Friday, May 17, 2013

Is There Another Industrial Revolution Brewing?

     So, y'look over to the Third World and they're ginnin' up ever more efficient charcoal stoves and pot-in-pot fridges (earthenware [mud plus fire], sand and water, plus a breeze) that get the job done and don't rely on the grid; they're charging cellphones and LED lights with junky solar cells and generally managing a better standard of living without The Grid--

     So maybe their kids grow up with more time and more light to learn more and figure out even kewler stuff--

     And meanwhile, down at the Internet Cafe, their third cousin once removed is runnin' a 419 scam--

     What's gonna happen in the next generation or so, when off-the-grid engineers meet robber-baron-esque survivor-scamsters?

     And meanwhile, back here in the First and Second (and/or aspiring) Worlds, the prices of roofing shingles and solar cells are fixing to meet up, while a zillion thrifty Chinese have already installed solar water heaters.  For some industrial customers in the U.S., their power companies already pay more for sold-back "green electricity" from solar or hydroelectric sources than they charge the same business old-fashioned "dirty" power.

     I'm thinking the End Of The Grid is a distant glimmering.  And that may be as wild a card as the species has dealt itself since steam.

     (Here's an excellent example of simple engineering vs. poverty.  Please note the solutions suggested don't suddenly shove people into rocket science.  It's incremental in ways that provide immediate benefit without people having to relearn basic aspects of living.)


Anonymous said...

What an interesting idea.

Cynic that I am, I can't help but feel sorry for those folks, though: they haven't got a benevolent, all-wise government to stop them using this technology because... um... studies or something.

BGMiller said...

I am fascinated by the ways folks find to accomplish task without the "aid" of what we take for granted. Ingenuity at work is always worth watching and remembering.

I presume you've seen the video of the work gang sinking small pilings on some construction site without the use of a pile driver? A cross beam lashed firmly to the pile, a bunch of guys jumping in unison, and one guy keeping them all in time. The cross beam the guys are standing/bouncing on was secured such that when it hit the ground the pile was at the depth required. The sheer simplicity of the solution made me watch the video a dozen times.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I could probably put a solar water heater on my roof with just the old copper pipe and other stuff I have in the garage. But that's me.

(I seem to recall, years ago, reading a Popular Mechanics-ish article about how to build your own solar hot water heater panels. And there are plenty of DIY links if you google it, but what I'm remembering predated the web and was probably a response to the '73 oil embargo and ensuing energy shortages and rising prices...)

Dave H said...

Fuzzy Curmudgeon: I remember those articles and plans making the rounds. They were a response to the oil embargo and the environmental movement, which also got a boost from the embargo.

I remember how disappointed I was to find the $30 DIY solar panels made hot water, not electricity. I was a budding electronics geek. I wanted current more than I wanted a shower.

Bubblehead Les. said...

When they get the neighborhood Pebble Nuke Reactors up and running, let me know.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

This guy kind of went all in.

Can't do that in my back yard, unfortunately.

Gewehr98 said...

I want a solar-powered moonshine still.

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