The power of one
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

January 18, 2015

Driving north on highway 550, I am heading with our project director Phil Kithil towards the four-corner area and towards the town of Aztec New Mexico. We’re meeting with a group that builds modular desalination units. As pressurized seawater is the end product of our Atmocean wave energy array system, in addition to running that pressurized water through a Pelton motor to generate electricity, we have the option of running the seawater through a desalination plant to generate fresh water for coastal communities in need.

It has been a decade since passing through these parts for high school soccer games. The four corner area of New Mexico might not be as recognized as North Dakota and Texas for its oil and gas boom, but the industry is most certainly alive and well in these parts. As we make our way pass gas wells ands white pickup trucks with their characteristic red and yellow flags, I can’t help but notice the change from ten years past. The landscape is strewn with gas and oil infrastructure, and I am hit with the realization of our current economic glory of cheap gas at the pump. Of course the production has to come from somewhere, but to see it first hand is always a powerful reminder of the path humanity finds itself on.

Moving through this landscape in a white Prius, eyes quickly find us and the label foreigner is automatically adapted. Continuing on in our Pink Rhino, I can’t help but observe the mechanism of our growth over the past 10 years; more, more, more. While oil production continually grows, we quickly consume it in our efforts to generate ever-increasing amounts of stuff. Is it making us happier? Besides my physical growth in the past 10 years I have not noticed one way or another from the news cycles, highs and lows of the economy, and overall direction of humanity that fundamentally, people are any happier or better off than 10 years ago. “Did you know that only 1% of total North American materials flow ends up in, and are still being used within products six months after their sale” (Hawken, Lovins, and Lovins, Natural Capitalism, 81. Additionally, while machines have been made to be more efficient, the average American home’s use of electricity remains unchanged as we charge and run ever-increasing number of appliances.

            Working actively towards the implementation of clean energy, I realize driving through these fields of energy production, that Atmocean does not hold a solution to our current economic model of growth. We may generate Megawatts of clean power, millions of cubic meters of clean water, all the while realizing an entirely new clean energy source. Yet it won’t be enough if we as a society don’t start asking ourselves when enough is enough. This comes on the tail of research that suggests in order for humanity to avoid the next great extinction; we will have to find a way to leave oil, gas, and coal in the ground. Thus, it seems unlikely that technology, or any top down approach will lead us to some miracle cure. Instead, it will be realized in the actions of the individuals each and every day as we make millions of small choices throughout our lives. Yes, saving the world from ourselves will be based on you and me.

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