One of my favorite places to spend a glorious, blue sky spring afternoon is Washington DC.
Washington’s world famous cherry blossom bloom is receding but the national mall is dressed up with the glorious beauty of early blooms. One of the special treasures of the mall is the interior botanical gardens, where one can experience every climate condition on earth; from the dessert to the rain forest.
Well, this past week-end I was indeed blessed with such an outing to the gardens, and got the bonus engagement with the design for use expo leading into this earth week. Stewardship of our environment has taken on renewed urgency similar to our renewal of our economy.
I was however bristling from the EPA announcement of last week regarding carbon dioxide regulation. The threat of their regulation could be a game changer. The last set of folks I wanted to encounter was a bunch of ecological crusaders declaring dire global warming predictions that will enable draconian policies with self righteousness smugness. With the economy in the recovery room, we need to be very prudent with the type of stress we apply to this patient that un-intended consequences do not trigger a relapse.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised by my encounter at this expo. Most of the presenters were college kids presenting the engineering and design projects that were making a difference in many developing countries. I was most interested in projects that could be transferred to tropical setting .
For example, a group from the University of Florida had implemented a novel scheme in Burkina Faso to eliminate malaria from sitting water. They were able to put is a stone and sand base that filtered and eliminate this water borne menace rather cheaply.
The there was a group from Wisconsin that was concerned with the depletion of the aquifer and devised a scheme to trap rain water and used it to water lawns. The neat thing was they used a cheap solar sensor to detect when the soil needed to be watered to release the water.
There was a group from Colorado who had a project in Mongolia. The wells there were tainted with arsenic. They designed a cheap pump that contained a section with a magnetic remover that removed this poison that the most sensitive monitor could not detect a trace.
- Then there was a group from University of Alabama who designed a solar powered desalination device that is actually portable.
- University of Cincinnati team designed a solar powered water disinfectant being used in Mexico.
- The kids from Arizona designed a solar cooker that can be used as a barbeque station. They are working on a transmission system that will allow for the energy to be transferred indoors via a vegetable oil scheme. I have been promised a video that I will share when it is available.
Finally, there was a hobby group promoting electric cars. They demonstrated an electric car that has been around for 20 years. With current technology, a gas powered car can be converted to an electric car for $10K was the claim! I will be dialoging with them further on this issue.
There are several take aways beyond the obvious green friendly future these kids were creating.
First, these kids were on the cutting edge of green professional jobs. Some had changed majors from the tradional medicine or finance as they were truly driven by a pioneering spirit of the future. White collar is out, green is in. Are we being conscious of this?
There are green grants more readily available to fund initiatives.
Many of these schools did projects in other countries. This affords access to resources and technology transfer on the cheap for host countries.
We are clearly in an era of technological discontinuity that reset the possibilities to be a part of the pioneering class. The twin ETs (energy technology and environmental technology) will be growth segments that will add rocket weath fuel to economies of those who seize the day.