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Energy Blog: World of Tomorrow-2095: Mars Doing Well, Earth Recovering

In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 9 – by Andy Silber
Approaching Earth
November 11, 2095

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 10.04.51 amWe’re on our way to board the Spaceplane to take us from The Ark to Earth’s surface. I just hope it can make it through Earth’s atmosphere. It did fine making it from the Martian surface to The Ark, but our atmosphere is thinner and we were moving a lot slower on the way up from Mars than we will be on the way down to Earth. This plane spent 25 mears in a hanger, but at least that protected her from the wind-blown sand for which Mars is so famous.

In my 19 mears (a Martian year) this is by far the most exciting thing to happen to me: Mars is actually quite boring. That’s why I volunteered for this mission, to break up the monotony of living on Mars.

[see author’s note at end][read Chapter 8]

I was born on the 5th day of Goddard in the year 7, one of the first true Martians. The new calendar had just been adopted a few mears earlier. They realized right away that a new calendar would be needed, but our government has a fairly direct democracy and anyone who wanted to be on the “Sub-Committee for time” could be. It took 3 mears to create the calendar. A day (we still use that term) is made up of 1000 millidays or millies, each of which is about 90 earth seconds. A mear is about 669 days and is made up of 18 months of 37 or 38 days, with an occasional leap day in the month of Earhart. Rather than naming our months after Roman gods or dictators, our names come from real people who helped bring man to Mars: Verne; Schiaparelli; VonBraun; Bradbury, Gagarin; Armstrong; Asimov; Rutan. The basics of the calendar were agreed to in about 2 months, but they spent mears arguing over the names of the months.

I’m a doctor and that’s part of the reason I was accepted on this mission. That, and I’m single, which is fairly rare on Mars. There’s a lot of pressure to be fruitful and multiple. My mom would say to me “Do you want humanity to die out?” as if my lack of maternal instinct would single-handily doom the human race.

After 25 mears of separation, this is our voyage of re-connection. The problem is, we’ve been so isolated from Earth, it’s not clear we can survive there: the germs; heavy atmosphere and gravity; the chaos.  There are only about 40,000 of us on Mars; Earth’s population has shrunk since the MEP program closed, but 2 billion people still seems like a lot to us.

On Mars I just deal with the scrapes, broken bones, cancer, but no infections diseases.   When we told the Earthlings that we wanted to come for a visit, there was a lot of concern that we would bring some space virus with us, but the other way around is so much more likely. During quarantine we’ll be getting every vaccine known to Earth, so hopefully our immune system will do better with what is found floating around today than the Amerindians managed small pox.  Our blood and tissues will be scanned, poked and prodded until everyone’s convinced we can’t get them sick and we won’t keel over. Eventually we’ll be let out and get to travel the Earth. If we don’t get sick, most hope to catch the next passage of The Ark in a year. I, on the other hand, hope to stay.

We’re good guests, we do come bringing a nice gift for our hosts: 500 pounds of Neodymium, which is used to make the magnets used in fusion generators. It was mined from the remains of some of the planetesimals that have been striking Mars since before I was born. Our hope is to develop trade between the planets. We can use seeds, fusion generators, and other manufactured goods. Some of the few remaining Earth-born are asking for grape and hop seeds and yeast, plus as many bottles of wine and whiskey we can fit in the Spaceplane on our return. By the time I was born all that we had brought with us was gone and we didn’t have the right kind of yeast to make more.

Part of the reason to come now is that Earth finally seems to have recovered from The Great Reset. We’re landing on a dry lakebed in California, part of Cascadia, which now is larger than the former United States of America. It includes all of Canada, except Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and all of the USA other than Texas, Hawaii  and most of the Southeast, which is now  “The Second Confederacy”. We’re told “The Second Confederacy” is a basket case. From space we see no signs of civilization.

There are similar governments like Cascadia covering most of Earth: one based in Bahía Blanca, Argentina for South America; Blantyre, Malawi in Africa; Oslo, Norway in Europe, and Chang Mai, Thailand in Asia. They claim to all have grown the same way: peacefully. From space, who can tell? When we talk on the radio to the different countries, they’re all very polite about their rivalries, but I guess that’s in part because it’s an open line. Everyone has agreed that we can travel freely once quarantine is lifted, so hopefully I’ll get to see first hand.

Our arrival seems to hark of a new age, the Anthropocene, the age of man. Humans have left a mark that will survive in the geological record: mass extinctions; changes in sea level and chemistry; fires and floods. The Earth is healing, but its destiny is forever changed. Scientifically, the Anthropocene began centuries ago, but I feel in my bones that the true age of man begins now. We were but children playing with toy dinosaurs. We’ve survived a very troubled adolescence. Hopefully our college years will be filled with learning and something the old timers call “keggers”. There’s still so much to do, and hopefully there always will be. As a race, we don’t deal well with boredom.

I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler. 

I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft. 

I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber

Arts & Culture $1200 Community Grants Open to Art Councils, Festivals & Events

ArtsCulturePhotoThe Office of Arts & Culture‘s Neighborhood & Community Arts program helps Seattle’s neighborhood arts councils and community-based groups produce festivals and events that enhance the visibility of neighborhoods, promote cultural participation, celebrate diversity and build community through arts and culture.

In 2014, the program provided $1,200 each to 42 organizations to support annual public festivals and events.


Neighborhood arts councils and community-based groups may seek support for a recurring festival or event that has been in existence for at least one year, has a significant arts and cultural component, is open to the public and takes place in Seattle. Applicants do not have to have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.


Funded organizations will receive two (2) years of funding support (for events in 2015 and 2016) of $1,200 per year to support direct project expenses: artist fees, marketing and promotional fees, project management and personnel costs, supplies, equipment rentals or other production-related costs.


The deadline for applicants is 11:00 pm, Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Pacific Daylight Time. To apply, click here and fill out the online application. 

There will be an information session on Wednesday, September 10, 6:30 to 7:30 pm at the
2100 Building, [mappress mapid=”538″], Seattle. Attend the session and pick up pointers on putting together an effective application. To reserve a seat, RSVP to Jenny Crooks, 206-684-7084, by Monday, September 8.

Lowman Beach-Murray CSO Project Update

IMG_1508Crews finished installing the outer wall of the Murray Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control Project storage tank on Wednesday, August 13. The 80-foot deep underground wall is made out of four-foot wide concrete cylinders called secant piles. The secant piles interlock to form a watertight ring that will house the storage tank. Crews began installing the secant piles in late May. The secant pile drill and crane will leave the site by August 22. King County and its contractor know that installing the outer wall was loud and disruptive. Thank you for your patience during this work.

The County contractor will spend the rest of August preparing to dig out the area within the outer wall where the tank will be built. Pumps will be installed to control groundwater inside the ring and excess concrete will be removed from the work area. Platforms for the digging equipment will also be built.

To protect public safety, the eastern side of Beach Drive SW is closed. Pedestrians and bicyclists should use Beach Drive SW’s western sidewalk. Southbound vehicles should use the access road southwest of Lowman Beach Park when turning around to head north on Beach Drive SW.

What to expect:

  • Work from 7 am – 6 pm on weekdays
  • Backhoes, pumps and trucks working on and around the project site
  • Equipment stored within the fenced-off area of Lowman Beach Park
  • Increased noise and activity
  • No parking or access on the eastern side of Beach Drive SW
  • No access to Beach Drive SW’s eastern sidewalk during work hours
  • Limited parking on the western side of Beach Drive SW
  • Continued access to Beach Drive SW and Lowman Beach Park

As always, please let us know if you have any questions. You can email Doug Marsano, KC Wastewater Community Liaison at or call the 24-hour construction hotline at 206-205-9186.

Annual SWS Picnic: Eat, Enjoy Community Orchard, Learn, Drink, Socialize, Share

COWs-overviewCome see what were up to. The Sustainable West Seattle annual picnic is Thursday August 21st.

This year the picnic will be held at the Community Orchard of West Seattle.  The Community Orchard is a project of SWS and is located on the South Seattle College campus at the north end adjacent to the Horticulture Center.

Start time for the picnic is 6:00pm and will continue until 9:00 pm.

The address is 6000 16th Ave. SW, use the North Entrance to the college campus and then head east toward the orchard and greenbelt area.  Bus access is through Metro Routes 125 and 128. Buses stop at the central entrance to the college.  You will need to walk to the northern end, which is about a 5 minute walk.

Come tour the orchard, hike through the arboretum, press some apples for cider and blend some smoothies on a pedal powered blender.

Bring chairs, reusable or compostable plates and utensils and a main dish or salad to share or something to throw on the grill. We will provide charcoal grills, tables, drinks and musical entertainment.

This is an after-hours weekday event, we hope to see you there!

Energy Blog: World of Tomorrow-2085: Cascadia, Mars Colony Are Thriving; Elsewhere on Earth, Not So Much…

In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 8 – by Andy Silber
Tokyo Harbor, Japan
September 15th, 2085

I’m so glad there’s a sign of life, of society, of civilization on the shores of Tokyo harbor. Forty of us sailed across the Pacific in the fusion powered hydrofoil Kobayashi Maru and it looks like we’re going to be met by someone. It’s been about twenty years since anyone from North America visited Japan. Our crew includes linguists, anthropologists and two Japanese, one Korean and three Chinese born and raised team members. This voyage was years in the planning, training and building, but only took six days to actually reach our first destination. We’re the third of the “Voyages of Rediscovery:” the first headed north to reconnect with the Russians, the second headed south to reconnect with Latin America. Both of those voyages plan to circumnavigate the Americas or possibly cross the Atlantic to connect with Europe and Africa. While both of those voyages are staying close to land, this was the mission these ships were designed for. As far as we know, these are the first ocean going ships built in decades. The team at the shipyard did an amazing job. Cruising speed of 50 knots, range unlimited. We’re stocked with communications gear, sensors, and a medical bay. Our navigation gear is old school – sextants, charts, and astronomical tables – since the GPS satellites stopped working long ago.HighSpeedHydrofoil

[see author’s note at end][read Chapter 7][read Chapter 9]

The voyage north met up with an outpost of Russian, Mongolia and Chinese who had settled in Siberia to harvest the peat bog. When the freighters and trains stopped coming they took advantage of the warmer weather, thawed land and copious amounts of peat to begin a farming community. The voyageurs were the first outsiders they had seen in almost ten years. None of them had seen a doctor in a dozen years, so they were happy for the portable clinic we setup for the week of our visit. In exchange we were given fresh food and a farewell party that is already the stuff of legend among the Corp. The fabled Northwest Passage is wide open, with nary a polar bear in sight. The Inuit villages are gone. There were some ghost towns that were setup by prospectors before the Great Reset. No money makes investment in mines a challenge. They’re now in New England taking their time along the Maine coast. The fish stocks have recovered enough for subsistence fishing to supplement farming.

The voyage south has been even sadder. Hurricanes have battered the Pacific coast from San Diego to Panama, their current location. The remaining villages are small and the buildings are little more than lean-tos made out of palm fronds and bamboo that can easily be reconstructed after a storm. A team traveled inland to Managua, a city of over a million people before The Awakening, and found maybe 10,000 people living amidst the rubble in Iron Age splendor. The locks of the Panama Canal are either stuck open or closed, but in any case the canal is impassable. They’ll continue south, but don’t expect to see much until they round Cape Horn and head up the Atlantic Coast to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

This project is a testament to how Cascadia has grown. It now reaches south to the old US-Mexico border, north to the artic ocean, and east to Chicago. Texas and the southeast show no interest in joining, but I suspect New England will be part of the country before my return. The rules to joining are simple: you must be contiguous with our current border; have a functional democratic government; accept our constitution; and conduct a locally run plebiscite monitored by the Cascadian government. After that, if your citizens want in, you’re in. We have a unicameral Parliament. The size and shape of each riding is decided every ten years after a census based upon three constraints: the number of ridings equals 400 (so that Parliament doesn’t get unmanageably large); the number of people in each riding is the same; and the total perimeter of all of the ridings combined is minimized. This gives each MP (Member of Parliament) good reason to think about people in neighboring ridings, since they may be in his riding at the next election. Elections are conducted by instant runoff voting, where voters state their preferences and all votes are counted eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes until one candidate achieves 50%. This form of election favors moderates, which is what we need to rebuild our country. States and provinces still exist, but are totally ignored at the national level. We are all Cascadians.

Rather than taxes, the federal government has a monopoly on certain industries, mainly the manufacture, sales and distribution of heavy-hydrogen fuel. This provides an easy source of income without the hassle of taxes. They’ve done a good job supplying what’s needed to this point with no evidence of corruption, so no one is complaining. In general, corruption and crime are rare, in part because every financial transaction is recorded. There are privacy concerns, but no one can access the information without a subpoena. We all remember what it was like when we had no money at all, so this doesn’t seem unreasonable.

A major effort has been to rebuild schools, from preschool to Universities. The University of Washington is one of the few that survived the Great Reset. Depending on where you lived and when you were born, you might have never gone to school. Finding qualified teachers is a challenge, but a critical one if we’re going to rebuild civilization.

In addition to reconnecting with the rest of the world, we’ve reconnected with the Mars colony. The Emissaries let us know what frequency the Martians were monitoring, so we gave them a call. Boy, were they glad to hear from us. They could tell based on telescopic observations that there were still cities and electricity, but they couldn’t tell much more than that. Their population has continued to grow, along with the oxygen levels. They actually need nitrogen more than water or oxygen now, so the planetesimal harvesting system is focused on gathering ammonia ice. It was always among the desired molecules, as it’s also a greenhouse gas, it’s just that water was preferred. They’ve also established contact with the Ark. The on-board systems have continued to maintain the transfer orbit between Earth and Mars and all systems continue to be operational. It’s possible for someone to meet it as it flies by Earth or Mars and catch a ride. They do have a wish list from Earth, including seeds and a couple of new fusion generators. As the colony is growing, they are having trouble meeting the demands for power. They have built a few generators as well as a fuel extraction facility, but they can’t keep up with demand. Until we build a spaceship to get into orbit, it’s all academic. The Emissaries have let us know that they do have the designs from before and are happy to share them if we decide to try and return to Mars.

Time to board the skiff and see how things have been in Japan.

I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler. 

I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft. 

I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber

SoDo MakerSpace Opens August 9; Drop by Any Saturday to Preview Space & Tools

SoDoMakerSpaceLogoOn August 9 a new local resource will open in SoDo.  Eric Renn, Founder of the “Make It Locally” Educational Campaign, says their  15,000 square foot facility, SoDo MakerSpace, will be a community workshop with rapid prototyping tools and a place to make (just about) anything. The vision for the 15,000 square foot facility includes a community classroom and event space, a certified commercial kitchen, a co-working area, and a fabrication and entrepreneur incubator space in Seattle’s light industrial neighborhood.  Address fro SoDo MakerSpace is 1914 Occidental Ave South.  This is immediately east of the Krispy Kreme donut shop on First Avenue and is the long structure adjacent

A growing number of dedicated volunteers and generous donations have helped to build out the community maker space over the last three months with materials, machines and resources that would have otherwise headed to a neighboring landfill. Eric says they’ve never experienced such serendipitous encounters and happenstance from incubating an idea into reality.

Eric also says that they need your help! Please join them on any Saturday from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm for a tour and to volunteer with weekly projects. Simply show up – you’ll feel welcome as SoDo MakerSpace works to build out the community classroom. If you have something that you are passionate about and would like to teach to the local community, SoDo MakerSpace would love to hear about it. They can also discuss your next project idea and put it on the calendar!

Grand Opening of SoDo MakerSpace

So, drop by on August 9 for the opening.  Eric says that SoDo MakerSpace is excited to open their doors to the public on August 9th! Their main goal at SoDo MakerSpace is to empower a community of consumers to be
transformed into producers through the exposure and education of today’s fabrication technology. We are starting by building onto the foundation that has been established for STE(A)M education reform in a few of Seattle and South King county schools.  The West Seattle Tool Library is also collaborating with SoDo MakerSpace to have some of the oversize tools made available in SoDo.

Help Is Needed To Finish the MakerSpace Build-out

Each day SoDo MakerSpace is encouraged at the support they get to help get the workshop/entrepreneur incubator venture up and running. They also need help with administrative tasks, spreading the word through marketing efforts, making financial connections and teaming up with individuals and corporations that will continue to allow SoDo MakerSpace to move from concept to reality unusually fast. Eric says they would like to expand their space from the current 2,000 square foot classroom to the entire 15,000sqft warehouse in this Fall/Winter!

The SoDo MakerSpace group is highly motivated and has a diverse set of skills spread among the participants and volunteers. They are hoping to continue this collaboration of like-minded individuals. They are asking folks to reach out to their social and professional networks and to collaborate so this evolution can continue to thrive in Seattle’s many burgeoning neighborhoods.

If you can’t make it on the open-house Saturdays, contact Eric Renn directly at 206-423-9253 to schedule a tour, or contact Eric by email at  Eric can further explain the vision and identify the many opportunities for collaboration.

[mappress mapid=”537″]

Seattle Trees for Neighborhoods: Get Up To 4 Free Trees for Yard or Parking Strip

trees for neighborhoods logoFree Trees for Your Home!

Trees for Neighborhoods helps Seattle residents plant trees around their home. Through the City of Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program, Seattle residents have planted over 4,000 trees since 2009. That’s 4,000 more trees that help clean our air and water, make our streets more walkable, and our neighborhoods safer and healthier. Join the movement this year—plant a tree and help grow Seattle’s urban forest!

The 2014 application season kicks off on Monday, August 4th at 10:00 am. Seattle residents are eligible to apply for up to four free trees to plant in their yards and within their planting strips. Residents who participate also receive free watering bags, training on proper tree planting and care, and workshop opportunities. This year, the program is offering 12 tree species ranging from large native conifers to small deciduous trees appropriate for planting under power lines and along the street. Some favorites this year include Douglas fir, black tupelo, and incense cedar. Check out the complete list and see photos at our website here:

Trees4NeighborhoodsReady to plant a tree? Visit for a list of this year’s tree species and a link to the online application, which opens Monday, August 4th. Trees go very quickly, so mark your calendar and apply early!

All questions about the program should be directed to or 206-684-3979. Katie Gibbons is the Seattle reLeaf Project Manager doe Seattle Public Utilities,  Contact her at or at the number above.