Winds of change

Our conceptions of what it takes to lead a sustainable life, if one were to think of such issues, is about to undergo dramatic changes, I predict. The rise of new media, for lack of a better word, has demonstrated how traditional hierarchies can be radically altered within a very short time span; the line between users and producers of information is no longer clear-cut, leading to a myriad of convergences in the way materials and the social make up the fabric we refer to as society. I have no doubt we will all want to create; we will all become engineers within a not too distant future.

Today’s geo-political climate, along with the tendency to focus on the local origins and global impact associated with the consumption and production of goods, will similarly redefine the way we think about energy issues; on the one hand, we will continue down the ‘bigger-better-faster’ track, e.g. building more efficient wind turbines by improving existing designs. On the other, we will witness a demand for sophisticated yet mundane products, energy sources which are small, local and customisable – tomorrow’s iPod does not need to be charged in the conventional way, and who said you cannot turn trousers into power generators?

In contrast to the ‘mega projects’, such as off shore wind farms and solar panels hidden insofar as possible, these new technologies will take on a pivotal role in the shaping of new cultural regimes; they will serve as symbols in reproducing new economies of fashion, either by their absence or presence.

A bit of empirical grounding:

The (stolen) pictures above show The Quiet Revolution, a small-scale, vertical axis wind turbine developed by the London-based environmental design agency XCO2. Not only does it produce energy, by incorporating light emitting diodes it is also a means of communication, designed to be put in the foreground in making up hip urbanscapes.

The Freedom Tower, to be built upon New York’s Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, is set to host the world’s tallest wind farm, making it a flagship project for proponents of urban windmills. Link to the article in Nature here. [update: I see they have been abandoned in the updated design]

Hippyshopper boasts a comprehensive range of ingenious devices, ranging from the waterless washing machine, over solar bags, to glowing bricks.

If I were working here, I would think very carefully about my R&D strategies.

Add a Comment

Add a Comment