July 8, 2016: Election Day – Droning On

Well, election day was a week ago and we still don’t know who won but it’s looking depressingly like the Coalition might cling to power with the help of Bob Katter’s Australian Party. As usual we poor suckers were faced with a number of awful choices between the lesser of various evils. I dream of the day when I might visit the polling booth with hope and enthusiasm for a person with ideas that I really want to vote FOR rather than dread and foreboding about the lies and corruption that I’m voting against.

Good Tom Hunt-ing?

As you might be able to tell, I am not a political person and I certainly do not advocate for any particular political party. On the contrary, I think political parties pervert the democratic process. Every representative should be able to… (no, let me rephrase that) should be required to vote on every issue according to their own conscience and the interests of their constituents. Party politics forces party members to vote according to party policy regardless of whether they agree with said policy or believe that it is the right thing to do for the people they represent. As far as I am concerned, this is not democracy. When we have two corrupt major parties that overwhelmingly dominate the political waterways, we poor citizen sailors find ourselves, once again, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

I have very little time or respect for politicians in general and political parties in particular. So I was wary when I was approached by a friend of mine who is a member of the Green Party and wanted to invite Tom Hunt, the Greens candidate for Whitlam, to come and see the Greeny Flat.

Tom Hunt, Green Party candidate for Whitlam shows me his DIY plug-in Prius conversion.

Tom Hunt, Green Party candidate for Whitlam shows me his DIY plug-in Prius conversion.

In what is probably a regular occurrence for any political candidate, I took the opportunity to give poor Tom a solid ear-bashing about government policy in regard to climate change, energy efficiency, building standards and, of course, the difference between Renewable Energy and Renewable Electricity. To my surprise Tom seemed to actually listen and agree with most of what I said. In fact I found myself really quite liking Tom and then I realised why… it’s because he’s not a politician. Tom is, in fact a regular guy who is about to retire and was pressured into standing for the Green Party because no-one else was willing to step up. Now THAT is the type of politician I might want to vote for… one who is not looking for a career or power or self-promotion but is standing up for what they believe in and doing what they see as their civic duty.

I also found myself admiring the fact that, at least to some extent, Tom is practicing what he is preaching. He proudly showed me the Prius that he (yes, he himself) has converted to a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. He said it cost him about $10,000 to make the conversion using a kit that he imported from California. He also said that he wouldn’t recommend the DIY approach to anyone who isn’t very confident about their knowledge and abilities with electronics. (Apparently there are companies in Australia that will do a conversion for you if you’re not up to doing it yourself). I’m not much good with electronics myself. I could likely blow up a Prius if I attempted a similar conversion. So I admire the fact that Tom had the ability and the courage to do that to a fairly expensive car.

Luckily for Tom he didn’t win the seat of Whitlam but at least he was willing to talk about climate change and energy conservation during his campaign which is more than we can say for the pack of back-stabbing weasels that seem likely to retain power.

Droning On

Speaking of ear-bashings… those readers who waded through my rant about drones in our Newsletter a couple of weeks ago will recall that I started out quite positive about the benefits of drones for our fledgling Renewable Energy company and ended up with a very dark vision of how drones and robots are surplanting our jobs and taking us down a pathway towards a bleak and scary future.

The following video was not designed to reinforce that point but it certainly does so, and more effectively than any number of words from my keyboard. The hilarious thing about this video is that it is intended as a promotional exercise to get people excited about this new product.

See what I mean? Who comes up with this stuff? It got me excited all right… by scaring the daylights out of me. I particularly love the bit at the end where the grey and lifeless people are standing in the background, subservient to the almighty drone, with apparently nothing to do but be there, ready to serve the needs of the machine at any moment…. I rest my case.

You might like to read this Gizmag article about the Airobotics system if you happen to run a prison or be interested in 24 hour surveillance of your neighbour or in technology that ‘results in what Airobotics says is the ability to execute a “nearly infinite number of missions,” without the need for a drone pilot or operator’. This gives me a pathetic little sense of self-satisfaction (along with feelings of horror and dread) because it is exactly what I wrote about two weeks ago, and I quote…

‘What is society going to look like if machines take over most of the jobs?

Currently we are in control. We are directing the machines to do things for us AND we have control over their power supply. As a last resort we can pull the plug. But it’s not hard to see a situation where we hand control of energy supplies and manufacturing to computers… then what happens? Soon we may not have the ability to turn them off….

Even more concerning to me is the fact that all of the work the drone did required a certain amount of planning on Anton’s part and then very little input from him. How long will it be before Anton doesn’t even need to be there? Currently Anton is telling the machines what to do and they are doing it extremely efficiently. But it’s not a very long step from here to where the machines are telling us what to do. Once we start adding artificial intelligence into the mix things could get seriously creepy.’

Seriously creepy indeed as the video so perfectly illustrates.

Reader Feedback – Passive Solar Design

The following question was submitted by a reader in Bowral and it illustrates a common misconception about Passive Solar Design.

Dear Andy,
Would it be possible to pass on details about the supplier and installation of the solar passive product you have installed in the Greeny Flat please?

Here is my reply…

Hi ____  and thanks for your interest in the Greeny Flat.

In response to your question, Passive Solar Design is not a product, it is a system. There are ten simple and common-sense principles that, when applied correctly, result in a building that stays warm in winter and cool in summer with little of no additional heating or air-conditioning. The Greeny Flat is proof that it works. We do not have a heating or cooling system yet the interior stays comfortably between 15 and 25 degrees most of the time. All we have to do is operate the windows and blinds correctly.

All of this is detailed, at length on our website. I recommend that, if you want to understand passive solar design, you read all of the following section of our website.  Alternatively you can download my e-Book ‘The Ten Principles of Passive Solar Design‘ here… 

FREE E-BOOK – The Ten Principles of Passive Solar Design

After that, if you have specific questions please let me know.

Regards, Andy

I find that many people confuse Passive Solar Design with active solar products like Photovoltaic Panels and Solar Hot Water Systems. Passive Solar is the key to creating affordable, comfortable, healthy, energy efficient buildings and it is important to understand that it is not a product you can go out and buy but a system you can apply. The key point to remember is that all ten of the principles have to be followed correctly. I have seen plenty of examples of Passive Solar Designs that were ruined by incorrectly applying just one or two of these concepts.

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