Energy Flow Systems Essay

1525 words - 7 pages

Killer Paper -Energy Flow SystemsRichard White's Organic Machine, and William Cronon's Changes in the Land, both examine environments as energy flow systems. The energy flow model was utilized by the authors to explain relationships within ecosystems.Richard White's thesis is to examine the river as an organic machine, as an energy system that, although modified by human intervention, maintains it's natural, its "unmade" qualities. White emphasizes on energy because it is a useful concept that can be easily understood. He says, "the flow of the river is energy, so is the electricity that comes from the dams that block that flow. Human labor is energy; so are the calories that are stored as ...view middle of the document...

The flood rushed into the Columbia Channel and created the Grand Coulee and other rock channels that would have taken the Mississippi River three hundred years at full flood to create.Salmon are also a part of the Colombian energy model. As the river works its way downward to the Pacific Ocean, the salmon work their way up the Columbia to spawn. The energy in salmon can be measured by their body fat and caloric value. Salmon start their run upstream prepared for the long hard run. Their bodies have stored fat and oil after a year worth of feeding at sea. The stored energy in salmon is used as energy as they battle head to head against the force(energy) of the Columbia River. As the salmon work upstream, they use their stored energy and their bodies become leaner. When the salmon reach their destination, they are in ill condition. The skinny salmon lay their eggs and die of exhaustion.Work and energy also link humans to the Columbia River energy model. Alexander Ross and his crew learned how powerful the river was in 1811. They attempted to enter the mouth of the Columbia from the Pacific. Ross learned that the river's current and the ocean's tide work against each other creating an astonishing amount of friction. Fresh water is pushed several miles out to sea and the ocean tides can be felt one hundred and forty miles up river. The tide form sandbars at the mouth of the river and the current crashing on them produces huge waves and foaming breakers. These breakers form barriers that Alexander Ross and his crew had to cross.Human energy challenged the energy of the river mouth in 1811. The first attempt to cross the barrier was a failure. Ross's friend Fox and his crew were lost while battling the waves of the seemingly unapproachable mouth of the Columbia. Ross and his crew with will and muscle somehow survived the force of the tide and current and made it across the river's mouth for the first time.Ross's drama to enter the river was explained by White by using the energy cycle. White explains that lunar energy causes the ocean tide and the sun provides all of the remaining energy of the cycle. The sun heats the atmosphere that heats and evaporates the ocean water and provides the wind to move the moisture to the mountains. The clouds cool and moisture is released as rain or snow that falls to the land. Gravity pulls the water to the ocean again through the rivers and the process starts over again.Man attempts to slow down the natural energy cycle to extract energy from the river by building dams. Dams are used to store and regulate water that is used to turn turbines. These turbines power generators that produce electricity.Hydroelectricity was first in abundance. Electricity was a product without much demand. Soon farmers used electricity to light their homes and to run small electrical devices such as toasters, irons, and washing machines. Electricity was also used to light city homes, factories, and streets. The hydroelectric companies...

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