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Living well within our memes:
The best ideas for obtaining the essentials of modern human sustenance for minimal cost

Or, how to live well on very, very little

This page last updated on or about 10-9-06

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Clean drinking water

There's a wide variety of ways to hunt, trap, or collect water, as well as safely keep it in long term storage and purify it for drinking or cooking, at relatively low cost. Obtaining a detailed how-to book for such methods (especially one tailored to your particular climate and surroundings) could keep your thirst quenched indefinitely. Many of the books in this vein are of the 'survivalist' variety.

-- Chapter 8: Water, Water Everywhere, page 135, Survival With Style [shop for this] by Bradford Angier, Vintage Books, 1972

Wilderness Survival and Survive Outdoors - Reference Library may offer more information in this vein.

Rainwater collection. Retrieval from a nearby spring, stream, or other body of freshwater. Morning dew collection. Solar stills. Digging or drilling wells. All these and more are possible ways to collect raw water. Note that for a long term dwelling more than one potential water source may be desirable for contingency purposes.

Seawater or saltwater unfortunately is not safe for wholesale human consumption. And removing the salt (desalination) is usually an energy or resource-intensive process (read: expensive).

Be wary of small bodies of surface water around which green plants are scarce or stunted, or animal bones or bodies may be seen. These likely contain some sort or poison, like arsenic or others (there are methods below for removing arsenic and certain other dangerous contaminants).

-- pages 138-140, Survival With Style [shop for this] by Bradford Angier, Vintage Books, 1972

At last check some sites offering tips for collecting and storing rainwater included Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Montana, Rainwater Harvesting, and Harvested Rainwater Guidelines

For MUCH more on obtaining clean drinking water, CLICK HERE...

Living well within our memes Contents

Nutritious food

First of all, it can take quite a while for a person to starve to death. A typical adult human being can die in only a day or two with no water, but live over a month with no food. These are extreme conditions I'm describing of course, but they help to show us what our real limits are.

As might be expected, a person (especially a child) who goes for very long without water or food may suffer various injuries or damage or stunted growth, some types of which may be permanent, even if they are not deprived long enough to expire. So no one should make an attempt to approach these particular limits of human survival unless no other choice is available to them.

On the other hand, purposeful but brief starvation of oneself of food has been practiced by many for health and religious reasons for millennia. One term for it is fasting. It may even be that we naturally and instinctively fast on occasion when enduring certain types of sickness, as part of our natural healing process. Modern research has turned up some intriguing things about fasting and/or near starvation diets.

-- Drastic Dieting Could Extend Lifespan; ABC News

-- Reduced-calorie diet adds nearly two years to dogs' life span; EurekAlert!

-- Dogged Dieting: Low-cal canines enjoy longer life Science News Online, May 11, 2002; Science news

-- Starvation could relieve multiple sclerosis; Nature

-- Fasting forestalls Huntington's disease in mice; EurekAlert!

-- 'Stress is detrimental and eating is recommended when fighting bacterial infections, however it appears that in the case of autoimmunity, the opposite holds true - stress and fasting is helpful'; EurekAlert!


A 30% reduction in calorie intake over the long term in monkeys cut their risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, endometriosis, and cancer by 50%. Average monkey size was also reduced by about 20% by the restrictive diet, though physical activity was undiminished. Other animal studies indicate significant increases in lifespan stemming from reduced calorie intake.

Such a reduction in daily calorie intake would likely be difficult for most people of the developed countries without some sort of artificial aids.

-- Cutting Calories May Prevent Disease By Merritt McKinney, Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines, December 7, 2000

-- Low-cal diet may reduce cancer in monkeys John Travis, From Science News, Vol. 158, No. 22, Nov. 25, 2000, p. 341, Science Service

Reducing overall food intake (to around 76% normal) appears to help prevent brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Other health benefits also accrue. Such a reduced calorie diet is the only method known today for slowing the aging process in several different species of animals. Besides extending lifespans, it also seems to improve life quality at older ages.

-- Eating Less Seems To Fend Off Brain Diseases, By Terry Devitt, 27-Jun-2000, http://www.unisci.com

-- Following the fasting regimes laid down by the Greek Orthodox Church could reduce your chances of suffering from heart disease

So regularly eating less than we wish, even to the point of substantial discomfort, would likely be beneficial health-wise for many of us (adults I mean; I'm not aware of studies concerning such uncomfortable diets for children and teens; those might be entirely different cases, due to them both being still within the developmental stages in regards to so many mental and physical attributes; likewise it might be dangerous for pregnant women to limit their own diets too severely: their babies might be adversely affected).

There's a few ways to reduce the frequency and severity of hunger pangs without eating (and so having to produce) additional food. One is to eat foods with more fiber in them. High fiber foods include whole grains, fruits (oftentimes the peel or outer covering offers the most fiber, such as with apples), and vegetables such as beans and peas.

A second way to reduce hunger pangs is to eat fat. So far as alleviating feelings of hunger, fat actually works better than fiber. However, in societies like those of the rich west, people already eat too much fat on a daily basis, and so adding more basically shortens their lifespans and increases their risk of heart disease and other afflictions (again, this seems to reinforce the idea that human beings are designed to function best with at least occasional food shortages rather than surpluses).

-- page 121-122, Fresh Food, Dirt Cheap (All Year Long!) by Organic Gardening Magazine, Rodale Press, 1981

-- Body Can't Handle Dietary Fat In Volume Thrown At It; UniSci.com

"Sustainable" farming practices are increasing yields and cutting costs for farmers around the world, circa 2001. In certain of the techniques, savvy changes in what's planted and when, plus the encouragement of the natural enemies to local farming pests, replaces fertilizers and pesticides in the growing cycle (thereby cutting costs), even as it greatly increases yields. Far less of strenuous activites like plowing are required, in many of the methods.

-- Turn over by Fred Pearce; New Scientist Online News; 15 January 2001

Sustainable Farming Connection may be one helpful web site on this subject.

Low-till farming is another term for the new practices. Not only is the need for plowing reduced, but the amount of fuel and water required for a certain level of output, too. Future Harvest is another web site in this field.

-- Movement among Asian farmers to give up the plow; Contact: Amy Ekola Dye or Ellen Wilson, 301-652-1558 or 301-562-1558 [NOTE FROM JR: it appears one of the preceding numbers may contain a transposition error END NOTE.], ewilson@burnesscommunications.com; Coimbra Sirica, 631-757-0673; Burness Communications; 2-Oct-2001

Web-Agri is a dedicated Agricultural Search Engine.

For MUCH more on meeting your food requirements, CLICK HERE...

Living well within our memes Contents

Shelter from the elements

Natural caves can offer safe harbor from adverse weather and temperature, as well as animal threats (if the caves are dry and not apt to flood in a rainstorm). Lean-to's are easily constructed from natural materials or scraps of man-made stuff. In hot regions digging a trench or pit to serve as part of your shelter can be wise, as it'll lower the temperature inside significantly.

The book Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties [shop for this] by D.C. Beard (1914, 1942, 1972, Charles Scribner's Sons publisher) offers instruction and illustrations in the construction of a wide variety of do-it-yourself shelters built from local materials, for a wide range of locales, with simple and commonplace tools. The book also includes how-to information regarding the building of chimneys, hearths, locks, latches, and gates.

For MUCH more on acquiring/constructing low cost shelter, CLICK HERE...

Living well within our memes Contents

Techniques for heating, cooling, energy generation, and conservation

The capability to cook food, sterilize water (via boiling), and heat homes can be essential elements of modern human survival and prosperity-- especially in cold regions. The capacity to refrigerate/freeze food and medicines for storage/preservation purposes, as well as cool homes in hot regions or seasons, is another important factor for modern human comfort and safety. Sufficient freezing power could even help in the desalination of seawater for drinking, if it were available at sufficiently low cost. And besides better preserving the fresh taste of food than other preservation methods (and possibly offering the longest shelf life as well), preservation by freezing could also save much time and labor for users compared to other techniques. And time is ultimately the rarest and costliest commodity of all.

There's a couple of surprising methods which may be applied to certain types of both heating and cooling needs, simultaneously. One requires a power source, while the other may work well unpowered (provided it is well-planned and executed in construction).

The unpowered method is earthtubes. These are basically good-sized plastic pipes buried deep around the perimeter of a home. They are used to form a special ventilation system for the home which will cool incoming air during the hot season and warm incoming air during the cold season. The temperature differential comes from the air passing through the earth itself, which remains at a near constant temperature year round, below a certain depth.

Remember to make sure your earthtubes are well-sealed against entry by either insects or small animals, and will not be flooded even by the most torrential rains in your neighborhood, or by any mishap with various water and sewer systems on your property (i.e., insure proper drainage with regards to your earthtubes set up). You must also make sure that their ends will not be blocked by natural changes in the landscape (such as growing plants or wind-swept debris) or inadvertant actions by yourself or others.

The powered method is vortex tubes. These are devices which spout hot air from one end and cold air from the other-- provided the tubes are supplied with a constant flow of compressed air.

The temperature differentials can range from minus 40 degrees F/C to positive 250 degrees F/110 degrees C.

So we're talking considerable freezing or refrigeration power here, as well as enough heat to melt ice or snow for water, then boil it for sterilization, knock the chill out of a small cabin, greenhouse, battery room, or garage in winter, and more.

Of course, an air compressor is necessary to provide the airstream required. And generating the power to drive that compressor can be a significant problem (and cost) in many locales and circumstances. Perhaps the best power sources for this would be wind or falling water powered generators, or an automobile alternator (energy production methods are covered elsewhere in this document).

For MUCH more on heating, cooling, energy generation, and conservation, CLICK HERE...

Living well within our memes Contents


It would be virtually impossible to enjoy even a modest quality of modern life without electricity. Even the limited range and capacity of DC electricity and batteries can offer the user substantial advantages, compared to having no electrical capacity whatsoever.

Circa 2000, some households in poor regions managed to use a combination of solar panels and car batteries to power lights, TVs, and radios. Car Battery Frequently Asked Questions, Deep Cycle Battery FAQ, Battery Manufacturers & Brand Names, and Battery References may offer some useful information for such ventures.

-- Back to basics by Fred Pearce; New Scientist magazine, 27 May 2000

It's possible to devise techniques whereby your home electrical system would be powered (or supplemented) by your automobile's alternator, or generators powered by wind, solar, or falling water means.

-- How to Be Your Own Power Company [shop for this] by Jim Cullen, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980

In some instances damming up a small nearby stream may offer you not only a better way to exploit water generated electricity, but create a store of water for the dry season and a fish pond to produce food. But be sure such a dam will not create problems downstream for others.

You must also take care with the design and planning of your dam. Be sure to thoroughly research all the essential elements involved in small dam works before attempting such a project yourself.

In some cases a new home builder may get some useful ideas for designing greater energy self-sufficiency into their domicile by examining the electrical systems of certain small marine vessels meant to be capable of long voyages at sea without re-supply.

Does your area possess ample sunlight? How about geothermal energy? In either case a new experimental method for generating electricity and refrigeration simultaneously may prove useful to your circumstances.

Utilizing a combination of the Rankine cycle/steam cycle, and the absorption-refrigeration cycle, the new technique essentially replaces pressurized water in the industry standard Rankine cycle with pressurized ammonia, in order to achieve a lower boiling point (212 degrees F) under pressure than water provides. This results in a system requiring much less input energy to create the high pressure steam desired to drive an electricity generating turbine.

Water can still be used to transfer heat from commercial off-the-shelf solar collectors or geothermal units to the ammonia, thereby avoiding the extra cost of using custom-built equipment for that purpose. (Of course, this extra step in the process reduces its efficiency from what it could be. Heating the ammonia directly would be better in theory, if other issues could be satisfactorily dealt with)

The pressurized ammonia steam drives a turbine, producing electricity. During this stage the ammonia's temperature falls to 32 degrees and even lower, enabling the freezing of water subjected to the effect into ice. This temperature differential thus allows for the process to create refrigeration or air conditioning effects as a byproduct of electricity production.

-- Electricity And Refrigeration From Power Of The Sun By Aaron Hoover; Contact: Yogi Goswami (University of Florida), Aaron Hoover; 23-Feb-2001; unisci.com

Note that it should be relatively easy in most sunlit climes to produce the heat required to start and sustain the process described above-- at least during cloudless daylight hours. Focusing a comparatively large collector area onto a small volume as a satellite dish does TV signals would intensify the heat collected, if needed.

Using one or more of the vortex tubes described elsewhere might allow a greater flexibility in the original power source providing the heat (such as wind or falling water), thereby perhaps taking up the slack when daylight is unavailable or minimal. The use of vortex tubes would also add still more refrigeration power to the mix as a byproduct.

The flammable gas from a methane digester could also be used as the heat source.

Related links include:

| The Home Energy Saver | Bicycle Powered Generator | Bicycle-powered generators to power Laos Net connections | The Power Of the Moon (tidal pools) | The Lunar Cycle Could Produce a Lot of Juice | Slashdot Home Biomass Power Generators | GEOTHERMAL HEATING COOLING SYSTEMS | Solar Electricity in the Developing World from the Solar Electric Light Fund | MrSolar.com Your Solar Energy Source. Solar electric panels, charge controllers, batteries, pumps and a lot more (also offers handy FAQs explaining some aspects of the technology) | Powering medical equipment during a utility blackout by Michael Hackleman Issue #70 | a truly independent energy system | Independent energy runs Backwoods Home Magazine by Dave Duffy Issue 28 | Home Power magazine Home Page | Energy Source Builder Newsletter | Real Goods - Your Renewable Power Partner | Thermosiphons | Boiling Point - ITDG household energy | Biomass FAQs | Geothermal Power FAQs | Wind Energy FAQ | Fuel Cells FAQs | How do you live without electricity by Anita Evangelista Issue #73 | What if the electricity GOES OFF by Michael Hackleman Issue 55 |

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Living well within our memes Contents

Light against the darkness

Don't overlook the potential of lighting the indoors from strategically placed skylights and windows in home construction. In some cases affixing large mirrors (or expansive white or other light colored, smooth reflective surfaces) and unobstructed light pathways through a house in the ceiling or other places could well distribute daylight throughout a structure. Making sure to paint all interior walls and ceilings white or other highly reflective colors will also make your interior lighting go further for minimum cost. When planning construction of a new house, also take note of the house's best orientation and design in terms of natural sunlight incidence, and how such incidence may change with the seasons and time of day. If collecting as much light and heat as possible from sunlight is your goal, you'll usually want the most windowed side of the house facing the direction in which it will receive the most possible sunlight in the season of the year it's most needed.

Flashlights which work in spurts by squeezing their handle to generate electricity have been around for decades, and can offer some relief in certain situations. Rather than using batteries, they contain a tiny flywheel which is spun up by user squeezing, to produce a few seconds of light at a time. Add a long life bulb to them too, and you have a flashlight which in theory could last indefinitely without any parts or battery replacements, and always be ready to light your way on demand, even if such light could only be generated sporadically and at the cost of constant exertion.

A better breed of hand-powered flashlights have become available the past few years. These utilize a hand crank to generate some six minutes of light for the user after roughly 30 seconds of winding on a built-in crank handle (at least according to some sources). The latest models appear to also offer the option of AC or DC charging of internal batteries, for the luxury of perhaps a couple hours of crank-free power in-between charges.

These wind up flashlights usually cost under $100US, and were developed by Trevor Baylis and his company Freeplay Energy [shop for this].

Another flashlight alternative in this vein may be the Excalibur Electronics' Forever Flashlight, which produces a blue beam from a blue LED bulb, and is claimed to never, ever require replacement bulbs or batteries (this link seems to be relevant here).

The secrets to the design? The LED bulb is said to be very tough and long-lived, as well as highly energy-efficient. The light is powered for five minutes at a time via some prior 20 seconds of shaking, which generates power via electro-magnetic induction.

The lights may only be available through exclusive retailers for a while, such as Norm Thompson and Marshall Fields. Availability was to begin by July 2002. The most expensive version of the light is expected to be around $40.

-- A Flashlight That Goes On Forever by Arik Hesseldahl; Ten O'Clock Tech, Forbes magazine; 05.17.02

4-5-04 UPDATE: I received a design of flashlight similar to the above for Christmas 2003, which gives me a bit more insight into its practicality and functionality. Mine is a NightStar Magnetic Force Flashlight, made in China. It's made of thick transparent plastic, uses a blue LED bulb, and has a switch which glows in the dark if the device has been exposed to other light lately. The instructions warn not to allow the light to come within 16 inches of magnetic media (like computer disks) or else those disks might be damaged due to the light's own strong internal magnets. I accidentally put mine down only a few inches from my unpowered iMac computer and it sat there for maybe days before I removed it. But luckily it didn't seem to hurt anything, as the iMac seemed fine afterwards (this happened months ago). Of course I'm trying to avoid doing such a thing again. I believe this light cost less than $30 at the time. The light is fairly large-- around a foot long and 2-3 inches thick. The packaging says it's waterproof, corrosion proof, shock resistant, and will float. It also says the light will point north if suspended horizontally by wire or string. The instructions warn that the plastic case can be damaged by the same strong chemicals you'd expect would harm practically most any plastic materials.

Though I haven't subjected the light to any sort of sustained performance or endurance tests, it does seem to work as advertised. You basically can get about the same amount and intensity of light you'd expect from a regular battery-powered and bulb-equipped pen-light-- only maybe forever with the Nightstar and some occasional shaking recharges, while the pen light would require an endless number of replacement batteries and only somewhat fewer replacement bulbs to make it to the end of eternity. Yes, the blue light is not all that bright, but it's adequate for the sort of close quarters expected within most houses, caves, vehicles, and camping tents. Note the light intensity seems most useful in very dark places, and less useful in twilight or elsewhere some light is already present. If you have to go far or do much in the great open spaces of the outdoors, you'll want a stronger beam for your chores, with this LED light reserved for backup. I'd also use a more powerful beam than the NightStar for squint-work like repairing computers-- and would prefer a more powerful beam for on-the-spot auto repairs too: but keeping fresh batteries in a conventional light for such matters can be problematic, while the NightStar might always be there to at least provide some help. Younger, better eyes than mine might also find the NightStar viable for a wider range of duties than I do here.

To give you a better idea of the NightStar's utility, the bundled instructions say you'll get 20+ minutes of "highly effective illumination" after 30 seconds of proper shaking (there's a recommended technique and orientation). In my own test this claim proved true. Though the light slowly gets dimmer over the period, you could still read a novel with the light after 20 minutes of continuous use. It also seems that the natural act of walking while swinging your arms might continually recharge the light's capacitors-- I had to consciously hold back from such arm swinging while wandering about with the light to hold the test to just the 30 second charge (20 minutes of playing with a flashlight is longer than it sounds). This possible charging during walking would look like another advantage to the light. So what's the weakest aspect(s), or most likely points of failure on this light? Well, the magnetic field risk to computer disks must be guarded against. The maker might in future models place a large print cautionary reminder about this inside the light's transparent handle, if no better solution can be found. Also, the on/off switch seems the most likely component to fail prematurely on the device, barring some fall from a great height, or exposure to corrosive chemicals.END UPDATE.

Fluorescent lights are cheaper to buy and operate in a home, school, or business than the more commonly seen incandescents-- but only where the light will be kept burning for five or more hours a day. In regards to battery-powered or wind-up lanterns of course, fluorescent bulbs will offer considerably longer periods of lighting than incandescents, for the same amount of energy.

More information regarding fluorescent lights and their benefits and costs may be available among the following links:

| Compact Fluorescent Lamps What You Should Know | Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL's) - DOE-EREN Reprint | Incandescent, Fluorescent, Halogen & Compact Fluorescent | Lighting Controls and Compact Fluorescent Lamps |

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) last decades and require very little electricity to operate. Best for spot rather than area lighting circa 2002 (due to dimness compared to incandescents, etc.), never-the-less they can allow people to read and perform other tasks at night and otherwise dark indoor spaces. Dave Irvine-Halliday equipped hundreds of homes in Nepal with LED lighting and low powered generators for about $75 per home in 2001. LEDs can be run via water-powered or pedal-powered generators. Scaling up projects like Irvine-Halliday's might make the cost even lower per home than Irvine-Halliday has already accomplished. Plus, general improvements in technology may reduce the cost a bit more each passing year.

-- Bright idea could light up the world (2-03-2002); siliconvalley.com [orginal URL, now broken, was http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/opinion/dispatch/mc020402.htm]

LED technology is getting brighter as the technology improves. By 2011 LEDs should be competing with incandescent and fluorescent lighting in mainstream applications. LEDs should outlast these older types of bulbs by 50 times in serviceable lifespan.

-- New, brighter LED could pave way for a new kind of light bulb By DAVID RANII, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.; February 9, 2001; Nando Media/Nando Times; http://www.nandotimes.com

-- Everlasting light bulbs By Claude Morgan, April 6, 2000; Environmental News Network

LEDs do not produce the energy-wasting heat of incandescents.

-- K-State researchers fabricate blue micro light-emitting diodes, paving the way for future miniature displays; Contact: Hongxing Jiang jiang@phys.ksu.edu Kansas State University; 27-Sep-2001

LEDs are small, lightweight, long-lived, and efficient light sources available in all colors today.

-- LEDs Light the Future By Neil Savage; techreview.com; September/October 2000

More links related to LEDs include:

| All Electronics Corp. low cost LEDs | White LEDs for a Brighter World | White LED Light Bulb - 120 Volt Light Bulb | ThinkGeek Lights | THE LED MUSEUM - LEDs - LED Flashlights - Gallium Indium Nitride UV, violet, purple, blue, aqua, turquoise, green, white. A | White LEDs, fixtures, FlashLights, bulbs - Current Specials and new products. | NICHIA CORPORATION LEDs |

Living well within our memes Contents


Animal-based transport is the next step up from walking for many regions. Here's some links relevant to harnessing animal power for your transportation needs:

| how to build animal pulled carts/wagons |

Bicycles and their variants may be the ultimate in cost-effective transport for many areas. Wire baskets may be attached to various points on their frames for cargo storage, and harnesses rigged to even allow them to pull small carts. The only fuel required is periodic food and drink for the rider, and the user gets an excellent exercise workout as a by-product.

After bikes come motorized bikes and scooters, which may offer greater speeds and convenience than bicycles, but still beat automobiles by requiring less space on the road and for parking, and usually make for far fewer expenses and maintenance problems as well.

Pedals for Progress collects old bikes from first world nations, repairs them, then distributes them in developing countries in various cost-saving ways. Re~Cycle appears to do similar work.

Sustainable Transport may offer some useful information and leads.

For those who regularly use bicycles, whether it's for exercise, recreation, travel, errands, work commuting, or other purposes, self-sufficiency in knowledge regarding the repair and maintenance of their bikes can save them much money, time, and inconvenience. At last check the sites below were offering free instructional information for bicycle repair and maintenance online:

| Bicycle Repair Guide and Service Instruction Directory | Park Tool Co. - Repair Help | Bicycle Repair | Bicycle Repair, Tune-Up Guide, Derailleur adjustments and More | Bicycle Maintenance Guide and Riding Tips | Mountain Bike Maintenance and Repair | Harris Cyclery articles About Bicycle Repair | Harris Cyclery - Navigational Hub | Useful bike Links | Aaron's Bicycle Repair | RideYourBike.com Site Map | Aaron's Bicycle Repair Site Navigator | Tool Tips for Bicycle Maintenance and Repair | Bicycle Repair Clinics |

Google Search bicycle repair may offer more links to bicycle repair information on the internet.

Take note that with knowledge of bike repair, plus the proper tools and a bit of money, you could start your own bicycle repair business in many regions.

a - j m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l

Mobile living/working

In some regions of the world, a person's transportation might serve as their home as well-- as in the case of house boats and the like. Old school buses and large panel vans can sometimes be used as combination homes and workshops for roving handymen and craftsmen.

digihitch.com Web Links Vagabonding offered much info regarding mobile living at last check.

The world's easiest and cheapest gas saving tips offers up possibilities the author of this site first wrote up in the 1980s.

Living/working on the water

Some folks will by needs or desire live and/or work upon the sea, lakes, rivers, or swamps. Here's some resources related to these possibilities:

| Living Aboard | Boatbuilding Ring | EscapeArtist Home Page Living Overseas - International Real Estate, Overseas Jobs - Expatriate Resources - Tax Exiles - Overse | Living The Barge Life in Europe | Boat living costs | Living on a canalboat | Concrete boats and spaceships | Floating Your Boat | boat links | sail boat links | The Duckworks Boat Index - home buildable boat plans and projects | Index of Plans and Articles in the MoToR BoatinG Ideal Series | The Mother of All Maritime Links Contents | John's Nautical and Boatbuilding Page | John Bell's Boatyard - Amateur Boatbuilding | Jim Michalak boat plans and links | boat design net | Boat Design Net - the Boat Design and Boatbuilding Site | All about sailing - Online Sailing Course | Microcruising in the Bahamas | boat Links Page | A Folding Portable Boat Dinghy Porta-Bote Porta-Boat Portaboat Portabote | Boats for Sale or Boats Wanted Plus the latest Boating News on sailing, fishing, paddling, canoes, | Boat Mall, the online boat shop | BOAT DESIGNS, PLANS & MANUALS FOR HOME AND PRO BUILDER | Solar boats - Bateaux solaires - Solarboote | Anyboat Boating Building, Books, Classified Ads | Houseboat Magazine | Houseboating World | Houseboat links |

Experimental and/or exotic transportation alternatives

Something like a small to medium-sized motorcycle with robust training wheels (outriggers), automatic transmission, and a protective shell which fully enclosed the driver plus modest payload, or driver plus one passenger, would seem a no-brainer form of low cost, easy-to-use and maintain transport for many regions. The protective shell wouldn't have to be much more than a water-resistant canvas or cloth, or thin plastic or fiberglass shell, which offered reasonable wraparound visibility in some fashion, and helped protect riders and vehicle at least somewhat from weather extremes, bugs, and other hazards of such travel means. This vehicle wouldn't require a very powerful motor or high speed capability-- a top speed of 60 mph would likely be more than enough. There could be paved road versions and tougher rural versions. There might also be gas-electric hybrid versions of this transport. Such vehicles could also on occasion be configured to pull small cargo trailers, in order to expand their transport capacities.

In some areas small planes or even ultralight aircraft might be among the most practical and cost-effective means of transport. If nothing else owners of such craft could charge villages (or states) fees to carry mail in and out, or ferry in one or more passengers on occasion, or take locals to faraway medical help (or vice versa). Such aerial entreprenuers might also help out in area surveys/mapping duties, and other tasks.

Don't overlook the possible utility of kites in many circumstances, too. Very large ones in natural windy areas are under study as power generation devices (due to the strain on their tethers), while smaller ones might help in matters of aerial photography and surveillance, among other things.

Some possibly useful links pertaining to such subjects would include:

| Electric-powered airplane is model of efficiency [original URL, now broken, was http://boston.com/dailyglobe2/257/metro/Electric_powered_airplane_is_model_of_efficiency+.shtml] | Air-powered Autos [now broken link was originally http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/wo_harney091902.asp] | www.commutercars.com | eCycle - Hybrid Motorcycle | Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) | Hummingbird Aerobatics Home (small experimental aircraft) | Russia's do-it-yourself rail travel [original URL, now broken, was http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2454303.stm] | Spoonful of Sugar Could Be Right Medicine for Cars [original URL, now broken, was http://abcnews.go.com/wire/SciTech/reuters20020828_346.html] | Spoonful of sugar could get cars zooming - August 28, 2002 [original URL, now broken, was http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/08/28/sugar.cars.reut/index.html] |

Living well within our memes Contents

Health and medical care

If your area has medical professionals, a poison control center, a hospital, and emergency services available, you should find out how best to contact any and all of them in an emergency, as well as how to get to their location, BEFORE you need their services.

Keeping their telephone numbers, addresses, or other contact information in an obvious place in your home could save lives should an emergency occur.

If such services do not exist in your area, determine what other ways you might get help in an emergency, and post that information in your home.

One last option is to obtain one or more good reference books detailing how to deal with various possible emergencies you might face, and study them to gain the expertise for yourself. Schooling others among your family and friends in these same matters could also be helpful.

Basic first aid knowledge and supplies can be valuable for everyone, rich or poor, no matter where they live, and sometimes make the difference between life and death, or between a normal life and life-long disability. At last check the sites below were offering free first aid information online:

| eMedicine Disaster and Trauma eBook | HealthWorld Online - Emergency & First Aid - | Washington Medical | First Aid Guide | Walgreens.com - First aid & emergency care | Healthworld Emergency & First Aid | Mayo Clinic First Aid & Self Care | BBC Health Online Course in First Aid | First Aid and Health & Safety Online (australia) | Noah's Ark First Aid Menu |

For MUCH more on low cost health and medical care, CLICK HERE...

Living well within our memes Contents


Infrastructure is a key missing element in many developing countries, and even the poorer sections of developed nations themselves. By infrastructure I mean things like plentiful paved highways, electrical power grids, telephone networks, municipal water supplies and sewage treatment, and so on. With global capitalism seemingly bent upon not ever building much more such infrastructure where it can possibly avoid it (or even maintain and repair existing infrastructure in developed nations themselves (check out the USA's alarming deterioration), it appears today's poor are pretty much on their own in this regard-- and eventually even the middle-class citizens of richer nations will be as well.

In light of all this, researchers are beginning to conclude that everyone must look to creating their own independent services of these kinds. In the realm of sanitation, this would seem to point to the installation or construction of composting toilets (among other things).

-- Composting toilets key to global sanitation, say scientists; New Scientist

-- Flush Toilets Called 'Environmental Disaster' -- 06-12-2003

-- Cheap latrines could save millions ; newscientist.com

Unfortunately, ready-made composting toilets can be terribly expensive, based on the examples I've personally seen. They're not necessarily easy and cheap to build and maintain yourself, either. Never-the-less, they may be the best option for the future of many of us, based on everything known today (2003).

Keep in mind though that composting human waste can be considerably more dangerous and complex than doing the same with other waste products. Plant wastes are generally the easiest and safest to deal with, while animal wastes are riskier and more difficult to safely process-- with human waste being the biggest challenge of all.

-- Humanure Handbook Contents A Guide to Composting Human Manure

-- solar composting advanced toilet

-- Build your own vermicomposting toilet

The Vacutug is a sort of propelled industrial vacuum made to drain maxxed out home latrines in third world countries, with the resulting tank of sludge being transported for pouring into the nearest public sewer. Vacutugs apparently form the core of successful businesses in many third world countries.

Irish Manus Coffey is the waste consultant who apparently invented, manufactures, and sells the Vacu-tug. Coffey may operate out of Wicklow. In 2000 he was seeking to employ local professionals to build Vacutugs in nations like India and Kenya.

-- Back to basics by Fred Pearce; New Scientist magazine, 27 May 2000

Miscellaneous links relating to sanitation techniques and technologies:

| clean water and sanitation info (pdfs) | World Bank Water Supply and Sanitation Topics | On-site Sanitation | SOS - Management of Sludges from On-Site Sanitation | Trenchless Technology Systems; An Environmentally Sound Approach for Underground Services - An Introductory Guide for Decision- | Municipal Solid Waste Management | The Problem of Sanitation |

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Enabling the disabled or impaired

Circa 2001, one of the most cost-effective ways to correct the vision of many people worldwide would be via the manufacture and distribution of ready-made eye glasses in increments of half a diopter, over a range of 7-diopters.

-- Pre-Made Glasses Could Fix Vision Cheaply for Many; Yahoo! Health Headlines/Reuters Health; November 21, 2001; also British Journal of Ophthalmology 2001;85:1283-1286

-- Eye correction is seriously short sighted

Other low cost possibilities for helping the poor sight-impaired may be found from sources such as Slashdot Cheap Fast Eyeglasses from a Desktop Fabricator and a device that makes low-cost eyeglass lenses within 10 minutes.

Wheelchairs are necessities for many disabled: but they can be expensive. Enter Whirlwind Wheelchair International, with one design costing under $200.

-- Whirlwind Wheelchair International by Ralph Nader; October 10, 2002; CommonDreams.org

-- Sitting comfortably? by James Randerson; interview of Ralf Hotchkiss; newscientist.com; accessible online 4-9-04

Two students in Singapore (Ho Siong Teck and Philip Quek of Nanyang Technological University apparently) have developed an electronic travel aid for the blind which is worn on the chest or wrist and keeps them informed of obstacles to the front or sides within 15 feet or so by audible plain language feedback. The device locates the obstacles via ultrasonic waves, and may cost as little as under $100US, and run on common batteries. Another potential contact may be professor Lee Peng Hin.

A similar competing product from the USA utilizes variations in pitch of a warning sound and costs $4500.00

-- Singapore Device Helps Blind Hear Their Way Around Home - Yahoo!/Reuters Limited; March 5 2001

Miscellaneous other links which may be helpful for the disabled or impaired include Disability links for people of All Abilities, Free Online Braille Transcribing and Transcription Services, New design renders passenger trains handicapped-accessible, compatible with freight trains, Braille Found To Be Essential, Regardless Of Age Of Blindness [original URL, now broken, was http://www.the-aps.org/press_room/journal/pr2-4-7.htm], Exercise and recreation for people with mobility impairments, Toy Resources for the blind, Guide Horse Foundation for the blind using miniature horse, Helping Hands-Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, and Seeing-Eye Computer Guides Blind.

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a - j m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l

Telecommunications: Getting connected

Radios powered by either solar energy or hand cranking have become available the past few years. They'll run constantly so long as sufficient sunlight can strike them. For other times some 30 seconds of hand cranking will allow for 40 minutes of radio play.

These wind up radios usually cost much less than $100US, and were developed by Trevor Baylis and his company Freeplay Energy [shop for this].

Personal computers with high-frequency radio modems were being used in Africa in 1999 to obtain online access. Haitians were using radio modems and other wireless connection methods.

-- Plugged In: Third World Struggles To Get Online By Nicole Volpe; Reuters/Yahoo! News Tech Headlines; August 16, 1999

Phone cards you literally can use as wireless phones were on the verge of availability in the developed nations as of 2001 (awaiting only government approval to begin manufacturing). Mostly made of paper by utilizing a new circuit printing technology, the phone cards are expected to cost as little as $10US each, coming bundled with one hour of paid usage. When that hour is up, the card is disposable-- or the user can use a button to add another hour to its usage life.

In developing countries of course there will likely be more gaps in service availability as compared to developed nations, and prices may be somewhat higher-- at least for a while.

-- New Origami Trick: Turn Paper Into a Functional Phone By DAVE WILSON; March 8, 2001; Los Angeles Times; http://www.latimes.com/business/cutting/ttimes/20010308/t000020343.html

Telespree Communications was one marketer of disposable cell phones in 2001. Telespree's 2001 phone wasn't the same card phone as described above, but rather a different, two button design perhaps costing as little as $30 and offering calling usage periods of 30 minutes to 120 minutes at a time. For most calls users would speak a number and a remote voice recognition system would dial for them. Telespree's first models would only allow outgoing calls.

-- New Phone Heats Up 'Chat'n'chuck' Competition By Andrew Quinn; Reuters/Yahoo!; March 13, 2001

Although somewhat dated now, and originally written from the standpoint of a US citizen living in America, The Lack-of-Local-Access Blues may none-the-less offer some useful tips and leads to world citizens wishing to minimize the costs of their own long distance dial up internet access circumstances.

Miscellaneous links related to this topic:

| Disposable cell phones on the way - July 29, 2002 [original URL, now broken, was http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/ptech/07/29/telecoms.throwaway.reut/index.html] | Where Recycled Cell Phones Ring True | CollectiveGood (mobile phone recycling) | Motorola FreeCharge review |

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Education and Reference

There's likely at least dozens of books in the world at this very moment which would so enrich your life with useful information that they'd be worth ten to a hundred times what it'd cost you to purchase them. Unfortunately, we all usually have to read or examine thousands of books over our lifetime to find these precious few.

But things aren't as hopeless as they appear. There's luckily available at least one guide to the best books out there, which might allow you to find your own most precious reference works almost immediately, and thus save quite a bit of money and time compared to the purely trial and error method. In some cases you may even be able to find and read some of these books for free at a public library, if only you can determine which books to look for.

The guide book is The Whole Earth Catalog [shop for this]. Compiled from the best items reviewed in a magazine originally started by 1960s US hippies like Stewart Brand, the WEC is mostly an index to the best books available in the world, and offers small sample excerpts from each which are usually valuable in themselves.

There's been several editions/updates to the WEC over past decades, and maybe ALL of them were available on Amazon at last check. If you get only one, look for the latest version. In more recent years the publishers have experimented with putting out specialty editions of the catalog, dealing with single subjects such as, say, telecommunications. These can be useful in themselves, but for our purposes here I'd recommend getting the biggest and most generalized edition first.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The WEC crowd is pretty frank, straightforward, and open-minded about a very wide range of issues, and their works reflect that. This means for instance that it's possible to randomly open up a catalog and see something about sexuality that you wouldn't necessarily want to go running to show your next door neighbor. Likewise, some parents might not want their young kids casually browsing through the book on their own. I personally wouldn't censor from anyone anything I've seen in the WECs, but I mention this for people who might live in regions of religious fundamentalism and similar places where certain types of content might be considered taboo. In those cases I suggest you get yourself a WEC anyway, and simply cut out and burn the offending sections immediately, keeping the rest as your personal reference source to the world's library.

You say you'd rather try an alternative guide book? Fine. But I must warn you that in a whole life of looking I've personally found no other book which comes close to matching the WEC for this purpose. I wish you luck in your quest to succeed where I failed (Please let me know if you do find another such reference guide, of comparable quality and breadth of subject matter as the WEC!). END NOTE.

Cool Tools is very much like a newer, online version of the original Whole Earth Catalog, created by Kevin Kelly, who is an alumni of the WEC, if I'm not mistaken. Cool Tools offers tips and reviews regarding books as well as miscellaneous other items.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is a growing free online resource as well.

For MUCH more about low cost education and reference possibilities, CLICK HERE...

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Gaining access to new or bigger markets and more opportunities for making money

At their opening some years back, OneNest.com, Importnow.com, and eZiba.com all specialized in providing a means of global commercial distribution for the crafts of developing countries.

-- Poor artisans find new hope on Net By Thor Valdmanis and Doug Levy, USA TODAY; 11/26/99

Make Stuff - The 'You Can Make It' site for crafts, hobbies, entrepreneurs and others, getcrafty how-to, and Free pallet wood and birdhouses add up to big country dollars may offer useful information for some enterprising folks.

How to make real money (with your computer and/or web site) and How small-time web sites can make it financially on the web, although written from the standpoint of a US citizen living in America, may none-the-less offer a few relevant tips to any world citizen who may possess now (or soon) access to the global internet.

LABX.COM [second link if the first doesn't work] sells used scientific equipment and laboratory instruments which could come in handy for setting up new businesses of various sorts. Manufacturing introduction may help those seeking to construct a small factory type operation. Microfinance Gateway - a CGAP resource for micro finance credit insurance banking savings enterprise might be useful as a source of financing for small business startups.

Small Parts the hardware store for researchers and developers and Thomas Regional Industrial Directory - Custom Manufacturing & Fabricating should be helpful to some small business folks or entrepreneurs.

Bleeding edge research regarding potential profit opportunities

| Researchers Spin Straw Into Gold | Researchers spin straw into gold csmonitor.com | alfalfa plants to harvest nanoparticles of gold | GOLD nuggets might grow underground like potatoes, scientists have discovered |

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Computing Software and Hardware: Operating systems, applications, and custom development

Open source, freeware, public domain programs, and shareware are all natural candidates for providing low cost and flexible technologies to those on budgets, whether those budgets are shoestring scale or larger.

Some sources of more information include the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation (FSF), The Open Source Initiative, Debian GNU-Linux -- The Universal Operating System, The FreeBSD Project, and Free as in Freedom (a book).

Modern free and/or low cost open source wares will often run just fine on PC hardware that's years old-- the newest and most expensive machines are not typically required.

For MUCH more about low cost computer hardware and software, CLICK HERE...

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Seeking self-sufficiency in designing, building, improving, troubleshooting, and repairing as much of your own home, auto, and business environments as possible

There's a couple of important points here. One, most of us will often be capable of surprising ourselves and others with what we can accomplish, if only we work hard and long enough at it-- and especially when it seems we have no choice but to succeed in the matter.

The second point is that nobody wins or succeeds all the time. Especially if they lack critical resources or information essential to complete a particular task.

The finer a balancing act you can maintain between these two truths in your own life, the greater your achievements and measure of personal satisfaction will be, and the more money you'll likely earn and save as you go along.

Luckily, in those cases where a shortage of resources is the main limiting factor on your success, there's several ways to obtain the extra help you require. Sometimes you just plain need more manpower. Two folks working together can do LOTS of things one alone either couldn't do at all, or would require ten times as long to do them. You'll see lots of circumstances like those on a large construction project, for instance.

For MUCH more on gaining self-sufficiency through tools, CLICK HERE...

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'Junkstorming': Aggressive exploratory recycling

One man's trash is another man's treasure, as the old saying goes. I watched my dad practice 'junkstorming' (brainstorming useful adaptations for junk on-hand or accessible elsewhere) the whole time I was growing up. Over decades I'm sure his recycling efforts (plus his dedicated self-sufficiency in doing his own building and repair work wherever possible) translated into the equivalent of an extra 40%-60% of effective income added to his actual weekly paycheck.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that lots of the time dad actually enjoyed the challenge of it all. So in a way this is a form of entertainment that at least pays for itself, and may often go further, to generate various forms of profit for those who partake of it. According to research I've done for other matters, such mental stimulation also can make you smarter, reduce depression and anxiety, help you live longer, and even help protect you from things like brain damage due to lead poisoning, or afflictions like Alzheimer's disease (the references below are just the tip of the iceberg; I'll add more later).

-- Stimulating environment protects brain against damage from lead exposure; 30 MARCH 2001; EurekAlert!; US Contact: Steve Benowitz; steven.benowitz@mail.tju.edu; 215-955-5291; Thomas Jefferson University

-- Intelligence, longevity linked; The Associated Press/Nando Media/ the Nando Times; April 6, 2001

For MUCH more on 'junkstorming', CLICK HERE...

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Quantum leaps and complementary technologies/techniques

A few of the ideas presented above are of the 'bleeding edge' variety-- that is, they can't yet be considered 'off-the-shelf' technologies, nor their potential benefits taken for granted in implementations. Much experimentation and trial and error remains to be done with those. Though such experimentation can be especially costly to those of little financial means to begin with, the potential payoff could also be much bigger for those than for experimenters in the first world. Many others of the concepts above have proven themselves already, but may still require some real world trade offs to realize their full potential.

Fortunately, poor third world folks may have a few advantages over the elite academics in the developed nations, when it comes to making these things practical. Namely, they'll be much more highly motivated to succeed (due to harsher conditions), and typically be much better at improvisation than their richer competitors. Thus, the chance of real breakthroughs in these subjects may actually be higher in the third world than the first-- so long as the third world is alerted to the possibilities in the first place.

One last word of advice would be this: Treat technologies/ideas like those above and others you come across as pieces of an interlocking puzzle. Seek out two or more ideas which complement or complete one another, where possible. Ideas where one corrects for the weaknesses in another, without adversely affecting the strengths of the first. Within such instances is where you're most likely to achieve your breakthrough.

Wouldn't it be great if some poor inventor of the third world ended up showing the whole world-- including the rich west-- the best way to live well? And became a billionaire in their own right as one result?

Volunteers in Technical Assistance, ThinkCycle (communal solutions for the poor), and Working Group On Development Techniques might all offer contacts which might facilitate quantum leaps in developmental progress. You might also try Science for Humanity and Engineers Without Borders. LABX.COM is a source of used scientific equipment and laboratory instruments [second link if the first doesn't work].

There's also resources available like this:

Free Software Predicts How And When Steel Beams Will Buckle
New technique uses household humidifier to create nanocomposite materials

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Miscellaneous new unorganized links

Back to Introduction and Table of Contents...

All text above explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham copyright © 1993-2006 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.