Iran’s Environmental Problems Are An Opportunity For Regeneration

When uber-warmonger regime change cheerleader Thomas Friedman gets on the Iran water crisis bandwagon you know for sure something toxic is brewing in the backroom.

This is Part Three of my previous commentaries regarding Iran’s environmental problems. Part One rang the alarm bell while Part Two outlined alternative development trajectories so as to head off almost certain catastrophe.

So instead of rehashing and delving into the abysmal past and present of Iran’s water crisis, which can be found hereherehere, and here, it may make more sense to outline some possible solutions to the water crisis and other environmental problems.

For close to ten years I’ve attempted to transfer the technology known as “seawater greenhouse” to Iran. A year and half ago the inventor of the technology was in Tehran and during the four days he was here we drafted a contract and the detailed workings of the unpatented public domain technology was clearly explained to me and a team of very smart engineers and horticulturists that I had recruited.

The inventor had previously transferred the technology to Sundrop Farms for two and half million dollars and after the success of a two thousand square meter pilot project one hundred and fifty million dollars was secured from Wall Street so as to expand to the current twenty thousand square meter operation. Executives at Sundrop Farms claim their business is based on proprietary technology but according to the inventor of the technology this is not true.

I mention all of this because at the end of this article I will provide detailed information on how the technology works and how best to implement it in Iran. With this information made public it is now up to those in Iran to implement it, be it through private or public funding.

What is very important for those making decisions in Iran is to realize that solving our environmental problems, be it the water crisis, eliminating Tehran’s suffocating air pollution, shifting to all electric vehicles, building solar farms, producing biodegradable plastics, are all job creating enterprises. This has been proven to be the case in America, China, Europe, and India, with the latter even having a Ministry of New and Renewable Energy that offers low interest microloans. China has one hundred and fifty million electric vehicles on its roads, mostly motorbikes. How many does Iran have? Less than a thousand would be my guess. Entire city bus fleets in China are being converted to electric powered buses while we have not yet fully converted to CNG, which is not much of an improvement.

Iran builds buses, many companies make electric motors, and we even have a manufacturing plant making lithium batteries, so bringing these things together should not be that difficult, right? However, given how things work in Iran to bring these three together will take five years to accomplish. Those in authority need to ask themselves, “Why will it take five years and not five months?” When they ask that question they will find the answer staring them back in the face.

Iranians are not stupid and they are not uneducated so why are things the way they are? “Sanctions!” comes back the answer. Really? Or is that just an excuse to dodge responsibility? Was it sanctions that built six hundred dams without proper consideration of their ecological ramifications? Is it because of sanctions that cheap Chinese products are pouring into Iran and killing off domestic manufacturing? Is it because of sanctions that foreign car manufactures are investing in obsolete gasoline powered production lines and not transferring their latest EV technology?

It’s best not to get too riled up so as to place blame and instead focus on what needs to be done and how best to solve our problems. Here is one idea for solving Tehran’s air pollution problem, and best of all it does not need any funding because it is almost entirely self-funding. Tesla and now Nissan are rapidly moving towards offering a package whereby solar panels, in combination with a storage device, power energy requirements for the home and electric vehicles. This makes so much sense that it got me thinking about how it can be implemented in Tehran.

Tehran is about 730 square kilometers. So I wondered how many Tesla’s would it power if ten percent of this area was covered in solar panels. This was the answer I got from an engineer from Tesla:

If you actually were to cover that much area with PV solar panels, you could easily power over 50 billion Tesla miles per year. If you include smaller EVs, that number goes up. This is over 6,000 miles per year for every man, woman, and child in the city (assuming 8M people).

In other words if we had 70 square kilometers of PV solar panels in Tehran it would be sufficient to provide all the clean power needed for the residence of Tehran to use electric vehicles for their transportation needs.

Okay, so where to put all those PV solar panels? Why not on top of roofs given that 90% of roofs in Tehran are flat. But let’s instead of just placing the PV panels onto the roofs why not put them atop of an extra addition, somewhat similar in design to the house pictured below.

Such a design uses space frame technology which is very light and sturdy and would not weigh more than 60 kilos per square meter and given that most buildings in Tehran have a snow load of 150 kilos per square meter the additional weight will not be a problem.

So what we end up with is an additional floor using pre-fabricated modular space frame technology that can easily be assembled on top any roof in Tehran.

Now here is the part about how it pays for itself. The average apartment in Tehran sells for around a thousand dollars per square meter. To build and assemble this rooftop addition, including the PV solar panels, will cost about five hundred dollars per square meter. Therefore not only do you end up with making a profit but you also have free energy that powers your residence and your electrical vehicle, via the charging outlet on the ground floor.

If the city of Tehran was to fully support such a plan Tehran could be pollution free within five years. All it requires is for the city to issue the necessary permits. And if it all went according to plan a building owner with a 150 square meter roof would spend $75,000 for the rooftop addition, then sell it for a profit of $75,000, which would be stipulated to be spent on the purchase of electrical vehicles and installing a charging station.

Of course there are many details to be worked out for such a major plan but it makes sense the same way Tesla’s and Nissan’s plan makes sense for installing PV solar panels and storage devices in each residence. But there is another feature that this plan has which should make it very appealing to those making decisions about Iran’s future; there are no sanctions that get in the way for implementing this plan. Therefore, no excuses.

As promised here is a detailed explanation of how the seawater technology works and how it could maybe play a very significant role in solving Iran’s water crisis.

The heart of the technology is a honeycombed cardboard wall over which salt water constantly flows. Either using existing wind conditions, or through the use of solar powered fans, the air on the other side where the plants are is greatly cooled and there is an increase of water vapor, creating very favorable growing conditions. These conditions substantially lower the amount of water the plants require and this water is supplied via drip irrigation connected to a reverse osmosis unit powered by solar panels.

You may think this water soaked cardboard wall would very quickly become soggy and fall apart but instead it becomes encrusted with sediments from the sea water and ends up lasting for years.

The sea water keeps flowing, or dripping, over the cardboard wall until it reaches ninety percent saturation where it is then collected in a trough at the bottom of the wall and taken to a location where it is crystalized into salts used for industrial processes.

If the above arrangement is used with a closed greenhouse the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals that are normally used is eliminated or greatly diminished because pests and bugs can’t get past the wet cardboard wall.

Used with a netting arrangement and therefore at a far lower cost the technology still functions in terms of lowering temperatures and increasing water vapor content on the other side of the cardboard wall but has yet to be fully tested and calibrated. Somaliland invested a million dollars in this netting arrangement a couple of years ago and the results should be made public soon.

On YouTube there is a very good video presentation that explains photo-selective netting which has shown to increase output from ten to forty percent in some cases. Essentially using different colored netting at variable mesh sizes has positive results with different fruit trees. So, it’s logical that incorporating photo-selective netting with the seawater technology will improve yields.

One very interesting unexpected byproduct of the seawater technology was to discover that the surrounding land goes through changes due to the increased water vapor that is generated and desolate dessert land starts to turn green. A one thousand square meter greenhouse or net-house will alter the microclimate of the surrounding ten thousand square meters of nearby land.

The issue of how to implement this technology on a wide enough scale so that it will play a significant part towards solutions for Iran’s environmental problems was one that had to be found. Simply duplicating a Sundrop Farm operation in Iran may end up being a profitable business for a small number of individuals but it will contribute very little to solving the major problems Iran faces.

Therefore a scalable plan of implementation is required, which a franchise business model offers. Below is one possible approach.

S. G. of Iran would established an operation near Tehran with the following three functions: (1) A demonstration of how the technology works. (2) A training center for operators of the greenhouse. (3) And an office for franchise sales.

Investors would be offered the opportunity to own a seawater greenhouse franchise to be located somewhere along the southern or Persian Gulf coastal region. The greenhouse would be built and the staff fully trained and once fully operational it would be handed over to the investor. The output of the greenhouse would be purchased and distributed by S. G. of Iran. Ten or twenty percent of the profits would be directed towards a foundation that would provide low interest loans to farmers to own their own greenhouses.

Such a plan would be totally dependent on the full cooperation of a multitude of government organizations, and most likely that’s where problems would crop up. However, if we assume these government organizations did fully support these plans then with almost free land, free salt water, and free solar energy this technology could not only provide Iran’s food requirements but also contribute to foreign exchange reserves through exports of high quality organic agricultural produce. At the same time the increased generation of water vapor would gradually alter the regional climate.

At a later stage canals can be dug for transporting the seawater and altering climates further inland and making more land productive. With almost the same rapid rate that the cost of PV solar panels have decreased in price so has reverse osmosis technology and it is these two key technologies in combination with the seawater greenhouse technology that can turn Iran green. Climate change is in full swing and only by taking action NOW can Iran survive and avoid mass migration and all the other apocalyptic forecasts.

However, none of the above will happen given what is very well described by Iranian journalist Rahman Bouzari who writes for Shargh Daily:

What we are witnessing now is a gridlocked systemic and systematic crisis. Systemic, for the whole system, in contrast to a particular part of it, suffers from a widespread endemic corruption that functions as a kernel in which the four-decades of socio-economic and political grievances are visible. Systematic, for the structural defects and problems cannot be solved or even fixed by minor modifications that serve only to defer any real transformation. It also means the whole system, including the so-called reformists and the conservatives, are responsible for the present predicament.

And this,

Apart from destabilizing political-economic factors, it is necessary to find out that almost every four corners of the country is subjected to drought, air pollution, dust pollution, lake-drying, and infrastructural defects that are on the verge of devastating collapse. Four-decades of mismanagement by all factions of the ruling elite in the IR have left the country with an ecological crisis which could now propel to an environmental disaster. This is not an apocalyptic vision but a real one, based on facts and figures.

Iranian authorities must act quickly before environmental problems become swords in the hands of Iran’s enemies. All these environmental problems are opportunities for Iranians to learn to work together so as to regenerate the land and create a green future, and a good future.

If saving the country requires a total restructuring of the decision making process then that is what has to be done, not by outsiders, but by Iranians living in Iran. This is not a call for revolution or regime change but a mindful, careful, well thought out rearrangement of how decisions are made so that the best options are implemented without the interference of self-centered greed or an ego trip. And for this to happen it is essential for a clear understanding of the facts and a thorough identification of the problems because without that decisions makers are lost within their own incomplete perspectives resulting in more bad decisions.

The bottom line is that Iran faces an existential threat and only by working together and setting aside all our entrenched differences can we build a good sustainable future. Yes, united we stand, divided we fall, it’s that simple.

Via Counter Punch

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