Interview with a Doomsayer
[Dr. Doom, our resident Geology and Geophysics expert and Island raconteur, was kind enough to spend his precious time answering my latest salvo of questions. Enjoy.]
Bunn Bunn: Dr. Doom, do you believe in The Aloha Spirit? If yes, can you tell us the story of when you realized that you had achieved the requisite “coordination of mind and heart” (and, for extra credit, graphically depict this epiphonous event in a sequence of powerpoint slides)?
Dr.Doom: Yes, I am a big believer in The Aloha Spirit, also known as The Spirit of Aloha. I don’t recall it taking too long for my willing indoctrination into the spirit of the islands. It soon hit me after my arrival here in 1972 as a young, virginal graduate of UC Riverside (aka The Monastery), about to begin my graduate career at the University of Hawaii, Manoa campus. I can tell you with certainty that part of this spirit resides in the land and surrounding ocean waters, and part within the peoples that inhabit them. So, it’s easy to fall in love first with the physical beauty of the place, the fabulous beaches, the even more fabulous sunsets, the surf, the steep, green mountains (in winter-spring) and the clear blue waters (biological desert).
Your indoctrination is complete when you fall in love or, as it were, lust with a beautiful tanned, long dark haired local girl, or wahine. After a few now-in-hindsight hilarious attempts at dating mainland haole girls (err, white chicks), this event happened to me about a year later, on my first weekend-long date, which started with a double date on a Friday night in Waikiki. It sure made a believer out of me. I’m sorry no one took photos.
BB: Is there a place for spirituality as an integral aspect of the scientific method?
DD: Always an interesting topic. I think that the short answer is NO, but having said that, I know of many cases where there are spiritual scientists that seem to keep the logic-based science they conduct separate from their belief systems and spirituality.
BB: If I’m omnipotent, is it possible for me to publish in a peer-reviewed journal?
DD: Impossible as logically, you are without peers. OTOH, being omnipotent, you can do whatever you wish, so yes, your articles and books will be published. After a few tactically-placed lightening bolts, your critics will be silenced.
BB: I don’t understand why Hilo Hattie hasn’t attempted to expand their big and fat retail clothier business to the mainland beyond the few stores in SoCal. I mean there’s plenty of IZ-sized monkeys rolling around outside the shit magnet, especially in the red states. Any thoughts?
DD: Damn, Bunn, I smell money. Perhaps when things settle down a bit, we can discreetly inquire about obtaining the national franchise rights for a string of Hilo Hattie stores. Mall store lease rents should be very affordable, and we can rent the rest of the vacant stores for competitive Hula dance Halaus. Since folks may have additional time upon their hands, it’s a nice cultural way to lose weight, dance the pagan songs of love, make hand-made crafts for the tourists, do festive communal luaus in place of those dreary lines at soup kitchens, and gain plenty bruddas and sistahs for social cohesion and common security. And, if things get really dire, the culture is very amenable to cannibalism.
BB: Okay, let’s talk about the business of providing/proffering an education in the sciences. Have you ever had a research assistant who looked like Ann Margaret? Never mind, don’t answer that. Try this one: What effect has the collapsing economy had on the number of students trying to get into the program(s) that you teach?
DD: I’ve hired my share of pretty female research assistants over the years, but I can say truthfully that it’s always been strictly a business relationship, as I learned early on in my career, as a graduate student, than when you go beyond a platonic relationship with your employee, even if things are going well in the relationship, the work suffers (because you’re having lots of fun), and when things don’t go well anymore, the wheels completely come off the enterprise and it usually ends with the employee quitting, leaving you stuck with all the work that was not done earlier and with, as a bonus for being such an idiot, a broken heart to depress you even moron.
Enrollment and tuitions are up this year, whilst services and infrastructure maintenance are down. I teach to eager students now who, thankfully, are mostly too ignorant to appreciate the dire circumstances that I am telling them they are either now entering, within, or soon will be approaching.
BB: What convinced you to become an educator, and would you rather be tasked with grading an endless stack of student essays in Sisyphean fashion or be Richard Branson for a day?
DD: Thank you. I knew, somewhere deep inside of me, there was indeed a reason why I continue to endure all the endless tasks of an educator and academic, so that I will not have to be subjugated to the humiliation of being that rich dork Richard Brandson for even one day. Honestly, I don’t know how he can stand himself, but I assume he has a close party of advisors that shield him from knowing “the truth”, like our current and soon to be former Presidente.
BB: Do you think that we will see an alt-energy bubble (or surge in investment) here or anywhere in the world? If yes, how and in what primary areas (e.g., wind, wave power, etc.) do you think it will play out?
DD: Oh yes, you can gamble money on it. The alternative energy bubble will be big in the US and in various parts of the developed and perhaps even developing countries of the world. All types of energy schemes will be tried, some with legitimate promotions as true alternatives to fossil fuels and, of course, since we haven’t yet imprisoned or killed too many of them (yet), many schemes with illegitimate promotions from the legions of scammers running about.
I think Scott over at CFN said it best today (Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008) in response to one of my earlier comments there, “As long as we can profit now, who cares what happens later, especially if later is not in our lifetime. It is easy to extrapolate the status quo past our lifetime as long as we are willing accomplices.”
Wind, tidal energy will be big, and perhaps algae biofuels. I think land plant ethanol is topped out already, thankfully, as it is having negative impacts upon food production and ecosystems. I don’t foresee solar energy as photovoltaic taking off “at scale”, but perhaps something big as simpler solar concentrators or boilers spread across the US southwest and northern Mexico. Nuclear fission seems to be too late and half a trillion short, at least in the US. Hydro-power is tapped out, as is coal, so coal-to-liquids is a non-starter, as are ramped-up oil sands and oil shales (aka the rocks that burn). OTEC seems as far away as nuclear fusion and solar microwave power beams from geostationary (we gotta hope) satellites in Earth orbit. Nice dreams, though, like having human space colonies on the Moon and Mars. Maybe.
BB: If you were asked by the incoming Obama administration to provide three recommendations on how America (at this late stage in the game) might best attempt to address environmental and/or resource depletion issues, what would you tell them?
DD: First, promote conservation and lifestyle changes. They’re going to happen anyway, but people like to think they are taking charge of events, and not vice versa. This is where presidential leadership will be most effective. It’s also going to be much more effective than all the alternative energy schemes.
Second, keep a wary eye upon maintenance of and improvements to interstate commerce infrastructure and the country’s power grids. This could include the implementation of Jim Kunstler’s favorite topic of expanding, improving and electrifying the railroads and what waterways we already have, plus doing such crazy things as burying power cables within the roadways that would both benefit electrical transmission by protecting the lines from storms and provide a source of electricity for trams, trolleys, all-electric cars and PHEVs in the near future.
Thirdly but not lastly, clean coal. And I mean CO2-clean, not just soot particle, mercury and sulfur clean like the coal industry likes to promote that they’re doing (BFD). We have to reduce our atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, and CO2 is number one in sheer quantity. It’s disgraceful and immoral what we have done and continue to do now with coal in this country. The US should and can lead by example for China, India and the rest of the world to follow.
BB: If you and your family had to leave Hawaii, would you consider living in a country (California, for example) where most of the people don’t speak English?
DD: Having taken Spanish in high school, and listening to literally hundreds of hours of bilingual used car salesmen on LA TV whilst watching old movies (mostly westerns) in my formative years there, I think I can speak the lingo, or at least fake it effectively. It’s somewhere beyond my survival French and German, so yes, I could probably make the move. Seriously, we have about a million people living on an island of about 600 square miles, with under 8 percent of that limited area used for farming. I think about moving off this island about every other day.
BB: Other than the draw of multigenerational participation in male initiation rituals and such, has the allure of living in Papua New Guinea faded any for you (now that the proverbial Asmat shit is hitting the fan)?
DD: Papua New Guinea is the New York City of wilderness survival. If you can make it there, you can probably make it anywhere. Not only are there steep mountainous terrains, with dense rain forests and swamps full of poisonous snakes, leaches and other nasty crawly creatures, one has to manage Dale Carnegie-like social skills just to avoid having a neighbor hand your head to you. As it is a type locality for giant fruit bats, and malaria and dinge fever-carrying mosquitoes, many locals live along the breezy coasts where the fishing is also good, but are all too often hit by deadly tsunamis in the middle of the night with no warning. So all-in-all, there’s a reason PNG still belongs to its natives, and Club Meds have not developed there. I’d rather take my chances with the more civilized Fijians, which BTW Captain Bligh would not do.
BB: If you could travel back in time to hang with anyone on this list, whom would it be and why?
(a) Captain Cooke
(b) Charles Darwin
(c) R. A. F. Penrose, Jr.
(d) Winston Churchill
(e) John F. Kennedy, the Thirty-Fifth President of the United States
(f) M. King Hubbert
DD: Whoa, I see you saved the hardest question for last. I have to pick only one? I guess if the key word is hanging, I’d have to pick Capt. James Cook. First, since we’d be at sea for months, I’d get a chance to really chat with the guy. And, he was a man of action, science, technology and adventure–you know his crew loved and respected him, like a father figure, I’m informed.
I’ve always suspected Gene Rodenberry used Cook’s Pacific discovery voyages as a template or model for his “Star Trek” TV shows and movies, with Capt. James Kirk as the futuristic version of Cook. Both eagerly engaged the exotic peoples they encountered, with some danger involved and luck, I may add. Did you know, for example, that on his third voyage, whilst in Tonga, the Tongan chiefs had decided to kill him at one of their feasts, but they took too long to decide amongst themselves who would kill him, so meanwhile Cook finished his meal and went back to his ship for the evening? A true story. That man was living on borrowed time.
Whilst in port somewhere, I would attempt to alter history by secretly teaching the good captain how to swim, so in the end at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii, he would not have to stand on that shallow lava ledge and risk getting hit by a rock or stabbed in the back with one of his own iron knife presents to the Hawaiians. I’ve been to that spot (now under a few feet of water, the island is sinking fast). The bay has a certain quality to it like no other in the islands.
BB: Thank you.
Typical Hawaiian Sunset as seen from our house in Hawaii Kai, east Oahu. Leahi (Diamond Head) crater in background.
View to south toward Lanai from Hotel Molokai, at sunrise. The chairs in the restaurant-bar stay empty most of the time these days, as island tourism wains.
Wind farm at South Point, Hawaii island. This pioneering company is now defunct because of turbine corrosion (salt) problems. It was an eyesore.
Wind map of the SE Hawaiian islands showing relative velocities in color. The sea channels between the islands are windiest (blue colors).
Prawn farms on NE Oahu, near Kahuku. The days of vast sugar cane and pineapple plantations in the islands are mostly over now.
Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii island. Capt. Cook met his end on Feb. 14, 1779 on the low peninsula in the far background. He was asking for it that day, and the Hawaiians obliged him.
(All images and their descriptions provided by Dr. Doom)