20 Weird, Crazy Ideas for Helping the Earth
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Good on paper, bad in practice: from fart offsets to eco-beer, blocking the sun to Green Burning Man, here are 20 of the craziest innovations, inventions, and ideas to save the planet – most of which have fallen miserably short of the mark. In the modern green movement rush to solve our numerous environmental crises, scientists have been scrambling to develop innovative technologies and creative solutions. Some of these developments – from small-scale interventions like cargo container homes to citywide green urban re-designs – have been lauded for their ingenuity and potential. But other concepts, while initially offering promise, have turned out to be impossible, dangerous, or just…ridiculous.
Global warming. Food shortages and water scarcity. Fossil fuel depletion. Deforestation and extinction. Freakish weather. Methane pollution and acid rain. Dwindling resources. It’s an understatement to say we’re facing major environmental issues as the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close. No wonder scientists are trying anything and everything. Even things that don’t work. At all.
1. Artificial Islands and Floating Cities
Land reclamation project turned private playground for the rich and famous, artificial island projects such as Dubai’s The World have come under criticism for harming the environment and disturbing delicate ecosystems as developers claim the projects actually benefit the planet like natural islands. Despite the fact that self-professed environmentalists Brad and Angelina have snapped up their own faux islet, The World is an environmental embarrassment compared to contemporary architectural trends toward prefabrication, portability and the recycling of old structures into new houses.
Other artificial islands claiming to preserve the environment are credible, such as (where else?) the Bay Area’s Treasure Island project, China’s Dongtan, and the high-tech Lilypad – the amphibious answer to a future of rising tides. These artificial cities are carbon neutral, self-sufficient and 100% sustainable. However, a lack of scalability and prohibitive cost for at-risk regions makes projects like Lilypad a novelty, not a global solution. A more likely (and practical) solution will be to retrofit existing cities and suburbs…although the Superstar is cool, but the nuts and bolts like bedrooms, bathrooms &storage spaces have yet to be worked out.
2. Human-Powered Floating Gyms
Human-powered floating gyms – a great way to transport yourself downriver as long as you don’t mind working out in an encased shell with a dozen other sweaty bodies. Could this be New York’s answer to the problem of traffic congestion? While scientists have been working to find a way to harness wasted energy expelled by people at gyms, the practicality of floating gyms is debatable. Would people want to work out on their way to meetings and appointments? Would the resources used to build the gyms make the energy savings even worth it? Isn’t walking or biking on existing roadways a more feasible (and inexpensive) method of transport?
3. The 15-Year Light Bulb
Everyone would love love a light bulb that lasts 1.5 decades. Think of all the energy humans would collectively save. Unfortunately, though many were excited by the, um, glow of this idea, the radioactivity of the bulb means we still need a nontoxic answer to the problem of wasted electricity when it comes to lamps and lighting.
Hybrid concepts are hot, but not all futuristic vehicle concepts are realistic. Like the extreme gravity car. Or even Hybrid SUVs that get worse gas mileage than most sedans and require tremendous virgin resources to produce. But then there is Ford’s failed hybrid revolution and the plight of the electric car. Though there are plenty of great hybrids on the market these days, as well as some great upcoming models and concepts, many have been dismal failures. The air car is a kick-ass concept, but time will tell if it can get significant mileage with the media or consumers. And of course, there is the infamous water-powered car.