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Alternative energy

Chicks in New York (indeed, all over the country, and not just chicks, come to think of it) pay top dollar for gym memberships where they sit on exercise cycles or tromp on treadmills sweating to loud music under bright lights. 
They are expending energy.  Working out.  How can we simultaneously have an energy crisis and high unemployment?  There should be some sort of Malthusian Trap for energy consumption: whenever the quantity of aimless exercise junkies reaches a certain limit and the price of oil passes $45 a barrel, the world will turn to human power to electrify their homes and workplaces.

Imagine great banks of treadmills powered by the endorphin addicts of America, producing power pumped into fuel cells.  Forget the Flashdance soundtrack and klieg-like lighting of the local Gold’s Gym, we’re not going to get movie stars to work out for wattage.  In fact, this may work best in our prisons.  The US has millions of people incarcerated for drug offenses, they would probably love an endorphin fix rather than hanging out in line for the free weights.  Anaerobic exercise is a 20th century prison clichй.  Today’s jailbird needs to get the heart rate up, the sweat flowing, and while they’re at it pump some juice onto the grid.  I’m no electrical engineer, but surely the science behind this can’t be any harder than splitting atoms to capture energy.  And, captive prisoners are far more easily isolated than uranium molecules.

Some might say this is cruel and unusual punishment, that it violates eighth amendment rights, Geneva Conventions, and just simply goes beyond the bounds of what a decent society would do to their prison population.  To which I’d reply like any good American, “Geneva Con-what?”  If we can offer people behind bars a reduction of their sentence (say, each minute on the treadmill equals one hour earlier release - a 72 minute workout buys them three days of their life back!), and actually pay them for the power they produce, then how can we call that cruel?  The cruelty is that Buffy in San Jose is paying $100 a month for the same endorphin hit.

Addiction is addiction whether you’re trying to score a bottle of hooch or you’re searching for the perfect adrenaline rush.  I think we need no further evidence of the lengths an individual will go to score that next high than our very own president.  Any 12-step program will tell you addiction doesn’t stop just because you stop drinking.  The “Just Say No” rhetoric is empty precisely because it offers no alternative.  Saying “no” is not enough, you can’t sit around all day doing nothing, you must find something to which you can say “yes.”  For some that means getting on the dreadmill.  At least until the knees give out and your doctor says you can’t anymore.  Then you might take up mountain biking, but be careful of loose soil.  Extreme sports can cause extreme embarrassment.  On second thought, some people might just be better off with a six-pack under their belt and the remote glued to their hand.  An inebriated couch potato won’t launch a preemptive war.

Human beings are fascinating creatures, we really have untold strength.  Look at the way records fall in athletic events, they are made to be broken.  We strive and succeed.  We see a goal, set an objective and we achieve it.  Every day some physical miracle takes place, whether it’s a paraplegic getting out of bed or Khalid Kannouchi setting another record for the marathon.  We all have those limits to which we drive ourselves, and we push that limit every day.  As soon as we find equilibrium we challenge ourselves with something new, it’s as if we need to be off-balance.  The world has become a scary place and our leaders are working hard to make us more afraid, to keep us off-kilter.  Don’t let them.  There’s positive energy everywhere, it’s in each and every one of us.  We can power our own homes - solar, wind, geothermal, MicroTurbines – the technology exists, it’s a simple matter of having the will to put it to use.  If the alternative is enlisting the world’s prison population to produce electricity (rather than receive it) then I’d say the choice is easy.  Work out.  Peace, out.

Jeff Wenker

 

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