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April 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm #671NeutronMember
To all you science and engineering and generally waste hateing types, happy Thursday,
In researching the polar stations, and more specifically, the facilities management/ recycling/ sustainability issues that it would seem are an overarching consideration of daily life in a remote polar climate, I am left with more questions than answers. I’d very much like to hear thoughts on existing systems that are in place to better and more thoroughly handle the inevitable messy foot print that is created. Is there a system in place to handle black and grey water treatment, or is it all containerized and shipped out? Has anything been experimented with successfully that would tap geothermal energy as a process fuel source? Is there any NSF research that anyone is aware of that attempts to expand on the ideas put forward by McDonough & Baumgartner related to recycling/up cycling/ “waste as food” (i.e.: the cherry blossom analogy) John Todd’s re-adaptation of Fuller’s “living machine,” or the integration of multiple waste stream systems versus simply stand alone systems in a polar environment?
If this isn’t the right forum for this, let me hear from someone re: a more appropriate source. To date, I’ve found very litle as it relates specifically to polar habitation applications.
Obviously, my first objective is to get hired. But in those few moments of free time that I might find, I’d enjoy digging deeper into what was my original masters theory, and finding where it might lead in pursuit of a cleaner home for all, and blurring the often stark boundry line between ‘ecologically pristine’ and ‘architectural excressence.’
Thanks for your thoughts and info.
BillApril 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm #6537SciencetechKeymaster
These are all very good questions. BT would have the most insight into what has been tried, etc., I’ll simply chime-in with a few observations…
The USAP has changed dramatically over the years, somewhat in parallel with our expanded environmental awareness. The waste disposal practices in the early days are considered atrocious now. (I often wonder what we’re doing now that we’ll be aghast at, say 20 or 30 years from now.) There has been a lot of effort to clean up the mess but it will continue to take a lot of time and money.
The money issue is critical. Doing anything on the Ice is astronomically expensive, so the cost-effectiveness of any ‘green’ initiatives is always a factor. That said, there has been more emphasis and funding recently; the largest project is probably the wind turbines going in at McMurdo/Scott Base. Some efforts, like the recycling program, continue to expand. Field camps are using more solar and wind energy. All solid wastes from the field are packed out. The greenhouses at McMurdo and Pole now have a much higher profile and priority than in past years. PR plays into it as well; perhaps the sewage treatment plant at McMurdo would be a good example — by some accounts it may not have been needed, but it looks good to the outside world.
I personally believe that the USAP could be a showcase for sustainability and alternative energy, much like you suggest, and there are many in the program who also feel this way. In the long run it may be cost effective to do just that, but at the moment much of the technology is either unproven or poorly adapted to a polar environment, massively expensive, or simply too difficult to implement with limited manpower, short seasons and tight budgets.
Even so, we should all keep pushing for it, gently. Once you get down there and see what’s going on, you’ll have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. We’ll be relying on you to guide the program in the right direction. 💡
glennApril 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm #6538NeutronMember
In the long run it may be cost effective to do just that, but at the moment much of the technology is either unproven or poorly adapted to a polar environment, massively expensive, or simply too difficult to implement with limited manpower, short seasons and tight budgets.
Unfortunately, the long view is all too often obscured by all of the reasons you cite, as well as bona fide and competing industrial and financial interests. I am up against the arguements of cost and lifecycle payback almost daily. Yet, what I wish I could put across gently is that if we could meet our great grandkids today…hold ’em, touch ’em, talk to them, love them as we do our children…how would we explain our actions (or more aptly, inactions) and our failure to do more for what will assuredly, in hindsight, seem a minuscule sum. We (there I go again with that ‘WE’ thing) need to more effectively communicate not only the first several generations’ benefit of the actual technologies developed, but emphasize the collateral benefits in terms of industry growth and jobs creation, decreased future environmental cleanup costs, the benefit of integrating closed loop manufacturing into developing technologies…well, I could go on and on…but that is for another thesis. Fortunately, there are other believers like us.
Thanks for the thoughtful insights and moral support, and as you mentioned Glenn, let’s hope we get BT’s here as well as others.
Best to all,
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