Think about an ordinary man on an ordinary day. He drives to work using 1.5 tons of steel, with an engine strong enough to carry two cows to the slaughterhouse, does some work in some office, using some 3 GHz machine to answer some emails and print some forms. Later that day he goes home, where roughly 400 cubic meters of air and some more of wood and concrete are heated to comfortable 23 degrees Celsius, to provide a comfortable evening for 0.1 cubic meters of person.
That is one hell of a potential for saving goods and energy. The question is just, how would one realize it? Treehuggers would like you to not use a car, and instead use a train or a bike. But it’s cold out there, waiting for the bus. Some German politician wants people to heat to only 16 degrees Celsius, to save some money. But, even with a warm coat, that’s still chilly. Does it have to get cold out there?
Surely not. We have all those technology at hand, fulfilling our basic needs should still be possible without sacrificing too much comfort, perhaps even with gaining a little. Lets just start from the cold, and solve things from there.
Think of an, for lack of a better word, encountersuit – close that create a nice environment directly above your skin. Since several thousand years clothing hasn’t improved much. Today’s clothes might be lighter, and better tailored than the pelts the first humans wore, but, and that is something I find truly amazing, they don’t fulfill their function better if we limit our discussion to everyday clothes and exclude things like neoprene suit, body armor and arctic expedition clothing. Although temperature sensors are a couple of cents, small motors and microcontrollers are available for around 2 euro, and batteries are a bit more expensive, but still far cheaper than a designer suit – we do not use them in our clothing. At material costs less than 100 euro it should be possible to build a simple temperature-controlled suit, that would actively warm you in those cold places out there. It could also cool you down just the right amount to prevent you from sweating. On hot summer days it’ll get a bit more difficult, but perhaps with a lighter suit with some more built-in fans could solve that. And washing the suit would also be a problem.
So suppose we could build such a suit. Now we could ride a bike, the fans would prevent us from sweating, and the heater wires would keep our fingers warm. Maybe it could even heat up the air we breathe. But still, biking is not to everybodys liking. How about an electric skateboard instead? Controls could be easily integrated into the encountersuit, and it fits much better into a go to community center, take train from there scenario; it neatly fits into a backpack.
At home, we also wouldn’t have to worry that much about the temperature. we’d just have to heat enough to prevent mold, and heat the bathroom and the bedroom on those occasions where we’d slip out of the suit.
The technical component is but one part of the solution. At some occasions, you need more than an electrical skateboard. But that doesn’t mean everybody has to have 1.5 tons of steel in some garage, several people could share a car. You wouldn’t neccessarily lose comfort, you could even gain some – on some occasions you’d need a caravan, on some an offroader. Car pools and car renting services can solve that quite well, especially if people wouldn’t need a car every day at seven.
In Germany there are 55 million vehicles. for 80 million people. Suppose every car is driven on average one hour per day. That means, in theory 23 of 24 cars are not needed. Even if the sharing would be quite horribly inefficient and most people would still not go for a bus/skateboard combination, if every second car could be saved, and we evaluate every car at 10 k€, we could save 275 G€, more than the german government manages to
waste spend for the greater good every year. That would be roughly 3.5 k€ per citizen, more than enough for some high-tech warm clothes.
The problem with both using devices that just can do the necessary, like the skateboard, and sharing stuff seems to be the human mind. We do not evaluate our wealth by the things we actually use, or could rent and use, but archaically by the things we do own.
And that is the world of overkill.