Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Power Up!

  - By Tony Harriman

From watching the prices in the electronics stores we gather that before long we'll be able to affordably include the use of solar panels to power some of the appliances around our home.  Our home is well insulated and we have plenty of windows letting in the daytime light, so our energy bill for the month is usually less than what one might expect to pay for power if they were living in a 16x80 mobile home.  Nevertheless, we would like to use more of the free amps falling from the sky.  We've more-or-less convinced ourselves that we'd like to at least experiment with solar power; it's just a matter of wading into that unknown realm and making a start.  If we were building a home right now, solar panels would definitely make up part of the roofing material.

Electricity is such a readily-available energy to the average Western home, that we really don't think much about it; we get home, flick the lights on, drop the air, fire up the oven, open the fridge.  We hardly give a thought to what it takes to get those things working, so there's a real desire to leave well-enough alone; just pay the bill at the end of the month and get on with your life.  But what if it were more affordable to install solar?  That would change the game, don't you think?

For my last birthday one of my daughters bought me a solar-powered tiki lamp; I love it.  We set it up so we can see it from the back of the house.  It gets enough sun through the day to charge it, then when the sun goes down, it shines out … for most of the night.  But occasionally I've looked out at it in the wee hours and it's not burning quite so brightly.  It's not a problem with the bulb; it's that the battery won't store energy for long enough to keep the bulb burning till its next rendezvous with the sun.  There's a lesson for us there, and I'd like to explore it for a minute or two.

All of the usable energy on the planet comes from our sun.  The vegetation of planet earth is so designed that it converts the light from the sun into energy that can be eaten by some form of life or other.  The vegetation takes that light and clothes it with material taken from the soil and quite cleverly camouflages it so that it will appeal to a wide variety of plant-eating creatures.  When you take a moment to think about how brilliantly this plan has been worked out, the mind spins.  It's not that we're actually eating light; we're eating what the light is carrying — energy.

The plants take some of that energy and somehow compress it into the atoms that form the building blocks of matter; but I reckon we'll talk about that some other time.

Vegetation on the planet is a storehouse for light.  When we eat the vegetation, we are actually providing ourselves the purest form of energy that we can assimilate.  Some of the energy is stored in our bodies for a very short time, but most of it is used pretty quickly.  Unlike plants (which more closely resemble what we know as batteries), our bodies are designed to be more like living machines, and have to be energized on a fairly regular basis.  And because we are more like machines, we work best when we are kept in motion.  kept in motion, that is, until we need maintenance, which appears to be carried out while we sleep.

The miracle of digestion is one of the better-kept secrets on the planet, and remains so all the while people who understand its functions continue to clothe this grand orchestral symphony with fancy, uncommon language.  I'm reminded of some elaborate and expensive recipes I've seen for making compost.  Seriously?  Compost happens — regularly.  The same is true with digestion.  The digestive system is designed to extract light/energy/power from what we eat.  The food is designed to release that energy when mixed with a variety of chemicals produced in the body and introduced throughout the process of digestion.

Let's face it, most of what is advertised (at great cost, we might add) on the TV and billboards is engineered mainly to appeal to the taste buds, not the digestive system as a whole.  On an atomic level, a box of crackers contains a lot of energy, but contains no power that the body can break down and use; we aren't designed as nuclear reactors … right now, anyway.

Is it any wonder that we feel run-down all the time when our bodies aren't being energized with anything useful?  I suppose a similarity might be gained in concept if we considered the idea of trying to charge your car battery with cables connected to a Double-A.

So what's a person to do?  On one side of the food isle we hear voices telling us that animal (flesh) food is the best for us; on the other is a choir singing the praises of the fresh fruits and veggies.  And somewhere above the entire procession is the religion that tells us that planet earth is wearing out, that it's not possible to get everything we need from food grown in the ground, so we have to spend a small fortune on multivitamins.  Forget the conversation about pesticides, hormone use and GMOs.

Yes, we need more than just canned light to keep us alive; we need minerals, acids, live enzymes and the like.  But without that light we will be dead while we're still on our feet walking around.  And the light is best given to us by vegetation.

Right here I feel I'm sounding like what some people might call a tree-hugging "Greenie."  I'm not on a quest to save the planet, but without the planet we won't have a place to call home.  What I really feel like is taking another look at what I use to power up my engines.  I'd like more affordable choices for what I put on my plate.  I don't want to pay $3 for an organic avocado, when a regular one costs less than a dollar.  It seems to me the only people who can afford to eat organic-only have no children, no mortgage, and no vehicles to feed — either that or they have no life other than the one which involves the preparation of food for their tables.

Life shouldn't be all about eating, but eating should satisfy more than just a growling belly.  As human machines we have needs.  This matters, and someone who understands the physiological mechanisms ought to step up to the plate and put the science into a language that can be understood by the single mom who's trying to keep her kids fed and well and happy, all the while she's running two jobs with no time to go back to school and learn about the miracles of physiology.  We don't care about your degrees in medicine, public health or nutritional sciences — come down out of the clouds, get your head out of your nose and help us get our lives back.

And that's just my take on it ….

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