Melding 19th and 21st Century Technologies for Waterborne Freight and Passenger Transport
Our world is now convulsed by three great converging crises: climate change, global economic instability, and peak everything. Add to these principal threats the risks of wars over natural resources, climate migration, the total failure of aging and over stressed infrastructure, and the erosion of traditional community values. Each of these crises presents particularly thorny problems for the New York City Metropolitan area and the Hudson Valley Bio-region.
Our region is at a crossroads. Looking forward rationally at all the indicators, the “business as usual” choice takes us down a road to cataclysmic energy shortages and infrastructure failure, to inundation from sea level rise, to financial meltdown and its attendant social disarray.
There are four possible response strategies:
- Denial – waiting and hoping that some unforeseen miracle will solve the problem
- Last One Standing – global competition and warfare to control all remaining resources;
- Power Down down – global cooperation to reduce energy use, conserve and manage resources, while reducing population; and
- Building Lifeboats – preparing local areas to be sustainable in the event of a global economic and environmental collapse.
Today the far-flung international trade network that once pumped vibrant economic life into the region threatens to collapse as imported natural resources, pollution from shipping, and the fossil fuels needed to transport goods will soon become increasingly scarce and expensive. Higher petroleum costs, and turmoil in countries in which much of our imported goods are made could snap that lifeline. The present system is unsustainable.
The rivers, bays, canals, and coasts of the Hudson Valley, NY Harbor, and Mid-Atlantic continue to be a marine highway, but one that is limited to deeply dredged channels leading to container ports and fossil fuel and chemical tank farms. Traffic consists of the movement of consumer goods, automobiles, and spirits from around the world on large ocean going fossil fueled container ships to ports where the containers are loaded onto trucks for delivery to warehouses for distribution in a “just in time” logistics system.
Moving goods and people from place to place in a carbon constrained future will be dependent on sailing vessels, hybrid/fossil free electric ships, and people, bicycle, and animal powered transport for first and last mile logistics. These methods of transport will meld 19th and 21st Century Technology. Ships will be (re)built locally from locally sourced or recycled materials and will be crewed by locally trained seafarers. The ships will provide a carbon neutral trading link, will be a laboratory for innovation and competitiveness, will be commercially competitive with conventional fossil fuel transport in certain markets, will operate on reliable schedules (dependent on tide, wind, and weather), and offer competitive freight rates on appropriate routes.
This executive summary of a monologue in support of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics (The Center) includes a plan for Hudson Valley/Mid-Atlantic river bay, coastal, and ocean shipping of fair trade cargo. The time is right and an opportunity exists now to reinvent and profit from low carbon cargo delivery. Post carbon ships have many advantages over larger oil powered cargo ships. Sailing and alternative fuel freighters can locally promote:
- job creation in farming, logistics, ship building and maintenance among others
- Revitalization of waterfront communities by preserving the working waterfront and commercial enterprises, while providing more public access, and recreation.
- Food production and distribution, and connecting producers to buyers
The mission of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics is to provide the pragmatic means to survive the decades ahead and to provide the tools to transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world. The Center will do so by providing individuals and communities with no-nonsense methods of transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels for transporting goods and passengers. The Center will research and assist in the implementation of appropriate or Slow Technology needed to respond to the inevitable equity, economic, ecological, and energy crises of the 21st century.
The idea of Slow Technology or “Slow Tech” has its roots in the ideological movement called “appropriate technology,” a term coined by E.F. Schumacher in his book Small is Beautiful, first published in 1973. Slow Tech should be thoughtful about how devices shape our relationships to time, emotion, energy, and bioregional environment.
- The Center will house a widely accessible traditional knowledge data base, library, and a pre/post carbon tool, technology, and machinery collection.
- The Center will promote Slow Technology
- The Center will be an advocate for existing and emerging low carbon shipping and post carbon transportation businesses..
- The Center will provide educational opportunities and creative, implementable, real world solutions to the environmental, economic, and social crises we are likely to face in the near and mid-term future.
- The Center will enable people to work locally to transition our communities and bioregion away from a fossil fuel-based economy to a “restorative economy,” one that is human-scaled, embraces alternative locally based energy, and that is less extractive.
- The Center will host regional, national, and international conferences on post carbon logistics and sail freight and will be an advocate for working waterfronts throughout the Canals, the Hudson Valley, NY Harbor, and the Atlantic Coast.
- The Center will partner with other enterprises and organizations to provide a physical place where professional practitioners and apprentices can participate in theory and practice workshops for preserving the skills of the past to serve the future.
- The Center will advocate for a Transition that people will embrace it as a collective adventure, as a common journey, as something positive, and how communities can feel alive, positive and included in this process of societal transformation. Paraphrasing the title of Transition Town Rob Hopkins’ book, The Center for Post Carbon Logistics will be the embodiment of the “Power of Just Doing Stuff.”
Kingston, NY as well as, every community along the Canals, the Hudson River, NY Harbor and the North East US Coast will have to engage its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present.