LEAD Action News Vol
1 no 4 Summer 1993
My Kind of Car - What's Up, Doc?
by Stuart Scott
Remember the British television comedy series, The Good Life, the hilarious misadventures of a suburban couple who decided to become self-sufficient? Well, Dr. Pat Howden says his life is even better.
The fifty-nine year old former scientist has dropped out, escaping city life for the tranquillity of Macleay Island in Morton Bay, but he hasn't left his sense of humour behind.
He chuckles behind his white beard as he describes himself as a "downwardly-mobile academic greenie peasant", and he's proud of it.
Home is a self-erected kit house, power comes from a solar panel, water from a pond, food from his trees - Pat lives in "luxurious frugality" on $28 a week, and believes everyone else could do likewise.
Not that he goes without. There's his television, computer, printer, calculator, radio, fan, washing machine, bed warmer and refrigerator.
Naturally he has all the episodes of The Good Life on video tape. "Isn't it a great show? I just love it, but I reckon I'm more self sufficient than they were."
Ever-ready with a statistic, he reckons that ten percent of Australians are planning to become self-reliant, but only one percent are actually doing so.
His days are spent inventing ("Not just gadgets, but processes"), writing, lecturing and researching. "It's all a lot of fun. And to think I once thought that at sixty I'd have nothing to do but sit and watch TV."
After graduating from The University of Sydney, he worked in America and England, and travelled widely, before moving to the sleepy Bay island in 1985.
He describes himself as a missionary for better alternatives but says he's not anti-car - he simply believes it is doomed because of increasing prices, fuel crises, over-crowding and, eventually, a shortage of vital minerals such as lead for batteries, zinc for galvanising, copper for wires. Even tar to make roads.
In the meantime he uses an old van ("I bought it for $1,499. It has a certain rustic rustiness.") if heavy loads have to be carried.
He likes the way it is big enough to sleep in ... which is how Pat measures the efficiency of most vehicles he has owned.
But everyday transportation around· the island is his "collapscycle", a much-modified child's bike with a fold-up frame, special gears and larger rear wheel, towing what he calls "Dolly the Trolley".
Even better, he suggests, would be semi-motorised bicycles like the Europeans use.
Or why not have man's best friend lend a hand?" A vegetarian Labrador or Alsatian, with a comfortable harness, could double both the speed and distance of bicycle power, with a little training and use of foot shoes."...
These days, he has such little faith in motor vehicles that he argues all cars should be roomy enough to sleep in (when they break down), and always be parked facing downhill (for when the battery fails).
"Why don't they build cars with crank handles any more? It would mean you could always get the thing started."
Looking for transport solutions further afield, he has come up with an improved form of roller skates, a diesel-powered pogo stick, stilts, skateboards, wheelchairs, hitch-hiking, a wood burning engine which could power a car and, his current favourite, the bicycle.
Even a small car, he argues, is embarrassing - up to one hundred times worse than a bike on every score except comfort and speed. "If bikes were used exclusively, the safety and health in such a low-momentum, non-aggressive vehicle environment could improve by a similar factor.
"There can be enormous pride about riding a bicycle - you are beating a system, you can interrelate with other cyclists and you gain a great sense of freedom instead of being lonely and shut up in a cramped car."
Another of Pat's statistics: people work 1500 hours a year for their car, earning money to pay for it and fuel it, cleaning it and driving it.
"People haven't added it all up yet, but they're about to, and it will start a revolution in the way they look at personal transport."
(Extracted from an article first published in The Road Ahead. journal of RACQ, October, 1993. Reprinted by kind permission of Gary Fites, Editor, The Road Ahead. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the RACQ membership of 900,000 in Queensland.)
system lead poisoning |
LEAD Project | egroups | Library
- Fact Sheets | Home
Page | Media Releases
Newsletters | Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links | Search this Site
Updated 11 November 2012
Copyright © The LEAD Group Inc. 1991- 2012
PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9716 0014