Furthest Right

Future Survival – Part 4: Waste


Waste, refuse and rubbish are generally indicative of human “left-overs”, junk or “broken” items/materials. Therefore it appears as the end of a linear function that eventually failed or was consumed.

However, that could not be further from the truth, because waste is not the linear end of a process, but the cyclical start of any process. It may be a little premature to say this, but without waste, there can be no life.

Systems engineers follow a model they like to call “from germ to worm,” meaning that a germ caused an “idea” to be developed, produced, maintained, refurbished and eventually re-cycled or scrapped where worms consume it, or itself becomes a “worm.”

This generally takes place in approximately twenty year cycles allowing renewal based on updated requirements. This applies to everything from infrastructure to software. The most influential phase is the waste phase because it happens at the end of the first cycle while at the same time is a major influence on the second cycle due to lessons learned.

For example, the waste generated by the Obama Presidency must now be taken into consideration by the next Trump administration.

The engineering cycle is not the only cycle to be considered of course. There is nature’s cycle too, meaning that nature can “re-cycle” 50micron plastic bags every 500 years. “Recycling” human remains is faster where caskets may last twenty years before re-opening the burial site for the next customer, or almost immediate if one prefers cremation, or something in between if composting is your thing.

But nature itself also goes to waste sometimes such as grasslands giving up to sand dunes or rivers drying up causing death in its wake. Much has been said about climate change and how humans appear to have a “responsibility” to “maintain” it. Human “waste” should not cause nature to go to “waste” (rising temperatures and water levels turning animals, plants and humans into waste).

Then there are stars that explode blowing their “waste” across the universe and a few (thousand) satellites polluting space. There is lots of waste out there, even in the oceans it has been reported that floating debris measures miles across. This while the oceans itself appears to take good care of its own waste.

Getting a handle on waste is not that difficult though. Each household is generally able to manage its own. Then companies have lately been regulated to at least limit its waste as supported by waste service providers. At the next level cities have extensive waste operations, but what problems appear when countries/civilizations have to manage waste. Hence the (very) expensive climate control hoax.

The waste industry is becoming quite active where it promoted itself from a single departmental function to an “integrated” organization function in (San José). This is an improvement in organizational capability, but still not enough. The reason is that it attempts to integrate departments, while it should integrate cycles.

The problem with San José’s Integrated Waste Plan is also that it is reactive instead of proactive. It produces energy from waste, as opposed to waste from energy. For example do not design energy because you have abundant waste, but design energy to produce the waste you want.

The actual abundant (existing) waste should be managed in a different “cycle.” For example, batteries currently flood waste “landfills” which may be addressed if a profitable method could be found to “recycle” batteries.

But actual waste includes more than just leftovers. Bacteria on human hands is being left on escalators, keyboards, and door knobs that affect health of other humans.  This may be recycled if a profitable method was found to convert bad bacteria into food for good bacteria.

From above it is obvious that “waste” is a critical black pill subject. The question for us now is whether it is possible to emerge victorious from our attempts to process waste. Nature does it; why not humans, too?

This black pill will make us realize that humans do not control nature and once we accept that with humility, it should enable the next civilization to move past the indiscretions of the past to a real sustainable future.

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