23 Nov Designing A Greener Mousetrap
I WENT TO THE MOVIES YESTERDAY, and before showing the film there was a three-minute documentary about an average American homemaker asking her husband “Why don’t we cover all the asphalt roads, highways, and driveway surfaces in America, with some kind of solar panel materials that could soak up every minute of sunlight, melt any snow, or ice before it formed, and store up enough energy to electrically power America?
To my astonishment, her husband, a regular guy with no scientific or engineering background, or any relationship with solar business or any kind of manufacturing experience, proceeded to meet with solar companies and their engineers. Following his lead, they eventually developed a product that, in fact, could cover every road and highway with snap together, replaceable glass laminate solar panels, which could indeed, power America in it’s entirety in years to come. And the fact that asphalt itself is a petroleum product, the reduced need for more oil related products and practices would eliminate a huge fraction of the global warming agents currently used to continue the “American way of life” we all enjoy.
Acting upon seemingly naïve ideas, like from the homemaker above, might provide one of the keys to solving huge environmental and health problems facing our lives now and in the future. The fact that her idea helped to create a product that now actually exists means it may not be such a farfetched idea. Who knows, it might not be so long for her idea, or ones like it, to find their way into becoming reality.
Not so long ago, California got tough with automobile emissions and set what seemed to many, as almost impossible goals for gasoline engines to reduce their impact on clean air in our state. To avoid steep fines, auto companies pushed their designers and engineers to dig deep to come up with hybrid engine vehicles. Those design efforts have evolved to “zero emission” cars, from the Nissan Leaf to the Chevrolet Volt, to the expensive, but modern miracle of engineering, Tesla. The glowing reviews for the Tesla will undoubtedly pull more car company designers into this competition to make and sell zero emission cars that people can afford. Eventually this may become the norm… not just a novelty for the concientious wealthy, but for the majority of owners.
I arrived in Los Angeles 30 years ago. During the months of July through October, one could not clearly see high-rise buildings and huge billboards even four or five blocks ahead, let alone hills and mountains in the distance. The brown veil of smog was so prevalent that radio and televisions stations issued health advisory smog reports on a daily, if not hourly basis. Now our August September vistas are near crystal clear. The mountain ranges spread their magnificence as far as the human eye allows. Smog is no longer the LA catchword. Our tough emission laws have changed one huge aspect of our lives for the better.
Perhaps the global warming crisis is finally sinking in. With enough awareness, effort, and imagination, we just might be able to rewind the clock enough to slow down, and eventually reverse a good deal of the environmental damage we humans have blindly created. The melting Polar Glaciers will not likely return, but if we get busy, maybe we can throttle down this quickening pace of warming to a manageable degree so we can continue to live on the only planet we currently have to share with our fellow inhabitants. And let’s keep dreaming and questioning, which seems to me, might be the first step toward a healthy and lasting future.
Enjoy your crystal clear Indian Summer in Southern California.
About the author: Tom Callaway is an interior designer and architect, living in Brentwood.