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Solutions & sustainability - Jan 26

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


The Human Car: Street Legal Mass Transport Flintstones-Style

Michael, Groovy Green
I always appreciated the efforts of Barney and Fred in The Flintstones to push around their apparently heave stone vehicles with only their legs for power. And let’s get one thing straight, regardless of Fred’s eating habits, the guy must have been in excellent shape.

These days, we’re all fat-fat-fattys in our vehicles, relying on millions of years of ‘ancient sunglight’ to get us to our destinations. Sure, we can bike it, but if you’ve got a family to move, biking sometimes isn’t the safest option. Enter The Human Powered Car. This street-legal four passenger vehicle relies on human energy (think: rowing machine exercise) to get you where you’re going. Apparently, there is also a human/electric hybrid available, which would dramatically help in those steep up-hill climbs. Priced at $7K, the company has 750 units available for this year. Take a look at the video below for more details. Your legs might not look like Fred’s after using this ‘car’, but you arms may look more like Arnold’s.
(24 Jan 2007)
Check out the original for the video, and see also this post at Groovy Green with more human powered vehicle options.

UPDATE: related human-powered vehicle story
The Soul of a Pedicab Chauffeur by Carl Etnier

I am by hobby a pedicab chauffeur in Oslo. Last year I drove a Chinese cycle rickshaw with 7 gears, while dressed in a tuxedo top and black cycling shorts or tights. This year I bought a Quadracycle (from Indiana, USA), a bright red four-wheeled vehicle that looks a lot like a pedal-powered dune buggy or Model-T, depending on whether the roof canopy is on or not. Though I'm originally from the U.S., I put on a pseudo-British accent when I cycle and go by the nom de velocipede "Charles Armstrong." When I started pedicabbing, I found it both lucrative and personally rewarding.



How to Be Good (To Yourself)

Dave Pollard, How To Save The World (blog)
Recently a couple of people have written me that they're feeling defeated, and about ready to give up, and asked what keeps me going. I'm less depressed now than I have been in years, and I think it's largely because I've learned to be good to myself. If we're going to save the world and stuff we need to be at the top of our game, and that means being good to ourselves and to others fighting the good fight.

Here are ten ways to do so. Some of them are difficult, but they're all worth trying...
(24 Jan 2007)
Burnout is a common affliction as it becomes evident that change comes at its own pace. Think long-distance marathons, not sprints! Another recent post from Dave Pollard:
Preparing for an Emergency: What We Should (But Probably Won't) Do.


Unions see greenbacks in 'green' future

Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Christian Science Monitor
Organized labor is joining forces with environmentalists to push for an eco-friendly economy.
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With alarm growing over global warming and the economic vulnerability created by American dependence on foreign oil, it's increasingly obvious to many that the only viable future is a green one.

The pursuit of this future has made unlikely bedfellows of many groups historically at odds with each other. Evangelicals have joined forces with tree huggers. Creationists have aligned themselves with scientists. And now, organized labor is working with environmentalists.

Union leaders are betting that a green economy will not only address the issue of climate change, it will also provide a bonanza of well-paying manufacturing jobs - the kinds of jobs that have largely vanished from the United States in recent decades. A proliferation of wind turbines and solar panels means more factories, while ever more stringent efficiency standards imply the need for inspectors and experts in sealing and insulating.

"From labor unions' point of view, these are the kinds of jobs their unions are most prepared for," says Jeff Rickert, vice president of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of the major environmental and labor organizations.

Having worked in steel mills and paper plants, many in the workforce already possess the appropriate skill set, say labor leaders. All that's needed are incentives at the federal level, and America will be well on its way toward what some call a "third industrial revolution."
(25 Jan 2007)


Real-time Energy Feedback Technology

Sarah Rich, WorldChanging
It's one of those telling facts of human nature that when we are being monitored, our behavior changes. The example we often use at Worldchanging to illustrate this phenomenon is a mileage guage in a car. It's been shown that drivers who have a mileage meter visible inside their car get better mileage, simply as a result of their elevated awareness, with no modification whatsoever to the car's mechanics.

The same holds true in households where inhabitants can be made immediately aware of their energy consumption. If you can see your pennies piling up on account of a light you left on in the bathroom, you can bet you'll remember to turn it off. It's the real-time feedback that's key. Reading a steep bill at the end of the month can't compare. It's also key not only to be able to know how many kWh -- but also how many dollars -- are burning away with your lightbulb.

Combining all these digits onto one little screen is the PowerCost Monitor from Blue Line Innovations, a Canadian start-up focused specifically on developing real-time energy feedback products for domestic energy consumers. According to their research, immediate feedback can result in 10-20% energy savings.
(25 Jan 2007)


Daydreaming improves thinking

Hilary Jones, Cosmos
Daydreaming is the result of the brain reverting to its normal state in the absence of engaging problems, rather than a pointless distraction, according to U.S. researchers

ADELAIDE: Our minds may wander during boring tasks because daydreaming is actually the brain's normal state, rather than a pointless distraction, according to a new U.S. study.

The researchers, reporting their findings today in the U.S. journal, Science, found that daydreaming could be the result of the brain mulling over important - but not immediately relevant - issues when the external environment ceases to pose interesting and engaging problems.

"For the most part psychologists have sort of assumed that we spend most of our time engaged in goal-directed thought and that, every so often, we have blips of irrelevant thoughts that pop up on the radar," said lead author Malia Mason of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"It could very well be the case, however, that most of the time we are engaged in less directed, unintended thought and that this state is routinely interrupted by periods of goal-directed thought."
(19 Jan 2007)
Memo: print out for impatient parents and/or spouse.

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