Saturday, March 28, 2009

anti- Earth Hour !

There has been so much talk about the infamous "earth hour" that I can't help to comment. First of all, the planet and the fight against "global warming" do not need our pity... (or shall I say stupidity)... they require real actions. Attending a concert by candlelight in the city centre, and have some hot dogs on a stick and a couple of drinks does not solve the problem. Switching off the lights for an hour makes little or no difference... that's just self complacence to just "feel" like we're doing something, when we're not. As an awareness campaign... it's just terrible! Let me explain:

I don't recall which TV program it was, but we saw a political-satire about one of those "save Darfur" concerts (or maybe it was "save the earth" or "Live8" ). The guy interviewed some of the people there, and none had any idea about where was Darfur... or what happened there... they were just drunk beyond their physical limit and chanting U2 songs or whatever it was. The point is, the only ones that actually get some benefit from that concert are the ticket re-sellers. After the concert, all that was left were piles of empty containers, bottles, napkins... all that garbage to "save the planet" (?). Go to the live8 website, browse to the media centre, click on "Background information", then click again on "What has been delivered, what is left to do". It will take you to a page that automatically redirects... into nothing! (404 The requested URL /us was not found on this server.) What makes us think that a concert by candlelight in the city centre will actually stop global warming??!

Now, let's talk about that "switching off the lights" thingy. Well... it's just stupid! pseudo-eco-friendly bulbs are not the answer... nor turning off our lights. C'mon! It's the 21st century... not "back to the middle ages"! Until they find another way of powering up our technology, we're stuck with electricity. Or maybe they want us to go back to steam railways and horse trolleys? Do I have to get a hamster to run on a wheel to generate power for my computer? The problem is not about consumption of electricity, as much as it is actually about how is that energy generated. If you are on a nuclear or fossil fuel network... well... maybe it makes sense to "protest" with an "energy boycott" to ask authorities to change to a greener power source. If you are on aeolic or hydroelectric power network, it doesn't make any sense at all to turn off the lights. Still, the point is that we should be asking our governments and power suppliers to update their networks to less (or no) pollutant power sources. We should not give up our right to use electricity...

...but don't get me wrong, I am not endorsing any kind of energy waste. In fact, if we have to switch off something for earth hour, it should be the items on which we are just wasting resources and are "unsustainable". For example: air conditioning. Do you have any idea how much energy is wasted on air conditioning on the malls, cinemas, offices, etc... so cold that people have to wear a jacket to be warm! Isn't that just silly and a waste of energy? I would have loved if instead of turning off the lights of the skytower and casino, they would have switched off the air-conditioning (not the ventilation, just the freezing cold A-C). So... lights are necessary, air conditioning not only consumes a lot of energy (more than the couple of eco-bulbs you just replaced in your house) and it's just superfluous. It's just self complacence, not a real need. If we have to sacrifice something for the planet, then sacrifice something that is not a need. By the way, same story if you have air conditioning in your car... when you switch it on, you're consuming more fuel... polluting a lot... and probably on the way to get asthma or pneumonia.

My alternative to the "earth hour": well, it should raise awareness of the thing that are "actually" causing global warming, or at least polluting the planet. So, earth hour or day, should not focus on turning off lights only... it should have been a comprehensive campaign of real actions to fight pollution. For example:
  • Use of public transport (only) instead of ANY usage of private vehicles on that day.
  • No use of air conditioning on any mall, cinema, store, office building, car or home on that day (or hour).
  • No use of any other "high draining" devices like HDTV, wind blowers, etc.
  • No consumption of beverages or food that comes in PET or tetrapack containers
  • Consume only food that was produced in a 100km radius
  • No consumption of "yellow press", "women's magazines" or any other sort of junk magazines (get your gossip from the internet and save a few trees).
  • Absolutely no plastic bags handed out for free in any store!
  • Ask people to use the spare time they don't spend on that day watching their HDTV sets, or going to the mall (because they actually like to freeze their off), installing a compost thingy in their gardens.
  • Last but not least... "save hot water: take a shower with someone else".
Those are just a few thing that pop into my mind. Those actions would really raise some kind of awareness on things we should do everyday. I must admit that I'm not a very "green" person, there are many things I could or should be doing, but I am too lazy to give up the car, and too far away from home to row on boat instead of taking a plane. But from my perspective putting the blame of the global carbon emissions on the general public and our light bulbs is just propaganda to turn our attention away from the real pollutants: the industry. Making people feel guilty about their electricity usage... and telling them that they will rott in "eco-hell" for not using eco-bulbs is just silly as limbo. Then, they "sell" us the eco-church indulgence that we can "save our souls/ clear our eco-sins" if we turn off the ligths for one hour a year! That's nonsense.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

So little (time)

Hey, after a few weeks off, I hope to have time to blog once again. So much to say, and so little time. Speaking of little... just a few days ago was the official launch of the long awaited Tata - Nano on a very nice ceremony. There have been many negative comments about it on the western press... but in my view, it's just western propaganda to put a bad reputation on a quite good idea.

We all know that the american car industry is already shaking... and many experts expect that one of the three piglets will become roasted ham before the end of this year. And that's all because they didn't adjust their products to the expectations of their customers... or to the environmental concerns in the last years. They expected to be rulers and dictators of what the people should have... but we all know that story. The point is, that just like any other tyrann, I guess they are manipulating the western media (and probably governments too) to suit their interest. That's perfectly understandable. If they want to keep the status quo, they don't want any new alternative ideas to be on the minds of the customers.

There are a couple of adverts from the NZ government urging people to buy only cars with side-airbags and electronic stability control. Of course, they are rating and endorsing cars from certain manufacturers, and brain washing people instead of letting them think and make a decision by themselves... not even when you take a shower... that's what we call now "the NZ nanny state". But anyway, if a whole government is shooting propaganda to suit certain manufacturers (usually the expensive models) because it brings revenue when importing those vehicles... can you imagine the amount of pressure on the western media which basically depends on advertising from the big companies. So, don't trust everything you hear or read.

Strictly from the design and design brief point of view, I think that the nano is just as it should be. Forget your preconceptions about other cars, you have to start from scratch when you intend to be innovative. You must be ready to dare, and make the difficult questions on a design brief... and put literally every bolt, every screw under scrutiny:

  • Does it really need airbags? no
  • Does it have to run from 0 to 100km in 0.5 milliseconds? no
  • Do you really need a V6 or V4 engine? no
  • Do you really have to use hundreds of screws on parts that are not going to be removed? no
  • Can you just glue or clip on those parts? yes
  • Will the car work the same if you put manual (mechanic) window cranks instead of electric windows? yes
  • Is it more environmentally friendly if you put 1'000,000 nanos on the roads than if you put 1'000,000 american style SUV's on this planet? yes

I will respond to the air-conditioning matter with 2 arguments: first, in this case is not about if you actually need air-conditioning in a car or not... the fact is that when the air conditioning is on, the engine has to compensate that energy and thus contaminates a lot more. So that's the green fact for the design brief. And second, the cost of installing a luxury item... will only make the car expensive.

So, in summary, the tata-nano may not be what we would expect from a western car... it just proves that cars as we know them, may not be the perfect solution for everyone. People around the world are (luckily) not part of the (same) american melting pot, and it is time that we start thinking about localized solutions that are feasible, and well suited to the local needs. One size fits all, does not fit everyone! It's such a basic ergonomic principle, and we forget about that. Good that someone dares to stick to the point when it comes to making design that is appropriate.

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