We Can Do Amazing Things

Sometimes I am in awe of what human beings are capable of. I don’t mean the whole landing a man on the moon, voice over IP allowing me to have a video chat with my daughters in another city or packing an Apollo-sized computer into an iPhone. Those are all amazing things. But sometimes I am just in awe of the things that humans are able to do on their own, with their own bodies.

Michelle sent me a video that is a compilation of some of these acts.

(We now embed the video in the blog so you don’t have to go to YouTube to watch them, but I figured out a cool little trick recently. Once the video starts playing if you move your pointer over the video, you’ll notice a menu appear at the bottom with various icons on it. It will have a second count of the video and in the extreme bottom right, you’ll see an icon with 4 corners. If you click on this it will expand the video to fill your screen so you can watch it on the bigger screen. Most videos posted on the web have been compressed to make it easy to upload them and for you to watch, but even with the lower resolution this sometimes helps you see them better. When the video is over just hit your “Esc” on your keyboard and the screen will return to this blog.)

Some of the stuff people do in this video is pretty unbelievable. Like jumping straight up to twice their height. Or at 3:27 someone takes a corner kick in a soccer game and a player on crutches with one leg kicks it into the goal. At 3:52 someone jumps over a moving freight train on a snowboard.

We also watched an episode of “60 Minutes” on CBS a while back about people who jump off mountains in wing suits and fly at 100+ miles per hour down a rock face and pull a parachute at the last minute to land safely. It’s insanely unbelievable! The people interviewed in the piece are pretty honest about the hazards.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7400092n

When I hear of someone dying in a pursuit like this I don’t really consider it a tragedy. These people obviously love what they’re doing and have really lived their life to the max. The great line from this piece is at the end after the jumpers have congregated after a group jump and one of them says, “Can you imagine anyone on the planet having more fun than we just had?” And he’s right. It looks like a blast, and I’ll never have that much of an adrenaline rush.

I also try to reflect on these types of accomplishments from another perspective. I read a lot of what climate scientists are telling us, and the news is not good. In fact it’s quite bad. Humans have to start making a Herculean commitment to clean up our act and stop putting so much carbon into the atmosphere. Time is running out. There won’t be any big technological fix here, we just need all 7 billion people on the planet to get their act together and personally, individually, commit to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

The tough part of this process is that it isn’t glamorous. You won’t be able to make an “extreme” video from your efforts, even though for many it will seem just as grandiose. Walking to the grocery store 3 miles away. Arriving at work all hot and sweaty from your 10 mile commute on a bicycle. Taking the money you would normally set aside for a southern vacation and installing a solar domestic hot water heater. Pulling the plug on that natural gas furnace and installing a geothermal heating system. Pretty boring stuff.  I mean let’s be honest, if I posted a video of my friend David Field standing on his driveway which is on top of the loop for his geothermal heating system, it’s unlikely the video would get a million views. But really, could there be anything more important for our species?

So here’s a little experiment to test your YouTube skills (this is mostly for my Dad who has been reading my blog lately.) Watch the video of extreme accomplishments again and position your pointer over the first icon at the bottom on the left. It will be a triangle, like the “Play” button on your DVD player. When the counter gets to 1:36 / 4:39 (in other words you’ll be a minute and half into the 4 and half minute video) click that play button and the video will stop. It should stop with the image of kid skateboarding down a horrific series of steps. If he doesn’t land properly it’s gonna hurt!

Now look in the background. You see a river and bridge, and on the river is a barge, carrying coal. There is nothing on the planet that poses a bigger risk to the species than burning coal for electricity. So what I’m hoping is that this kid knows this danger, and he’s in a technology course at college and will graduate to install photovoltaic panels, or wind turbines, or geothermal heat pumps. And he will live in an apartment where he convinces the landlord to install a combined heat and power (CHP) system that will use the waste heat from electricity generation to heat the building and water, rather than burning coal. He will also convince his landlord to install solar panels on the roof to heat the buildings’ water during those times that the CHP isn’t producing enough.

He will take public transit to work, perhaps an electric streetcar powered with electricity from wind turbines. In his spare time he will throw his skateboard on his bike and he’ll seek out the most dangerous staircases in town to ride his skateboard down. He will spend his spare time in zero-carbon pursuits of thrills. He will not fly south for his holidays. He will not own a car. He will buy much of his food from the local farmers’ market.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking. Is this what goes through your mind when you watch a video like this? And my answer is, “Yes!” And the outcome I’m hoping for is way more important than some dude nailing some gnarly jump!

2 Responses to “We Can Do Amazing Things”

  • Lorna:

    I watch this and think (fear?) this might be my son some day! And I agree with your hope and vision for the boy on the skateboard; I hope the same for my sons.

  • What I find even more amazing than these “tricks” is the fact that these people survived all the practice it took to be able to do this stuff. Imagine the injuries acquired along the way.

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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