Global Climate Change: A Brickstory

by Shane L. Larson

Global climate change is one of the most serious problems facing our civilization, and doing something about it is hampered dramatically (particularly in the United States) by our deteriorating ability to talk about issues, and the politicization of science and evidence-based reasoning.

This presentation is rendition of an Ignite talk I gave for IgniteChicago. Ignite is a unique talk format designed to present ideas and seed conversations — it consists of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds (whether you are ready for them to or not!), so the entire talk only lasts 5 minutes! Climate change is a big enough issue that it definitely cannot be covered or discussed completely in 5 minutes, but the beginnings of a conversation can be laid down.

If you would like to learn more about global climate change, then one of the best books I know is “Dire Predicitions: Understanding Climate Change” by Michael Mann and Lee Kump. It is easy to read, has lots of explanatory material about the underlying science and the social and economic impacts to our civilization, and discussion of the major arguments you hear regarding this topic. It is an excellent book.

I built all the Lego models here; the bird on Slide 11 is the bird from Lego Set 21301 (Lego Ideas: Birds, now retired). Lego spheres of the sort I use here are a common design used by the amateur Lego community; the particular “Earth” pattern I use is the one designed by Jason Alleman in his Lego Orrery. The images are the images from my slides; the text is what I said during the talk (it was not on the original slides). Click on any of the images to make it a bit larger to read.

Thanks to the folks at Ignite Chicago and the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago for hosting this talk and providing a space to have a big conversation.


2 responses to “Global Climate Change: A Brickstory

  1. Hi!Shane

    Science often if not always clashes with social maturity. As is the case with the changing climate.
    It’s a shame such an important issue, otherwise a simple delivery of scientific facts, has been so mired in society’s paradigm of winning and losing.
    Having said this and taking the facts into consideration, it still begs the question:-
    “Why is it still necessary to create machinery and technology which in themselves require the establishment, transmission and disposal of energy sources, resulting in the subsequent emissions.?”

    This may be a naive question, however it is quite frustrating to hear the constant debating over how we will power our beloved necessities, when few are asking why
    the everyday needs and luxuries cannot be provided through a more 21st century
    Your obvious response would be to say that without an energy source, we could not
    expect to live in quite the same way. Food is an energy provider for the body, electricity and gas are two of the energy sources for lights and cooking. Everything is geared around a primary energy base.

    Thinking outside the square of a moment. If I want to light a room then all I need to do is flick a switch. There is a primary source of power and a device which allows for light (such as the light bulb).
    Given that nature provides the tools for some creatures to “see” in the dark is it not reasonable to expect the possibility of not needing lights at all? How can non-energy
    sucking devices be adapted to allow us to have a room “be seen” in the dark?

    Crazy ideas lead to crazy results, but if we go on forever developing energy required
    devices, then we surely will inflame social castle building.Thus facilitating through negligence, the on-going reality of a changing climate.

    • Shane L. Larson

      b- there are always creative people who transform technology into new, adapted uses. Your example of changing the paradigm of lighting to “sense” a room without lighting is an interesting one — it reminds me of an example about the paradigm of “heating.” My recollection is there was a time when there was serious consideration of the idea of not forcibly heating air in a room, and using conduction then to heat everything in the room; instead the idea was to bathe the room in microwaves, and heat the people in the room who would react with the microwaves. There is resistance to this idea, as you might imagine. 🙂 However, today we are coming back to this notion in an oblique way when working on heating in electric cars in cold climates — most cars use engine waste heat to provide heat in the cab of the car, but electric cars have no such resource, so they have to somehow address the comfort of the human passengers; the solution at the moment is not to heat the air in the cab of the car, but to heat what needs to be heated (the humans, via heated seats etc) at lower energy cost. Not the same idea as the microwaves, but philosophically the same approach. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post — I hope you use it to have many conversations with your family and friends like this one. Clear skies! — Shane

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