Solar oven prototype

Tomorrow, the middle school ecojustice class in Sunday school is going to make solar ovens. So of course I had to make a prototype:


I started with a basic design made out of carboard boxes, a design that is sometimes called the “Minimum Solar Box Cooker.” But instead of just nesting one smaller box inside another box, I took the smaller box, cut out the ends, and turned it 45 degrees:


While this reduces the amount of cooking space inside the oven, it also reduces the amount of air that has to be heated. And then, too, it’s easy to run a couple of dowels through the inner box to make a support for a cooking pot.

In preliminary tests, the oven worked reasonably well. I set the oven out at 2:45 p.m., stuck a meat thermometer in one end of the oven, and within twenty minutes, the thermometer was reading between 190 and 200 degrees F. (the thermometer only goes up to 200). At about 3:10, I put in a cup of water in a glass container. By 3:40, the water temperature was 155 degrees F., and the glass container was more like 190 degrees F. (Air temperature is 75 degrees F. this afternoon.)

Tomorrow comes the real test: we’ll set the oven out at the beginning of Sunday school and see how quickly we can make solar s’mores.

Update, one year on: This solar oven prototype proved to be only marginally effective. After using it fairly extensively, it has one big problem: when you open the lid, much of the hot air escapes; there is very little thermal mass, aside from the heated air. At the very least, I need to provide a significant thermal mass (preferably black in color, to better absorb heat). In addition, it would make sense to place the door low on one side of the oven, to minimize the loss of heated air.

Pee on Earth Day 2014

Pee on Earth Day is an annual holiday designed to remind us that we are an integral part of the water cycle. Pee on Earth Day is celebrated on the first day of summer (June 21 for the northern hemisphere), since it is likely to be warmest then, and we don’t want to freeze any delicate bits.

I just celebrated Pee on Earth Day. It is somewhat challenging to do so in an urban setting. Let’s just say I waited until dark, and now there is a very happy plum tree.


The headlines on today’s newspaper screamed: “U.S.CLIMATE HAS ALREADY CHANGED, STUDY FINDS, CITING HEAT AND FLOODS” [New York Times, 7 May 2014, p. A1]. This is news because we didn’t already know what this report, the National Climate Assessment, is telling us. A related story tells us that “Polls Find Americans Skeptical On Climate” [ibid., p. A13]. And why? “Scientists predict that climate change will cause larger problems for poor countries than rich ones….” And the U.S. is way ahead of all other countries in per person emissions of climate-changing gasses.

Smokey the BearThis is human nature: the ones who are causing the problem are least likely to be affected by the problem, so they believe they are not causing the problem. The minority of U.S. citizens who are aware of the magnitude of the problem attempt to convince other U.S. citizens of the truth with rational arguments, but since when did humans change their behavior as a result of rational argument?

No, it is time to call on a higher power. One of the growing problems caused by climate change is the increased incidence of forest fires, and so we immediately know on whom we must call. We will follow the example set by poet Gary Snyder in 1969. Both Buddhists and non-Buddhists, both those who follow the circumpolar Bear cult and those who don’t, should call on the Boddhisattva of Compassion Avalokitesvara — who is also Kamui Kimun of the Ainu — who is also a consort of She Who Saves, Boddhisattva Tara, Mother of Liberation — who is he who carries the vajra-shovel.

Abandon rational argument, and chant together:

Smokey the Bear Sutra

Once in the Jurassic, about 150 million years ago, the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite Void gave a Discourse to all the assembled elements and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings, the flying beings, and the sitting beings—even grasses, to the number of thirteen billions, each one born from a seed—assembled there: a Discourse concerning Enlightenment on the planet Earth.

   “In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth, and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon. The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature.”

   “The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that future American Era I shall enter a new form, to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger, and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it.”

   And he showed himself in his true form of


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