Sunday, October 9, 2011

To Make a Light Bulb

I would like to have lights. Having lived off the grid for 30 years, ten of which was without electricity, I would like to have lights.

During the ten years without electricity, I got my lights from kerosene lamps. I got a masters degree in psychology using kerosene lights. The experience taught me the old saying, “a place for everything and everything in its place” because a kerosene lamp doesn’t give off a lot of light. I love to read and I did okay.

I can’t make kerosene. I could make oil from various plants by pressing them. Whales are scarce in Northern Minnesota so that option is out. So I thought I might make an electric light. Below find an image of an electric light and its components from a mining company.

If the above is not clear you can find the original at:


It is fairly clear I won’t be making a light bulb anytime soon. There are many minerals and much energy to extract, process and manufacture those minerals that without fossil fuels will make if very difficult. Thirty years off the grid and not one second of that time was I disconnected from the fossil fuel world.

For twenty years, I had solar electric panels and wind generation with batteries and various electronics. Each and all of these were products of the fossil fuel world from the raw products in the ground to the finished product in my home.

There are large, idealized movements to switch to “renewable” energy sources with the hope of maintaining a semblance of the life style we in the developed economies are use to. As I have written elsewhere, all the devices for capturing, storing, transporting and managing these “renewable” energies require fossil fuels. (See: Energy in the Real World with pictures of proof. )

There are paper plans that propose that solar electric panels, solar focused steam, wind, biofuels, etc. can make enough energy to reproduce themselves. I say do it. Make a demonstration project of tons of various materials extracted, processed, manufactured, transported and installed using only “renewable” energy.

Oh, and then make a light bulb with the extra energy you have. I want lights.

There are those that think that I am a doomer. I think I am a realist. In fact, I agree with a wise woman on one of my mailing lists:

Posted by: kathy Sep 3, 2011

“Got thinking about this morning. Supposing a wife tells her 6 pack a day husband that he is going to die from lung cancer or emphysema? Is she a doomer? Or is he perhaps the doomer as he is continuing to do things that may doom him to an early death?

Is a scientist who warns of global warming a doomer or are the dirty coal burning factories the true doomers?

Is someone who warns of the dire possibility of collapsing more and more fisheries a doomer or are the factory fishing boats the doomers?

Are the people who warn about building nuclear power plants on fault lines doomers, or are those who build them there the doomers? Would living with less energy in Japan be a worse doom than Fukushima?

Warning of potential doom does not make you a doomer IMHO, participating in activities that make that doom more likely - that makes you a doomer”

Of course, we are all caught. Not one of us is voluntarily going to really reduce our consumption to levels that are truly sustainable across decades. It is not the nature of the beast. (See - and )

I think that we will continue as we are until we cannot. One of the reasons is easy and cheap as stated by Nicols Fox in Against the Machine:

“There is within every human the perpetual pull of opposites. Fear taunts courage; willpower struggles with appetite; order with disorder. Caution tugs at curiosity as impulse teases aversion. For all the stimulation of the new, there remains the powerful comfort and security of the known. We are, like Dr. Dolittle’s famous Pushme-Pullyou, conflicted creatures. Individuality is defined by these differences, by where the balance is struck.

But one impulse in particular seems to have weak competition or none at all. The appeal of ease, or the less-taxing option, is unquestioned. Only the obstinate, the perverse, the eccentric, or the mad, the conventional wisdom toes, intentionally choose the more difficult over the easier method of reaching a goal. The hatchet or the ax over the chain saw? “I like the feel of the ax in my hand, the resistance, the thud of impact. I like to feel I am linked to what I am doing. I like the quiet in the forest, the smell of rosin, even the living shudder of the tree as the x bites, “ says the old woodsman. The logger smiles, pulls the starter on his chain saw, and has seven trees down in the time the woodsman spends on one. And the logger’s boss brings in the feller-buncher, the giant machine that grasps each tree in a steel embrace, then cuts it and stacks it with its downed companions as if it were kindling; and logger smiles no more as the new machine does the work of seven chain-saw-bearing men and he finds himself reading want ads. Seldom, however, is the original impulse to make things easier questioned.

The religious have always known that ease is a dangerous road to travel. One reason for caution is that it’s sometimes hard to tell who the real beneficiary is. Or whether something is really as easy as it first seems. Or whether ease costs more than it appears to. Or whether something is being lost in the transition that hasn’t been mentioned, or foreseen, or accounted for. Machines, in the time of Carlyle, Dickens, and Ruskin, were making production easier. The matter of “at what cost” had just begun to be considered, and then only by a very few.”

The other thing I would like from electricity is a 1/2 hp motor. It can run many things – pump water, grind grain, power a vacuum cleaner, etc. I think making a 1/2 hp motor will be just as daunting as making an electric light bulb.

This is the reality of a world without the gift from life past, time and the pressure of the earth in the form of fossil fuels. It will be here tomorrow.

Slowly (maybe not so slowly) becoming obstinate, perverse, eccentric, and mad.


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