From 2011 to 2015, Savings Revolution featured a not-quite-daily revolutionary, someone or something that changed things for the better. We're going to take a break from doing that - but here are a few of our favorites for your pleasure...
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes, safe houses, sympathetic people, tactics, and shared experience that allowed slaves from the American South to escape to free states in the North, or Canada, or sometimes Mexico or Europe. It began in the early 19th Century, and peaked between 1850 and 1860. One estimate has it that 100,000 slaves escaped that way.
The Underground Railway was a source of friction between North and South, and southerners became angry that many in the North looked the other way and allowed slaves to escape. Many of the activities carried out under the broad name Underground Railway were of course illegal. People who participated had a higher standard for determining the rightness of their actions than legality.
The picture shows a sculpture at Oberlin College, which commemorates Oberlin’s role as a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Cameron Armstrong, then a senior student, constructed it in 1977 as part of a class art project, and it has been preserved as a permanent memorial.
14 May 1796: Edward Anthony Jenner, gave the first successful smallpox vaccination. He is often called “the father of immunology”, and his work is said to have “saved more lives than the work of any other man”.
The BioLite stove is a wood stove with a thermocouple built into to generate electricity. The electricity runs a fan which “blows on” the wood, and there is extra electricity left over to charge small lamps, or a cell phone.
This is extremely cool technology. I have worked in clean energy, and this is the only product that bridges the gap between the cookstove folks, and the lighting folks. The fan can help burn wood cleanly and efficiently, and as we know, smokey wood fires are the principal source of indoor air pollution, which according to the World Health Organisation kills more people than malaria and AIDS combined.
BioLite is working on perfecting the stove, which strongly suggests that it isn’t perfect. Yet. But if they can get it to be a commercially viable product - and I suspect they can - it will be a total game changer in places like Africa where both lighting and cooking fuel are huge daily challenges for hundreds of millions of people.
BioLite has made a product for first world people - like me - called the Camp Stove. It’s very cool, over priced, but the profits cross subsidize the development of their cooking stove destined for the rest of the world. If you ever go camping, think about getting one, and let me know what happens.