You may take our lives, but you’ll never take . . . oh, you’ve taken that too? OK, will just sit quietly. As Melbournians slowly climb out of hibernated lockdown bleary eyed after a score of zero-case days, talk of gyms and state borders re-opening are exciting many a Victorian. I was going to say Australian, but the Northern Territory barely blinked. Corona? Yeaaaah, I used to date her! Just keep reading, NT, we got plans for you.
A few cool things from the last fortnight: the Science Vs podcast on laboratory grown meat, saving cute piggies and curious cowses; the Letters of Note audiobook on despatches penned throughout history by those pierced by Cupid’s arrow - Emilie Blachère to her deceased photographer boyfriend, Rémi Ochlik, will have you in tears; holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s excellent Yes To Life; Ben Fogle’s wonderful Inspire; and lastly I’ve picked up a book I’ve been looking forward to for ages, Tim Flannery’s The Weathermakers, about human impact on the climate. This caused me to save the world, as you do. I imagine some kind of award ceremony is in order. However, before I get carried away (Beyonce can pin the medal to my chest, I’ve decided), allow me to explain.
Currently our snow caps are melting at an astonishing rate, which is a shame for almost everything living. It’s not just that there will be no polar bears and snow, but less whiteness. As anyone that has ever bought a dark car will tell you, it’s a mistake you only make once: it gets bastard hot. White reflects the suns’ rays back out of the atmosphere. The less cool spots and white you have, the hotter the planet will get.
Unless you’re a Mogwai or me with my milk white skin, light is awesome. The sunlight that reaches the ground is around 4% ultraviolet, 43% visible light, and 53% infrared. Solar panels mostly convert visible light into electrical energy, but they also can make use of almost half the infrared energy. Can we make solar panels white, reflecting most of the visible spectrum whilst also absorbing infra-red rays for power? In short, yes. The Swiss have already designed some, planning to make entire buildings out of it. In Australia, this could be like striking a deep underground well of liquid vegemite.
The Aussies are already planning a $20bn, 120 square kilometre, be-seen-from-space solar farm to power Singapore. Covering an area larger than the city of Manchester, England, it’ll be the biggest solar project in the world. If we increased the size dramatically and use white solar panels, we could reflect more heat, cause cooler air, perhaps even bring rain to central Australia. Alternatively, we could cripple El Niño/La Niña, making it snow in the Amazon. One of them: I don’t have all the answers, stop pestering me . . . jeeezzzzz!!
Here’s the rub. The Arctic sea ice is roughly 5.28 million square kilometres, which sounds big. Or at least until you think about the Antarctic, which is 14 million square kilometres. Australia, a little smaller than Europe, only covers 7.6 million square kilometres, so to be of any use we’d have to cover perhaps a million square kilometres to start with. Or about three quarters of the entire of the Northern Territory. When do we start?
Other less popular planet/humanity saving ideas: everyone be vegetarian four days a week; ban procreation; everyone eat someone else, preferably on the non-veggie days. I mean, you could even create a list. Why not eat a few, right? Can start with the NT, make some space.
Writing and writing...