An old cliché says that the best answers are often the most obvious ones, or similarly, that the very thing we’ve been searching for all this time has been sitting right in front of our eyes. Ironically, clichés, by their very nature, are good examples of this. There’s often no better way to put it than by submitting a cliché, the very first cliché that comes to mind.
So apply this principle to one of this century’s most pressing problems: finding cleaner sources of energy. Obviously, no one alternative can replace oil or coal or any fossil fuel, and too much reliance on any one energy source comes with a well-documented litany of destructive economic and environmental effects. A wide-range of clean, smaller-scale renewable energy sources, collectively powering civilization – that’s the only future that includes us. These little bursts of essential natural energy are all around us, here for the taking, to harness into power, if we can only think a little more creatively. Indeed, unlike oil or coal, we don’t need to go digging to find them.
Take water, for example. Water has long been a source of energy, specifically falling water (dams) and moving water (watermills on rivers). But there is one feature of water, it seems, that has been seriously overlooked: the power to make things float. Flotation. Think about it. Is there a more natural and renewable generator of movement, aside from maybe gravity, than a liquid causing a less dense substance to float? Think about a flurry of basketballs, released through a one-way hole in the bottom of a water tank, all shooting up to the surface. Think about a water wheel that powers itself on both falling water and flotation. If you can’t, don’t worry. There are 7.4 billion people on Earth, and it only takes one who can.
And how about the treadmill? Right now, treadmills are powered by electricity, while the energy that people could be creating on them, by spinning the rubber mat beneath, is never created at all. Rather, all energy is spent: spent by machine; spent by man. But surely, there can be a way for people running on the treadmill, keeping pace with the rubber mat’s electronic loop, to contribute something, some energy, to keep it going. Perhaps, with advances in the sort of magnetic technology that has long captivated the transportation sector, a magnetic treadmill, that is essentially frictionless and thus takes no energy to spin aside from a human running on it, could be in the works. It would be an innovative way to generate energy in a manner that is healthy both for the operator of the machine and for everybody else. And already, hundreds of millions of people operate them every day.