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Apocalypse tomorrow

4pm, 29th July 2007 - Geek, Interesting, Hardware, Travel

The best alternative way to get to work: on a kite board.I've always been interested in making my own alternative energy. Not so much for it's potential in saving the environment (although that's important too.) but more for the independence it gives me.

I am uncomfortable relying on other people and in our modern society I find myself unable to avoid relying on other people. I live in a house built by other people, I buy food that was grown by other people, I am supplied with water, electricity and gas by other people, I drive a car built by other people and I am typing this on a computer built and programmed by other people. That's part of how modern society works; because I am able to pay money to have somebody else do all these things for me I can specialise on a small number of things I can do and all the people can specialise in what they do. In short, as a whole we are more efficient because we all cooperate.

The problem I have is that if it all went away tomorrow, I wouldn't know what to do. I know how to do some of these things - not as well as the specialists - but I could do them well enough to survive. I have grown my own vegetables, found and collected my own drinking water, built myself a shelter (I can't quite go so far as to call it a house but given time I could get that far) and even generated my own electricity but I don't think that I can do any of them well enough to be comfortable. My house would have leaks and drafts, my vegetables would be small, weedy and only grow in certain times of year, if I could build some transport it wouldn't go much faster than walking pace, the electricity I generated would barely be enough to run a couple of lamps, let alone a computer.

The key to being comfortable is in preparing now. If I learn the skills then I can make my own way forwards. If I make my self sufficient transport device now utilising someone else's help then I'll have it tomorrow, whatever happens around me. The apocalypse is not coming but the same preparations you would make for it can help even without an apocalypse. If you don't have to buy petrol for your car, you can save the money you earn in your job for something else. It doesn't matter why you don't have to buy petrol; you could grow biodiesel, generate hydrogen via solar, hydro, wind or some other power at home and power you car on that or simply convert your car to be solar or wind powered itself. Imagine riding to work each morning on one of these or one of these !

Of course, there are some problems with these modes of transport. The land kite isn't going to work in a city or in large numbers. The kites would just get tangled up in everything. The land yacht has a better chance in the cities but car drivers are still going to be frustrated with these devices on slow wind days. Solar cars have a similar problem; they aren't very good at stopping and accelerating the way you are required to in a city. They're also not very good when a skyscraper blocks the sun. Cars that charge up overnight and run off batteries tend to have a very short range.

The solution to all these problems is cooperation. Just as societies progress by having their members work on their strengths and support each other's deficiencies, a car can progress by having more than one power source available to it. If your car has solar panels, pedals, a battery, a sail and possibly a turbine, it can use the sail when it's windy, use the sun when it's sunny, use the turbine when it's traveling directly into the wind, use the pedals when everything else fails and use all of them to charge the battery when it's stopped at traffic lights or parked. The result of this would be a car that's completely self-sufficient, works all the time, produces zero emissions and doesn't cost a penny to run.

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