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5242Re: Air Conditioning, Cars, and livable places

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  • Ken Kifer
    Jun 8, 2002
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      Ken Kifer wrote:
      > I don't think the automobile per se has affected the Southern farmer
      > much; the pickup truck replaced the wagon.

      John Snyder replied:
      I enjoyed your entire post Ken. And I agree as a personal transportation
      choice the auto didn't cause too much change for a farmer whose work
      and home are the same place. However if we were to include tractors and
      harvesters as a part what the word "automobile" means then we look at
      the cause for a revolution occuring.

      Before the advent of mechanization a majority of any population
      will be employed in agriculture or another hands on means of
      acquiring food from the land. Thus prior to the 1930's in the US
      most humans were active producers who lived on farms rather than
      passive consumers who live in cities. In turn that change
      represents a very fundamental shift of shared values and

      Ken Kifer replies:
      After I wrote that, I meant to go back in and say something about exercise, but
      I forgot to do so.

      At the time of the Civil War, the Southern soldiers, who tended to be from the
      country, had a great physical advantage over the Yankee soldiers, who were more
      likely to be from the city. I think we all tend to think of the farm as being a
      healthier place to live. However, the modern farmer spends his days sitting in
      a combine, his evenings running a lawn mower (sitting down, of course), and uses
      a motor vehicle for all transportation. Most of the children, in the farm area
      where I live, get their "exercise" riding four-wheelers. Most of the other
      chores (gathering wood, tending a garden, canning food, picking cotton, etc.)
      have been replaced with less labor-intensive methods. Most farmers get their
      milk, meat, and vegetables from a supermarket. In the meantime, the city
      dweller is more likely to be exercise conscious than formerly. So, one indirect
      result of the motorization of the American farm has been, I believe, a decline
      in the farmer's health. Of course, farmers have become a minority in even
      farming areas (except the Amish areas). At any rate, the US South has a genuine
      health crisis.

      Ken Kifer wrote:
      > Light-weight electric vehicles powered (indirectly) by solar (or
      > wind) energy sound fine with me, except for not providing any
      > exercise.

      Laurisa (Purple Bovine) wrote:
      And as for exercise - I hardly think it's society's business whether
      or not I get enough exercise on my commute. Whether or not I pollute
      the air, yes. Whether or not I buy fuel from terrorists, yes. But
      whether or not I have healthy exercise habits?

      Ken Kifer replies:
      I would agree that we should not force people to do healthy things or force them
      not to do things that are personally harmful but not harmful to other people.
      However, I think it is both proper and sound for a society to encourage healthy
      behavior, even to the extent of making unhealthy behavior more difficult. For
      example, I think it would be wrong for the government to outlaw the smoking of
      cigarettes (and probably unwise as well), but I don't think it's wrong for the
      government to discourage their use. Likewise, I think we need to make every
      effort to tell people how important exercise is and to make it easier for them
      to exercise. We spend over a trillion dollars a year in the US on health
      costs, and a lot of those expenses would be reduced or eliminated if people
      would eat properly and exercise sufficiently.

      Lorenzo L. Love wrote (in part):
      . . . Today, these problems are minor because only an
      insignificant number of people use electric vehicles or solar power.
      Once a significant number of people start using electric vehicles and/or
      solar power, there will be the environmental piper to pay. If we are not
      just to replace one type of pollution for another, we have to start
      thinking about these things now and not just blindly rush into "clean"
      energy which isn't really that clean.

      Ken Kifer replies:
      I have heard the argument that solar panels aren't clean power, but I am
      skeptical of it. The burning of coal produces huge amounts of acid, and the
      strip mining required in most areas to get it is extremely destructive, as I
      have seen in traveling around Alabama. It's easy for an industry with a very
      dirty history to say, "Who knows if solar panels wouldn't be even more
      destructive?" As for the use of batteries, every part of a lead-acid battery
      can be recycled; it's the little batteries that don't get recycled, not the
      large ones. As for solar panels taking up too much room, if you used
      light-weight, human-powered quadracycles, the space taken up by the panels would
      be no greater than the garages you parked them in (or you could put the panels
      on the roof and power the vehicles directly). My panels produce ten watts per
      hour per square foot, so a ten-acre solar panel farm could produce 430,000
      watts. Most people could not use all the power that falls on their own land. If
      the land used just for transmission lines was replaced with solar panels, we
      could probably produce all the power we need! (Not that this power would be
      cost-competitive with coal or wind power.)

      Solar panels are very practical for the person who lives in a remote area and
      can't use wind power, but they are hardly the only method or most economic
      method of getting electricity from the sun. Wind power, water power, and
      burning renewable fuels are common indirect methods. Wind power is currently
      profitable in competition with coal, although the big power companies are mostly
      fighting it. Also, one could use focused solar heat to produce power, something
      which we have only experimented with.

      The most environmentally safe "source" of power is to use less of it. This can
      cause some problems, such as homes that are so air-tight that they are not
      properly ventilated. Building a house underground or partially underground, for
      instance, greatly reduces the need for heating and cooling. But another way to
      reduce power consumption is to learn to expect less and to adapt otherwise.
      Since I started living by myself, I have used very little heat in the winter and
      no air conditioning in the summer. In the winter, I dress warmly when working
      inside, but I spend most of my time out-of-doors. Cool air temperatures are
      better for sleeping at night. Except for the years 1974 - 1985, I have used a
      motor vehicle very little. I don't use a lawn mower, weed wacker, or any other
      small gasoline device.

      Ken Kifer's Bike Pages: Over 130 web pages -- touring,
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