fuel cells that extract energy back out of the hydrogen at the end use side are still quite inefficient.​

How does the E-TAC process differ from traditional hydrolysis?

Effectively, by adding an extra step. Current-gen electrolysis produces hydrogen and oxygen at the same time, passing electricity through alkaline- or acid-enriched water to generate oxygen gas that's attracted to the anode and hydrogen has that's attracted to the cathode. This operation is performed in a chamber that's physically split with some sort of membrane, allowing each gas to be collected separately.

Left: a typical single-stage electrolyzer design, with a membrane separating the hydrogen and oxygen gases.
Right: the two-stage E-TAC process. The first, cold, electrochemical step generates the hydrogen and oxidizes the anode.
The second, thermally-activated step regenerates the anode by releasing the oxygen, and requires no current.

E-TAC, which stands for Electrochemical - Thermally-Activated Chemical water splitting, was originally developed at the Israel Institute of technology. The process generates hydrogen and oxygen in two separate processes. In the first (electrochemical) step, a current is passed through water at 25°C, evolving H2 which can be collected near the cathode, and hydroxide ions (OH-) that are attracted to the nickel hydroxide anode (Ni(OH)2). This oxidizes the anode, into nickel oxyhydroxide (NiOOH).

The second (thermally activated chamical) step disconnects the electrical circuit and heats up the water to 95°C, the optimal point at which that nickel oxyhydroxide anode reacts spontaneously with water to release the oxygen it gained in the first step, turning the anode back into nickel hydroxide and setting it up for another cycle. Additives to the water, including some cobalt, help ensure no unwanted oxygen is produced in the first step, and the all-important anodes are prepared by electrochemical impregnation of nickel foam substrates instead of being pasted or sintered, to maximize their surface area. This helps them handle higher current densities in the first step, and maximizes the regeneration rate in the second step.

The hydrogen and oxygen gases never mix, so the separation membrane – which H2Pro says is the most expensive and delicate part of a traditional electrolyzer – isn't needed at all, and the risk of explosive gas mixing is eliminated. The E-TAC system, unlike membrane systems, can support high-pressure production, up to 100 bar, meaning that you don't need to spend more money on compressors, and that plus the lack of membrane helps reduce capital, operational and maintenance costs.

It's also well-suited for use with renewable power sources like solar and wind, since it's capable at operating efficiently at partial loads; these renewables vary constantly in their output and rarely run at 100 percent capacity.​

Where to from here?

H2Pro says the US$22 million investment round "will be used to support ongoing development of the technology and scale up H2Pro's manufacturing capabilities." In a production system, the E-TAC process could be set up in a multi-cell system, where the room-temperature stage 1 electrolyte and the hot stage 2 electrolyte are kept separate and "pushed around" through the various circuits by a third fluid at an intermediate temperature. In this way, you could have the first and second steps happening concurrently in separate, hermetically-sealed circuits.


Smart Energy Fund has invested more than 252k euros ($175k) in H2Pro, the high-tech startup
led by Talmon Marco, the CEO and investor of the company and founder of Viber .

Smaller, slower implementations could use a single-cell system, in which the cell is "washed" between stages by a similar intermediate-temperature fluid. Either way, the electrodes will stay stationary and the fluids will move, and the electrolyte heat can be carefully managed for efficiency, taking advantage of the endothermic process in the first step and the exothermic process in the second step to minimize heat losses and thus energy costs.

The lab prototype, according to Bloomberg, can produce about 100 grams of hydrogen a day, with the researchers manually connecting and disconnecting the circuit between steps. The company expects to have a 1kg/day prototype in operation. It's an awfully long way from 1kg/day up to commercial-scale hydrogen generation, and the graveyards of capitalism are littered with companies whose tech broke records in the lab but couldn't cut it in the real world. US$22 million buys a lot of potato chips or jet skis, but this is "prove you can scale" money rather than "let's get a big one of these next to every wind farm" money.

So we'll temper our expectations. Still, if H2Pro can deliver a large-scale system making fuel cell-grade hydrogen from green energy at a buck a kilo by 2030, it will have achieved what most projections are estimating as a best-case goal for 2050, 20 years ahead of schedule. The fast-growing green hydrogen sector would explode – a word most folk would probably like to keep well clear of any hydrogen discussions – and this company would stand poised to make a huge contribution to the colossal task of decarbonizing the modern world.

The video below adds little, but will give you a sense of where the company's at.


 
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mr peabody

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Psychedelics and Environmental Sustainability
Harvesting and manufacturing practices for Ayahuasca, MDMA, and Ibogaine

by Sean Lea | Truffle Report | 27 Feb 2021

Research breakthroughs involving psychedelics have the potential to improve the quality of life for many —whether they’re being used as a treatment for addiction or for other issues, like anxiety or depression. On the other hand, the commodification of psychedelics for medical use is now pretty much inevitable, and has profound implications surrounding environmental sustainability worldwide.

It’s definitely not all bad. Some have argued that the popularization of psychedelic visions from substances like psilocybin may make people more environmentally conscious by causing them to feel more connected to nature. Recent innovations involving psilocybin synthesis may allow for more environmentally friendly production using sugar and yeast when medical psilocybin hits the market.

For many other newly popular psychedelics, however, there are still a host of environmental issues to consider. In order to be an informed consumer, it’s important to be aware of as many of these as possible.

Sustainable Ayahuasca: B. Caapi and P. Viridis

The ayahuasca tourism boom has been beneficial for many in Central and South America by stimulating local economies and producing jobs and revenue for communities. That said, there are concerns about what the popularity of the brew may mean for the rainforest where its ingredients grow. It would be challenging to harvest enough wild B. Caapi and P. Viridis to completely exhaust the supplies of the Amazon —foragers would need access to deep areas in the rainforest where they grow in order to accomplish this. This lack of access to the wild plants creates the need for plantation development, which may further result in deforestation, which is already an issue in the Amazon rainforest because of cattle ranches, palm oil plantations, and mining operations.

A core concern with sustainable farming and foraging for ayahuasca ingredients is that the B. Caapi vine takes around 5 years to mature. This makes it challenging to keep up with the rapidly-expanding demand for ayahuasca ceremonies. New and inexperienced foragers are also less likely to know how to harvest the vine correctly so that it can regrow. P. Viridis (chacruna leaf) has also seen a decline in supply and a corresponding increase in price, which has resulted in some ceremony practitioners using other, less safe plants to induce hallucinatory effects in their patients and customers.

While deforestation is already bad enough for the animal population, jaguars are also being more frequently targeted by poachers because of the ayahuasca boom. Trinkets made of their fangs and teeth have been dubiously marketed to tourists as “enhancements” to ayahuasca ceremonies. While many of the above-mentioned issues are complex in nature, you should at least now know not to support this unscrupulous practice as an ayahuasca consumer.

Safrole and MDMA

We mentioned earlier this week that a precursor in MDMA production is sassafras oil, rich in safrole. The sassafras tree of the United States is not the only source of this oil, however, and it is found in many plants around the world. Cambodia is home to the C. parthenoxylon tree, locally known as mreah prew phnom, the roots of which are also rich in safrole. These trees have been a major target for black market safrole extraction as MDMA has grown in popularity. It’s been illegal to harvest C. parthenoxylon since 2004 —but in 2008, 1278 barrels of safrole oil were seized during a bust. Unfortunately, the extraction of safrole oil from these requires the burning of several more trees as well. The facilities used to extract safrole are also, by nature, unregulated and dump harmful byproducts into local water tables, affecting many fish and animal species.

Further north, black market MDMA production in the Netherlands has resulted in constant chemical dumping around the area of Tilburg —where much of this production is localized. Dump sites have included parks, streets, and rivers. This practice is so constant that a Dutch law enforcement officer from Tilburg claimed to have teams cleaning a different dump site every day. Farmers have even been threatened into allowing criminal organizations to dispose of their chemicals by adding them to pig feed.

Sustainable iboga

Ibogaine treatment has become appealing to many people as a solution to withdrawal while overcoming addiction. Ibogaine is sourced primarily from a plant called T. Iboga, used extensively in ceremonies by members of a West African religion called Bwiti. Bwitist tradition sees iboga plants grown and fostered by the whole community —but as both the religion and the use of ibogaine have spread around the world, the sustainable cultivation of iboga hasn’t been able to keep up.

In response to this, the Gabonese government banned the export of T. Iboga in February of 2019, but the black market continues to put pressure on the plant supplies. T. Iboga was originally gathered from the wild, but the population of Gabon has quadrupled since 1960. This has created the necessity for expanded agriculture, which has also led to deforestation. The process has been fairly slow, as former president Omar Bongo designated several areas as national parks in order to protect them. Nonetheless, the reduction in forest habitat has caused a decline in animal populations, like elephants and monkeys, that aid in the proliferation of T. Iboga by spreading seeds.

There are community associations in Gabon devoted to the sustainable production of iboga for the international market. These have been slow to develop and receive export permits, however, and the onus will still fall to businesses and consumers to source these products sustainably.

Environmental impact

Environmental ripple effects like these are not unique to the budding psychedelic industry. Whenever a natural product becomes a commodity, environmental repercussions tend to follow one way or the other. Because the industry for medical psychedelics is still so young, the opportunity to lay a sustainable groundwork for it still exists. As a consumer, you can help this effort by voting with your dollars and supporting sustainable businesses and practitioners.

*From the article here :
 

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Graphene made from old tires helps strengthen concrete

by Michael Irving | NEW ATLAS | 29 Mar 2021

Researchers at Rice University have developed a new process to convert old tires into graphene, which can then be used to make concrete. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but the team says the resulting concrete is substantially stronger.

The research builds on the team’s previous breakthroughs in making graphene through a process called flash Joule heating. Essentially, this involves using a jolt of electricity to quickly superheat almost any carbon source to around 2,725 °C (4,940 °F), converting it into graphene flakes. Specifically, it’s a form of the material known as turbostratic graphene, which has layers that don’t line up perfectly. That makes it more soluble, and easier to integrate into composite materials.

Last year the team demonstrated the technique using waste products like food or plastic – and now, they’ve moved onto discarded tires. The Rice team says that previous efforts to convert tires directly into graphene didn’t yield the best results, so for the new study they turned to the material left over after they’ve undergone a common recycling process.

Pyrolysis involves burning tires in a low-oxygen environment, which creates an oil that’s very useful for a range of industrial processes. But it also produces a solid carbon residue that’s been harder to find new life for.

Tires turned into Graphene that makes stronger concrete.

The Rice researchers found that this tire-derived carbon black was a great candidate for producing flash graphene. When they put the material through flash Joule heating, some 70 percent of it was converted into graphene, while a mixture of shredded tire rubber and commercial carbon black yielded around 47 percent.

Next, the team demonstrated a particular use case for the new graphene material – concrete production. They added 0.1 weight/percent for the graphene produced from tire carbon black, and 0.05 wt% for the mixture of carbon black and shredded rubber into Portland cement. They found that concrete cylinders made with this cement showed around 30 percent better compressive strength than concrete made without the graphene additive.

“This increase in strength is in part due to a seeding effect of 2D graphene for better growth of cement hydrate products, and in part due to a reinforcing effect at later stages,” says Rouzbeh Shahsavari, co-lead author of the study.

The team says that the graphene-reinforced concrete has several environmental benefits. Not only could it help prevent waste tires from ending up in landfill, but the extra strength of the final material could reduce the amount of concrete needed in structures.

“Concrete is the most-produced material in the world, and simply making it produces as much as 9 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says James Tour, co-lead author of the study. “If we can use less concrete in our roads, buildings and bridges, we can eliminate some of the emissions at the very start.”

The research was published in the journal Carbon.

 
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POPCORN | A natural substitute for polystyrene


A lot of things we use come from fossil fuels, which means more non-biodegradable waste. But a scientist in Germany is looking for substitutes to counter this trend and is using popcorn as a replacement for polystyrene.
 

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A swarm of desert locusts in Meru, Kenya.

As locusts swarmed East Africa, this tech helped squash them

by Rachel Nuwer | New York Times | 9 Apr 2021

A hastily formed crowdsourcing operation to contain the insects in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia could help manage climate-related disasters everywhere.

Melodine Jeptoo will never forget the first time she saw a locust swarm. Moving like a dark cloud, the insects blotted out the sky and pelted her like hail.

“When they’re flying, they really hit you hard,” said Ms. Jeptoo, who lives in Kenya and works with PlantVillage, a nonprofit group that uses technology to help farmers adapt to climate change.

In 2020, billions of the insects descended on East African countries that had not seen locusts in decades, fueled by unusual weather connected to climate change. Kenya had last dealt with a plague of this scale more than 70 years ago; Ethiopia and Somalia, more than 30 years ago. Nineteen million farmers and herders across these three countries, which bore the brunt of the damage, saw their livelihoods severely affected.

“People were operating in the dark, running around with their heads cut off in a panic,” said Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. “They hadn’t faced something of this magnitude since the early 1950s.”

But as bad as 2020’s swarms were, they and their offspring could have caused much worse damage. While the weather has helped slow the insects’ reproduction, the success, Mr. Cressman said, has primarily resulted from a technology-driven anti-locust operation that hastily formed in the chaotic months following the insects’ arrival to East Africa. This groundbreaking approach proved so effective at clamping down on the winged invaders in some places that some experts say it could transform management of other natural disasters around the world.

“We’d better not let this crisis go to waste,” said David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University. “We should use this lesson as a way not just to be adapted to the next locust crisis, but to climate change, generally.”

Desert locusts are the Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes of the insect world. Normally, the grasshopper-like plant eaters spend their time living solitarily across the deserts of North Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. But when rains arrive, they change from a muted brown into a fiery yellow and become gregarious, forming groups of more than 15 million insects per square mile. Such a swarm can consume the equivalent amount of food in a single day as more than 13,000 people.

The locust plague that hit East Africa in 2020 was two years in the making. In 2018, two major cyclones dumped rain in a remote area of Saudi Arabia, leading to an 8,000-fold increase in desert locust numbers. By mid-2019, winds had pushed the insects into the Horn of Africa, where a wet autumn further boosted their population. An unusual cyclone in Somalia in early December finally tipped the situation into a true emergency.

“Ten years ago, there would have been between zero and one cyclones coming off the Indian Ocean,” Dr. Hughes said. “Now there’s eight to 12 per year — a consequence of climate change.”

Countries like Sudan and Eritrea that regularly deal with small, seasonal swarms have teams of locust trackers who are trained to find the insects and recognize which life cycle stage they are in. They use a tablet-based program to transmit locust data by satellite to national and international authorities so experts can design appropriate control strategies.

But people outside of those frontline locust nations who may want to start using this system today would encounter a typical technology problem: The version of the tablets that the locust-tracking program was written for is no longer manufactured, and newer tablets are not compatible with the software. And even if the hardware were available, in 2020, East Africa lacked experts who could identify locusts.

“We’d never had a dress rehearsal for the real thing,” said Alphonse Owuor, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization specialist in Somalia. “We had people who were very familiar with locusts in theory, but who didn’t have the experience or equipment required to carry out this massive operation.”

With swarms suddenly covering an area of Kenya larger than New Jersey, officials were tasked with creating a locust-combating operation virtually from scratch. Collecting dependable, detailed data about locusts was the first crucial step.

“Saying ‘Oh, there’s locusts in northern Kenya’ doesn’t help at all,” Mr. Cressman said. “We need longitude and latitude coordinates in real time.”

Rather than try to rewrite the locust-tracking software for newer tablets, Mr. Cressman thought it would be more efficient to create a simple smartphone app that would allow anyone to collect data like an expert. He reached out to Dr. Hughes, who had already created a similar mobile tool with the Food and Agriculture Organization to track a devastating crop pest, the fall armyworm, through PlantVillage, which he founded.

PlantVillage’s app uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help farmers in 60 countries, primarily in Africa, diagnose problems in their fields. Borrowing from this blueprint, Dr. Hughes and his colleagues completed the new app, eLocust3m, in just a month.

Unlike the previous tablet-based program, anyone with a smartphone can use eLocust3m. The app presents photos of locusts at different stages of their life cycles, which helps users diagnose what they see in the field. GPS coordinates are automatically recorded and algorithms double check photos submitted with each entry. Garmin International also helped with another program that worked on satellite-transmitting devices.

“The app is really easy to use,” said Ms. Jeptoo of PlantVillage. Last year, she recruited and trained locust trackers in four hard-hit Kenyan regions. “We had scouts who were 40- to 50-year-old elders, and even they were able to use it.”

In the last year, more than 240,000 locust records have poured in from East Africa, collected by PlantVillage scouts, government-trained personnel and citizens. But that was only the first step. "Countries next needed to act on the data in a systematic way to quash locusts. In the first few months, however, officials were strategizing “on the back of envelopes,” Mr. Cressman said, and the entire region had just four planes for spraying pesticides.

When Batian Craig, director of 51 Degrees, a security and logistics company focused on protecting wildlife, saw Mr. Cressman quoted in a news story about locusts, he realized he could help.

Mr. Craig and his colleagues, who are headquartered at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Central Kenya, conduct regular anti-poaching aerial surveys that could be repurposed to seek out and destroy locust swarms. They also closely communicate with rural communities affected by the insects.

Additionally, 51 Degrees uses a free program called EarthRanger. Created by Vulcan, a Seattle-based philanthropic company originally co-founded by Paul Allen of Microsoft and his sister Jody Allen, EarthRanger compiles and analyzes geographic data ranging from rhino and ranger locations to sensor data and remote imagery.

Engineers at Vulcan agreed to customize a version of EarthRanger for locusts, integrating data from the eLocust programs and the computer loggers on aerial pesticide sprayers.

Lewa Conservancy quickly became the headquarters for aerial survey and control across the region. By June 2020, these efforts were paying off. Locusts were prevented from spilling into Africa’s Sahel region and west to Senegal.

“If we didn’t stop them, the locusts would have reached Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania,” said Cyril Ferrand, leader of the F.A.O.’s Eastern Africa resilience team. “We were able to prevent a much bigger catastrophe.”

The progeny of the 2020 swarms continue to cause damage across East Africa. But now, countries are better able to combat them — equipped with the new technology, 28 aircraft and thousands of trained government locust trackers. In February alone, locust-patrolling pilots in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia flew the equivalent of three times the circumference of the globe. They sprayed swarms before they had time to mature, stopping the insects from multiplying and spreading into Uganda and South Sudan, as they did last year.

“The situation is still very, very serious,” Mr. Cressman said. “But if you compare now to a year ago, the countries are a thousand times more prepared.”

Since February 2020, the F.A.O. estimates that this effort in East Africa has averted the loss of agricultural products with a commercial value of $1.5 billion — saving the livelihoods of 34 million people.

“These are big data for a region that’s already very fragile,” Mr. Ferrand said.

The new approach could yield even greater results in tracking, combating and even averting future disasters. Dr. Hughes is now working with experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to use locust reports to build models that will predict future plagues. Such insight would allow countries to implement pre-emptive control strategies that are less environmentally damaging than pesticides.

The same approach, Dr. Hughes said, could also be used to combat other climate-related disasters, such as floods, droughts and pest outbreaks.

“Locusts show how we can crowdsource with artificial intelligence,” Dr. Hughes said. “This can be an absolute game-changer to hundreds of millions of people as we adapt to climate change.”

 
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Could psychedelic drugs help us save the planet?

by Jules Peck | Open Democracy | 15 Feb 2020

Psychedelics are having an extraordinary renaissance. A sea-change in attitudes is rapidly building momentum towards mainstream acceptance of the role of psychedelics in human development, as has been documented in bestselling books such as Michael Pollan’s 'How to change your mind' and Kotler and Wheal’s 'Stealing Fire.' An estimated one-in-ten (32 million) Americans use psychedelics on a regular basis, and they are as widely used as in the 1960s boom era.

With Phase 3 clinical trials in the UK and US on their way for psychedelic treatment for many ailments, it‘s not long before psychedelics become commonly prescribed by doctors and perhaps decriminalized for public use in places like the US and UK, as they already are in many countries such as Holland, Portugal, Peru and Brazil.

‘Shaking the snowglobe’

In the medical field great progress is being made by groups such as MAPS and the work of pioneering scientist Dr Robin Carhart-Harris’s Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College. There, hundreds of patients are being treated with psychedelics for a variety of physical and psychological illnesses and addictions with astonishing outcomes far beyond those of standard medicine and therapy.

Psychedelics are said to ‘shake the snowglobe’ or push the reset button in our brains by releasing dopamine and nonrepinephrine neurochemicals. As the below image illustrates, they massively increase brain connectivity. They are popular with artists, creatives and techies because this unlocks the brain’s ability to boosting lateral and out-of-the-box thinking and complex pattern recognition, helping find new links between concepts and ideas. For many US tech entrepreneurs psychedelics are now the drug of choice for unlocking creativity and team-building. Deep ‘ecstasis’ experiences on high doses release endorphins and anadamine, knocking out the default mode network (DMN) or ‘me network’ in our brains, switching off the ego or self.

Humans developed this ‘me network’ to help them be more successful at a certain stage of their evolution, but it comes with certain drawbacks. As John Hopkins Professor Matt Johnson explains:

“So much of human suffering stems from having this self that needs to be psychologically defended at all costs. We’re trapped in a story that sees ourselves as independent, isolated agents acting in the world. But that self is an illusion. It can be a useful illusion, when you’re swinging through the trees or escaping from a cheetah or trying to do your taxes, but at the systems level, there is no truth to it.”

There’s strong evidence that such experiences catalyse psychological change and change the way we think, experience life and relate to others. Research by Carhart-Harris and others suggests that people’s politics become more ‘plastic’ and mutable and shift towards more intrinsically oriented cooperative, accepting, inclusive and communitarian values. As Carhart-Harris puts it: “the compounds may have a political effect. Many believe LSD played precisely that role in the political upheaval of the 1960s.”

Because of this ‘political’ effect, pioneering psychedelic research work has begun with people without psychological disorders. For instance, one such experiment is exploring the potential benefits of psychedelics for reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian people.

While more work on clear causality is needed, there is strong evidence that psychedelic experiences of awe and ego-dissolution cause subtle shifts away from self-focus, individualism, a desire for financial success and competitiveness towards more intrinsic, open, trusting, optimistic, liberal and collective dimensions of personal identity which resonate with egalitarian political views.

From egoism to ecoism


Psychedelics not only break down perceived barriers between our fellow beings, they have a powerful ability to break down barriers between humans and nature or matter itself. Anyone who has experienced a decent dose of psychedelics in a natural setting will recognise the scenes from the movie Avatar where the characters are tapped into the web of life.

A recent paper from Imperial College’s Sam Gandy and Hannes Kettner, 'From Egioism to Ecoism,' contains the first empirical evidence for a causative role of psychedelics in enhanced nature-relatedness. Referring to the boom-era of the 1960s, Gandy and Kettner note that “psychedelic drug use may have contributed to the impetus of modern ecology movements.” If increased connection to nature was important in the 1960s, it is ever more so now.

It has been shown consistently that increased nature connectedness enhances psychological connectedness in a more general sense and elicits higher valuations of the kinds of intrinsic goals and aspirations such as personal growth, intimacy and community compared to extrinsic ones like money, image and fame.

These changes psychedelics seem to affect echo the kinds of values shifts explored by the work of Tim Kasser and Common Cause which maps human values on an axis of ‘self enhancement’ values (i.e. broad-mindedness, equality, social justice, friendship, community, helpfulness) versus ‘self transcendence’ values (i.e. financial success, ambition, image, status).

The kind of values we prioritise represent a strong guiding force shaping our attitudes and behaviours and influencing our political persuasions, our willingness to engage in political action, our career and consumption choices and the way we bring up our children and interact with wider society.

Professor Kasser has shown that, compared to those oriented towards intrinsic values, people who have strongly held extrinsic values such as materialism express less love of the natural world, have higher ecological footprints, engage in fewer pro-environmental behaviors and report more greed and use resources less sustainably in social dilemma games, such as the "tragedy of the commons" problem.

Opposite values on the values map are in tension with each other, so dialling up one dials down the other in a see-saw effect. But where we sit on the ‘values map’ between the collection of intrinsic or ‘we’ values and extrinsic ‘me’ values orientation is not fixed – it can shift with the right stimulus. Upbringing, advertising and societal norms are likely to be crucially important in mediating where we each sit on the values map or circumplex.

New values, new economy?

Values are not just important at the individual level. The values of our overall social and economic system play an important role in shaping our psychological lives and determining our own personal values, our individual and social lived experience and world views. Repeated norming and engagement of these values in turn internalises these values in us and reinforces the ongoing hegemony of this dominant system and its values, rules, policy and structural designs.

The currently predominant world economic system has its own set of highly extrinsically oriented values and a guiding vision of individuals competing with each other for their own self-interests bringing optimum outcomes for all. But this vision is highly contested and it is increasingly clear that, whatever benefits it may have brought at a certain stage of social evolution, we are now paying far too high a price for it.

This system now inescapably causes serious, potentially civilisation threatening ecological externalities and extreme inequality. For this reason ‘new’ and ‘next’ economy movements are actively exploring ways to shift us to a new system where the citizen, community, civic associations and a ‘partner state’ are in the driving seat rather than capital.

The extrinsic ‘me’ self-enhancing values of power (dominance over people and resources) and hierarchy which dominate our psyches and maintain and underpin our current system encourages people, institutions and systems to give preference to things like financial success, prestige, authority, individualism, competition and materialism, and thus undermine our own wellbeing and that of our planet.

Imagine if we could shift our values towards the kinds of autonomously chosen intrinsic values like benevolence, cooperation, community, universalism, affiliation to friends and family, connection to and concern for nature, social justice and creativity. This might characterise a more democratic, postcapitalist, participative and commons based system of economics.

A 2014 study by Imperial’s Professor David Nutt showed a close relationship between psychedelics and ego-dissolution and selflessness, and conversely a close relationship between alcohol and cocaine and ego-inflation and self-centred experiences. Perhaps it’s no surprise psychedelics are characterised as hippie drugs, and cocaine the drug for the banker?

We know from systems theory that complex adaptive systems, such as hegemonic politico-economic systems like the current system, have feedback processes and self-correcting mechanisms to ensure their continued dominance. Thus, by way of self-protection, the values, incentives and disincentives, norms, institutional architecture and lifestyles that drive hyper-consumerist, extrinsically orientated people (whose lifestyles support the dominant system) are perhaps more likely to lead them to individualistic ego-inflation experiences and drugs rather than more collective and ‘open’ ego-dissolution experiences. What the impact of widespread ego-dissolution experiences might have on people with these extrinsic lifestyles and values sets can only be imagined, but that is certainly something that Gail Bradbrook, founder of Extinction Rebellion had in mind in calling for ‘mass psychedelic disobedience.’

Indeed, in 2008 Professor Nutt was vilified and then thrown out of high office by a mainstream repelled by the idea of non state-sanctioned states of consciousness when he pointed out the scientific fact that things like alcohol, tobacco, Ritalin and Oxycontin are many, many times more harmful than psychedelics. But these state-sanctioned drugs are all arguably tools of the current system – stimulants to drive more production and consumption.

It is striking that these extrinsic values so prevalent in society today are the very same values which psychedelics seem to help dial down in switching off the ‘me’ network, and switching on the ‘we’ network. But despite the popularity of organised psychedelic retreats few if any seem to have been designed and carried out with an overt focus on seeking to explore these values shifts, and to support a move beyond inbuilt resistance to system change.

The ego-dissolution which occurs with deep ecstasis on psychedelics is exactly what is needed at this moment in our social evolution. Perhaps they can ‘shake the snow-globe’, unblock our minds to seeing the need for and potential of radical system change?

Creative new ways of imagining and co-creating a new social story might be unlocked with their ability to help connect us to ‘greater-than-self’ challenges and boost lateral and out-of-the-box thinking, complex pattern recognition and help find new links between concepts and ideas.

Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk have made this point well on multiple occasions. Others such as Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of XR, have made similar points about the potential power of psychedelics in relation to climate change awareness and action. The same vision that psychedelics should be a tool for social transformation and not just personal transformation was what united earlier thinkers in the 1960s such as Huxley, Dass and Ginsberg.

While much has been written about the idea that ‘psychedelics can heal the world’ or ‘fight fascism’, these are clearly overplaying their hand. There are also others like Brian Pace who challenge the idea that psychedelics could be transformatory for society and help shift politics to the left, pointing out that there are those on the alt-right who are big fans of these compounds.

But perhaps these challenges to the ‘heal the world’ thesis miss the point. It’s clearly not credible to suggest that just because you experiment with psychedelics you will automatically become a left wing eco-warrior. There are no doubt those on the right who are regular users of psychedelics to no effect of this kind. Indeed Alan Piper has documented in great detail the fascinating historical links between the far right and psychedelics. But as Pace notes, “it does not appear that the far right has embraced psychedelics anywhere near the extent that other subcultures have.”

But it’s important to recognise that most people are not alt-right in values and people with extreme values would never be the main target audience for such work. Perhaps Todd Gitlin is right when he commented recently to Marc Gunther that “the authoritarians who crush nature and love plutocracy are not the ones who are going to feel at one in the universe."

But there is a huge cohort of people in the political ‘centre’ whose values might shift in a more prosocial direction if they experienced psychedelics at the right dose and with the right set and setting, informed by what we know about values and the way they can shift.

As John Hopkins’ Professor Matthew Johnson says:

“I certainly wouldn’t say that psychedelics are a panacea that is single-handedly going to save the world. But perhaps, if cautiously used under the right circumstances, they could be part of and contribute to an overall greater level of awareness. Ultimately, we’re all completely dependent on each other, we’re on this planet together, trying to figure out how to ultimately survive and thrive, and I think these profound mystical experiences, however they might be occasioned, can perhaps help point us in the right direction.”

What is needed is clearly a more thoughtful approach than what Pace calls “vague implications that wider psychedelic use will somehow inspire progressive values, universal siblinghood, and an ecotopia of overlong, platonic hugs”.

Towards open source experimentation

At a time where there is an explosion of noise about the potential for a mainstreaming of psychedelics, and a very real threat of capture and enclosure of this space purely for profit, it seems important to experiment with more prosocial ways of using these extraordinary tools for societal transformation in an open-source manner.

Combining what we know about shamanic rituals, the science of psychedelics and values theory into a program of retreats might be a useful way to explore unlocking changes in people’s approach to system challenges.

It would be important that this new renaissance is not set back by another ‘Timothy Leary moment’ and these retreats would need to be undertaken in the most highly professional, ethical and responsible manner. Naturally, these retreats would for the time being need to take place in a country such as Holland where psychedelics are not illegal.

The curation, set (psychological context) and setting (sociocultural context) including the framing and curation of group discussions before and after the psychedelic journey would need to be designed to allow emergent and co-creative exploration of values change and systems thinking.

It would also be interesting to explore running these retreats in natural settings to explore nature-connectedness as well as using appropriate music, which the science of neuro-musicology has shown can help switch brainwaves from high-beta (normal waking state) to alpha and theta which is experienced in ecstasis, along with tools perhaps such as systemic constellations.

Such retreats would need to be science based and record open-source outcomes in a way which helps move forward the science of psychedelics as well as the field of values change and system change. One might work with a number of different pre and post assessment tools including values and political alignment, nature-relatedness, brain scans and heart monitoring.

Whilst we must not see psychedelics as a silver bullet, they are surely a potentially important and as of yet under explored potential tool for human transformation. Perhaps in this way, intrinsically oriented values, dialled-up by psychedelic experiences, could play an important role in shifting individual and organisational consciousness.

Ultimately, they could enhance acceptance of the need to a shift away from a winner-takes all race to the bottom of growth, profit and individualism towards a system characterised by more collective and community oriented values.

 

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Next generation water splitter could help renewables power the globe

By Robert Service | Science Magazine | 10 Mar 2020

Running the world on renewable energy is simple, in principle: Harvest solar and wind energy, and use any extra to power devices called electrolyzers that split water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen (H2) can serve as a fuel; it is also a staple of the chemical industry. The trouble is that current electrolyzers are costly, requiring either expensive catalysts or pricey metal housings. Now, researchers report combining the best of both approaches to make a version that needs only cheap materials.

“I consider this a great breakthrough,” says Hui Xu, a chemical engineer at Giner Inc., an electrochemistry company. Xu says he and his colleagues presented similar results at a Department of Energy meeting last year, but have not yet published them. Their work and another team’s new device, described this week in Nature Energy, could bolster the global embrace of renewable energy if the new electrolyzers prove to be cheap and stable during many years of operation. “We are on the cusp of getting that done,” says Yushan Yan, a chemical engineer at the University of Delaware, Newark, who is working on similar technology. A handful of small companies, including one he founded, have formed to commercialize it.

Scientists have known how to split water into H2 and O2 for more than 200 years: Put two metal electrodes in a jar of water, apply an electrical voltage between them, and H2 and O2 will bubble up at separate electrodes. Because a mix of the gases can explode, today’s most common setups separate the anode and cathode with a thick, porous plastic sheet. They also use metal catalysts—most often inexpensive ones such as nickel and iron—to speed the reactions.

To make the water able to better conduct ions that move through the devices, today’s most common electrolyzers add high levels of potassium hydroxide (KOH) to the water. At the cathode, or negative electrode, water molecules split into H+ and OH– ions. The H+ ions combine with electrons from the cathode to make H2. The OH– ions diffuse through the membrane to the anode, or positive electrode, where they react to generate O2 and water.

But KOH is highly caustic, so engineers have to build their devices out of expensive inert metals such as titanium, says Yu Seung Kim, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. That drawback prompted researchers in the 1960s to develop a version of the technology known as a proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer, in which the dividing membrane is designed to selectively allow H+ ions through. A PEM cell’s catalysts aren’t on the electrodes themselves, but are tethered to opposite sides of the membrane. In this setup, catalysts on the anode side split water molecules into H+ and OH– ions, with the latter instantly reacting at the catalysts to form O2 molecules. The H+ ions then migrate through the plastic membrane to the cathode side, where catalysts tethered to the membrane turn the H+ ions into H2.

Because OH– ions don’t migrate through PEM cells, there’s no need for highly alkaline conditions. The devices also typically produce hydrogen at five times the rate of the alkaline version. But these membrane cells have their own downsides: They still need some expensive corrosion-resistant metals to withstand acidic conditions produced by the proton-conducting membrane. They also require catalysts made from platinum and iridium. Those metals are expensive and rare. For example, the global production of iridium is only 7 tons. “There is simply not enough precious metals for large-scale hydrogen production,” Xu says.

Now, Kim and his colleagues at Los Alamos, along with researchers at Washington State University, say they’ve combined the best of both approaches. Their new device creates a highly alkaline environment to encourage water splitting. But it does so with the PEM approach of tethering catalysts to opposite faces of an ion-conducting membrane. As with the KOH setup, catalysts on the cathode side split water molecules into H+ and OH– ions. The former converts to H2, and the latter travels through the membrane, known as an anion exchange membrane (AEM). It is designed to create a highly alkaline local environment that speeds the travel of OH– ions to the anode side, where tethered catalysts prompt them to react to make O2.

The upshot is that alkaline conditions near the membrane allow the electrolyzer to rely on cheap and abundant nickel-, iron-, and molybdenum-based catalysts to split water. Yet, because the alkalinity is localized, the electrolyzer can be built from stainless steel. The new device generates hydrogen about three times faster than conventional alkaline devices, though still more slowly than commercial PEM electrolyzers, Kim and his colleagues report. “The combination of the older alkaline technology and membrane PEM technology is the path forward,” Xu says.

The new setup needs to prove its durability. Initial indications suggest the membrane begins to break down after only about 10 hours of operation. Kim says the main problem is likely that the polymer membrane readily absorbs water. Over time, this may cause the catalyst particles to come unglued and drift away. The team hopes that adding fluorine to the membrane will repel the water. With that and other fixes, Kim hopes, AEM electrolyzers could join solar cells and windmills as a key technology for a carbon-free world.

 
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