Notes from Windward: #66

Virgil's Solstice Thoughts

      Tomorrow being the solstice lets talk about the sun some. We all know the sun is important to life. But that's a relatively simple statement. Lets start at the most basic system. The suns energy enters our atmosphere. even this act hs profound consequences. Weather systems are driven by temperature variations. Wind, rain, pressure fronts all partially due to the energy entering the system from the sun. When the energy makes it to the ground it heats up the surface of the planet and the water. Warm and cold currents form in the ocean and are profoundly influential of the weather.

Virgil putting together aquaponics fittings

       Photosynthesizers absorb this energy, somewhat inefficiently, and from that energy almost every animal is supported. Variations in the cycles and amounts of the sun can be as important to determining the types of organisms that can live and thrive in an area as much as water. The plants grow and die, and all of the chemicals that they had labored to create with the suns energy enters the earth. Our soil is rich because of the energy input into chemical reactions that the sun provides. So no sun no plants, no soil, nothing that feeds on plants or feeds on their remains.

      In addition no fuel. The only fuel that we currently burn that isn't derived from the sun's energy are nuclear fuels. Wood comes from trees who turn atmosphere and a little soil into their energy rich but hard to digest cell walls with the energy provided by the sun. When you sit by a camp fire you are releasing the energy of the sun once again back into heat and light. Fossil fuels are derived from ancient plans and animals who lived in the oceans and on the land, all of whom either harnessed the energy of the sun directly or survived by eating those who did. Again burning these fuels is burning he suns energy that has been stored in chemical bonds.

       So no sun no fuel, no soil, no plants.

      Even with less sun the world is not as welcoming a place. The higher in latitudes you get in this planet the less biodiversity, that is not a strict rule and there are other variables that are important but it is generally true. Without diversity the biomes are less stable, more prone to large scale disruption, and being generalists less resources for human beings to exploit. Maybe there are huge numbers of cod and seal, but there are fewer species of mammal and fish to rely upon. Then there are the issues of sun deprivation that sends large numbers of people in the far north and south of this world into bouts of depression as they are deprived of the light.

      And think of all of the free services we gain from the sun, we do not need to light our streets and in reality our homes and building for much of the day. We do not have to heat our homes or melt our water. The free energy that the sun adds takes care of these things, and if we are solar minded we can increase even more our benefits. By building in ways to reduce solar gain and maximize it in the winter we can moderate the temperature of our homes. By building mirrors and black piping we can heat or preheat our water. By erecting photovoltaic panels and batteries we can store the suns energy till it is needed.

      We are dependent upon the sun, and by not ignoring his fact by celebrating and embracing his fact we can reduce our needs, and increase our standards of living. By understanding how it effects life we can better understand our soils, our plants, and our animals and learn how to maximize our interaction with all of them.

      Happy solstice.


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