Return to the
Welcome Page

Bonusjoules and the Knowledge Economy
by Dave McArthur for the NZAEE National Conference 2006

Return to  Update Page



 Abstract of Seminar

There is little evidence of science underpinning the communication of the nature of energy and no evidence of science underpinning the communication of climate issues. This results in the risk of our civilisation being undermined by flawed uses of vital symbols and a loss of science. It may well also result in the New Zealand Environmental Industry being a major block to sustainable development. This paper discusses these phenomena and promotes simple strategies for avoiding major flawed uses and for promoting science. It promotes the use of the Trace Gas model for communication of climate issues and the use of the Greenhouse Model for communicating best uses of air in dwelling and clothing use. It promotes the twin complementary, co-evolving concepts of bonusjoules-junkjoules operating within the circle of compassion as a measure of energy efficiency.  “Smart” electricity and solar use are promoted as key Environmental Education issues and the future beyond the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age.

Environmental Education = The communication of:

Love (Knowledge of the bounteous nature of energy.)

Compassion (The capacity to embrace the uncertainty of bonusjoules-junk joules in the great energy flux - our environment.) 

Hope (The capacity to believe beyond PR Spin and Greenwash & to know every action counts.)

Key Hypotheses

Psychology of Communication – 7 Key points



Climate Change

Global Warming


Trace (gas)

Energy Efficiency

5 Step analysis of Energy Use of an Environmental Education Resource.


Summary Strategies


Welcome to this largely visual exploration of our images of the nature of energy and of how our climate works. This seminar used 128 Power Point slides and this site links to many of the illustrations used. Web readers PLEASE NOTE -be prepared to keep your finger on the BACK BUTTON  to return to  this page. 


It is the most exhilarating and challenging journey we can undertake. The journey is the ultimate drama for if we get it wrong then our species faces extinction. There is always the possibility that a volcanic eruption or a meteor or an extreme solar flair wipes us out. These are simply that: possibilities. However there is one way we can guarantee that our civilisations and even our species is wiped out: that is by cultivating flawed images of the nature of energy. (Click here to see cartoon panel discussing an example of the NZ Government's use of a symbol that promotes flawed images of energy)

Large civilisations have ensured their collapse and even extinction by means of flawed images in the past. Ours is a privileged generation. Now we can ensure the extinction of civilisations on an unprecedented global scale. If evidence from the thermal imaging satellites and from the methane bubbling out of the melting Siberian tundra and from the depths of our oil and Gas wells is credible, then it surely is time to review our images of the nature of energy.

This prospect might seem pretty epic and overwhelming, a bit dismal. And yes the challenges we face are immense. However I am happy to tell you that three great forces fundamentally drive this exploration:

  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Hope.

I define Environmental Education as the communication of these capacities. When we know them we are opened and connected to our greater existence. We are linked to a greater wisdom within us and within our communities and can more fully appreciate how the intricate flux of balances in our environment sustain us.

I have little space in this short presentation to elaborate on this statement. In brief:

As the bounteous nature of energy is revealed we are filled with love.

As we know the humility inherent in the great Uncertainty Principle we know compassion for ourselves, for others and for our environment.

Compassion embraces all shades and  colours, the good with the bad.

As we realise that even small changes in our use of symbols and resources do make a difference we know hope.

Title of page: Looking for inspiration?
See cartoon panel

It is the role of Environmental Education to communicate most truly the true nature of energy.


My general hypothesis is that if serious research is performed it will indicate that our current use of symbols is profoundly flawed and they tend to promote images that generate maladaptive responses. As an aside, if these hypotheses are supported then there is a corollary question that might interest the NZAEE: Is the Environmental Education Industry currently a major block to sustainable development?

Key Hypotheses

  • Little science: communication of the nature of energy.
  • No science: communication of how our climate works.
  • The PR industry =dominant determinant of symbol use (curriculum frameworks).
  • You can avoid Energy Gobbledygook, Greenwash & Spin
  • Smart” solar & electricity use =the future

Communication of the nature of energy.

I can find no serious research of the aggregate impact of the different uses of the energy symbol by scientists, “energy experts”, education institutions, the Environmental Education industry and the PR industry. Many of these uses are completely contradictory. Some define energy as a particular energy form or fuel.  Some confuse energy conservation (an impossible idea anyway) with energy efficiency.

Communication of how our climate works.

Again I can find no serious research of the impact of our use of symbols. Many uses are ambiguous and contradictory. Greenpeace and the New Zealand Climate Change Office have done some research but these do not tackle the real issues such as the relative impact of the use of symbols, especially on energy efficiency practice. The Potsdam Institute did some very interesting research into the impact of the movie The Day After Tomorrow.  

This failed to support their hypothesis, and that of both Greenpeace and the New Zealand Green Party too, that the movie would empower people. I predicted on  of Human-induced Climate Change. These hypotheses were both supported by the Potsdam research.

The PR industry.

The PR industry is probably the largest industry on the globe, certainly in terms of resources and scientific know-how. The formal education industry has extremely limited resources and impact by comparison. A teacher is lucky to communicate a message 3 times in 3 ways.  PR can communicate a message thousands of times in dozens of ways. How many school passageways are adorned year-in year-out with Ronald McDonald McClick posters?

This poster links McDonalds with health and safety. 
It is promoted in our schools by the NZ Government through the Police Ministry.

In particular PR is highly skilled at affecting our primal responses whereas formal education is relatively limited to affecting our intellectual response. The PR industry can and does effectively set the national education curriculum. It is pretty much all-pervasive and the Environmental Education Industry is traditionally one of its most vital conduits. It does this visibly through leveraging off sponsorship and invisibly by shaping the flow of funds away from “unhelpful” education programmes.

Avoidance of Spin etc.

There are very simple strategies that require only your careful use of symbols. The beauty of these strategies is that they also promote quality science. More on this later.

The Future

In brief: mining the earth, the oceans and atmosphere is not future. This includes uranium mining. The future of our civilisation depends on the conservation of our solar generation capacity and smart uses of all forms of electricity. These two strategies are profoundly linked.

It is perhaps helpful to understand some of the psychology I base my exploration on. You may not subscribe to it but please be patient and see what it reveals.

Psychology of Communication – 7 Key points

  • We are our images
  • Consciousness = trace element of our being.
  • Primal Responses dominate
  • Power of symbols –reflect our deep conditioning
  • In importance: Mentioned = Omitted.
  • The invisible reveals the visible.
  • Environmental Education = the communication of compassion.


This term is often used to describe pictures as in photos, graphics, cartoons and other visual media. I am using its deeper meaning. It is the sum experience of all our senses and emotional associations. For instance, we can generate an image using any of our senses as in this case of a greenhouse. 


The experience of the greenhouse will be the sum of all the associations ever made with a greenhouse. For one person the dominant sense may be of peace and serenity based on experiences in greenhouses in wet windy climates. For another the dominant sense is of anxiety if they had bad experiences growing commercial hothouse tomatoes. For another it might be a sense of luxury if they associate it with prolific growth and strong smelling earth.

In that moment of experience we become and live that sense. We are the image. That sense largely determines our response to the symbol.

Consciousness = trace element

I will enlarge on this later and restrict myself to saying we are much more than we are consciously aware of in any moment. We are an immense ocean of subconscious knowledge and wisdom and our conscious will is a single sparkle on all the waves of the sea. Sounds deep? Well it is. The illustrations I use are two-dimensional. Three and even more dimensions would be more helpful.

Some become alarmed at the thought of such profound subliminal activity. I will simply remind you that you would not be here if this deeper knowledge and wisdom had not sustained humanity this last million years.

Two corollaries to this are

(1)   Measure the walk rather than the talk –it is what a person does that tells the real story. That is especially true of the impact of an educator’s walk.

(2)    Our use of symbols reflects our dominant primal being. Our choice of symbol or metaphor is neither accidental nor a matter of simple convenience. It is driven by a profound if largely subliminal rationale.

Check out recent RMI research on brains responses to advertisements. RMI is still  a deceptively poor pyschology measure but these results give us an idea of how the brain can be experiencing the opposite to what a person says

We are Trace Beings.

The electrons that make us are trace moments of actuality in a vast ocean of possibilities. The atoms that make us are almost entirely space. Trace elements of our gene code differentiate us. “Trace gases” sustain the thermal balance of Earth that enables us. We are trace elements of the universe. Our beings consist of a vast psychology in which any moment of consciousness is a trace element.

We must begin teaching from Level I in our schools the concepts of tiny fractions and leverage if we are to understand our Trace Beings and climate processes in particular. This can start with activities as simple as counting a thousand grains of sand or beans or trying to count to a thousand in bed at night.

This knowledge is vital in understanding risk analysis, one of the key components of Environmental Education.

As an aside, it also has great value in communicating exponential processes such as compound interest on bank loans. Then students can understand how a 200 grand mortgage cost 540 grand in interest over thirty years at current rates

Note: Search Google  Images of leverage  and nearly all the illustrations involve finance companies.

Primal Responses dominate.

 In any moment our conscious response is only one of millions of subconscious responses to our environment and the changes of the energy flux we inhabit. It takes great humility to acknowledge this fact for it does seem to challenge our sense of “free will”. However those who do enjoy the humility required are better placed to trust and act on the great wisdom that resides in each of us. The paradox is we then know a greater sense of freedom.

The power of symbols.

A symbol can take almost any form – word (written, spoken,) picture, sound, smell, you name it. Think of two sticks marked in the form of a cross. They can evoke profound associations with death, grief, love, God incarnate… Symbols reside within symbols too. For instance, individual words are each symbols and the way they are laid out on a page form greater symbols that can completely alter our response to the smaller symbol.


Life Life Life
LifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLife Life

As the great profit of the electronic age, Marshal McCluhan put it over 40 years ago, “The Medium is the Message”. This is a complex idea and has enormous implications for Environmental Educators who engage with sponsorship and the commercial media.

When we use a symbol and how we respond to a symbol reflects our state of being. We often hear people, particularly educators and journalists, excuse and dismiss their use of a symbol as “just a word” or “just a metaphor” or “ just a symbol”.  This is a denial of the reality that our use of and response to a symbol is determined by fundamental primal beliefs. In many ways it reveals a lack of love and of science. If we fail to understand the power of our primal beings in ourselves we cannot understand how others respond to the symbol use either.

Mentioned = Omitted.

A fundamental skill in learning drawing is to be able to see the negative and positive space. In this case I have drawn all the space, which is not the chair and the symbol of the chair emerged from it. I looked and drew the spaces between the rungs and legs, not the rungs and legs themselves. What is wonderful about this is that we end up with a drawing that more represents the chair than if I had concentrated only on the rungs and legs. It is more truthful.

The PR industry understands this well and it is highly skilled at manipulating the positive and negative spaces of our consciousness. For instance fossil fuel companies like NGC and PowerCo call themselves energy companies thus omitting the air out of the energy equation. They invest in “goodwill” by sponsoring local orchestras and forest reserves to obscure their impact on the greater and invisible thermal balances of the atmosphere.

Click here to see a  cartoon sequence of  five-panels offering commentary on lack of chimneys on thermal plant and bottom less lakes on hydro-electricity plant in Genesis Energy's education module The initial thermal plant had no chimney at all

That is why the oil sector and SUV devotees loved the Auckland Regional Council “Dob in a Smoker” programme. Removing visible pollution masks the far greater invisible pollution. Enviroschools is a classic case – it is sponsored by the New Zealand Government which in turn is driven by commercial imperatives that can loosely be summed up in its Clean Green Image strategy (not, as you will be aware, the Clean Green Practice) and making money from carbon trading. 

Anyone who has seriously attempted to promote climate education research, has studied the carbon emission, truck and SUV use or transport investment statistics or has sat in on Climate Change Office briefings to the business sector or who has read the Minister of Energy Peter Hodgson’s press releases, as I have, will know the Government promotes carbon trading as a useful source of income because of our “good fortune” in having existing forest sinks. The recent Fart Tax, Carbon Trading and Carbon emissions fiascos  (An estimated  $500 million surplus suddenly became a $500 million deficit) were predictable and avoidable. As was the Christmas announcement the New Zealand Parliament is scrapping the long planned Carbon Tax.

 It is no mistake that Enviroschools does not have a significant energy-climate component. 

Class Learning and Action
earning and action is organised around 5 themes:
Living Landscapes
Ecological Buildings
Healthy Water
Precious Energy
Zero Waste

I doubt it would have got funding if it had. What was its role in these fiascos?  It is also no mistake the Government refused to fund the Energy Action 2008 programme, which works to reveal the real impact of  New Zealand ’s activities on the atmosphere.

The invisible reveals the visible.

This is a corollary to the above discussion on omission. Few skills are required to teach the visible. Greater skills are required to teach the invisible. Our Trace Beings, our Thermal Beings (we cannot see heat) and the air that sustains us are all largely invisible. Focusing on the development of skills that promotes awareness of these invisible milieus will provide the skills and more that enable us to teach the visible.  Because our intellects and the formal education system tend to focus on the visible the reverse is not true.


The Principle of Uncertainty, one of the great principles underpinning ancient psychologies like Buddhism and modern ones like quantum physics, says that our very act of observation alters the observed. We cannot be an impartial observer. This is something many Scientists have difficulty coming to grips with. I recommend the movie “What the Bleep do we Know?!” as an interesting exploration of the implications of this.

I draw from this the belief that while we are part of creation we can never truly know what good comes from bad.

It also suggests that your view is equally is vital and valid as my view of an object. The truth lies somewhere in the summation of all our views. I draw from this the need and value of tolerance. All points of view count and we can learn from them all. There is nothing new in this concept – sages through the ages have attempted to communicate it to every civilisation.

The fact we can never truly know good from bad does not leave us immune to the consequences of our choices. No. We need constantly be aware of the balances of environment that sustain us and we ignore them at our cruel peril. So how do we transcend our ignorance, our “human condition”? In the message of tolerance I speak of we find compassion. Compassion enables us to learn from our mistakes, to communicate to others so they feel acceptance and to care for the natural world.

 General Concept

Psychology Continuum:  Science < - >  PR 


Inclusive                                                                Exclusive

Openness                                                              Limitation

Trust                                                                     Doubt

Collegiality                                                            Fear

The qualities and emotions listed under Science tend to  generate bonus joules.  The qualities and emotions  listed under PR tend to generate junk joules.       

This PR example displays all the qualities listed above. The man is alone, alienated by his hair. The original ad had woman lying beside his hairy body. Her face and body language expressed total revulsion of him.


I will now apply this summary thinking to the great symbols that underpin civilisation, agriculture and Environmental Education

Energy symbol

·         One of most potent symbols.
The only symbols that have comparative power are love, sex, life, God and, of course, power. They express our capacity to exist at the most profound level and are often used interchangeably eg God is life. Love is bounteous as energy. Etc

·         Underpins all human activity.
The energy symbol underpins all our awareness of religion, science, politics, civilisation and Environmental Education.

·         Hard to define:
Stuff or potential or capacity that “enables” universe. “The ability to do work” "the ability for action"

·         Flawed images => extinction of civilisation
From the Mayas to the Minoans to the Mesopotamians to the Greeks to the Easter Islanders, civilisations have treated trees and soils as though they were as bounteous as the universe and as a result their civilisations were reduced to miserable remnants as the resource disappeared.

·         Recent redefinition by industrial sector.
The last thirty years have seen a redefinition or imagineering of the energy symbol by banking interests/industrial sectors. The movies Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and The Corporation offer valuable insight into how these sectors work. Wikpedia puts it kindly when it discusses the business definition of energy. This says energy 

“may also be used in economics to describe 
the part of the market where energy itself is
 harnessed and sold to consumers.”

     A less kind description is that this wonderful symbol has been expropriated by greed-driven merchants who wish to use fossil fuels and sell Bulk-electricity regardless of the consequences to the environment or our children. Put simply, modern economics is not founded in the reality that we ignore natural balances at our peril.

See three panels of cartoons the exploring  history of the imagineering of energy symbol.

·         Conservation Principle = near as we have to a natural law.
 The Principle states that energy remains constant though it is constantly transformed. It cannot be created or destroyed and is by its very nature renewed. Humans have dreamed since time immemorial of discovering forms with the bounteous properties of energy. There are always people claiming to have created perpetual motion machines, elixirs of youth, eternal health medicines and sources of Renewable Energy. Often the latter are merchants of large wind mills, huge hydro dams and ethanol cars – all ultimately unsustainable investments.
The truth is there is not one single authenticated account of any human ever breeching the Principle of Conservation. Modern corporations that attempt to describe a fossil fuel or Bulk-electricity as energy are simply liars, con artists and charlatans. Their activities are made all the more dangerous because calling a fuel energy eliminates air out of the equation and puts us all at risk of catastrophic human-induced climate change.  See the Genesis example of omission above.

·         Fatal confusion: Energy = energy form
Our confusion of energy with energy forms is fatal, for all energy forms are relatively very limited and the day an energy form is energy is the day when the universe does not exist. As mentioned, past civilisations have treated trees or the soil as though they are as bounteous as energy. Within a period of a few centuries they destroyed the forests and/or salinated rich soils beyond use for tens of thousands of years. 

·         Fatal confusion: Energy =Energy Use
The PR industry promotes and exploits this confusion. For example, note how we have an “energy crisis” when hydro-lakes run low. Spin merchants for the Bulk-electricity-Fossil fuel sector manipulate our most primal emotions of fear so they can organise our behaviour within carefully prescribed frameworks.  These maintain powerful associations with their product so it is seen as vital to our existence. In doing so they obscure alternatives such as long-term energy efficiency options. As soon as lake levels rise again the “energy crisis” evaporates. Note: they do not talk of energy use crises, less still of Bulk-electricity use crises.


(1)   Talking energy form? Name energy form(s).

(2)   Talking energy use? Use word use.

(3)   Talking crisis? Use crisis of use.

Power symbol

  • One of most potent symbols.
    As mentioned this is one of important symbols. Like energy we talk of Power of the Almighty, Power of Love etc
  • Symbol underpins all human activity
    - religion, science, politics, civilisation, Environmental Education
  • Definition 
    Energy divided by time. Joules per second
  • Redefined by Merchant Bankers
    The symbol is a major casualty of a century long war starting in the 1890’s by omni-powerful bankers like JP Morgan to gain power of the global economy using Bulk-electricity. {See Empires of Light : Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World (Hardcover by Jill Jonnes and Power Play by Sharon Beder: The Fight to Control the World's Electricity.)
    Initially the fight was between Alternating Current and Direct Current proponents with  Edison promoting the use of the electric death chair to show how dangerous AC is. These people are ruthless. Once this battle was over (AC won because it has the capacity to be a long distance carrier of energy) the fight became to ensure Bulk-electricity use dominated at the expense of small-scale “distributed generation” (DG) options. The returns for the bankers are far higher from Bulk-electricity investments than from small scale electricity generation at point of use.

    At present these bankers are very successful and dominate our perceptions of our options – with the considerable help of teachers and Environmental Educators. Think of how many education resources talk of Powerswitch, powerplay, power pole, power bill, power socket, power station, powerman, powerboard, powerline, etc. Every time the Power symbol is used this way it rings bells for the merchant bankers and obscures potential uses of other wonderful electricity forms.

    The use of the symbol in powerline is particularly unhelpful because the wires are also communication lines and have been so for 50 years. How many people know that? Local  grid operators have long been able to “talk” to and operate switches in your dwelling. The utility poles have always carried the copper telephone cables and now carry optic fibre too. It is now possible to transmit broadband down the so-called electricity wires and the bankers are now fighting a largely secret battle to gain control of this medium as well as ensuring broadband capacity is not used to affect their profits from fossil fuel/Bulk-electricity sales. The current transfer of control of Vector Ltd from community ownership to a couple of overseas merchant bankers continues this trend. All this has vast implications for our impact on the environment.


(1)   Talking electricity? Do NOT use Power symbol. (Electricity is only one form of power.)

(2)   Know electricity comes in many forms. Name the form you are referring to eg static, Bulk-generated, distributed generation, alternating current, direct current, Bioelectricity piezoelectricity, triboelectricity, thermoelectricity, atmospheric electricity, etc

(3)   Understand electricity is a field of science.


climate change symbol

  • Great constant in our life.
  • Symbol: normal association = positive feelings.

Think how you feel if the climate does not change – we soon begin to feel sensations of fear, concern, worry, dread. We know in our deepest cells of our being that change is the natural order just as energy is a flux of forms. The song turn turn turn resonates from biblical times and before

To every thing, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn,
and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep

  • Popular use= ambiguous >>> meaningless.
    While Environmental Educators may be attempting to communicate a negative or threatening situation because of, for instance, say gas emissions from human activities, people at a primal level are registering sensations of security and normalcy.
  • Requires caveats i.e. type of climate change.

Suggestion: talking climate change?

(1)   State type eg seasonal change, solar driven change, Human-induced change...

(2)   Use alternative symbols eg Thermal Imbalance, human pollution

global warming symbol

  • Essential for life on Earth.
    The continual warming of the globe is an essential process.
  • Symbol: normal association = positive feelings.
     Every cell in every creature or plant senses and responds to sunrise in some way or another. Hands up anyone who does no believe the daily warming of the globe is not a good thing for them.
    Links to web examples illustrating global warming is a perfectly natural, welcome, and healthy experience:  1. 2. 3. (Warning: Use of the lesson activities at this website is very high risk -NOT RECOMMENDED.  Serious research would probably indicate that their use will undermine science and strategies for mitigating human's impact on the thermal balances that sustain us.) 4. 
  • Popular use= ambiguous >>> meaningless.
    See climate change above. Also there is a profoundly different response to warming  (the temperature remains constant)) v warming UP (. The temperature rises.) These are two very different processes and experiences.
  • Unhelpful symbol for Human-Induced Climate Change.
    It removes the human element out of the equation and the fact that it is our activities that are the issue.
  • Increased thermal build-up >> local coolings.
    The effects and experience are not global. Examples are potential thermohalene circulation collapse on  Europe and increased snowfalls in centre of the Antarctic. The  severe cold of the 2006 winter in Europe is balanced by warmer than average weather in the American continent.

Suggestion: Talking human impact on Earth's thermal balances

(1)   Use symbol such as  Global Thermal Imbalance

(2)   Talking warming up/ cooling down? Say warming up/cooling down.

Greenhouse symbol of atmosphere (general)

  • Symbol use pervasive in Anglo US culture

This Greenpeace page evokes images of Earth's atmosphere no less than 10 times.
Note: Water Vapour, not carbon dioxide, is by far the most dominant Warmer Trace Gas. It is our prime experience of weather and without its presence Earth's surface would be 20C cooler than its current 15C.

  • Powerful PR tool.
    The Symbol green evokes very positive associations. It is no mistake a most powerful (there’s that symbol again), a most powerful lobby is
    The Greening Earth Society. This is a “ public relations organization founded, funded, and controlled by the Western Fuels Association, an alliance of coal-burning utility companies.”
  • Origin – Fourier 1820s.
    Fourier, the great mathematician, developed the greenhouse metaphor after experiencing the extreme thermal variations of the  Sahara as a young man. At a time when the existence of gases was barely known it was an extraordinary leap in cognition of atmospheric processes.
  • Associations = man’s dominance over nature.
    The Industrial Age coincided with the greenhouse becoming a great symbol of prestige as it enabled wealthy Europeans to grow tropical fruits such as the pine apple.

The great Crystal Palace of Great Exhibition 1851 had a huge impact on Western sensibility – as it was designed to. It glorified  Britain ’s engineering capacity and military might. Sermons of the time used it to proclaim the might and dominion of Man over nature and to glorify our powers.

  • Mechanistic (inorganic & static) world-view.
    The use of the term cannot but evoke images of human structures. We end up with the impossible situation where Environmental Education resources (e.g. Friends of the Earth) show pictures of a greenhouse so they can remind us that the atmosphere does not work like one.
  • Primal associations= shelter, control, calm.
    You can understand why the PR industry finds this use of the symbol invaluable. It rings all the right bells required for obscuring key knowledge and a sense of need for change. This may vary with tropical and temperate regions – anecdotal evidence is that it may have less comforting associations in the former.
  • Promotes unhelpful learning activities.
    Traditionally these involve experiences based on bottles, greenhouses and sealed cars in the sun. These do not promote “trace” and energy transformation activities.
  • In summary: a very poor use of the greenhouse symbol.

Greenhouse symbol of atmosphere (specific flaws)

  • Obscures great energy transformations.
    It is essential to understand that the bulk of the heat in the atmosphere is radiated from earth’s surface in the form of infrared waves and the atmosphere warms Earth’s surface more than the sun does.
  • Obscures gas transformations
    Example – the constant destruction and creation of ozone from solar activity. These involve truly extraordinary and massive vertical movements or pulsings of hundreds of kilometres of the atmosphere daily.

  • Obscures convection & conduction properties.
    It is the ability of the atmosphere to facilitate convection that enables life on Earth i.e. the fact that it does not act like a blanket. Blankets suppress air convection. We are better to see the atmosphere as warmed rivers of air flowing around the planet if we are to know the dynamics of our climate. We cannot simply open a vent and let excess heated air flow out as we do in a greenhouse.
  • Obscures fluxing layers of gases & heat.
    Unlike a greenhouse the atmosphere consists of many heat layers of heat

Greenhouse symbol of insulation (dwelling, clothing and transport)

  • Best use of symbol
  • Greenhouse = suppress air convection.
  • Air =facilitates thermal convection
  • Air = poor at thermal conduction
  • Best use of Blanket symbol.

Understanding how insulation works is essential for energy efficient practice in maintaining our personal comfort levels using clothing and buildings and minimising our negative impact on the environment.

Suggestion – Think major, long-term decision makers = builders/plumbers/ electricians.

Chapter 3 contains a sequence exploring 
some current practices of tradespeople.

Trace (gas)

  • Traditional definition: barely detectable.
    Before modern technology it was very difficult to detect and measure gases that exist in only a few parts per thousand of the atmosphere. Their presence was detectable but no more.
  • Current definition: relatively minute (<1%)
    Modern technology means we can detect gases that are a few parts in a million of the atmosphere. 99.9% of the atmosphere consists of just three gases – oxygen, nitrogen and argon. All the other gases exist in parts per thousand or less and are called Trace Gases. This includes water vapour, which varies from mainly 0% to 4% in a few small highly localised areas.
  • Warmer Gases = trace gases
    Some of the trace gas have a relatively high capacity to retain thermal energy in the form of infrared waves. They act as warmers and are warmer. Without them our planet’s surface would average 33°C cooler i.e. the Earth would lack life as we know it
  • Trace concept >> study of tiny portions, leverage & risk analysis.
    Teach trace theory is very different to teaching greenhouse theory. The focus is on lesson activities that developing a clear sense of large numbers and tiny proportions and on appreciating the power of leverage. This links later to the teaching of risk analysis in mitigating our impact on the environment.
  • We are Trace Beings
    As I mentioned earlier we lead trace existences. We need embrace this if we are to know ourselves and lead sustainable lives. 

Suggestion re Trace Gas

Talking thermal balances of atmosphere? Talk Warmer Trace Gases ( NOT greenhouse gases). They are warmer than the most common gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and argon and, unlike them, they also act as significant warmers.

Now we get to the point of how to evaluate and communicate the impact of our activities. This is the study symbolised by energy efficiency. It is not to be confused with energy conservation- an impossible and most unhelpful concept (energy is conserved by its very nature).  My own general definition of energy efficiency is the continuous generation of bonusjoules. Note the emphasis on the word continuous.

Energy efficiency (General)

  • Every act = choice of energy USE.
    Energy comes in many forms and in any moment we have a range of choices how we use those forms, be it sitting in the sun or turning a heater on to keep warm.
  • Energy efficiency = measure of relative impact on resources.
    Every use has an impact on the environmental/thermal balances that sustain us and the impacts vary by the moment. Hence it is always a relative measure.

Link to cartoon panel exploration

  • Does not mean using less energy
    Contrary to what the Government teaches in our schools through agencies like the Climate Change Office and EECA, it does not mean using less energy – or more energy for that matter. Note: Governments and Bulk-electricity bankers  exploit the "energy conservation" symbol to reduce public perceptions of energy for revenue reasons. In particular they combine the flawed construct of "energy conservation" with "energy crises" to manipulate consumer behaviour.
  • Involves best use of energy forms
    A simple example is you can use a lot more energy by designing your home so you can make use of solar energy. You are using more energy without negatively impacting on the thermal balances that sustain us.

Energy efficiency (measures)

  • negawatts  (Rocky Mountain Institute)
    This concept was created by Amory Lovins of the renowned “energy efficiency” institute. Fundamentally, he was attempting to put a tradable economic value on a non-taxed use of energy e.g. putting on a coat to keep warm rather than turning on an electric heater. The KiloWatt hours of Bulk-electricity not used are measured and valued in terms of say the money not required to build generating plant and grids to meet the extra demand for Bulk-electricity.

Link to cartoon panel exploration

  • negawatts flaws  = negative, exclusive, time-bound.
    People associate nega with negative i.e. undesirable. Most people associate  Watts with the measurement of Bulk-electricity. My experience working for an energy efficiency firm called Negawatt Resources Ltd is that the symbol rings all the bells for Bulk-electricity sector and focuses attention on the power point as the major source of useful energy and not the sun. People have difficulty associating the symbol with the positive practice of energy efficiency.
    Negawatts is time bound in that it does not link to subsequent impacts. For example, you might save money installing energy efficient light bulbs but if you then go and spend that money flying to a conference overseas then the environment is measurably worse off – even if it is a conference to save the environment.
     California attempted to incorporate negawatts into their electricity market. Ruthless Bulk-electricity companies conveniently had to schedule “shut downs” of their generation plant for “maintenance” at crucial times. They then ordered electricity over networks that would be overloaded by their order and were paid $ US millions daily for not using electricity that they never had any intention of using anyway. The rest is history and now we have Arnie to ensure that the State does not attempt to sue and retrieve the $US9billion from the likes of Enron as Governor Grey Davis attempted to do.
  • bonusjoules –associations>> affirmative, universal
    I developed this symbol as people associate the bonus symbol with positive outcomes and joules is a more universal definition of energy. It is a common measure that is found on all consumables, including drink and food. This is important as food and drink are absolutely vital and yet are not commonly viewed as “energy” or fuels as say coal is. Of course in all these cases the joules of energy are only available when the fuel is combined with air – something no advertiser points out.
  • Bonusjoules = long-term, low-risk considerations.
    Put simply it involves thinking about how our activities will impact on our children
  • Bonusjoules flaw = time-bound.
    This has the same flaw as negawatts.
  • Energy = flux of constant transformations.
    As discussed earlier, that which can be perceived as a better use of energy one moment can be perceived as a worse use of energy in the next moment.  
  • Junkjoules = short-term, high-risk considerations
    Put simply the welfare of fellow humans and environment are considered of little consequence
  • Bonus & Junk = Language of Economics
    Like Amory I am attempting to provide a language so people’s perceptions of a healthy economy are widened. At present the economy is seen to shrink, become ill, fail, etc if you turn off the Bulk-electricity powered heater and sit in the sun to keep warm. Economics uses the symbols in terms like Bonus Bonds, bonus remuneration bonus shares… and junk bonds, junk status….  
  • Bonusjoules-junkjoules = twin complementary, co-evolving concepts. One cannot be considered without the other. As mentioned, that which can be seen as an efficient use of energy one day may be seen as an inefficient use the next day as information and technology evolves. 
  • EE=Yin Yang in circle of compassion.
    I talked earlier of the role of compassion from the great Uncertainty Principle. For us to be able to truly be open and honest about the impact our use of a form of energy we must be able constantly admit that what previously generated bonusjoules now may generate junkjoules.

  • Compassion means it is not a black versus white issue as the Yin Yang symbol is often portrayed. 
    The yin can be seen as tendency to openness and inclusiveness and the yang a tendency to secrecy and exclusiveness (or vice versa).
    There is nothing new in this idea and it bears telling in every conceivable way. 
    Origins of ying yang symbol

Suggestion: Talking Energy Efficiency? Talk generating bonusjoules and junkjoules.

As Environmental Educators you may be interested in my proposals for evaluating the use of resources. I have provided the example of possible considerations about the siting of the proposed Aquarium of New Zealand on the coast just below my home. It can be viewed at

5 Step analysis of Energy Use of an Environmental Education Resource.

1)      Planning and construction

2)      Maintenance and Deconstruction

3)      Communication costs

4)      Design impact

5)      Sponsorship leverage

Additional note: The energy impacts of 1 and 2 have long been calculated and now some engineers are beginning to calculate 3. In some cases they find that the extra energy used by a building sited a distance from mass public transport compared to its siting adjacent to it can be twice that of 1 and 2.

4 and 5 are more difficult to calculate though they well have the largest impact. An example of 4 is The Warehouse with its large centralising carparks. Examples of 5 are the Government’s Clean Green Image Programme and the Consumer Institute’s PowerSwitch.  The impact of 1,2 and 3 for the latter may be minimal. However the use of it by the Government to promote the interests of the bankers of our privatised model of Bulk-electricity distribution means its impact is in the order of gigajoules of energy. It works directly against energy efficiency and Distributed Generation principles.


The Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age

  • Oil and Gas reserves are pretty much at their peak.
    In brief, about 2 billion humans have used up half the reserves on planet Earth in two generations. The growth in consumption (a bell curve up) is mirrored by a growth in the human population from 1.5 million to 6.5 billion. From now on it will cost more to extract every barrel and there will be greater demand for every drop. Already oil-addicted countries such as  New Zealand are experiencing the related inflation and loss of wealth as oil-Gas prices rise.

  • Oil and Gas underpin our present food and health systems.
  • We forget this at our peril. A century ago all the calories required to put a calorie of food on the average plate of a human came from the sun. Now five out of every six of those calories come from oil. A barrel of oil (42 gallons) provides the equivalent of 25,000 man/woman hours of labour
  • Countries dependent on the use of oil and Gas >increasing risk.
  • Electricity use = key to survival of civilisation/environment conservation.
    This is because it can provide with optimal efficiency the communication and transport systems that underpin any substantial civilisation.
  • Must teach about PLC, DG and smart metering/response systems.
    As mentioned earlier our use of electricity is at present controlled by bankers of the Bulk-electricity/fossil fuel sector. This involves immense waste and is very high risk. This is a whole topic in itself and one that every Environmental Educator should know about. In brief we are at the confluence of three great new technologies:
     (1) Broadband over the utility lines and out of every socket in the dwelling;
     (2) Small scale electricity generation at the point of use eg using gas fired central heating plant, photovoltaics and vertical wind turbines;
     (3) “Smart” electronic systems so household items can respond to fluctuations in Bulk-electricity demand and thus reduce the need to dam rivers, burn fossil fuels and crowd out the countryside with large wind turbines.
    The scale of the ignorance of this confluence is revealed by the complete lack of cognisance and opposition of the New Zealand Environmental Education Industry to the recent sale of Vector Ltd.  Our failure to educate for this confluence will have a massive negative impact on the environment.

"Meterboard” = A major key to survival.

The individuals that control your meterboard also controls how you design your dwelling, how you use your dwelling, what appliances you use and what bulk demand you place on the environment. It is a huge switch in our lives. It can turn us on or off to Distributed Generation and can dictate whether we can talk to the grid or only listen. It can switch off life to huge tracts of forest. It can switch on a massive emission of Warmer Trace Gases.
At present this switch is largely controlled by one company - Vector Ltd. Its recent acquisition of NGC alone gave it significant control of half the design and use of dwellings in  New Zealand – over 880,000 dwellings. As I talk the control of Vector is being transferred into the hands of a couple of overseas merchant bankers and they will become the dominant environmental educators and arbiters of the nation. You used to own your meterboard once as part of your membership of one of 60 democratically elected community structures in  New Zealand .
We have to start teaching the power of the meterboard again so people can catch a glimmering of what is going on. All your other work will be in vain until that happens. You can teach your hearts out but you will find the environment disintegrating around you.

Chapter seven part 2 of Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy features a cartoon exploration of our current Bulk-electricity system. It identifies blocks to an intelligent system and suggests sustainable options

Summary Strategies for avoiding 
Energy Gobbledygook, PR Spin and for promoting science.

  • Know how symbols shape civilisation
  • Measure the impact of symbol use by the walk, not the talk
  • Say what you mean even if it takes an extra word.
  • Know the Principle of Conservation of Energy is upheld so far
  • Energy forms and fuels are not energy. Always name the form.
  • Bulk-electricity is not power. Always name the type of electricity.
  • Talking climate change, state the type of climate change eg. Human-induced Climate Change
  • Avoid symbol global warming. Use Thermal Build-up etc
  • Focus on behaviour, not on resource/matter
  • Use Use. E.g. Bulk-electricity use crisis,
  • Know compassion – for the self, for others and for the environment.
  • Check out the Energy Gobbledygook section, the Bonus Joules cartoon and the Alternative Climate Education sections for supplementary support.

All at

Return to Electric Thinking

Return to Update Page

Return to the Welcome Page


The Bonus Joules website could not have occurred without the incredible support of Rene Duindam, Claudia Schotz and their family. They provided a roof over my head for over two years and enabled me to survive on less than the minimum dole. The website is constructed on their computer which is based in their bedroom and they have tolerated my presence there for thousands of hours. Rene is always available with the vital support and advice required to construct and maintain a website on this scale. Always they have believed in my work.

Thanks to Mandy Hager and family who provided me with scanning and copying facilities and support for my work too.

Special thanks too to Chris Arcus, my ex-tutor from Wellington College of Education 1998, who has consistently taken time out to read my work and encourage my development.



A few PR Industry examples,1567,15645-0,00.html


Marshal McCluhan

Genesis Energy education module


Clean Green Image

National carbon deficit

What the Bleep do we Know?!”

Enron movie

The Corporation movie

Wiki definition of energy

Sample of Civilisation collapses

History of the  Bulk-electricity sector

Power Play by Sharon Beder

 What is electricity?

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
Music by Pete Seeger The words are adapted from The Bible, Book of Ecclesiastes.

Thermohaline circulation

Antarctic variations


Greening Earth Society


Fourier and greenhouses


Crystal Palace of Great Exhibition 1851 sermons


Ionosphere flux


Atmosphere: thermal layers


Thermal properties of air

Thermal Insulation


Trace gases's_atmosphere


Atmospheric Thermal Effect


“energy conservation”


Rocky Mountain Institute and negawatts


Ideals of  California and negawatts



Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron: Book by Robert Bryce

Power Play by Sharon Beder


Ying Yang symbol origins


Oil and Gas reserves


Sample electricity distributed generation thinking


Vector, NGC and meter ownership


Vector and PowerCo  privatisation


Sunday Star Times

Mfe Climate Change Office booklets for primary schools 2001.

EECA -EnergyWise magazines

Power Summit 2005

SCOOP Independent News


Return to Electric Thinking

Return to Update Page

Return to the Welcome Page