My father played Don Quixote in the Streetcar Company’s production of The Man from La Mancha in Laconia, New Hampshire in 1979. I was ten years old then and spent many hours in the basement of the congregational church on Pleasant Street watching rehearsal after rehearsal. Watching the man I loved and admired chase after windmills on stage seared Cervantes message deep into the havarti-like neural complex that is my brain. Today, as the father of two young children on the edge of earth’s sixth extinction spasm, I too am willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause. Here goes.
On October 12 of last year, I attended a public screening of ‘What a Way to Go –Life at the End of Empire’. Sustainable Bellingham sent out the invitations and the filmmakers Sally and Tim Bennett were there at the Whatcom Community College Heiner Center Auditorium to greet their largest audience ever, about 350 persons. This documentary does a fine job of depicting a number of the scariest monsters at large right now; peak oil, climate change, mass extinction, overpopulation. Sally calls these the four horsemen of the apocalypse on her blog. During the discussion group that followed the screening of What a Way To Go, I was dismayed by the number of comments that essentially conveyed a willingness to ‘give up’ in the face of the enormous challenges we now face. Even bright young professionals and parents were saying publicly that ‘it is too late for us as a species’, and ‘that a significant human die-off (some said up to 92%) is already inevitable’. Clearly, I sit here at my illuminated laptop in denial, or I’d be actively preparing my family for several years of survivalist living far in the wilderness with faint hopes to be spared in the great cull.
Instead, I’m choosing to go after my own windmill. I dream of a Great Blue Machine to change the landscape. If you’ve watched the two short videos (Biomimicry of Ardea herodias parts one and two) posted on YouTube, you’ve seen James DeLaurier’s flapping wing ornithopter in action and you’ve glimpsed a number of methods that have been used to get persons into the air over the years. The science of Biomimicry suggests that we can realize tremendous gains in efficiency by copying from nature’s ‘best’ designs. I contend that we can mimic birds to create increasingly efficient flapping ornithopters, that might soon be scaled to safely carry human payloads. This is my quest. I’m looking for help.