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Can Two Engineers and Some Elbow Grease Save The World?
May 27, 2008 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Planet Mechanics Dick Strawbridge and Jem Stansfield have been travelling Europe (for National Geographic UK) on a mission to lower energy consumption (and make interesting television). Air Propelled Sandwich | Cow Power | Lake District Dilemma | Solar Paella | Electric Water Taxi | Surf Power | Heavy Metal House | Tree Powered Truck
posted by chuckdarwin (32 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, I remember Colonel Dick from Junkyard Wars!

Awesome post, I love shows like this. Definitely have to download some eps (the player on the site seems dodgy, though it could be my employer.)
posted by DU at 5:24 AM on May 27, 2008


They're all over the torrent sites. Not that I would know that.

Dick was also on a great show called "It's Not Easy Being Green" with his family.

Great guys, by all accounts, and they seem very sincere.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:30 AM on May 27, 2008


Do they have any proposals for how we should power our TVs?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:32 AM on May 27, 2008


As well as Scrapheap Challenge, Colonel Dick and his family also had a series called It's Not Easy Being Green on the BBC.
posted by veedubya at 5:34 AM on May 27, 2008


Ach! Snap!
posted by veedubya at 5:34 AM on May 27, 2008


Do they have any proposals for how we should power our TVs?

They use wind and solar. I'm not being snarky. If you watch, their (biodiesel) truck and all their tools/equipment and powered by a little mast, a solar panel and (if need be) a converted bicycle.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:35 AM on May 27, 2008


MY FRIEND actually didn't find it at thepiratebay, whatever that is. But he or she will keep looking.

Also the clips are very promising. I'm so, so, SO glad they didn't go with the usual airhead host style.
posted by DU at 5:37 AM on May 27, 2008


veedubya, in interest of full disclosure, I know Bridget because we sometimes see each other at the pub. I've never met Dick, though.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:38 AM on May 27, 2008


DU, the best thing about it is that THESE FUCKERS CAN BUILD *ANYTHING* and they take pains to explain all the science.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:39 AM on May 27, 2008


I love shows like this, really. I loved, loved , loved the Scrapheap Challenge/Junkyard Wars and I think it's great that they are doing a show with an environmental edge, but (and you had to see that coming), if they really are "on a mission to fix the world" shouldn't they be encouraging us to turn off our TV's and fix the world ourselves rather than sitting at home consuming and making their advertisers rich?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:51 AM on May 27, 2008


An electric boat in an hour. Dick and Jem vs Adam and Jamie in a MONSTER BUILDOFF.
posted by DU at 5:51 AM on May 27, 2008


Perhaps Dick can build his own solar/wind powered Torrents server...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:56 AM on May 27, 2008


...if they really are "on a mission to fix the world" shouldn't they be encouraging us to turn off our TV's and fix the world ourselves...

Isn't that what they are doing? It sure is inspiring me. I was already working on a solar collection project this weekend, but even just these little clips have me very excited to get back home and do more.
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


fearfulsymmetry, in theory, there's some site called mininova that may or may not have episodes. Not that I would know.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:06 AM on May 27, 2008


Pollomacho, your point is well taken, but I still think we have to start somewhere... even if it's just a TV show that inspires a few people to try these alternatives.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:08 AM on May 27, 2008


Also, it isn't just inspirational, it's also propagandistic. Notice how many of the clips are designed to show how extremely powerful something is. Tractor pulls! Exploding bike! Gravity cannon!

For too long the meme of "sustainable == weak" has been allowed to flourish.
posted by DU at 6:17 AM on May 27, 2008


They have me excited about sitting and watching someone else do things on tv, not exactly goading me to fix the planet. Afterwards I'll probably get sucked into "America's Hardest Prisons." That doesn't seem to be fulfilling the mission.

Don't get me wrong, I like the premise. I agree with Chuckdarwin that we do have to start somewhere. I like that they are going to show me cool stuff I can possibly make (or at least the concept) that is even helpful in reducing emissions and recycling waste. I like that they are presenting a new perspective on environmental topics, but that's not what the National Geographic channel's mission is. Rather, they want me to watch their commercials and not go actually do stuff. That the first episode is about facilitating "green" consumption (in that they make a sandwich delivery vehicle) tells me that the mission is less, "let's reduce consumption" and more "let's see what sort of cool stuff we can bodger and make entertaining in a vaguely environmental sort of way."
posted by Pollomacho at 6:31 AM on May 27, 2008


Afterwards I'll probably get sucked into "America's Hardest Prisons." That doesn't seem to be fulfilling the mission.

The problem is not necessarily on their end.
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem is not necessarily on their end.

Oh, I fully admit that, but I guarantee that Nat-Geo is going to try and suck me into continuing to watch. No, I'm completely aware that there is more I can do. I realize that I'm sounding like a shrill whiner about something I actually don't feel that strongly about and something I don't think is all that insidious. I just don't like how "green" is the new term for "New and Improved!" in trying to sell more stuff. Let's face it, though this show may actually have a genuine green focus, it's just another vehicle for selling stuff.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:49 AM on May 27, 2008


National Geographic Channel UK do sell ads during the show, that's true; but the show itself isn't selling anything other than self-reliance, a can-do attitude, creative problem-solving, and engineering prowess. Everything they make or build comes from spare or recycled parts. It's not like one of those shows where Sears sponsors everything and drops their name in everywhere (extreme makeover, etc). This show is about BESPOKE inventions with one guiding principle: free (or very cheap) green energy.

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick, with all due respect.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:00 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


As always, it is not good to swallow everything you are told (including underlying assumptions), whether on the TV from an advertising-driven network or not. Thanks for the tip.
posted by DU at 7:00 AM on May 27, 2008


National Geographic Channel UK do sell ads during the show, that's true; but the show itself isn't selling anything other than self-reliance, a can-do attitude, creative problem-solving, and engineering prowess.

Ah, I see, so this show is a public service announcement then? No, it's a TV show on a Cable network, which means it's geared to sell ad revenue, "media buy" if you will. No matter the lofty nobility of the show, its all still just there to sell ad space, and you and I are the target audience. Look, it's worked, we're promoting the show already! Somebody down in marketing just earned his bonus this quarter! We've got the 25-55 alternative internet hipster/geek population blowing this show up, boo-ya!

Seriously, though, please don't think that any show, ANY show is not selling something. That is their purpose for being, plain and simple, and that is counter to a real shift in thinking that can lead to actually fixing the planet.

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick, with all due respect.

I guess I'll have to bodger up a methane digester then! Luckily there's a tv program to show me how!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:33 AM on May 27, 2008


Short answer: No.
Long answer: Yes, with a "but...".
posted by Eideteker at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2008


Also, Jem's a man? That's outrageous!
posted by Eideteker at 9:54 AM on May 27, 2008


Truly.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:02 AM on May 27, 2008


I think Jem=Jeremy in the same way that Laurie=Laurence
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2008


DU, the best thing about it is that THESE FUCKERS CAN BUILD *ANYTHING* and they take pains to explain all the science.

I bet they couldn't fix the draft that is part of every house in England's national heritage (grade II listed no doubt).
posted by srboisvert at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2008


Shh. That's our cultural heritage you're dissing, there :-)
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2008


Well, MY FRIEND can't find hide nor hair of these "torrents" of which you speak. Perhaps he or she (this is my friend I'm talking about) is an intern00b. However, my friend has left a reminder for him or herself to search again every few days in case something shows up.

I have no idea what my friend is talking about.
posted by DU at 7:09 PM on May 27, 2008


if they really are "on a mission to fix the world" shouldn't they be encouraging us to turn off our TV's and fix the world ourselves rather than sitting at home consuming and making their advertisers rich?

I agree, the slogan is pretty much national geographic marketing speak. They seem to have perfected the art in turning ordinary daily occurrences, such as crossing a street, into life or death situations.

Yet the thing I like about this show is that it isn't their goal to convince us that we have to change our lifestyle to save the world. Instead, they are simply presenting us alternatives to continue watching tv and living the way we do using green energy.

So if you ever do manage to power your television set using wind or solar power, it pretty much ok to continue makeing their advertisers rich.
posted by Timeless at 7:34 AM on May 28, 2008


"I think Jem=Jeremy in the same way that Laurie=Laurence"

Which is to say, not at all. Laurie is also a girl's name.
posted by Eideteker at 2:29 PM on May 28, 2008


It depends on where you live.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:01 PM on May 28, 2008


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