Monday, June 25, 2007

Electric Wheels... Let's chat about this

I was recently asked this question by a friend:

What is the issue with electric cars in USA? Is there a conspiracy to limit their production to sustain a fossil fuel based economy?

Not to long ago a documentery film was produced to ask the same questions. The title of the film, Who Killed the Electric Car?, dove deep into the issue of General Motors’ adventure with the EV1. The EV1 was a brain child of some very smart engineers in GM, who were planning for California’s strict vehicle legislations. These legislations would encourage the use and production of electic vehicles for consumers as a way to reduce the hazardous air pollution build up in the state. GM started early and developed the EV1 and leased out about 200 or so cars.

Over time, the State of California changed its mind about the strict vehicle guidelines and the whole incentive to use an electric car disappeared. GM pulled out of the business and destroyed most of the EV1s, despite the high demand for the vehicles.

The film goes on to describe the players involved in the demise of the EV1, which includes big oil companies. As a fact, the USA uses about 51% of all crude oil production and imports to produce gasoline. This is huge business especially with the millions of vehicles on the roads guzzeling gasoline. Simple business logic dictates a loss of market share for big oil in fueling vehicles, if vehicles turn electric. I cannot specifically say they sabotaged the EV1, but I am sure they were not happy with the idea.

A country as big as the USA takes time for major changes to occur. If the government were to start electric vehicle programs, there would be a lot of resistance. The car is a fundamental industry in the USA, which made the country a super-industrial power. Historically, many industries were linked to vehicle manufacturing and it made many people wealthy, usually the people who today have huge influence on politicians and business trends.

All of this historical baggage does not necessary mean the electric car is dead. What it means is that traditional industrial businesses will not fund such a project, therefore needing other sources of income. Currently, this is what is happening in the electric vehicle market. There is an emergence of new vehicle companies, funded by internet billionaires, building prototypes. Very soon commercial electric vehicles will share the road with conventional fossil fuel vehicles and make more economical sense when air pollution savings are added to the price tag. But it does not end there. Where does the electricity come from?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Putting an ECO on your Kid

Can it be possible to reduce the impact my child will have on the earth? This question deeply affected me when I became a new father. It demanded my attention. My values were strained at the idea of adding a new person on the earth to indulge in the already dwindling resources.

The past 50 years has seen an explosion in population increase like never before in our civilisation; mostly due to advances in modern medicine and health care, but also the extent of resource distribution. One hundred years ago, getting an orange from Florida or bananas from Costa Rica was very difficult. Our nutritional needs benefit from world-wide shipping of produce.

Having said that, one can say that a formidable ecological cause is to reduce the population of our species. Having less humans consuming could bring back a balance to the natural resources. This is all good, but the instinct to procreate runs deep within our genes. Complicating the situation.

Such a complex problem requires a lot of effort. I believe it is worth your effort to stick to your values and try as much as possible to find solutions. Remember that what you are aiming for is a better future. Isn’t this what child rearing is all about? So why stop at just their individual development and welfare, and work at leaving them an earth where clean air, clean water and bio-diversity are celebrated.

To begin this open discussion of possible solutions, we all have to work together. Traditional wisdom tells us how a village is needed to raise a child, therefore let us take this as our starting point. You are now part of my village and I part of yours.

Our village is working at raising a new generation who will eventually take over the village and continue on its traditions and values. Of course, our village needs to be a safe place and a place where play is learning. What aspects of being safe can be sustainable? What aspects of play can be sustainable?

With the overflow of goods and services surrounding us, it is imperative that each item be scanned for harmful components. Our village cannot handle too many chemicals and the less the better. Products are well-labeled in these times, examining them does not take any time. As well, find out how and where these goods came from, not only for your own education, but for the sake of other villages who battle similar poisons affecting their children.

Play encompasses many activities, but a significant impact are the toys that accumulate the toy box, which either have short product lives, or have very little value to learning and to the imagination. A simple investigation can supply answers of the impact and value of the toy in question. Every little thing counts. Your effort will not go unnoticed, the village demands it.