Solutions for Self-Reliance

What I Found Interesting This Week 3/3/2013

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Here’s two seemingly unrelated items that caught my eye this week.

As different as they are, they are connected.  They are both connected to producing more locally.

The first item is something surprising.  It’s seed potatoes growing without soil.

potato seed

These seed potatoes were grown using aeroponics (a nutrient solution was misted onto the roots) by farmers and scientists at the International Potato Center in Peru.

The team in Peru, has found that aeroponics can radically improve production of seed stock for farmers (up to ten times higher than other methods).   IF there is interest, I’ll write more about the method used.

If you didn’t know it already, potatoes were originally found in Peru and it’s home to over four thousand varieties (here’s a color catalogue of a couple of hundred of these.  Warning: it’s a big file and it’s in Spanish).  Here’s an example of the diversity available:

Peru Potatoes

Wow.  Why can you only get a standard potato in even a good restaurant?  There’s lots of reasons, but it seems pretty banal in comparison, doesn’t it?

The second item is a new car design called the Urbee.

It’s a great example of what a small team of designers, using computer design and modelling software can do.

Urbee

What makes this car interesting is that it’s the first car to be printed in 3D (using a large Stratasys printer) in high strength plastics.  This means it has the potential to be a car that can be sent as a computer file to a local shop, where it is “printed” and assembled to order (no more car factories, both foreign and domestic?).

NOTE:  3D printing, for those of you that don’t know, is a new way of manufacturing things.  In short, it’s going to enable people to make an incredible variety of things locally (both at “3D printer shops” and on your desktop) using designs they download from the Internet.

Other things that are interesting about the Urbee include.  It is:

  • designed to meet and exceed US car safety standards.  
  • 12 times more efficient than the Prius (!)
  • uses only 8 horsepower and runs on a combo of electricity and ethanol (yet can go highway speeds).

Let’s hope they can figure out a way to get this ready for the mass market.

As long as we are on the topic of driving, let me leave you with one last observation.

We’re driving less and less every year.  By how much?

Here’s a graph from Doug Short showing some detail on this.

Miles

As you can see, this is a pretty substantial reversal.

Clearly, this decline in driving was initiated when gasoline prices started to climb in 2005, and it accelerated during the financial crisis.  And it’s pretty clear that those two factors are still having an impact.

However, I think something else is also at work.

There’s a group of people that are starting to find ways to live and work that don’t involve being chained to a wheel of a car.  Increasingly they are finding ways to work close to home and buy locally when able.  When they do need to work/sell/collaborate in the global economy, they don’t drive.  They telecommute.

NOTE:  One short note about telecommuting.  I’ve started more than my share of companies, and nearly all of them are now run virtually.  This experience has taught me that it will inevitably be almost all “global work” is done.

To support their transition to personal independence, they are making their homes productive.

They are adding the ability to produce food, energy, and water (and in some cases, shops to prototype products).

They are where the global economy is being reinvented right now.

Have a great week.

Think Abundantly!

JOHN ROBB

PS:  All the best to Jeff, a member of the Resilient Strategies team.  He’s dealing with an unexpected family emergency.  

John-Robb

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