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Harnessing the wind

One of the big things I got out of this year was time to think. Although from what i write about it may appear that I haven't really thought of anything useful, I have to say that it does not reflect my much greater appreciation of some fundamental concepts I was supposed to learn way back in high-school. The difference between then and now is definitely not my level of maturity. Rather, I think that it is more a question of the context in which the subject is taught. Then, it was just taught. The goal was to get good grades so I am eligible to play sports. There was no attempt (at least none that I could see) to show how such things as thermodynamics and ecological cycles were important to know about.

Enough about that though.

Along with this new-found interest in thermodynamics has come a curiosity about making due with what we have (sun, wind, rain, etc..). I doubt that I can make the connection clear in my writing, but it is clear in my head. Much of the clarity and interest has resulted, I think, from reading what was for me, the most influential book I have read this year: Gaviotas.

The book touches on a multitude of concepts. Every time I opened it I had an a-ha! moment. But what made it so powerful to me was not the concepts themselves, for they were not entirely new, but rather that it shows the concepts in implementation.

The book is about a village in Columbia where, as Social design Notes puts it:

while war rages across Colombia with the help of U.S. funds, equipment, and training, the 200 residents of Gaviotas, including farmers, scientists, artists, and former street kids, have created a thriving village and environmental research center in Vichada in Los Llanos.

(Mother Jones Article about Gaviotas)

One of the things that really inspired me was the idea that perhaps I could, without any engineering degree or research lab funding, use existing materials (otherwise waste) to make some simple things contraptions to reduce my own footprint.

Most of the fantasies bursting forth from my brain are things that I would like to try once I get back to Tokyo, where I am somewhat settled (no use trying to build a mini wind-turbine or rain water collection/purification device here when I will be gone before I can use it). However, this idea of becoming an amateur inventor have led to my current project. One that I hope to use in June or July as I kayak from Karlskrona, in the south of Sweden, to the Finland border, in the north.

I want to build a sail for my kayak. I know, it sounds simple and nothing special, but for me, raised in a world where if it's not sold at Wall-mart it'S probably not possible, it's a big step, and a big dream. About the closest thing I can remember to this once when I was a kid and tried to make a raft out of empty one-gallon milk jugs. The raft never really made it to sea.

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The photos are from our day in Warsaw, Poland.