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Archive for the ‘global warming’ Category

The Numa-Tube [patent pending] – a Proposal to Save the Planet

The Problem

We have too many cars. Cars pollute the atmosphere, deplete our stocks of fossil fuels, promote competition and greed, capitalism and rampant consumerism, disrupt both our mental and physical well-being and enable a constant search for oil which leads to price-gauging, invasion and war.

The Solution

Get rid of cars. Hmm – a bit too simplistic. We are in love with our cars. We strive to procure the biggest, the flashiest and if not the most extreme, at least the latest model – the one with the most knobs and dials, the back-up camera, the OnStar GPS, iPod dock, heated leather seats and the lumbar support – not to mention the drop-down video screen, the programmable AC and the dashboard designed by NASA . Entire industries worldwide are inextricably entwined with the production, the maintenance and the manufacture and sale of a million different accoutrements that go along with the ownership of cars. Huge conglomerates, i.e. primarily the oil companies and their subsidiaries, make trillions of dollars per year in profits, investors become rich, governments pay down the national debt with gas-tax dollars and dealers spend their winters in Hawaii with the proceeds from the buying and selling of cars. The car has become an iconic symbol of Western culture. We must have a new one if not every year then at least every couple of years at the very least because we tire easily of the old ones and must have the latest, the biggest, and the best. We ‘wear’ our cars like we wear our clothes – they signify success. The owner of a car more than five years old is pitied as poor, unaccomplished, un-ambitious and in every sense of the word a failure. Therefore any full or partial replacement for the car must be subtle, and sneaky – a very gradual change over time.

So the question becomes “if we want to supplant the car what do we put in its place?” Simple – provide cheap, fast, reliable, attractive, safe and comfortable public transportation – an alternative transportation network that not only services immediate local areas but is easily expandable to become trans-continental as well.

Therefore, I would like to present to you the “Numa-Tube” – a system of interlocking transparent tubes [imagine a series of interconnected brightly coloured ‘hamster’ tubes], that can be subterranean or not depending upon aesthetics and cost-effective design. Inside the tubes are a series of ‘ball-shaped’ cars containing seats for 4 [see diagram], mounted on gimbals for stability and comfort. Extremely fast forward motion is produced by expelling air at various points along the tunnel in order to create a partial vacuum. This has the effect of ‘pulling’ the cars forwards until an optimum speed is reached. The slowing of the cars at each ‘station’ is accomplished by allowing less air to be expelled. Of course, sudden violent forward motion – not to mention any sudden stops at the end – would obviously have a detrimental effect upon any human body – much like the end-result of jumping off a tall building. Therefore gradual acceleration and deceleration is produced by a series of ‘on-ramps’ powered by, possibly, a mag-lev system – an arrangement of magnets in series along a track.

The ball shaped cars travel rapidly and continuously through the tunnels [which are pleasingly lit by ‘rings’ of phosphorescent crystals]. For safety and security each car is equipped with state-of-the-art video surveillance and a two-way voice system. The walls are sound-proofed to the extent that any loud or sudden extraneous noises are filtered and soft music, climate control and subtle lighting provides a relaxing ambient effect. Four comfortable recliner seats upholstered in organic, plant-based fabrics in neutral colours are arranged around a table/desk containing a computer console that can be activated to provide on-board games, movies and music as well as Internet access. Power is generated by the movement of the cars through the tunnel by means of a dynamo system in contact with the external tunnel wall, making the ‘energy foot-print’ virtually non-existent. The air under pressure expelled from the tunnels to create the partial vacuum can be directed to wind-farms which in turn produce the power to expel the air and power the tunnel system. Any energy produced that is surplus to requirements can be channeled off for other uses – providing ‘power-docks’ for small electric cars that may be used for traversing city streets for example [because people will still require/prefer cars to reach out of the way places no doubt].

Numa-Tubes can cross oceans by the simple expedient of sinking the tubes to neutral buoyancy depth, far below any turbulent waters, but not so far down that extreme pressure and cold presents an obstacle. The extreme speeds produced by the full or partial vacuum can be easily tolerated by the human body once full acceleration has been accomplished. In fact, the occupants of the cars would probably have no sensation of speed at all, much like travelling at supersonic speeds on an aircraft like the Concorde or the Space Shuttle. Lengthy travel times will become a thing of the past because speeds reached will be in excess of two thousand miles an hour – making a trans-continental trip that used to take 8-10 hours [from Toronto to London say] possible in less than two hours.

Objections

The immediate, and possibly loudest, objection will come from the oil conglomerates and subsidiary industries that support the present car-based infrastructure. If the Numa-Tube system [ultimately] obviates the need for gas-guzzling cars and planes then the oil and gas industries dependent upon them – the oil companies will say – will collapse, making millions of auto-workers redundant and throwing social support systems, not to mention middle-eastern governments, into an economic tail-spin from which there is no return. The world as we know it will end.

Refutation

Any savvy Business Studies Grad type worthy of the price of his Ivy-league admission will realize that vast revenues can be made from diverting oil-based industries into other modes of production – into plastics for example [as the Graduate would have said]. It is to be hoped however that oil production companies would simply re-tool their lines to produce ‘green’ products instead and collaborate with other industries to find alternate power sources, produce electric, solar powered or hybrid cars for about-town use – producing ‘green’ fabrics that are non-animal based, building Numa-Tubes and ‘train stations’, digging tunnels, maintaining and servicing the transportation system as a whole. Line workers by their very nature can be retrained to work on any line – whether it produces cars or solar panels or widgets of any shape or size – it really makes no difference at all – and if GM can retool its lines to make a different model of Land Crusher each and every year as it does now then it can always churn out Numa-Tube cars instead.

Existing sub-way systems can easily be adapted, extended and modified to hold Numa-Tubes and since the entire system is, ideally, underground, more green-space and arable land is freed up, roads and expensive road maintenance infrastructures become redundant, saving millions of dollars in road maintenance and repairs, not to mention salting and sanding equipment, and pollution falls to manageable or hopefully non-existent levels within ten years.

To wrest such a symbol of success and power that is the fast expensive car from the hands of the wealthy may be more of a challenge however than getting GM to retool its lines. The car is the ultimate signifier of power in many minds therefore Corporate types must use the power of advertising to ‘sell’ consumers on the idea of environmental not to mention fiscal responsibility. We need to sell the idea that dispensing with your car is to act not only as a role-model to the masses but will gain you status, kudos and approval as well – akin to donating to some worth-while charity or travelling to Africa to work with orphans or adopting a child from a third-world country. You and your corporation will be viewed as heroes of your time.

If we have more green space we can have more bike paths, more village greens, more community, ample and less crowded inner city housing and therefore less crime, and thus far less strain on essential services and social supports. Biz Grads will immediately recognize the revenues to be made from populations that are living longer through healthier living, a clean environment and no pollution i.e. retirement communities, travel, fitness clubs, leisure industries, bicycles and other modes of ‘people powered’ transportation systems. For the young we will have more playing fields, more stadiums, more swimming pools, more athletic clothing – and all the commercial opportunities that go along with that, the Ivy grad would say.

Remote working with the Numa-Tube is a distinct possibility. Presently we are restricted to work places that are within a certain narrow ‘transportation’ range – just as many of us are restricted from extensive international travel due to time constraints and cost. However, if I can travel a distance of a thousand miles in under an hour then I can conduct work searches over a much wider area. It may even be possible eventually to live on one continent but work on another. This will have several distinct advantages from a social standpoint. If I can work in any urban centre and live in another – or even live in my log cabin in the back woods of Lake Superior but work on Wall Street this will have the added effect of – eventually – breaking down international boundaries and barriers as well. What will this do for commerce and trade? I would say it would open up hitherto undreamed of possibilities for trade on a global scale. Similarly the population as a whole will ultimately become amorphous which will have the effect of breaking down race barriers as well. If we are citizens of the world and not one particular country or another there are no boundaries left to fight over.

Consumers in general will adapt to the system readily provided it remains reliable, fast, comfortable and inexpensive. If, for example, I can travel from Toronto to Paris or even from London Ontario to Ottawa for a fraction of the current price, not to mention a fraction of the time, then I would opt for the Numa-Tube over Air Canada or CNN any time. I would also readily dispense with my environmentally unfriendly car, as I’m sure most of us would, if I could replace it with a convenient cost-effective alternative – particularly during an Ontario winter. Fighting traffic, breathing fumes and paying exorbitant prices for gasoline will become a thing of the past – as will pollution related illnesses such as Asthma, bronchitis, various cancers, many allergies and possibly even colds and flu too.

Conclusion

It is obvious that the Numa-Tube is the way of the future. With the Numa-Tube in place we can dispense with cars and therefore roads, and of course the main by-product of the automobile, pollution. No pollution means fewer health-related issues and lower medical care costs, a healthier planet, healthier children, an emphasis on ‘green’ production, the global workplace, breaking down of race barriers, the dissolution of borders, more green space, more arable land, more leisure, less stress. We can then perhaps make our planet into the garden it once was.

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Last week Al Gore rolled into town – closely followed by Arnold who was out to deter Canadians from consuming more than their fair share of non-renewable fossil fuels and urging them to do their bit to save the environment. No matter that he arrived in his king-sized Hummer that gets 2 miles to the gallon and has to be refueled every five minutes by a tanker truck hired especially for the purpose. Well alright I don’t know if he actually showed up in his Hummer but I know he’s got one – or maybe four – stashed away someplace on one of his vast estates in California that he uses to escort Maria to her Pilates class or maybe it’s McDonalds – which is doubtful considering she could give Nicole Richie a run for her money in the ‘skinniest person still breathing’ stakes.

 

Al Gore – oh yes I was talking about him wasn’t I. He was here in Canada to publicize his film and book ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, http://www.climatecrisis.net, an opinion piece about Global Warming and other politically timely environmental issues. I say “Opinion Piece” because in my humble view Global Warming is an unproven theory at best. We cannot know for sure if ‘carbon emissions’ for example, will affect our planet catastrophically unless we carefully consider all of the evidence, both pro and con; and despite the fact that a great deal of preliminary research exists the consensus is that we don’t really know all that much about it at all. Does that surprise you? The fact of the matter is that there has simply not been enough time, or money, to study every aspect of things from every angle. There are those for example who say that carbon emissions may have nothing much to do with anything and cyclical solar activity could just as well be the culprit as any other. Furthermore, as far as we can tell from the geological record the Earth as a dynamic system has gone through many periods of both warming and cooling, not to mention pole reversals, and rather than warming up in the near future we may very well be in for an extended period of cooling down before the end of this century. Those nomadic beasts that are moving up north because they’re too hot will more than likely be moving to Barbados within 20 years because they’re getting too cold.

 

Climatologists admit that they still know very little about climate change either but they do say that increased hurricane activity over a period of a few years for instance is no reason to state that hurricanes are increasing in frequency and severity over the long term. And there is no hard evidence that Global Warming is to blame – if it even exists. There is some evidence out there, dismissed no doubt by Al’s camp, that indicates that the Antarctic is actually cooling by a fraction of a degree every year. The Vikings called Greenland GREENLAND because it was green – at the time. And another thing – Mars is also going through a warming trend right now because its polar ice-caps are seen to be melting. How do you explain that then Al, when as far as we know, there are no factories or 747’s, or even Hummers on Mars.

 

There was a very interesting series of articles published by the Financial Post last April http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=22003a0d-37cc-4399-8bcc-39cd20bed2f6&k=0 which spotlighted the debate between the ‘Deniers’, those who believe that Global Warming is a figment of Al’s imagination, and the, let’s call them, ‘The Embracers’, those who believe that the Earth is on an imminent course to disaster and that little red LED machine in the sky has started flashing ‘Self destruct in Four Minutes’. The Deniers believe that the debate is far from being settled and that much more research is required before we push the panic button. They make a compelling argument.

 

This is what concerns me about activists such as Al Gore – we are being force-fed his views without adequate study to back them up. If the evidence was all in I would say that we should whole-heartedly and unreservedly embrace his message. But it appears that the evidence is NOT all in, and it worries me that this sort of propaganda is being promoted as gospel within our schools and children are being made to swallow this information whole because it sounds plausible – and admittedly it does. But that doesn’t make it right – or true. I may be a cynic but something smacks to me of big business and profit here. There is a bad odor somewhere. I have the feeling that there is a whiff of a financial motive at the very bottom of this – if it is not manifest in increased sales of ‘environmentally friendly’ products and services, it certainly garners lots of free publicity, and is at the very least a great vote getter. And I’m not saying that we should continue to pollute our planet and poison the seas. Obviously it only makes sense to be environmentally conscious but that’s another matter entirely. I disagree with being beaten over the head with only half a stick and I have a sneaking suspicion that once we all blow ourselves to Kingdom Come in some half-baked argument over religion, politics, territory, oil or whether or not Paris is hotter than Britney, the old Earth will just keep rolling around the sun as always, heating, cooling and ticking like a clock – with or without us. The dinos found that out the hard way.

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