Saturday, February 21, 2015

So Much Sunshine

When I look out at my growing forest and gardens and how big everything is getting, I am reminded of Michael Pollan's amazement at how sunshine becomes physical mass.

He marveled at a squash that had grown huge one summer, a big monster of a vegetable that appeared out of nowhere. He wondered how it could have come to be -- there was no crater of used up soil that went into making this big thing.

He had not lugged tons of garden inputs out there to convert into a squash. It seemed to have been built out of nothing -- not a bit of the garden's material was used up in creating something with this much volume.

The soil provided trace minerals of course, but the physical mass of a plant is water and energy. Energy from the sun converted into solid form.

I look at my trees becoming giants -- big structures of wood -- and the concept of sunshine turned to solid form is even more amazing.

Nothing in the ground where they are growing has disappeared, no soil is consumed. And yet where there was nothing before, there is now a standing forest built out of water and sunshine. Photosynthesis is the word; miracle says it better.

It shouldn't be so amazing. The natural world converts energy to mass and it does it all around us all day, prodigiously. Why don't we see the miracle in that daily?

Because we are used to looking at the world as consumers -- we use stuff up to get other stuff. There's a negative for every gain. Material goods are made out of something, so you have to deplete something else in order to make new things.

Even non-material concepts in our everyday lives, like politics or money, require something to be lost or given up in order to get something else. It's how we constantly think. It's how we live.

It's not how sunshine works. Okay, someday the solar energy streaming down on earth and being converted to physical mass will die out as our sun implodes, so ultimately there is loss and gain in the true sense of physics. But there is such an incredible surplus of sunshine energy falling on us freely and there will be for a massively long time.

Plants will make abundant new stuff out of it without taking anything away from our earth. So much something from what seems to be nothing.

So with all that free energy, why aren't my solar panels working?


Major props to the photographer. . .  
Jim went out yesterday to take this shot of our covered solar panels, because I asked him to. It was 2 degrees (-17 C) at the time and the wind was fierce. He is my hero.

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