United States burns 20.4 million barrels of oil per day. We are damaging our environment beyond repair by burning copious amounts of hydrocarbons into our atmosphere. According to Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth", global warming is melting the ice shelf and global sea levels could rise by over 20 feet. Looking at the global temperature data and it's correlation to greenhouse gas emissions, I believe there is indisputable evidence that burning hydrocarbons is responsible for most of the global warming that is wreaking havoc on our weather systems.
Aside from the frightening global warming issue, I am also deeply concerned about our attitude with regard to consumption. Up until just last year, the US was the worlds largest consumer of natural resources. According to David Suzuki's "Sacred Balance" (I absolutely LOVED this book - everyone should read it), since 1940, Americans alone have used up as large a share of the Earth's mineral resources as all previous generations put together.
The real scary thing is, as of last year, consumption in China eclipsed that of the United States in all the worlds resources but oil, and China's 1.3 billion person economy is growing at a frightening 8% annually
Why is this concerning? There are around 6 billion people living on this rock today. Estimating future population growth at only 1% per year, the numbers are staggering. By 2015, experts estimate there will be 7 billion people on the planet. By 2050, there may be as many as 10 billion people living on Earth. Can mother Earth support this extended family? When will we reach the limit of our resources?
We live in a culture where incentives exist to encourage doing more with more - not doing more with less. Doing more with less is called "efficiency", doing more with more is called "Gluttony". Bigger, faster, more powerful vehicles that consume more fuel at faster rates, larger meals wrapped in complex, land-fill bound packaging, disposable products filling store shelves - you get the picture. Take the new wave of hybrid cars for example. Hybrid technology that was intended to produce spectacular fuel economy, was flipped around by car makers to instead, produce more horsepower for their new hybrid SUV's! Less green, more mean.
Human Powered vehicles are all about trying to do more with less. How to go faster or farther with less energy. Technologies Incorporated into human powered vehicles like aerodynamics, wheel rolling resistance, mechanical efficiencies and size and weight optimization are directly applicable to the cars and boats and other vehicles that we rely upon in these modern times. Most importantly though, Interest in human power represents an essential shift in basic philosophy from one of 'feasting on earths resources' to a 'do more with less' ideal.