One of my favorite books is about fishing for catfish using your bare hands. It’s called “Noodling for Flatheads,” by Burkhard Bilger.
He is a master at telling stories about average people doing cool things. Tonight I ran across an article he wrote in 2009 about a group of people who have the goal of building a better stove. I’m not talking about a fancier La Cornue. These folks are trying to build stoves for the other 50%. The 50% of people who burn solid fuel every day for warmth and for cooking.
According to the article,”The average cooking fire produces about as much carbon dioxide as a car, and a great deal more soot, or black carbon—a substance 700 times as warming ,” that’s atmosphere warming not by the fire warming.
With four billion people building a fire this way every day, it’s a huge impact, on fuel, on the atmosphere and on their lungs. Well to make them better and make a global impact they need to:
1. Reduce fuel use by more than 50 percent.
2. Reduce black carbon by more than 60 percent.
3. Reduce childhood pneumonia by more than 30 percent.
4. Be affordable (US$10 retail or less).
5. Cooks love it.
6. Gets funded.
The problem is described as “Building a stove is simple. Building a good stove is hard. Building a good, cheap stove can drive an engineer crazy.”
No problem. Um no. I’m fascinated by this. This applies to marketing as well. Marketing is easy. Good marketing is hard. Good marketing on a tight budget can drive people like me crazy.
I’m going to see how I can participate. Who wants to try and build some stoves?