Cheeseburger Gothic

WW 3.1 “It’s not easy being green”

Posted April 1 by John Birmingham

From Dirk:

NBlob posted an interesting question, which IMHO deserves something more then just a simple in line response.
Quote: One of the most interesting things in WoC was the transplanted social contexts of up timers, feminism, LGBTQ, & race were discussed, but not the Green movement.
Would it be possible to kick off the Green Movement without Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, without the blights of oil spills, dead rivers, introduced species. Or would we accelerate Pell Mell into a hellscape of neonicanatoids, organochlorines, and hormone disrupters?

Historical context:
Post WW2 Western Europe and to a lesser extent the United States were more or less industrialized but to a large degree rural country. Small scale farming was the norm, with big industry concentrated in urban areas. And at those places pollution was already rampant.
I’ll give you an example. As I am typing this, I can look at a small river 8 meters away from my desk. 70 years ago, this was more or less used as a sewer for small scale ironworking, shipbuilding and a coal to gas plant that supplied heating gas for this part of the city. It took from the late 60s to the late 80s to clean up the river, with the remaining brownfield site reworked to housing in the decade following that.
On the other hand, the waste that society produced was mild. Most products were packaged in (treated) paper, sold without rapping and disposable plastic bags were in a distant future. The fridge made his first appearance over here in the late 50s, so shopping was mostly a daily occurrence.
Organic waste was picked up even before sanctioned recycling by small traders called “schillenboeren”. Literally that means “peel traders”. Edible refuse was sold to lice stock holding farmers (Pigs will eat almost anything) and the rest went up the compost heap to be sold as fertilizer and top soil for the next spring.
Green movement and/or government intervention.
So how green will our 1955 be? Probably greener than it would have been. Footage from Tsjernobyl and Fukushima would make the appetite for nuclear energy a lot lower. Other factors would be more economical. Norway and The Netherlands are sitting on vast bubbles of natural gas and in the North Sea is enough oil for decades. So, coal could be on its way out in Europe.
Governments would be eager to pick off other low hanging fruit. Recycling, CFC free fridges and spray cans and lead-free gasoline intermixed with ethanol are the first to spring to mind. Intensive agriculture pioneered in the US and rolled out by people like Sicco Mansholt will supply cheap food and other materials. Manure can be used as a source for green gas which can be used in greenhouse farming. Early solar and wind power as well as city planning – southward facing roofs, utility ducts and city-wide warming systems will do the rest.
There will be green movement, attacking the excesses and finding itself in a watchdog role not unlike people in road and child safety. So less militant but more influence.

17 Responses to ‘WW 3.1 “It’s not easy being green” ’

insomniac mutters...

Posted April 1
"sold without rapping"

Dirk mumbles...

Posted April 1
The Queen's English is not my native tongue :)

insomniac puts forth...

Posted April 2
Apologies, but the internet is so vast I wondered if there was a sales rap, just like I did a search the other day for "words that start with p and end with x". A dedicated page for that, too, exists.

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she_jedi would have you know...

Posted April 1
Would the decline of coal in Europe also hasten the demise of mining in the UK? And what knock on effect would this have with the rise of Thatcher and neo-liberalism?

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted April 1
You're very kind.
A couple of thoughts.
The exploitation of gas fields is technically difficult, for years they vented and burnt the gas ( the flame we associate with refineries) because it was more difficult and dangerous to handle ( compress to liquefy & transport) than it was worth. Perhaps with some leadership from governments ( yeah, tooth fairy riding on a unicorn) they may be able to steer a market for gas, but that would not overcome the technical difficulties, up time technologies will short circuit the development, but not create the market. When the market is flooded with cheap gasoline (every country & gas co exploiting 5 decades of discoveries) ( ooh, impact on OPEC having market flooded?) will there be demand?

Democracies (with apologies to Churchill) will only do the right thing after exploiting every other option. Without public pressure would they ban CFCs etc? Would there be the public pressure?
An awareness of finite global resources or 'eco-consciousness' grew from less popular than botulism in the early 70's, to an opinion shared by a majority only in the last decade. Responses to that understanding is still er problematic (see reactions plastic bag bans.)Trading off even hypothetical economic gains against distant harm is a hard sell.
I think down-timers would be resistant to maybes and perhapses like Fukashima, 3 Mile Island & Chernobyl, or Bhopal and similar (one assumes they'd be prevented in do-over world) would have an minimal impact on them.

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Dirk mutters...

Posted April 2
Good question. But it will be a little more difficult to answer. I am combining She Jedi’s question with NBlob’s remarks because there is overlap between them.

What is coal and why became it so popular?
Coal has multiple uses. It was powering ships, trains and (in solid and later in gasified form) powerplants, in gasified form provided streetlighting and was part and parcel in the making of steel and in the upcoming chemical industries of the early 1910s onwards. The UK gained its superpower status from around the 1750s over the wind and wood powered and wheat fed Dutch by the virtue of having abundant supplies of coal in Wales and later finds up in Yorkshire and the introduction of the potato.

So, from say the 1830s the economies of Europe were powered more and more on coal. The UK went through a rapid phase of industrialization in that time period. With her empire she was building her own market which revenues were needed to pay for the Royal Navy and to import foodstuffs from her colonies. The latter is a consequence of the rainy UK climate. Potato farming took the edge of, but in essence Britain has a too low crop yield to sustain itself foodwise.

By the late 1820s coal gas lighting was introduced in major cities and mass transportation by steam train kicked off in earnest at the end of the decade. Around the 1880s further coal gasification brought gas into the home for cooking and lighting. The byproducts of this opened up the way for the naissance of the chemical industries in for example the German Ruhr. This situation continued till around the First World War.

The decline of coal
First off of coal was the Navy. Coal dust was a fire hazard and stokers could on be employed on dreadnought ships in more meaningful roles. So just behind the US Navy (Texas and Oklahoma were swimming in the stuff) the Royal Navy lowered its demand for coal to nearly zero by the late 20s.

From the 1920s a second big client was switching over. Railways gradually replaced steam for (diesel-)electric trains and locomotives. In WW II however steam trains made a comeback in occupied Europe and the UK, but that was its last hoorah. By the early 70s most countries had switched over to either diesel or electric, but a lot of steam engines especially in the 50s and 60s were held in reserve status in case of war.

The discovery of natural gas in Norway and the Netherlands, the increased import after the war of cheap high-quality coal from US and later Australia and the abundance of oil, drove in the final nail.
The Dutch were the first to close up shop from 1962 onward and closed their last mine in 1974. During the same time the transition to natural gas took place. With the city gas infrastructure already in place and utilities being in the hands of municipalities, provinces or the state (like as in a lot of the rest of Europe; this in contrast for example to the US and Australia) there was no problem nor discussion. As it even meant there was less need for imported coal and gas was in such ample supply, a lot was and is exported.

The rest of Europe also pulled out of mining. The Germans and the Brits (they still have some open pit mines) are the last ones. In Germany’s case the mine mostly peat (Brown Coal) but with their abundance in solar (Germany is there leading at the moment, on sunny days flooding the market over here), that will eventually pewter out. France and Belgium went mostly nuke, with Germany and the UK following suit.

The impact on our world in 3.1

Gas instead of coal: For continental Europe it would be not that big of an issue to ram that thru. Even the venting wouldn’t be that much of an issue especially when greenhouse agriculture was setup in and around the gas fields. Plants love CO2 and heat so you would be killing two birds with one stone.

Britain and Coal: As Britain was broke after the war, most of the effort would be towards reconstruction. And adding gas piping in the rebuild is then not that expensive, especially if you can pump either coal gas or natural gas through the pipes. After that it’s probably a matter of numbers. If nat gas is cheaper in the future the Brits will swap over, especially if the make their own finds. British Gas will probably still be in the hands of the government so there is no problem in ramming it thru either.

Oil: There will be cheap oil in abundance. Problem is that cars will be mostly unaffordable for your average European apart from a few VW Beetles and Citroen 2CVs. The car boom in Europe would as in our time be coming in the 60s, and bicycles and mopeds would be the main form of personal transportation. Not that that would be a problem, with the bulk of people living in walking or biking distance to their places of work.

British politics: The policies of the Churchill and Atlee administrations will have been by our standards very left wing. Public works, central planning, all the good things of Keynesian theory you can wish for. And apart from Western Germany – which had a 12-year experience with a state run economy – most of Europe will be in the same boat. Neoliberalism in the Rhineland variant will probably be the route of choice for Germany. Universal Health care, family allowances and universal education had been introduced there already under the Nazi’s, the autobahn just needed a dash of paint. The most pressing need was that housing and industry needed to be rebuilt. With an early introduction of the D-Mark, Germany with one stroke takes out black market profiteering and the excesses of Nazi economic policy. It’s draconian and you can pull it off only once but a number of other European countries will probably do the same.

One thing though Churchill (with India still firmly in his grip) will want to achieve is to position himself in the middle of Europe. And this time De Gaulle weakened by the loss of his colonies, a quarter of France occupied and only given token support by Southern Italy, will not be able to stop that. Germany will play ball, as would Switzerland, Scandinavia and the Benelux block. So neo liberalism can come but only in a very mild form. Britain first needs to get his political and economic ducks in a row before that can happen.

The humble masses: With your average European only having enjoyed 8 years of primary education, and being instilled with a sense of order and respect for authority, still have a modicum of trust in the government. And do not underestimate the power of mass media. When you can convince people, you can survive nuclear war by hiding under your desk (Duck, and Cover), you can sell them everything, even the points like the lack of plastic bags (Brown paper or canvas will do nicely as substitutes), nuclear power and less hazardess chemicals.

tqft mumbles...

Posted April 2
You might be aware but I will go on anyway:
From NBlob
"Perhaps with some leadership from governments ( yeah, tooth fairy riding on a unicorn) they may be able to steer a market for gas, but that would not overcome the technical difficulties, up time technologies will short circuit the development,"
& NBlob mentions " exploitation of gas fields is technically difficult,"
These 2 go together if the uptimers have maps/data on where the resources are. I don't mean general direction but maps of dry wells vs holes with stuff at the bottom.

Drilling is expensive, really expensive. Dry wells are a dead loss, time and money. Plus drilling tech from uptime would be much much better.
A trade of data on exactly where to drill for release sell comparatively cheaply should work.
The first company that takes the deal is going to save heaps and get ahead.

jl mutters...

Posted April 2
I do wonder if there would be an early start with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking." Hate it all you want, but people aren't going to let those sorts and amounts of resources sit in the ground. Plus, natural gas is far cleaner than coal.

However, there are very serious technological hurdles to winning gas in this fashion- you need lots of computer power and very specialized sorts of industry, not the sort of thing to pop up in a ten-year period.

Half the battle, though, is knowing that something that can be done.

Dirk mutters...

Posted April 2
Another hurdle would be distribution outside of main urban areas. There will be research on it I think, but also on harvesting methane out of sewage treatment and composting.

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jason reckons...

Posted April 2
Just a thought. There would be a rise in electric cars (assuming) which would reduce emissions dramatically as well as seriously affecting the income stream of Saudi Arabia. Possibly even the rise of state supported terrorism.

Dirk reckons...

Posted April 2
There were, even in our 50s and 60s. Mostly as replacement for horse drawn carts. For example this: (in Dutch, run it thru Google translate for the text).

A more fruitful approach to counter the renaissance of Islamic fundamentalism, would be the redrawing of the map for that region, this time to ethnic lines. A Kurdish state broken off from Iran, Iraq and Syria, one for the Druze from Lebanon and Syria, bringing back the Turkmen to Turkey, joining up the Shia of southern Iraq with Iran, and the Arabs in Iran with those in Iraq, those kinds of schemes.

Also crack down on corrupt leaders and officials and slowly built up the nations to points were those countries in their entirety would have more to lose then to gain would they return to extremism. Ataturk's Turkey was a good example of that.

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HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 2
I just wanna know, given the greening of the plant, what about the ducks, I mean; Ill still be able to shoot my bag and start Stewin the little blighters right????

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted April 2
Aboard HMS Havoc we have made provision for you to have ample supply of them, and a complementary Green Egg as well. Thou shall not be forgotten.

HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted April 2
So long as I am paired ( think HOT bunking) with Commander Jane Wilet, ( I might have a crush on her) I am happy happy happy!

Dirk swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 2
Information on Rear Admiral Willet is currently classified as Top Secret Oyster. You will be informed in due course.

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HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted April 2
m, i'm not seeing it in the thread as a consideration, but here goes:

1- The planet is on a war or threat of war footing
2- contesting of areas and bumps and battles greater than cold war ones will take place before the main event
3 - The above, alone will have an impact on whats given priority, both fro exploration, fuel usage , types etc. I think RAPID industrialisation will take place...greening the plant comes after Josef is in a fkn box!

jl ducks in to say...

Posted April 2
Right on all three points, Havock.

Actually, mention is made (briefly) in 3.1 about the modernization of the steel industry. In many areas re: industrialization/environment you can have your cake and eat it, too. It just takes a little extra planning and a long term view.

One of the things I simply love about JB's universe is imaging all that would be possible if society and government had perfect foresight. Of course, the bad guys have this advantage as well, it's what drives Stalin and his douchebros.

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