Tag Archives: technology

RadRunner Plus Long Term Review

A step-through ebike sits on a shared path. Trees and grass line the edges as it curves off to the right in the distance.
My Radrunner Plus on the John Warner Parkway Trail in Charlottesville

After having my RadRunner Plus for nearly two years, I thought it was time for a long term review. Getting an ebike isn’t a small financial decision, and I was both excited and a little nervous spending what I did to pre-order a brand new model of ebike. Some of you out there might be on the fence about whether to get an ebike yourself, so I hope this helps in some way.

From hauling groceries, taking things to the recycling center, selling crafts at the farmers market, or going to the park with my kid, the RadRunner Plus has made biking around town an option for me. The electric assist makes me feel much safer when having to contend with traffic since the speed differential is much lower than when I was still riding my traditional bike.

Riding the bike is still a little less convenient than driving a car around Charlottesville, but it is a lot more fun. I need to plan my routes more carefully than if I were driving, and parking the bike can be a hassle since most places have plenty of car storage but no place to stick a bike securely.

Bike theft isn’t a huge problem in Charlottesville, but an acquaintance and his wife had their RadRunner Plus and RadWagon stolen not too long ago, so I’ve been a little more anxious with respect to parking the bike lately. If you’re worried about bike theft, I’d recommend this episode of the Bike Here podcast.

I kept my bike in front of our townhouse under a motorcycle cover for about a year with no issues, but have since moved it inside. During that time I didn’t really ride the bike since we had the new baby, but everything booted right up when I plugged in the battery despite being out in all weather conditions. I’m not sure if that’s a point in favor of RadPower Bikes or the Pro Bike Tools cover, but good job either way.

There are still certain aspects of riding a bike in America that make it more difficult to just hop on and go versus driving. Helmets aren’t a huge inconvenience, but it’s an added bit of friction compared to taking the car. When I was just riding by myself, I didn’t always wear one, but now that I’ve got a tiny human on board, it’s helmets all around. Despite the inconveniences, I did have two errands last week that I think demonstrate how ebikes can be a great car replacement.

The cat bus from "My Neighbor Totoro." The cat bus is a large orange tabby cat with ten legs that's back looks like the passenger compartment of a bus with open air windows and covered with fur. Two mice with purple glowing eyes make up the marking lights on the top of the cab.
Charlottesville Area Transit’s acronym is CAT

First up was an unexpected run to the pharmacy. I was thinking of taking the bus, but since the bus only comes once an hour it made more sense to grab the bike. While it took a little longer in travel time than driving, I suspect our time door-to-door was similar since there is bike parking next to the pharmacy while the parking garage would’ve taken more time to navigate. The only worry I had was I hadn’t charged the bike and three trips into town stretched the battery to its limits. That’s a range of >25 miles in 80-92ºF (27-33ºC) weather hauling 250 lbs (113 kg) of humans around. I didn’t run the battery down all the way, so I don’t know how much further we might have been able to go. The battery did go empty on my way back from a grocery run before, and I do not recommend it unless you’re really looking for a new fitness regimen.

The second trip was to pickup our CSA from the farmers market. My child and I normally take the car after my wife gets home, but she wasn’t going to be back in time for us to make the farmers market before it closed this time. Ebike to the rescue again. All the vegetables fit in the front delivery bag along with a couple other items I picked up while we were there. Even in the 80s with 76% humidity, the ride was comfortable since on the bike you’ve got a breeze when you’re moving. I think I needed more cooldown time at the end than if I’d driven, but, since the car would have to cool down before it was comfortable, I wasn’t any sweatier if we’d driven.

Image shows the underside of a brown bike seat. The seat is mounted via a solid metal plate instead of the more traditional adjustable seat mount found on most bikes.
This Seat Features Zero Adjustability

The only complaints I have about the RadRunner Plus are the uncomfortable stock seat, the poor options for mounting the headlight if you have a front rack, and the flimsy kickstand. Definitely DO NOT step away from the bike with a kid onboard! I’m looking for a better kickstand solution, but my first pick, the Ursus Jumbo, doesn’t work on 20″ bikes. I decided to give it a go despite the manufacturer recommendations, and I can confirm it doesn’t fit the RadRunner Plus.

If you’re on the fence about getting an ebike, I think you’ll really be impressed what they can do. They are definitely going to be part of our solarpunk future. I really like the RadRunner Plus, but everyone’s needs are a little different. You can’t haul more than one other person on this bike, so that might sway you one way or the other for a RadRunner vs a RadWagon if you’re looking at entry-level cargo bikes. If you’ve got a bigger budget, I’ve heard great things about the Tern and Urban Arrow bikes some people have here in town. I was incredulous when people said having an ebike is a game changer for getting around in a city, but they were totally right.

Do you have an ebike or cargo bike you love? Let us know down below!


If you’d like to support the blog, use our referral link if you’re going to buy a bike from RadPower or check out our page on Comradery, a cooperatively-owned patronage platform.

Bad News First…

A sad face emoji in black spray painted on an off-white wall.
Photo by Jan Prokes on Pexels.com

I’ve written before about how my laptop has served me well for nearly a decade at the low cost of several replacement parts. Unfortunately, one of the things I didn’t think to replace was the thermal paste on the CPU and GPU. This is the goop that helps transfer heat away from those critical components and into the cooling system so they don’t overheat and fail. This is particularly critical if you’re doing intensive tasks like editing video for a YouTube channel.

I started getting some weird slowdowns and freezes on general tasks and then full crashes when trying to edit video. The crash log helpfully said “GPU Panic” and a bunch of other things that are probably only decipherable by a hardware or firmware engineer. After the third or fourth crash, I decided that if I wanted to continue using my laptop, I’d need to offload the video editing to a different machine.

I decided to go with a Mac again, since my main use case was video editing. I’m not in college anymore, so I realized I didn’t really need to be mobile which is great since adding a battery and screen means laptops are more expensive and more likely to need repairs than a desktop. The new Apple Silicon Macs aren’t really repairable, but it is rare that you get a chance to jump to a completely new, but well-supported, platform. So, I gave into the new and shiny by getting an M1 Mac mini.

A Mac mini sits on top of a 15" MacBook Pro Laptop. The Mac mini desktop has a smaller footprint than the laptop. The laptop has stickers from Sparkfun electronics, NaNoWriMo, and the Center for Civic Innovation on it's lid.
My New Mac mini on top of my 2010 MacBook Pro

A big part of why I went with the Mac mini is that it is the greenest option if you do want to go with an M1. The storage and RAM aren’t user serviceable like on my Macbook Pro, but since there’s no battery and the screen, keyboard, and mouse are all separate components, I can use peripherals I already have. Plus, if one of them breaks, they’re easily replaced.

As Solarpunk Druid recently said, most modern devices are not built to be repaired, so we have to do the best with the options we have available. I’ve been very impressed with the new computer, but I’m glad the laptop still works as I’ve formed an emotional bond with the machine after using it so long and replacing so many of it’s components. I’m hopeful that this new machine will be as long-lived since while it’s less repairable it also has fewer components that could fail. I guess we’ll see.

How do you balance sustainability and replacing or repairing the broken things in your life? Are you reading this on a thirty year old computer and laughing at my boasts of using a mere decade old laptop? Let us know in the comments!

What’s Old is New Again – Deconstruction

A picture of the indoor waterfall at the Singapore airport. A large metal and glass bowl pours water out its bottom while surrounded by greenery.
Photo by Tiff Ng on Pexels.com

I recently saw several complaints about the preponderance of tree-stuffed glass towers or eco-brutalist structures in solarpunk art. Are trees on buildings the solarpunk equivalent of steampunk’s oft-maligned, “just stick some gears on it?” For an actual regenerative future, we’ll need to keep our buildings in use longer and reuse the materials from them more effectively when they do reach the end of their life.

Construction and demolition (C&D) waste accounts for twice as much of the waste stream here in the United States when compared to municipal waste. While 455 of the 600 million tons of waste were used again, the majority of that went to aggregate, making it a significant case of downcycling. This is not getting us to a closed loop, Cradle-to-Cradle system that we’ll need for our solarpunk future. Deconstruction presents a way out of this mess.

A woman looks at a partially deconstructed wall with two windows. There are slats along the wall, indicating it was once plastered. A ladder leans against another wall in the background and an exposed stud wall is between the camera and the woman. Debris litters the floor, presumably from demolition.
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

Almost any building, no matter how dilapidated, contains a treasure trove of materials: wood, steel, wiring, and plumbing. Unfortunately, in our cost-obsessed culture, it’s considered too expensive to retrieve these useful materials from the building. Instead, a building will be demolished, either by crane or explosives, and the debris will be hauled away. As we know from municipal recycling programs, once waste is mixed, it is much more difficult to separate. Any material that was still useful will be recovered at a much lower rate than if it had been separated before the building was demolished.

There are places where the careful removal of useful materials from a building is prioritized, like Portland, which passed an ordinance in 2016 to require deconstruction of homes built before 1940. Homes built after this time were not designed in a way to make disassembly simple, so the city is building up its deconstruction apparatus with the low hanging fruit. My impression is that the leader in this space is Japan, where space and materials are always at a premium. Other places in the United States investigating or requiring deconstruction include Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and San Antonio.

A brick wall with a window on the left, and a large creeping vine covering it on the right. The bricks are red and black with white mortar.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

More difficult materials, such as masonry products, present a special difficulty for reuse and recycling. While individual bricks are reusable, extracting them from a wall and removing all the mortar can be painstaking at best. Gabriela Medero, a professor from Scotland, has a possible solution, the K-Briq. Made mostly from construction waste in a process that can be placed onsite at C&D disposal facilities, K-Briq is one possibility for reusing masonry materials.

As more streamlined methods of construction like modular or 3D printed buildings reduce the labor needed for construction, increased deconstruction requirements will lead to an increase in the labor needed for a building’s end of life. While in a solarpunk future, a person’s ability to work wouldn’t be tied to their survival, in our current world, the ability for construction workers to provide for their families is a major concern. The labor unions that can influence the direction of the construction industry are particularly concerned about having enough labor demand for their members. Deconstruction gives us a way for both people and the planet to win.

Do you have deconstruction requirements in your area? I’m especially curious about how this is handled outside the United States, as we often lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to sustainable construction techniques. Please share in the comments!

What is Lunarpunk?

Lunarpunks are the night dwellers of our solarpunk futures. Biomimmicry of bioluminescent creatures, moth-themed cloaks, and gossamer fabrics fluttering in the night breeze are some of the aesthetic influences here. Winter would be the lunarpunks’s time to be more active, hosting events in the crisp nights from art exhibits to street festivals.

Creatures of the Night

Lunarpunk focuses more on the night than solarpunk’s sunny disposition. Because of this, lunarpunk aesthetics are heavy in purples and blacks as opposed to the greens and yellows of solarpunk. Bioluminescent creatures provide inspiration for clothes that glow either under black-light or as a result of smart textiles. Lunarpunks love their fellow creatures of the night – moths, mushrooms, and bats.

Where the punk really comes in is that in a lunarpunk society, people feel safe going out at night. Social safety nets mean that people don’t have to resort to crime to get by, rape culture has been excised from the cultural consciousness, and sex work is demarginalized, voluntary, and safe. Police, prisons, and punitive justice have given way to restorative justice and a world where anyone, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, can feel safe walking down the street at night.

Person wearing a black, white, and crimson cape patterned like moth wings. Cape is wider than armspan in width, makeing the wearer appear to have moth wings.
Moth Wings Cape by CostureoReal on Etsy

Biotech

Biotechnology will have a big role to play in our solarpunk future, but I especially associate lunarpunk with biotechnology. I think this might be because of the aesthetic associations with mushrooms and bioluminescence. Bioluminescent trees or algae lamps could provide electricity-free path lighting in the cities of the future, and amazing different materials are being created from mushrooms like leather, wood, paper, or even structural building materials. Hempcrete and coral-inspired biomimetic concrete are being investigated to replace the carbon-intensive traditional concrete we use for so much infrastructure today.

Magic

Maybe it’s all the purple hues or the influence of the Moon, but lunarpunk feels more magical than solarpunk to me. As solarpunk is a movement that accepts both the spiritual and the scientific, this distinction is probably due more to my own cultural biases of magic being dark and mysterious than it is to any preference for solarpunks or lunarpunks to practice magic or not. The Solarpunk Druid and Justine Norton-Kertson have said something similar though, so it seems I’m not alone. While not a large percentage of the population yet, the growing number of pagans in the world will find a home in a lunarpunk future.

Photo by brenoanp on Pexels.com

Space, the lunarpunk frontier

Space has also become tied to lunarpunk expressions of a hopeful future. One series that I’ll talk more about in a future article that embodies this is the Earthseed duology by Octavia Butler. While the events of the books are terrestrial in nature, the main character is driven to help humanity reach the stars while not neglecting the planet we call home. Lunarpunk offers an alternative to the current thrust of private, corporate space exploration making space travel only for the rich and powerful to escape the planet they’ve ruined by ignoring the toll their activities exact from the natural world.

A proposed lunarpunk flag. A crescent moon in white overlays a black half circle moon silhouette which turns into a gear. These are overlayed on top of a purple (top-left) and black (bottom-right) flag, cut through on a 45 degree angle as many anarcho-fill-in-the-blank flags are.
A proposed lunarpunk flag

Upcoming lunarpunk projects

If you want more lunarpunk, there are two upcoming projects worth checking out. Submissions are open until March 14 for the lunarpunk-themed issue of Solarpunk Magazine, and until March 31 for Bioluminescent: A Lunarpunk Anthology. The Solarpunk Magazine submission window may tentatively reopen in May if they are still looking for submissions.

I’m really interested to see if there will be any stories that are both tidalpunk and lunarpunk, since the Moon’s influence on the tides makes me feel that there is a strong connection between the two subgenres.

Do you know of any other cool projects in the lunarpunk sphere right now? Let us know in the comments below, and have a great night!

Electrify by Saul Griffith – a Review

I think at this point just about everyone knows someone who thinks climate change is a problem, but that it will be too expensive to fix, or that the solutions just aren’t viable. I think Saul Griffith’s new book, Electrify, is the perfect book for this audience.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but the blue foil shimmering on the white background of this cover certainly conjures images of the future. While tech bros promise techno-utopian carbon capture machines more efficient than trees, this book excels in rampant pragmatism. Griffith lays out a pathway to decarbonizing the United States transportation and power sectors with only currently existing technologies.

I don’t think I’m the target audience for this book, but I do think the plan to #ElectrifyEverything is a necessary, but not sufficient part of a solarpunk future. The catchphrase usually comes with some caveats, like probably not all industrial processes, and I do feel that solar thermal needs more love since a large percentage of energy use in the home is used for heating, but it’s a decent simplification for the bulk of our current fossil fuel applications.

Electrify can be criticized for not addressing climate justice beside a passing mention. We can’t afford to reinforce the racist and otherwise imbalanced power structures that originally lead to climate change during the energy transition. That said, this book isn’t designed to message an entire Green New Deal in one fell swoop. As someone who grew up listening to talk radio as a red state Republican (more on that later this year), I think Griffith does an excellent job of doing what we engineers do best – sticking to the facts.

He lays out a clear, but concise, explanation of how daunting climate change is, but then paints a solution by the numbers to how we can overcome it and be more prosperous by doing so. I’m not usually a big fan of all the militaristic language used to describe climate work, but the comparisons in this book to World War II mobilization are useful to put the scope of the issue into perspective. In short, reducing most of our emissions will cost a little less than it cost the US to fight WWII in terms of national GDP.

I think part of the reason climate inaction has been such an easy sell is because it feels too big for any one person to have any agency in the fight. Griffith points the way for how families, especially when bolstered with government-backed loans, can replace the pieces of equipment that generate the bulk of their carbon emissions – their car(s) and their appliances. This gets people in the door for the climate conversation.

A snowy field full of solar panels with a large wind turbine reaching toward the sky in the background. There are two buildings in the background, and one appears to be a silo or astronomy tower based on the hemispherical top.

I know centrism is a dirty word in solarpunk circles, but I don’t think we’re going to succeed in overcoming climate change or climate injustice if we decide that we can’t work with people who are coming from a different political background. Red states already generate the majority of the renewable power in the country, so that’s a starting point. The Republicans I know believe in fairness and justice, but the party and conservative talk show hosts have had decades to distort what those words mean in a political context. We aren’t going to overcome that conditioning overnight, but this book is a step in the right direction, even if it does just seem like neoliberal techno-utopianism at first blush. I feel there’s more going on here than that, but maybe I’m naive.

I am sending this book and my copy of Repair Revolution to my dad. He’s retired and does solar installs on the side since he has his certification as well as experience from wiring up his old and new houses for solar. He’s also a Trump supporter which led to some… strain in our relationship over the last few years. I’m hoping that this book will at least show how we have viable path forward to overcoming the worst effects of climate change without some massive government takeover of every industry, which is what many Republicans fear. Is it going to make him gung-ho about climate equity? No, but at least maybe he’ll be interested in talking about climate solutions instead of automatically shutting down the conversation. It’s not going to be an easy process to get to a solarpunk future, but we’ll get there, step by excruciating step. Electrify shows how the energy transition can at least be a relatively painless part of the process.

Is saving money and increasing our resiliency a way to bridge the political gap, or is storytelling the answer? I think it’s probably a mix, but let me know what you think below!


Disclaimer: If you order the book using the Indie Bound affiliate link above, I may receive a small commission.

Solarpunk Creator Opportunities – October 2021

Solarpunk creators, listen up! There are several projects that warrant your attention coming up: Solarpunk Magazine, Solarpunk Sunscapes, a Solarpunk Art Contest, and the XR Wordsmiths Solarpunk Story Contest.

First, if you want something to read right now, Grist’s Fix just announced the winners of their Imagine 2200 contest. If you want to read the stories, you can do so on the Grist website for free.

Solarpunk Magazine is launching their Kickstarter campaign October 2, 2021 to launch a speculative fiction magazine based on solarpunk. Once they’re going they’ll be accepting “short stories, flash fiction, and poetry that imagines a better and more harmonious world through.” For the Kickstarter, they have announced some pretty neat rewards from authors including Starhawk, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Alaya Dawn Johnson. Solarpunk Magazine will be launching in January 2022, and their podcast has already released its first two episodes.

Solarpunk Sunscapes is accepting submissions between 500 and 7,500 words until November 1, 2021. Editor Justine Norton-Kertson says they’re “always looking for stories with great character development, and stories with compelling conflict and tension even amidst a better and more utopian world.” If you think you have something that would be a great fit, check out the submission guidelines on their page.

Also accepting submissions until November 1, 2021 is the Solarpunk Art Contest by Yishan Wong. From Wong: “To bring about this [solarpunk] future we require not only science and technology and better politics, but a new aesthetic. We need art and music and film and even advertising that paints the picture for us of what our future can be, if only we are willing to work together and build it. That’s what this contest is about. If you believe as I do, I invite you to join me.”

Extinction Rebellion’s Wordsmiths (XR Wordsmiths) are running a Solarpunk Storytelling Showcase competition with entries closing October 11, 2021. There will be three different age categories for the contest (11 and under, 12-18, and 19+), so this could be a great opportunity for younger authors. For submissions: “With your vision for the planetary future in mind, please write a short story of up to 2,500 words and send it as an email (or email attachment) to XR Wordsmiths (xr-writers@protonmail.com) with the subject line ‘XR Solarpunk Storytelling Showcase Submission’.”

Are you an author, poet, or artist? What other opportunities are out there for solarpunk creators right now?

A Better Way to Tell Time – Solarpunk Chronometry

Our modern methods of timekeeping have changed our relationship with the world around us, giving us more precise measurements for science, but also abstracting us further from the natural world. I think it’s time we looked at how a solarpunk future can incorporate a saner method of chronometry.

A photo of several vintage clocks lined up in rows.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Our neolithic ancestors lived and moved according to the cycle of seasons and the rising and setting of the sun. Before the widespread adoption of the clock, we slept in segments, instead of all the way through the night. With the rise of the train, time zones kept people on track to their destinations. Now, some people have suggested returning to local time based on solar noon and setting any meeting times based on Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). After a year of online meetings that were held in various time zones around the world, I really see the appeal of UTC so I wouldn’t have had to run calculations to figure out when the meetings were in my own time zone. Don’t even get me started on my feelings toward Daylight Savings Time.

An image of Stonehenge. Clouds hang over the monumental stones and the grass is green.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On the calendar front, there have been several attempts at calendar reform to oust the Gregorian Calendar, including the French Revolutionary Calendar, the World Season Calendar, and the International Fixed Calendar (IFC). The IFC has 13 months of 28 days resulting in a weekly layout that is the same each month. This leaves one or two extra days depending on if it’s a leap year that go into Year Day and Leap Day. I really like the IFC, and one of the oft-cited drawbacks, constant Friday the 13ths, is easily remedied by changing the first day of the month to Monday according to ISO standards. Kodak even used the IFC for more than 60 years since George Eastman thought it was so elegant.


My version of the International Fixed Calendar (all months are the same)

What do you think? Would changing the calendar and time zones be more trouble than it’s worth? Let us know below!

Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist

A plastic bottle and some other detritus are very close to the camera and litter the shore. There are sticks mixed with the litter, and the ocean and some mountains are in the background, but out of focus.
Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to ocean life. While images of chairs and tires on the seafloor can get a visceral reaction, it’s the small stuff that will cause the biggest problems. Plastics don’t truly degrade, but break into smaller and smaller pieces until they become microplastics or microfibers. The chemical additives in these plastics negatively impact ocean life and human health as they’re eaten and move through the food chain. A tidalpunk future will have to deal with this legacy of waste.

Microfibers are fibers smaller than human hair shed when cloth wears down. While all microfibers can have potential hazards, plastic microfibers like polyester have the added threats of never breaking down and leaching chemicals like endocrine disruptors. At the Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris Summit in July scientists presented work on microplastics and and other sources of human trash in the ocean. I was surprised to learn that dryers, and not just washing machines can be a source of microfibers. There are now some microfiber filters available like the Cora Ball, Guppyfriend bag, or Lint LUV-R for catching microfibers from the wash.

Microplastics come from many sources, but single-use plastic packaging is especially prolific. Some scientists have called for a global ban on virgin plastic since plastic is an inexpensive byproduct of fossil fuel extraction and there is no incentive for the material to return to the technical nutrient cycle. Moving forward, we need to drastically reduce the use of plastic to prevent further proliferation of microplastics. Holly Grounds’s dissolving ramen packet is a great example of rethinking packaging design. Another promising development is plastics that can actually biodegrade outside of a high temperature composting operation.

Hands reach into a bin full of soda bottle caps.
Photo by Krizjohn Rosales on Pexels.com

Plastic wasn’t always a throwaway material, and Precious Plastic designs open source machines for processing and reforming waste plastics into durable goods. Communities in the developing world are finding ways to repurpose the waste dumped on their countries by the rest of the world. You can check out organizations like Surfrider or Plastic Oceans for other ways to help.

YES! did their entire summer issue on the plastic crisis, so I’d encourage you to check out their coverage. If you want to learn more about the current lifecycle and impacts of plastic, I’d suggest The Story of Plastic as an introduction and the longer and NSFW This Week Tonight piece on plastics as a good follow up.

While you can reduce your own use of plastic to some extent, unless you are dedicated to going zero waste, plastic is almost unavoidable in everyday western life. This is a big issue, and I feel that it’s something we’ll be dealing with for generations, even if we stopped using all plastics now.

How can we build a plastic-free future? Share your ideas below!


This is Part 4 in our feature on tidalpunk for August. See Part 1: Can Maritime Shipping Go Tidalpunk?, Part 2: Tidalpunk Food – Fishing and Farming the Sea, and Part 3: Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US.

Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US

Greater Gabbard Wind Farm in the UK – photo by SSE via a CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Offshore wind is gearing up in the United States. The federal government has announced a goal of 30GW of offshore wind generation by 2030 and 110GW by 2050. For reference, the current largest wind turbine available generates 15MW, so it would take 2,000 of these turbines to reach the 2030 goal if that were the only turbine type used.

One bottleneck for getting these projects started is Wind Turbine Installation Vessels (WTIVs). The first European offshore wind installations started in the 90s, but existing European ships can’t be used because of the Jones Act which stipulates that vessels operating in US seas must be built, owned, and operated by US citizens or corporations. Dominion Energy’s Charybdis WTIV is under construction in New Orleans and should be operational in 2023.

Charybdis will first get to work here in Virginia building the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project. Hampton Roads, Virginia has been billing itself as a hub for the offshore wind turbine industry. There’s a long history of maritime industry on the Virginia coast, so it’s great to see these communities able to transition with the winds of change.

The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project isn’t the only offshore wind farm to be in development here in the US. After the failure of the Cape Wind Project in Massachussetts, offshore wind’s future was murky in the US. However, Maine appears to be the only state explicitly rejecting offshore wind, with new projects being planned on both coasts including New Jersey and California.

A pile of one dollar bills spread across the frame.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As mentioned previously, one problem I see with a lot of developments in tidalpunk-related tech is that so much of it is big money, high technology equipment that is difficult to build and procure without large governments and corporations. For instance, Dominion Energy has had a stranglehold on the state legislature in Virginia for decades due to their shady business and political practices. Offshore wind offers a big opportunity for cutting carbon emissions in the grid, but I’m wary of the lack of community control over these generation resources.

As I live in the US, this blog tends toward developments here. Do you have offshore wind in your area? Let us know about it in the comments!


This is Part 3 in our feature on tidalpunk for August. See Part 1: Can Maritime Shipping Go Tidalpunk?, Part 2: Tidalpunk Food – Fishing and Farming the Sea, and Part 4: Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist.

Can Maritime Shipping Go Tidalpunk?

A cargo ship sails down a channel next to a tug boat. A series of cranes dot the sides and background.
Photo by Martin Damboldt on Pexels.com

Since summertime is beach time here in Virginia, this month we’ll be taking a look at some developments toward our tidalpunk future. Today, we’ll be looking at how the maritime shipping industry is working to clean up its act.

While at sea, the majority of cargo ships use high sulfur fuel oil, the most polluting fuel in use today. With a global target to reduce maritime shipping emissions by half by 2050, however, the shipping industry is looking at its biggest change since switching from coal to diesel 100 years ago. While diesel won’t be going away soon, a mix of new and old technologies are receiving interest to replace fossil fuels in shipping.

The most exciting development in my mind, is the interest in bringing back sailing vessels for cargo transport. While a handful of clippers are still operating as cargo vessels, new ships in development like the EcoClipper500 could pave the way for a retro-futuristic tidalpunk future. As we’ve discussed before, the best way to clean up shipping emissions would be to exercise the first R and reduce the amount of stuff being shipped around the world in the first place. A combination of sailing vessels and distributed manufacturing of goods could make a big difference in carbon emissions and material waste.

A sailing ship with a white hull sails along a mountainous background. It has three large masts that are only partially rigged, presumably to keep speeds low for maneuverability.
Photo by Inge Wallumru00f8d on Pexels.com

In port, those diesel fumes can add up to some gnarly local air pollution for these communities. Oslo, Norway intends to be the world’s first zero emission port by investing in electrification of ferries and installing shore power so visiting boats can cut their engines while docked. Cleaning up the air is good for humans and wildlife that live near these industrial hubs, so cleaning up ports is an important piece of environmental justice work. Other ports are cleaning up their acts around the world including Los Angeles, Auckland, and Valencia showing this trend isn’t isolated to Scandinavia.

Despite their questionable environmental cred, cargo ships can still be a less carbon intensive option for long passenger journeys when compared to flying. According to Will Vibert, a cargo ship passenger, they can also feel surprisingly luxurious. “As I soon came to understand, the luxury of being at sea is not about fine food or a plush mattress; rather, life at sea itself – the tranquil pace and intoxicating sense of adventure – is the true luxury.” Later in the article they relate a similar luxury in the time-consuming, but languid process of North American train travel as I have experienced myself.

Do you have any thoughts regarding the maritime shipping industry and tidalpunk? Have you seen any cool initiatives at a port near you? Let us know in the comments below!


This is Part 1 in our feature on tidalpunk for August. See Part 2: Tidalpunk Food – Fishing and Farming the Sea, Part 3: Tidalpunk Energy – Offshore Wind in the US, and Part 4: Plastics – A Tidalpunk Antagonist.