The Final Word On Haiti (Bicycles, Batteries and Generators…Oh My)

Ok, I lied, it’s not the final word on Haiti, not that I could have that word anyway. After last week’s post, I had a few other thoughts (and a few things to add) and thought I’d shoot them out here. I only titled this post The Final Word, because after this I’ll head back to my original mission, straight up posts about environmental solutions, ideas and queries that I come across in my travels. Having said that, my trip to Haiti is still burned in my memory and I doubt I will stop thinking about what I can do to help for a long time, if ever.

A lot of people posted up about population as being one of Haiti’s biggest problems and there’s no denying that. It’s not only Haiti’s problem but the planet’s biggest dilemma. If there were only 10 people on earth we could bathe in oil, run Hummers all day long just to play the radio, and burn trees down with reckless abandon, and it would effect our ability to continue life as we know it very little. But there aren’t ten of us, there are billions, and while I don’t think we’ve reached it yet (although I don’t know), we will someday hit the point where we are just too many for this little ball, we will hit the point where the resources on the planet cannot sustain us, not only for the long run, but for the short run as well. I should point out that I believe there are still enough resources for all of us, but not for all of us to live the way the average American does.

Having said all that, I don’t think it’s as much the main problem as I do believe it’s emblematic of a larger problem. Gender inequality, education, poverty, health care–all these and more lead to overpopulation and in order to stem the tide, all need to be addressed, in Haiti and around the world. Fix healthcare and infant mortality will drop. Infant mortality drops and there is not the need to have more children so a few will survive. Educate woman and offer them alternatives and they will not be forced into situations they do not want, but will have choices. There’s a better discussion of it here than I can give, but I just thought I’d throw the idea out there as I’m not ignoring the size of the population, just don’t think it’s the problem as much as it is a symptom of a much larger group of problems.

Back to the problem of electricity and the lack of electrical infrastructure and ability to pay for it if it existed. I can’t help but think that free electricity will greatly aid countries like Haiti in so many ways, and lead to other positive outcomes like safety and education. I was also thinking about the traffic jams while we were there. Apparently they were worse than usual due to the people sleeping in the streets, but I was told that it’s usually pretty bad to begin with. Most people don’t own a car so either get around on foot or by taking tap-taps, the privately-owned, wildly-emblazoned, pollutant-belching overcrowded taxis that operate in many countries without a centralized transportation system.

It occurred to me that there might be a way to take on these two problems, transportation and power, in one fell swoop. I know I’m going to hear it for this, but like I said last week, sometimes the greatest ideas come from the most unlikely sources.

Anyone who took electronics in high school can tell you that a simple electric motor can work in both directions. Power it up and it magnetizes the coils and turns in one direction. But turn it in the opposite direction and you’ll actually create power feeding it back into the line. And that’s where bicycles come in.

By taking an ordinary bicycle and rigging it up to a motor and battery, anyone can generate enough power to charge a cell phone, light a room, or, if you feel like riding for a bit longer, cool a refrigerator. So what if people had bicycles that they could use for transportation and then attach to a stand at home and ride to charge a battery that they could then use to supply power at night? And looking past that, what if the batteries and motor were built into the bicycle so that as you were riding about your daily doings, the charge was being stored. Head home, change out the batts in your home power unit and the next day charge up the next batteries.

Yes, I know there would be an additional congestion problem and yes, I realize that there would be problems with getting batts down there, disposing of them when done and you name it. I don’t have the answers, just some thoughts. Why not try and give the people the ability to transport themselves and power their lives for free. Wouldn’t that make sense?

Crazy? I don’t know. You tell me.


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Grace Johnson
Grace Johnson5 years ago

cool and innovative... I like it and why not?

Nellie K A.
Nellie K. Adaba5 years ago

I was always worried about overpopulation since 2003, that what about if we're too many and there's just not enough to eat. Hope that doesn't happen everywhere.

Nellie K A.
Nellie K. Adaba5 years ago

I hope there's progress and solutions - permanent and life changing.

Kate S.
Kate S.5 years ago

Hey I really like your thoughts and suggestions for electricity that how can generate electricity.I have also watched that video.People should also consider your suggestions and techniques regarding electricity.In Haiti they can also use solar powered equipments as this will be easy and convenient.

dean graziosi

gail d.
gail dair5 years ago

thanks for post

Jewels S.
Jewels S.5 years ago

I like that this writer is thinking up new ideas or old ones renewed. We need more that are willing to think creatively to solve all of the worlds problems!

Margaret D.
Margaret D.5 years ago

Wind up radios date back to WWII. Home Depot still sells them for use during hurricanes/power loss. My brother had a generator bicycle light over 40 years ago. I do not see why the technology could not be used in other ways.

Michael Cozens
Michael Cozens5 years ago

A great use of "appropriate technology" - that which can be built, maintained, and operated in the intended area without having to import parts or expertise.

Frances Stewart, MD
Frances Stewart5 years ago

One of the many, many sad things about the earthquake in Haiti was the death of one of the senior staff from the Solar Electric Light Fund. SELF has been doing wonderful work in Haiti (and in other places) with Partners in Health by providing solar electricity for their clinics. I hope SELF will recover quickly from that loss and be able to help Haiti rebuild.

ysee gaudel

excellent, in Africa it has been done very similarly, in Santo Domingo I have seen it on some bikes....! In India I have seen it as well...! but for Haiti it is very approachable and could possibly work, even Americans should consider that somewhat innovative idea, but then again, will they accept to do the work....! I doubt it for the most part.