We're losing our kite fields.
Catastrophists of the mid 20th century predicted that by 2200 there would be standing room only on this planet. Their patron saint was Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), an economist who figured that reproduction being a geometric function while food supplies are only growing arithmetically, the 3rd horseman of the apocalypse (famine) was about to lay waste to civilisation. He, and they, were wrong. Civilisation has exactly the opposite problem- when women get out from under poverty and oppression, when they get freedom and choices; they choose not to have children. From a personal point of view this is entirely sensible- why voluntarily exchange an interesting life and rewarding career for stretch marks, bawling kids and pervasive excrement? However, from a species perspective, it's rather at odds with the stock breeder's "keep the best, cull the rest", principle. Fortunately the human gene pool is wide and deep, can stand a few generations of this aberration- and anyway, who knows what we should be selecting for. But I digress.
Our population is growing, albeit not as fast as alarmists of 50 and 150 years ago feared. There are now more than 7 billion of us and the figure could well hit 11 billion before leveling off – and it will only level off, baring a global catastrophe like another super volcano of the Toba scale, if prosperity continues to spread.
A consequence of this population growth, which I take rather personally, is that there are fewer and fewer places available for flying kites.
It's not just that increasing population puts more pressure on available open spaces, but that as communities become more prosperous they tend also to become more regulated. There are less open spaces, but also we're restricted from using those there are. In developed countries now, getting permission to run a public kite festival has become such a bureaucratic nightmare that I wonder why organisers do it- they're masochists maybe, or is from sheer bloody minded determination not let the bastards grind us down- in pig Latin;
nihil bastardum carborundum.
There's also another aspect to this of course; kite fliers generally want to fly where there are lots of people to show off to- and for public kite festivals this is what it's all about anyway. For private flying though, there are plenty of suitable places if you're willing to travel away from population centres. Some of these places might even have that rare commodity; useable mid- range wind (umrw).
However, there are problems with having to travel to kiteflying places. Firstly there is no reliable way to predict what the wind will be when you arrive. Sure, many places now have web accessible wind recorders, but what the wind is when you start the journey won't reliably be what it is when you get there. And secondly, traveling takes time- time that’s better spent flying if there's a choice.
We'll last week I did something about this. With Jenny and Craig are both away for a month- Craig in Australia (Coolum +), Jenny in the USA (Niagara +). What a reversal of the usual; I'm here and they're both away. The opportunity was just too good to miss. There is a block of land down beside the kite factory here which used to be forest, was logged out a few years ago and latterly has been informally used by a scrap merchant and a demolition contractor to store stuff that was not worth keeping but that they didn't want to throw away. What a mess. Elwyn and I took a vote and it was unanimous- two for, none against, (the scrappy and demo-man weren’t invited either).
Power shovels are amazing things; a 20 tonne digger for 3 days was all it took. Even after the junk had been removed, the stumps and re-growth make a pile 20m diameter and more than 5m high. After a month for drying, we’ll light it up, November 5
th seems appropriate.
So, we'll have our own private kite field, 100m x 150m right beside the factory and not a power line in any direction for more than 500m's. Of course there'll have to be some smoothing and grassing, and of course Simon (Chisnall) just couldn't wait (photo) and of course, we still have to find who to talk to about arranging for umrw.
So Merry Xmas (a bit early) Jenny and Craig- and when you do both get back, negotiations can begin as to who will mow the grass and keep the scrappy and demo-man from re-infesting the place when no-one's looking.
And while we were in the mood, the jungle behind our house also got the message- with a bit of mechanical ballet.
Ashburton, October 1 2007