15 September, 2008

From Dreamcar to Dream Life.

This post starts off at something that triggered off a stream-of-conscious flood of thoughts in me. As such, it's not really following a logical progression, and gets back to food and lifestyle pretty quickly.

A quick few thoughts on Dreamcar 123. First up, I live in Australia. It gets HOT here in summer, and I'm eyeing that small pyramidal solar cooker I'm supposed to stick my head up inside of, and something in me is just screaming "No cook Number Five! No cook Number Five! Aieee!"

Sorry - but that alone limits DC123 for me. Then too the inventor says "it will have 80 batteries" and that "it will have a top speed of XXXmph and a range of XXX miles" but - well, you've seen the video. There's no suspension to speak of, not enough ground clearance to cross a shopping mall carpark speed bump, and that means that at any speed faster than a jog (Ghods forbid!) I wouldn't trust my spinal integrity to some suspension that DC123 will have. Maybe. One day.

Range of over 200 miles on a $5 worth of electricity? Is great, but let's pretend for a moment that it's 5 years in the future, my DC123 has been delivering great service for all that time, but, you know - range has been steadily decreasing over the years, and a new lot of batteries just hasn't been a priority. After a full night's charge, the DC123 stalls in the communal driveway of the gated community I live at...

Yes I realise that the latter is going to be a common problem until the problem of battery life and memory is licked. But I bought the DC123 because it was inexpensive. And while we're on the subject of batteries: At least 5Kg (10lbs) per battery, right? That's at least 800lbs right there, in weight. In environmental terms, digging up, smelting, and manufacturing all that lead (or Nickel, or whatever other material is Flavour Of The Month with batteriologists) into a battery - is that really going to be justified over the life of the vehicle?

Batteries still have to be charged, that needs energy from somewhere.If it's from a coal, gas, or other fossil fuel powered generator or from the grid, that leaves a footprint. If you go the solar cell route, include the manufacturing footprint of the solar PV cells, extra batteries to store all that power while your DC123 isn't plugged in, electronics to regulate it all.

Not that I'm really wanting to discourage this development effort, but you have to admit it's not inspiring. And current efforts need to focus more on how to store the energy we can collect from the Sun, batteries are a huge ecological disaster waiting in the wings, worse even than plastics have been. Our main efforts should really be focused on using less of that energy.

Things that add HUGE ridiculous amounts to our energy footprint are the cost of storing, shipping, and storing again of seasonal fruits and vegetables so we can confuse our bodies with the wrong nutrients at the wrong times, the cost of manufacturing and processing natural foods into highly processed foods which include chemical additives and supplements and then shipping those around the world, the cost of shipping fuel around the world so that we can ship other stuff around, and I'm sure you can think of at lest a few more such high-impact activities.

Think - the cost to the environment of getting the materials for, building, and then maintaining the roads. Of building huge cities so we can concentrate some of the costs incurred and can have a ready supply of customers to buy that crap.

So - put less effort into encouraging people to build better stuff and instead see how you can reduce your environmental footprint. I'll give you a few hints:

  • Don't buy out of season fruit and vegetables. If demand decreases, the major supermarkets will reduce their stocks, the artificial price stranglehold they have will decrease, and your health will improve because your body is used to having those foods only at certain times of the year.
  • Don't buy anything with preservatives and artificial flavour, colour, or whatever else in it. Again, once demand decreases, the practice will stop. Immediate benefits to you include better health, and latent benefits will occur when the "food factory" that produces that crap shuts down the machinery.
  • Be prepared to spend a little bit longer getting fresh and in season foods, and pay a bit more to independent fresh and organic producers to encourage them. Withhold your money from any that are seen to use environmentally unkind practices. The immediate benefit to your health is that you'll probably waste less, and make better use of what you get.

A quick thought about tinned and packaged foods - the original intent for developing tinned foods wasn't to flood the world with tinned peas. It was to ensure that there was some kind of emergency supply in case of war or disaster. No-one really thought that having peas out of season was the single compelling reason to put foods into tins... It was emergency rations for when the world failed us for a season. And here we are, decades later, eating emergency rations and thereby precipitating the seasonal failures...

Just on that last reason alone, I avoid tinned and preserved foods - we're not refugees, and we deserve better than denatured rations...

2 comments:

Braeg Heneffe said...

I think your right that the batteries in the DC123 aren't the way forward to bring down the carbon footprint being produced by everyone

teddlesruss dat who! said...

But - new carbon nanotube ultracapacitors seem to be the way to go forward - since they seem to have a hugely long life, their carbon footprint can be amortised over a longer period, they charge almost instantly, weigh nine thenths of fife fifths of bugger-all so the car can be lighter. And to top it off if I read it correctly, they can be shaped as parts of the vehicle, so wasting less space.

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