Environmental sustainability of playing the violin

April 21, 2011 at 01:39 AM ·

I try to live as "sustainably" as possible - recycling, composting, only buying local food and hopefully growing as much of it as I can, riding my bike or walking whenever possible, re-using graywater and rainwater runoff, etc...

I have been wondering lately how well my violin playing fits into this general mode of life. I know touring isn't sustainable and I try to do it as little as I can these days, but what about things like: My strings, my rosin, my bow hair...what are the environmental ethics of the companies who produce these products? Especially the bow hair...does anyone know? Have any of you wondered about this yourselves?

Replies (96)

April 21, 2011 at 02:33 AM ·

Hi, that is certainly one of the most shameful aspect of the beautiful art of the violin.  Behind each note we play hides a very drammatic story... If musicians were taken to witness the journey of these animals and look them in the eyes, I think anyone would feel terrible...

I certainly think it does bother a few concerned musicians...  but very few might want to speak out because it's a controversial and sensible topic.  That controversial thing probably comes because deep inside, we all feel guilty...

Yes, horse hair comes from slaughter house horses who were raised in Asia/Siberia for meat.  They lived in harsh weathers because that's what makes their tails thick and ideal for violin... (according to the experts).  The other reason is that picking good hair is such a long and messy job that only these countries accept to do such a job.  (again according to what I heard from people who went there in bow hair factories)


As a horse lover (animal lover in general) and vegetarian "rian" not "lian", it does bug me.  But to say it very roughly, we have two choices, to quit or to continue...

Of course, like eggs and milk, horsehair does not require to kill animals but unfourtunately these animals still all end to the slauther house...  (cows and chickens when "old" and for bowhair because it's a byproduct...) Even free range chickens do finish on the deadly truck (which shocked me...). 

Also, the drugs and medical treatment we receive (if needed) all come from animal experimentation...

The problem is: if "little me" quit violin, will it make a difference... when almost everything we do involved animal torture in the process?  That is the point where people are certainly categorically divided...

Imho (but that is very personal), I think that it's most efficient to do bigger actions such as joining an "animal ethical treatment" group or do volonteer work in a place that helps/rescues animals. Since one year, I have started to sign online petitions and do a few things for the PETA and I am amazed to see they do win battles...  Maybe these actions of welfare groups will

first: lead to more ethical ways to use and butcher animals

second: (maybe in many decades) reduce considerably the meat eaters or lab use of animals etc...

Since it's strongly in people's culture to eat lots of meat and use live animals in labs etc, I think that now (in 2011) it's more efficient to change things to be part of action for ethical "methods" and "handling".  It's the first step to do before a bigger goal of reducing or stopping.

Even if one quits violin, it won't fix the problem since the problem now is to bring people to realize that too much meat isn't healthy and that animals are often badly slaughtered and cared for...  

So, I don't see why to keep ourself away from such a pleasure as the violin though, in return, we should be responsible and try to do what we can to ban over eating of meet and crual mass production/slaughter methods!  Since we owe that to the animals who died for our bows and strings...  In addition, I remind that we shouldn't even need to kill the horses for hair. 

Well that is my way of thinking and I know many will disagree... (that's why forums exist).  As long as people stay polite, no problem with that : )


A sensible/disturbing topic but necessary question for anyone who want to be a responsible musician and I would extend that word to "citizen"... 


April 21, 2011 at 03:42 AM ·

April 21, 2011 at 11:45 AM ·

Not sure about the percentages for all violins, but I would think at least the makers adhering to traditional methods will use hide glue...

April 21, 2011 at 01:30 PM ·

Enion, when it comes to the use of renewable resources, violin playing is pretty decent. The worst offender might be modern strings, using metal and petroleum derivatives. Good bow wood is becoming scarce, but bow makers aren't the source of that problem.

In the future, there may be a supply problem with good quality ebony.

Almost all components of a violin and bow will involve transportation though, and I'm pretty sure most of the shipping companies aren't using bicycles. ;-)   Many amateur maker types have used totally local materials, but this can involve serious compromises in the outcome, depending on where they live.

One way of looking at it: The early Italian makers were doing OK, in a time before there was nearly the level of reliance on non-renewable resources. We don't know for sure, but it looks like most of their material came from pretty close to home. I don't know where iron ore for their tools was mined. Perhaps someone else does.

Congratulations on trying to keep your earth impact low.

April 21, 2011 at 01:50 PM ·

our local bow expert is involved in a pernambuco reforestation project.

April 21, 2011 at 02:00 PM ·

Yes, a rather large group of people in the violin and bow business is providing financial and other support for plantation growing of bow wood in Brazil. We don't know yet how this will turn out.

April 21, 2011 at 02:18 PM ·

Byproduct or not, every use of animal products adds to the profit oft the slaughter industy. That for, using gut strings supports the killing of animals. While this can easily avoided by animal lovers or vegetarians (like me), I see no alternative to horse hair. I have never heard of synthetic replacement that is equal or even better, as with strings.

April 21, 2011 at 02:52 PM ·

In my city there is a master bow maker John Stagg. On his website, http://www.johnstaggbows.co.uk/,  he talks a little about the problems of the supply of pernambuco, and how he is addressing it.

April 21, 2011 at 04:27 PM ·

This gets pretty complex, when thinking about sustainability and all!

First, there is the issue of only using sustainable resources, then there is also the issue of doing less harm to other inhabitants of this world (and, by extension, universe).

My thoughts extend to the fact that the water we use, the fact that we live collectively in cities, and that we depend on transportation to such a level simply to survive in society that that impact is significantly more than smaller issues of personal consumption.

This does NOT mean no responsibility or accountability, it means more accountability. Somehow, we need to find ways to give back to offset the expanses of concrete poured over otherwise fertile soil, live simply instead of maximizing the impact of our activities, etc.

That said, I am not a vegetarian. I do, however, try to be a locavore in as many ways as I can. Unfortunately, my wife thinks vegetables taste best from a can, but I keep a garden anyway.

Now, I'll get back to the original reason for this post; the bow hair.

With bow hair being a by-product, I think the most complex part of the process is the transportation of getting it here; what can we do about reducing the impact of the transportation? Find local resources for the hair?
Further, what cleaning process does it go through, and how harsh are the cleaning agents on the environment?
Third, what other components of the process are an environmental challenge? What can we do to offset those challenges?

April 21, 2011 at 04:48 PM ·

Fer $%$#$# sakes, life takes life. You cannot be alive without "doing harm" to other living things! Ain't possible!

Should we eliminate all meat-eating animals? All insect eating animals? All animals that eat living plants? What about eating seeds? They could be life, but we choose to eat them.

Sorry, but Vegetarianism with the goal of "ethics" is fatuous.

Eat meat, play gut strings, and give thanks, or don't eat meat. But never, never pretend to be ethically superior for choosing not to eat meat or animal products. Your argument will be as hollow as a violin.

April 21, 2011 at 05:49 PM ·

 sometimes i really don't know what to do with you guys:)

out of the blue, you worry about the impact of violin playing on mother earth and humanity???

here, watch this, you will feel much worse typing on your computer into v.com and much much better playing your violin.  



ps,,,it is highly likely that the electronics that we dutifully recycled will end up in the hands of international brokers and tankers on the high sea to darkened corners of some 3rd world countries.  

April 21, 2011 at 06:02 PM ·

Bill, I suppose this is a bad time to ask whether you would make a donation to our project to convert lions into vegetarians.... ;-)

April 21, 2011 at 06:06 PM ·


Yeah, that is why I drive old cars, and keep them running longer; that is why I piece together older computers, and donate them so they get a longer life. If a computer has an expected life of about 3 years, but lasts for 6 or 8 because it goes through three or four owners, that significantly reduces the speed those piles get made.

I can't say how many end-of-life computers I have put together and given away; quite a few.

True, for the most part. That is why I do eat meat. That said, it is not a zero-sum game. I can unthinkingly spray excess insecticide on my yard, damaging the fish in the creek running by. Or, I can try and use it cautiously, and use one that is less toxic as a by-product. I get the same general net effect, but the rest of the area doesn't suffer as much. That, and I can go fishing with my grandkids, and eat fresh fish!

April 21, 2011 at 06:14 PM ·

Sorry, but Vegetarianism with the goal of "ethics" is fatuous.

My god, what a nonsense...

(I promise I won't discuss this further, as it is a violin forum. But failing to understand something shouldn't lead to insulting others.)

April 21, 2011 at 06:21 PM ·

 but here are things that we as violin players or lovers can do:

1.  demand to play violins that are unvarnished.  the chemicals in the varnish can only be bad to the luthiers and the environment.

2. stop bowing altogether.  just pluck the strings from now on. 

April 21, 2011 at 07:02 PM ·

In the U.S., pesticide use by homeowners is roughly 10 to 20 times greater per acre than it is in agriculture. Whether the little guy spends $10 or $2 on Malathion doesn't bother him. The greatest source of pollution in our rivers is "non point source" pollution. In other words, what you do in your everyday life has a HUGE impact on the environment.

Unfortunately, we are still suffering from a collective form of inertia where we believe that it is the "big guys" who are "killing the planet."

As for violins and sustainability, I think it is Lost in the Noise. God, these fiddles last forever. And they decay into soil when they die. Even the varnish is very small quantity, mostly natural oils and most of them don't have lead in them. Computers, which we are all using to write here, are huge polluters, but because we don't make them, we don't see the pollution. And they get left on all day with high-power 2 gazigahertz processors and make a lot of waste heat FOR NOTHING. And the laptop batteries. My God, you can re--hair your  bow once a week and barely put a dent in the environmental carnage you are creating with your computer and your car and you oversized overheated over Air Conditioned American McMansion.

Poor people are default environmentalists. They don't have any resources and therefore have low impact. Rich Hollywood do-gooders and their Prius Hybrids and "This Bulb" "green" youtube videos are a bunch of good-for-nothing vacuous hypocrites.

So there!

April 21, 2011 at 07:02 PM ·

 In the future, there may be a supply problem with good quality ebony.

Just noticed a Parisian bow maker post on Facebook "S.O.S. URGENT" searching desperately for some ebony, and asking if anyone has a plan....

April 21, 2011 at 07:30 PM ·

What a lively discussion! And you guys didn't  resort to personal insults, much :)....My feeling on the matter is that we should live in a way that makes us feel truly at peace with the world. As we grow more educated about what's going on our perspectives will necessarily change. I am not going to quit playing violin but being more informed can help me make choices about where to get the things I need to support my habit. If I can find a bow rehair person that uses hair from horses that live long, full lives running along the steppes of siberia, I will, no matter what the price. I won't tell you to do the same, but I will tell you if the option exists.

I bet I can say pretty certainly that the VSO industry is environmentally unconscionable, though.

April 21, 2011 at 07:45 PM ·

You can harvest your own hair, if you can find someone who will let you cut the hair off, or pull out individual hairs. I was told that pulling tail hairs is a normal part of grooming, so it might not be a big deal. Much of the expense is from hand sorting, and that's why a lot of it makes a stop in China, even if it originally comes from other areas.

Edit: You could probably also make your own rosin, if you have pine trees around.

April 21, 2011 at 08:00 PM ·

I have student whose mom is a hippotherapist (and they keep a few horses). I will ask. Do you know if there's a breed that is best for this?

April 21, 2011 at 08:06 PM ·

ANd how to make rosin - boil the pitch down?

April 21, 2011 at 08:40 PM ·

This talk about conservation is all very nice, but isn't it a futile exercise?  As long as our population keeps growing (as the Powers That Be insist it should), any savings due to conservation will be canceled out.  If everybody consumes half as much, but our numbers double, we're right back where we started.  In the words of environmentalist Edward Abbey, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."  So let's have fewer children, but take better care of them.  Maybe that will reduce our environmental impact enough that we can give each one a violin.

April 21, 2011 at 08:51 PM ·

No it's not a futile exercise. If everyone did as much as they possibly could we might get somewhere. And the only  way to get everyone on board is to keep the discussion open and happening. If we say that it's futile to even talk or try to do anything, we give license to those who wish to say "Well, we're screwed anyway, so lets keep driving a ton, consuming processed GMO foods, buying cheap products produced far away at high environmental cost using unethical labor." This is a discussion that needs to keep happening, even if it feels futile or people are tired of hearing it.

April 21, 2011 at 09:05 PM ·

It is all a matter of energy and technology. Plentiful energy with efficient technology makes for greater agricultural yield and a larger human population. Individuals and free societies have zero control over this phenomenon other than to close borders (US and Europe).

Taken on a global scale, we aren't any different from other animals. Our population grows and shrinks depending on resources. In total we can never live, all of us, in the "land of milk and honey."

Another way of putting it: evolutionary success and misery are not inversely related. Misery is the default human (and other) animal condition.

Have a hard time swallowing this? Take a look at how the "other two billion live" and you will feel pretty miserable.

April 21, 2011 at 09:33 PM ·

"Should we eliminate all meat-eating animals? All insect eating animals? All animals that eat living plants? What about eating seeds? They could be life, but we choose to eat them"

I agree with Rolland on that matter...

We are said to be the most intelligent specie (...) with this comes higher responsibility in not brutally exploit other species.  Because we know they can suffer.  Find if people eat meat or not as long as they are responsible.  Ex: Try to not buy (if possible) from the mass production industry, inform yourself on farm and slaughter house facilities.  (is it done correctly) buy locally etc...

I would also point out that the lion who kills the gazella is possibly more civilize than humans who raise animals in poor conditions, inflict them pain as a "normal process", put them on trucks and send them to extermination...   The lion just kills what he needs and immidiately... 

April 21, 2011 at 11:55 PM ·

Charlie, I'm sure you're right about the population angle. If one person whizzes in the creek, it's not a big deal. If a half-million people do it, you've got a problem.

Enion, I've never made rosin, but it's basically what remains after the distillation of turpentine from raw pitch. Heat pitch to drive off the volatiles, and you're there. I can't offer anything on cooking time or temperature.

This thread has gotten into a discussion of things Enion never mentioned, such as meat eating. I haven't made up my mind about many things, but I'm a bit fascinated by what he is trying to do. Anyone can live like everyone else. Doing so is not even an intellectual challenge, is it?

Edit: One more thing: There are hugely successful TV shows about such things as fishing, small-scale private gold mining, fabricating motorcycles, etc. Could these things be indicative of a general desire to "get back to basics"?

April 22, 2011 at 12:07 AM ·

 roland, i think that is wonderful that you know how to salvage old computers.  I have always naively wondered if the older ones can be pooled together somewhere for their collective processing power for something good, instead of being shipped around the globe to be burnt down...

people don't repair anymore.  it is cost prohibitive and much cheaper to get a new one.  it is the american way:) and the world is following the lead.


April 22, 2011 at 12:16 AM ·

Disposable computers and other modern conveniences? There's always been a market for disposable violins, even if the consumers didn't know that's what they were buying at the time.

I like the idea of moving  obsolete computers to other functions. I've kept a few around, anticipating that they might be used for various types of non-processing-intensive "whole house" functions, like checking the weather report, and figuring out the best energy saving heating or cooling scheme for that day.

April 22, 2011 at 06:58 AM ·

One thing about bow hair; I know that bow hair wears out, but what is left when it does? I wonder if any research could come up with a process for reusing recycled bow hair for student bows, after a resurfacing or recoating?

Recycling old computers isn't that complicated, if you have a source of product. The biggest problem I have is to make certain the operating system is not pirated; I prefer getting computers with the OS still accessible, but if not, Ubuntu is pretty good for most PCs.
There are quite a few people in the world that don't have access to a computer, except maybe at a library or somewhere public. Even old tired computers, if there is not too much loaded on them, can be pretty functional.

Further, I don't necessarily think that doubling the population will necessarily create double the waste. If you think about it, as people, we are organic. it is only our habits that are wasteful, or our density in some locations. If we were all equidistant on the planet, I doubt there would be more than two people per square mile (of course, some would drown in the ocean, reducing the population a bit...).
If we found a way to compost our output more efficiently, it could be a net benefit, rather than a detraction. All we need to do is keep from ruining the water sources and other resources so the earth can stay viable as a biological system.

April 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM ·

 i think another area worthy of recycling consideration is violin strings.

if i remember reading it correctly, some of the higher caliber violinists (or simply finicky ones:) change strings every couple weeks???

perhaps the strings have lost luster from "heavy use", but i have always wondered if they can be used again by beginners with need for cheap/free strings.  think about it: the strings that are on those beginner violins vs couple week old top of the line strings: which will sound better and play better?

too bad my kid's interest in violin and music is not deep enough.  otherwise i would force her:) into starting a project like this.

violinists save up couple sets of used strings and pay for the stamp to sent to a central depot.

beginner violinists pay a dollar requesting a set.  i think the program can survive on its own.  

any leftover money can be turned into a yearly scholarship of some sort.  

this is no patent on this brilliant idea.  someone who is not lazy and lame like me and my kid please do it:)

April 22, 2011 at 04:17 PM ·

I'm doing a research project on violin prodigy Vivien Chartres (born 1893) and apparently she once got a letter from a poor man who asked to have her strings when she didn't want to use them anymore. She obliged, and also went to the place where he was living to give a concert. So there are precedents for such a thing.

April 22, 2011 at 04:36 PM ·

I sometimes give old strings (violin and cello) to whoever is running a Saturday morning orchestra school for kids in my area (I used to be a cello coach at one). Other musicians I know do the same. It is well appreciated. 

April 22, 2011 at 06:20 PM ·

I have always naively wondered if the older ones can be pooled together somewhere for their collective processing power for something good, instead of being shipped around the globe to be burnt down...

Don't be too sure that's a win. 8 year old processors are half or a quarter the speed of current ones (even before accounting for the rise of multi-cores, which adds another factor of ~4), but they eat just as much power. You save the costs of buying new stuff and of disposing of the old, but you're going to burn a lot more electricity doing it.

April 22, 2011 at 06:27 PM ·

I recycle my old strings, somewhat. I use old violin strings on my grandson's ukulele; tuned to GDAE, of course.

I also use outdated maps for wrapping presents; not only stylish, but gift wrapping generally generally has content that is less environment-friendly.

You could always gather a handful of them together and make a beowulf cluster!

April 22, 2011 at 06:28 PM ·

Al, I don't know about such a project... (but even good strings sound bad after a certain ammount of playing!!! And that ammount if fastly obtained for a pro player)  But one would have to try and see!  Maybe it would work


Does your daughter like jewelery and crafts?  She could become my business partner : )

I do know that old violin strings (once passed in alcohol to clean them) do make nice looking necklaces.  I tried to do some with my old strings to joke and it actually gave a nice result.  One just have to put an ormament or beeds on it and a clamp system. 

Imagine if I would start a business of necklaces made out of strings used by famous players and legends on their primary violin...  Add a nice gem or diamond on it and $$$$$$$ (but could make less expensive versions too!)  "who want's a Jascha Heifetzh souvenir necklace..."  or Hilary Hahn, Maxime Vengerov one... 

Isn't that even more precious or "personnal" than an autograph!  Think of how much time with the master this string has spent producing wonderful music in famous concert halls...

If someone wants to start such a project with me just ask...serious!  Maybe too crazy idea but maybe not  : )

April 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM ·

 anne marie,,,funny you were thinking along that line,,,i think your necklace idea is neat....show us a sample!  would you consider dangling a used bridge or a fine tuner or a peg or an endpin? :)

i was thinking that an artist (like you:) would collect a lot of used strings--i mean, used-used-- then braid and bundle them up, say a thousand string per cross section, and use the columns of strings to build some type of structure or sculpture.  

How about you and my kid stop playing violin and devote your lives building the Museum of Violin with this stringy material? :)

ps: my kid's dab into jewelry is currently limited to colorful smiley face ear rings.  in fact, my wife and my kid share the same $2.99 collection of about 8 pairs:)   some females are easier to please or maintain than others:)

April 24, 2011 at 12:20 PM ·

"Laurie drives a Prius Bill"

No problem. She isn't a rich hollywood jet-setter telling the rest of us how to live. I personally feel the Prius is not economically and ecologically viable yet, but when you consider the government subsidies that exist(ed) it came close from a personal finance standpoint. I get 40 MPG in a corolla. Most Prius drivers can't get past 48 but I have talked to some who apply clever hypermilage techniques and manage to get 60 MPG out of their Prius. Of course there is also a guy who got 80 MPG out of his Honda CRX.

April 24, 2011 at 12:23 PM ·

 i wonder if the prius has a bumper sticker that says: my other car is a ferrari:)

or, opulence, i has it:)

April 24, 2011 at 02:29 PM ·

Horsehair and strings aside, the violin as a piece of ancient technology is built to last.  Take good care of it and it just might be around for two or three hundred years.

Population hysteria makes me shake my head; I suggest looking up 'sub-replacement fertility.'

Trevor, I hope the strings aren't false by the time the kids get them.

April 24, 2011 at 02:33 PM ·

"Population hysteria makes me shake my head"

I had a private school admissions officer chide me for having two children on account of the unethical nature of having more than one because of "population growth." I felt like replying, "oh, so then I should simply roll over and let my genetic heritage evaporate for the sake of someone elses?!" Sheesh.

April 24, 2011 at 03:30 PM ·

As far as sustainability goes, a big yes, up until the point of the horses used coming close to extinction. Ecological? Yes, very, using more parts of animals already destined for slaughter. Does it have anything to do with animal cruelty? Not that I can see, again, they were already schedule for slaughter. If one uses NO animal products for any reason (vegan lifestyle), then no.


April 24, 2011 at 04:33 PM ·

As a luthier I can say it is impossible to make a good instrument without hide glue, and no good substitute was found for horse hair. Other animal products may enter in violin making, I use bone black pigment and many varnish materials are made of insects.

But the string section is not alone in that, we have animals in the drum section, fish bladders in the woodwind, wool felt covers piano hammers and, eventually, we animals are playing and listening to these marvelous instruments!!!


April 24, 2011 at 05:42 PM ·

If everyone did what they could to 'save' the planet...it would be wonderful.  But corporations are more concerned about making money than doing what's best, and most of the population is more concerned about doing what feels good at the moment, either that or just dealing with surviving (and doing what it takes to survive isn't good for the planet either).

For a while, I was all into water conservation.  Then I found out that while I was having  cold, uncomfortable 1 minute showers, everyone else was having  nice hot steamy 15 minute showers - so I gave up.  My daily discomfort wasn't helping the planet and I have no desire to be a martyr.

 Now I still do what I easily can do, but do not make a huge effort.  However, I'm willing to make that huge effort again once everyone else does.  And hopefully we'll actually do that on our own, without being legislated to do so...but I doubt it.



April 24, 2011 at 07:16 PM ·

Luis that's right... and to not forget the Ivory piano keys that were still common in the 20th century...

Our Piano is from 1918 and has Ivory Keys... (what I was not at all happy to learn!!!)

Al, I gave them but when I'll make another one, I'll show it.  But maybe I was more joking about the business aspect...  It would take quite good connections in the music field to be able to collect strings from the great artists... But if one is able to do so, I'm willing to try the experiment, why not?  ; )   

Yes, violin is more ecological than many things. Much better than cars, computers, airplanes etc  What I'm bothered with is animal cruelty issues.  Laws are already hard to apply here in America... imagine in these countries where there are even less to protect animals from abuse or bad care.  But one needs to ask onself questions in every area, not just in the "music" one.  Otherwise, it's useless. So that's why I'm more for taking action for animal welfare in general than to specifically ban violin.  (which would just harm me and not those who perform animal abuse)  

April 24, 2011 at 08:57 PM ·

It seems that guilt is an inherent human trait, and it assumes new forms as time goes by.

Now we condemn things that were done 100 years ago, but  in 100 years we will be condemned by the things we are doing now...   There is no way to scape!


April 24, 2011 at 11:57 PM ·

Very true...

What's important is to make an effort in what we beleive needs some improvment now. 

April 25, 2011 at 05:00 AM ·

 A bumper sticker seen in Missoula, MT:

"Save the Planet--Kill yourself!"

April 25, 2011 at 05:48 AM ·

 I'm very happy with my Prius, as a matter of fact. Got it three years ago, and it basically cost what a new car costs. I fill up the 11-gallon tank every three weeks or so. 

As far as population goes, I recently  was curious and looked up the stats, and it might be more accurate to ponder "how the other 5 billion lives." In my lifetime, the world's human population has exploded, from 3.5 billion the year I was born, to 6.8 billion in 2010. The first time it hit 1 billion? That was 1810. Ever before that year, it was in the millions. The recent growth is staggering and exponential. 

April 25, 2011 at 07:25 AM ·

I don't have any children.  I win.

April 25, 2011 at 02:29 PM ·

I am a professional in enviornmental protection and a fan of violin music.

Being a professional in environmental engineering, I say that there is no negative effect  on sustainability by making and using violin and bows.

Being a fan of violin music, I would say that the world could not miss the beauty of violin music for the sake of horse tails. That would be a disaster to the human civilization without violin music.

Last but not least, the beauty of violin is that they all have individual sound quality. There is no one violin is the same to others. So stay using natual wood and horse tail for the sake of violin beauty.

April 25, 2011 at 03:16 PM ·

Emily, I guess I win too (lol)

When I tell to some very ecological engaged people that I am more ecological/green than them even if I was not doing any effort, drove a hummer, put pesticide on my grass and dump my garbage in the woods they jump! 

Then I just say: "I don't have children... "

(1 new person in America/Europe = much additional pollution)

It's very funny to see their reaction : )


I am not against kids of course but the saying " it is not the quantity but the quality..." is now truer than ever!

It is now time to think to the common good instead of just our own individual one.  

April 25, 2011 at 04:02 PM ·

Laurie, I am amazed by your citing on population growth. .

The mother earth milks 7 billion people with the fossil fuel (energy and for fertilizer/pestcides) which she brewed for at least 100 million years ago.

However fossil fuel will be gone within a few hundreds of years. How to feed the 9 billion people without fertilizer and pesticides?

All the true artistic pleasure, for instance violin, will have no effect to sustainability compared to the damage done by the materialism luxury life style.

Let's enjoy natural violin!

April 25, 2011 at 04:10 PM ·


How do you make the world a better place for future generations? You start by making future generations. Without them, it is all pointless. Raising children is how you influence the future for good. You teach your children values. Childless societies are societies no longer. Shakers, anyone?

April 25, 2011 at 04:14 PM ·

The headplate on my bow is mammoth tusk - very durable, considering what I put it through (I am a little clumsy)...It is really interesting to see where a global community of violinists stands on these issues. In my little bubble, everyone I know (excepting my grandfather) agrees, at least verbally, on the need to live as sustainably as possible to promote our species' survival and to reduce the suffering we have caused with our monomaniacal focus on economic growth. Nice to know that while politics and reasons differ, most of us agree we should do what we can.

April 25, 2011 at 04:21 PM ·


One thing to note is that in truth, there is a food surplus in certain countries (ours)....and although I was once a proponent of biofuels, I think that we are using a lot of space growing GMO Corn and Soybeans we could be using to grow food. A recent article in National Geographic (they've been focussing on the population problem all year) suggested that growing perennial grains, legumes and veggies is a much better way to feed all these people. With perennials (and self-seeding annuals) there are no fallow fields to worry about, the plants are much hardier and pesticides and fertilizers become much less necessary.

As for the population reaching 9 billion....it may, but it may not. We live in an ecosystem which imposes limits we don't fully understand and may not be able to overcome.

April 25, 2011 at 04:39 PM ·


Biofuel from regular plants will not be the solution because they grow too slow and too inefficient. Take soya bean as example, it take a few month to get the beans while the rest (majority) is a waste. Corn by far is less efficient than soya beans.

However algae give better solution. Some micro algae contains 17 times oil than soya beans. The only challenge is how to havest the micro algae from water.

Algae grows a genration in days rather than months. Algae has no residuals. Its requires only carbon dioxides and a few types of nutrients.

In a desert of size Maryland, the algae farm is able to produce enough diesel for all USA  cars in theory.

Sorry for talking on biofuel in Violinist.COM


April 25, 2011 at 05:14 PM ·

NPR science friday had an algae guy on the other day.

April 25, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

I was tongue in cheek about the children.  If everyone followed my lead, then I wouldn't have a job.  ;)

April 25, 2011 at 05:35 PM ·

Bill true, as long as people don't make more "future generation" as their share ; )  lol

Of course, violin teachers must still have job... as Emily said!



April 25, 2011 at 06:03 PM ·

What I want to know is what have future generations ever done for us?

April 25, 2011 at 06:14 PM ·

Future generations will condemn us, as we do with past generations.


April 25, 2011 at 08:56 PM ·

Seems to me that with all these "high horses" we will never have a shortage of bow hair. But with enough people, we will likely end up with a real shortage of violinists.


April 25, 2011 at 09:27 PM ·

I am currently taking a "save planet earth" class. It is the undeveloped nations with the largest population growth. Watched a movie that show how in one country (I will not name), women can be set on fire by their mother in law or husband for refusing to keep having children (including video in a hospital with bed after bed with a burned woman in them). That culture believes it is imperative to have sons, and children are born so the parents will have someone to care for them in their old age. The united nations has an initiative in that country (the woman native to that country was interviewed who is trying to further the 0 pop growth goal) trying to impress upon the women to stop having children. I found it horrifying that in a few minutes the video went from stating a woman's life is in danger for refusing to keep having children, but that it is the women that are targeted as the ones responsible for overpopulation and that they need to take a stand Kind of twisted logic, but hey, if they burn up enough women, then I guess it will further their goals.

April 25, 2011 at 09:27 PM ·

"What I want to know is what have future generations ever done for us"

They pay our debts, both public and private.

The present generation, once upon a time a future generation, is paying for 20 years of social security and medicare for people who paid into the system with an actuarial equation expecting less than 5 years of payout...

April 25, 2011 at 09:41 PM ·

What have future generations ever done for us?


We will take care and pay for all of you when you will be retired in old folks homes and hospitals... baby boomers/american dream generation! 

We suffer at hard and complex school to learn how to take care of you... : )  Scientific knowledge always expands and we are not brighter than our ancestors.  Yet, they always ask more of us at school...  As a university student, I can tell that so many are traumatised and highly stressed as a consequence. 

So I think we give it back quite well...  ; )


April 25, 2011 at 10:30 PM ·

I'm very happy with my Prius, as a matter of fact. Got it three years ago, and it basically cost what a new car costs. I fill up the 11-gallon tank every three weeks or so. "

Sure, just wait till you need a new lithium battery pack (you know, of course, that lithium, and rare-earth metals required to make the magnets in the hybrid come from hostile war-torn countries). That'll run you about $8,000.

Anyone who thinks that not having children is a solution to anything should examine the demographic crises in such countries as Japan, Italy, and Russia, whose populations do not have enough young people to keep the economies healthy.

April 25, 2011 at 10:46 PM ·

My Corolla is 12 years old, 195,000 miles and I don't intend to ever replace it. It still gets 40 MPG at 68 MPH.

The Prius and all other "hybrids" have a fatal environmental flaw. They have two, rather than one, prime mover systems. The motor in the prius is every bit as polluting, energy intensive to make and repair, oil-dripping etc as my corolla, and yet it also has a large expensive non-durable battery pack, and large electric motors with all associated magnets, copper windings, insulation, castings etc.

Electric propulsion has the possibility of very long life. Electric motors are not subject to the chemical and thermal shocks of an ICE. But in hybrids this advantage is lost.

Unfortunately replacing the "fleet" with electric cars would require increasing the grid capacity very substantially. It isn't possible to simply "switch over" to grid cars, and so we are stuck with fuel cars for quite a while.

One interesting idea that isn't at all new is to retrofit new waste-heat recovery systems to existing powerplants to make hydrogen. This can then be used as a fuel.

All of the different ideas have merits. It just takes time. What I hate about the hybrids is the government subsidies. They distort the market and encourage one technology over another not based on merit, but based on politics.  Same goes for corn to ethanol--a total travesty.

As for VIOLINS and energy consumption, perhaps the big environmental costs are the ones we don't think about:

energy to run A/C or Dehumidification or Humidification


April 26, 2011 at 02:44 AM ·

I agree that it's hard for a small flock of younger ones to take care of a large flock of older ones and make run the "ecomonical market"...

But the economical market is the ennemy of ecology...

And if no one sacrifices in some way (sacrifice life quality/number of kids...not themselves!) and just apply "bandaid" solutions, it will work in short term but not in long term, the population growth problem won't get fixed. People really want to wait for the government to put radical laws??? 


Well, our backyards will look like India's urban streets in a few years if we do nothing : )  And one day, people will kill each other to survive...   A little less funny...



btw, I like alot to talk about environment issues so sorry if I keep writing ; )  But since people don't just talk about violin, I think it's ok? 

Since it's a violin forum I'll jusy say that while you play music, you don't use your car and you don't have time to raise too many kids lol    Except if you are Bach... (but that was Bach then!)   

April 26, 2011 at 07:25 AM ·

It is such a interesting forum! I like it very much. It covers more about sustainability and humanity than violin!?

What is people?

People in the end is also animal in biological sense, only with superior brains and complicated social structure. The brains make human being sit in many levels above natual food chain. People eat all possible sorts of plants, animals and even insects.

In social sense, people made a food chain among people or society. Some people lives their comfort on top of other people (future generations, other countries, other people of the same nations). The present generation will use up all the fossil fuel and has borrowed heavily from babies who are not yet made.

In animal world, animals do not do such mean things to each other or to their off-springs.

What is the threat to sustainability?

In ecological sense, people will used up all available fossil fuel in hundreds of years. These fules came from the biomass of at least 100 million years old. Since industrial revolution, people turn the fossil fuels either into carbon dioxides or non-degradable plastics. There are not enought plants to absorb this excessive quantity of carbon dioxides and there is no biologgy to digest the plastics. 

Mother earth prefers to grow plants in diversity by nature. However modern agriculture is all about mono-culture for the sake of efficiency. Monoculture planting is very vunerable to insects. So people dump fertilizer and pesticides, which are made from fossil fuel, to overcome the preference of nature.

When we run out of fossil fuel and find no alternative, ecosystem will phase out most of the population and reach a new equilibrium at level close to the population prior to insutrial revolution. That was one billion instead of nine billion!

If aliens would study the globe on the biological activities and eco-system, they would agree that human being is not doing anything good to mother earth.

When things grows super fast and consumes too much nutrients in animal or human body, you know what they are and what they mean in medical sense. right? To that end, I am very reluctant to mirror what human being does to ecosystem.

What is about humanity?

Human being in all continents, in all nations and in all races have done very unhuman tortures or mass killings. These were and are organized in the name of national interests or other big words. There are a lot of individual crimes everywhere as well in any countries.

However I wish we would not judge one or another race by the mistakes or by individual crimes of such race. We would better look into each others eyes for understanding, support, care and love.

The differences between all nations and races are very marginal and even small. It is worthwhile to be sentitive to such differences, but they are not meant for judgment or conclusive opinions.

Various races or nations share a lot in common on the wealth, happiness, sadness, global threat and culture. So humanity is about common goals, shared values and global threat. We have a lot more common grounds on which we should appreciate, trust and rely on each other.

Why are there less vliolinists?

Culture of arts has an universal power!

My dad is a music teacher and he said that violin is the hardest to be mastered. So I guess that most people spend energy in easier business rather than violin.

Thanks the god, you guys plays the best instrument, Violin! As a non-musical engineer, I envy you for what you master and you play.

April 26, 2011 at 07:42 AM ·

Somtheing that may not have been considered is the amount of time spent on the violin that would otherwise be occupied by other interests.  Dollar per dollar, the violin keeps us busy and entertained with relatively little upkeep. 

These are things I always consider when investing in a hobby.  I like hobbies that keep me busy for the longest amount of time with the least materials and expenditure.

April 26, 2011 at 07:43 AM ·

About "future generations". That's a quote from perhaps the greatest thinker of all time, the one and only Groucho Marx, a role-model for us all.

April 26, 2011 at 12:06 PM ·

To die all together out of mother earth's act in one moment is a fair thing. Everybody dies same way and same time!

Such act had taken place 100 miilion years ago. Otherwise those biomass would not have been burried so thoroughly deep into earth. So the fossil fuel might contain the flesh and bones of some other sort of high intelligence beings.

April 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM ·

I think it's fun to try to have a little less environmental impact than the next guy. And doing it just a little doesn't impose any hardship at all.

Hey, why aren't all those stationary bicycles in health clubs being used to feed energy into the power grid? :-)

April 26, 2011 at 12:51 PM ·

 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/green/Gym-Takes-Powerful-Stance-102104054.html  :)

i am waiting for in the violin accessory department those little devices that attach to the left hand fingers of violinists to generate electricity to power the lamp of the music stand, haha.

and the right bow arm is attached to a cord which pulls a spinning fan.  no more ac use:)

April 26, 2011 at 01:01 PM ·

"Hey, why aren't all those stationary bicycles in health clubs being used to feed energy into the power grid? :-)"

That has ALWAYS bothered me!

When I was a kid, I designed a human-powered airplane, the purpose of which was to scrub pollutants out of the air. On the maiden flight, the cardboard wings folded up--somewhere around the 4th step of the stairs. I planned to fly out the open front door.

April 26, 2011 at 03:10 PM ·

Unfortunately replacing the "fleet" with electric cars would require increasing the grid capacity very substantially. It isn't possible to simply "switch over" to grid cars, and so we are stuck with fuel cars for quite a while.

I was discussing this with some folks at the Dept of Energy a couple years ago and the figure that they gave me was a minimum 4-5x increase in electrical generating capacity.

One interesting idea that isn't at all new is to retrofit new waste-heat recovery systems to existing powerplants to make hydrogen. This can then be used as a fuel.

A similar option exists for nuclear power plants. Since the refuel cycle is unchanged between full capacity and less than full capacity, any capacity not being supplied to the grid could be used for generating hydrogen. Other ways of using waste from powerplants include siphoning off some of the CO2 from the exhaust and using it to feed algae farms, which are in turn used to create biodiesel. This keeps with the theme of the last few decades, where power plants have begun using their waste to provide useful supplies for other industry. Fly ash from the electrostatic precipitators at coal plants is used for concrete filler. The by-product of a common SOx scrubbing technique is gypsum, often sold to wallboard manufacturers. 

It wouldn't surprise me if someday we as a society start mining landfills to recover raw materials from all the things that have been thrown away...

April 26, 2011 at 04:05 PM ·

 In Vancouver, we noticed that all the cabs were Priuses, is that cool or what? They get extremely good city mileage. Bill, sure keep your gas-guzzling clunker, lol, and justify it however you like!

April 26, 2011 at 05:00 PM ·

Hey Laurie, a Corolla is as far from a gas-guzzling clunker as you can get.

Taxi companies have managed to get good mileage out of the generation 2  Prius batteries. Generation 1 batteries are quite inferior however (though gen 1 Prius was not produced in any real numbers). I have followed the Prius since it 1st came out. I stand behind my analysis that it doesn't pay off, for the end user, in the current environment.

The Prius is a little tiny car. They sell it as equivalent to something much bigger. In actual fact, it is the size of a corolla. Barely. In city driving, it does indeed have significant savings--you can get 48 MPG while a typical city driver of a corolla is getting 30 (I get 34 in city driving). But in the countryside, it makes no sense. I get 40, the Prius gets 48 (I've asked lots of people what they get) and that isn't enough to pay off the 23k price tag  versus the 16k price tag of a corolla. And the battery replacement at around 150 to 200k miles.

Country Driving, 2000 Corolla versus the Gen3 Prius, you get the following based on 200,000 miles amortization:

Corolla 40 MPG = 5000 gal = $20k @$4./gal

Prius 48 MPG = 4166 gal = $16.6k

Savings of $3400 in 200k miles. Considering the $8k price difference and the batteries, you lose with the Prius.

Consider battery replacement at 200k. Both cars assumed to have same repairs for other things such as motor. That is between $100 and $4000 depending on who you talk to.

City driving, new Corolla 28 MPG = 7143 gal = $28.5k

This makes for 28.5 - 16.6 = $11.9k more for Corolla. make it $9,9 after batteries. Price difference is 23k - 15.7k = 7.3k. So the Prius in LA gridlock is worth a savings of $2600 @$4./gal .

But in the nice human scale driving we have back in my neck of the woods, the Prius loses.

the CAMRY hybrid calculations are more interesting but I have less certainty with them. I have one friend with one. They get high 30s on average, and our 5 speed manual Camry gets high 20s. That is more promising than the camry. Except that there is no luggage space left because of the batteries...

April 26, 2011 at 05:06 PM ·

David, that's a great idea.  I have seen it before.  Maybe on the web, but maybe too long ago to be online.  Possibly an article in one of my old Popular Electronics magazines.  I do remember the generator bicycle was set up by the parent and it was attached to a television.  If the children wanted to watch tv, they had to exercise to do so!

I think George Carlin had it right when he said that those who proclaim that we must "save the earth" have their slogan wrong.  It should be "save the humans."  The earth will spit us out if necessary and it will continue to exist, even if it is with a more hostile environment that isn't supportive of human life.  As the financial crisis showed us, even if we don't do anything a system will eventually correct itself if it goes too far out of equilibrium.  But, isn't it better that we pull back the throttle before these dire situations present themselves?  Must we always be on a mountain when we fall?

April 26, 2011 at 07:19 PM ·

Wei, I hope to meet you in person someday. Actually, I hope to meet all of you. I have enjoyed the intelligent, good-humored discussion on this site for so long now. 

Is there a permaculture movement in China at all?

April 26, 2011 at 07:49 PM ·

A large part of the advantage of electrics during city driving is due to regenerative braking (braking charges the batteries, rather than being wasted as heat).

Bill, if you can come up with a mechanical storage device (rather than batteries), the electric cars wouldn't have that much of an advantage. I think it would only need to store the energy from one stop to be pretty useful. For instance, braking runs an air compressor, which becomes a compressed-air-powered motor when accelerating?

April 26, 2011 at 11:01 PM ·

5 years ago I thought that we might have a breakthrough in supercapacitors. Hasn't happened yet. (Advantage: don't wear out and pollute like batteries).

Regenerative breaking is incapable of saving much of anything. Only very gradual breaking can be absorbed. Otherwise you boil the batteries or have to send most of the energy off as heat. Think about it. 0 to 60 in 10 seconds, using 70 kW.

60-0 in 2 seconds, peak power 500 kW, average power 350 kW. That's 350 kW back into a battery bank. A supercapacitor could do it, but not a battery.

The main advantage to electric, followed by hypbrid electric, isn't the regenerative breaking; it is the reduction in parasitic power loss. In hybrids you can use a much smaller prime mover and you can also use a sterling cycle because you don't have to ask for as much dynamic throttle response and the torque requirements can be optimized--the engine need only run at peak efficiency. This is why the Honda hybrids suck. They have too little hybridization.

For me to go hybrid, it has to be radical. It has to have a 15 or 20 kW engine--no more. It is what is known as "diesel electric" in trains and ships. The engine is merely a Power Station.

Highway power demands are easy to compute on the basis of 13 hp per gallon per hour. About 35 hp to run a big sedan level at 65 MPH.

You size the storage capacity to give 5 minutes climbing with a power demand of 70 kW--20 kW from the Power Station and the remaining 50 kW from the batteries. If you go too fast, you run out of batteries and you have to climb more slowly. Same thing with acceleration.

The Prius has too much prime mover horsepower--over 60 kW!


April 26, 2011 at 11:56 PM ·

"Regenerative breaking is incapable of saving much of anything. Only very gradual breaking can be absorbed. Otherwise you boil the batteries or have to send most of the energy off as heat. Think about it. 0 to 60 in 10 seconds, using 70 kW.

60-0 in 2 seconds, peak power 500 kW, average power 350 kW. That's 350 kW back into a battery bank. A supercapacitor could do it, but not a battery."

Most braking is gradual, at about the same rate as normal acceleration. 60 to 0 in two seconds would be a panic stop, rare during normal driving.

On one of the older Priuses, Toyota claimed that regenerative braking gave a fuel saving of about 20% during city driving. Perhaps that number is better now. Still, the old figures are enough to explain most of the city fuel economy advantage of the Prius over your Corolla. The rest probably comes from the time the Prius engine isn't running.

Granted, there are still major controversies about total energy usage of the Prius, compared to conventional cars, if one considers all energy usage including engineering conception through "end of life" disposal.

"The Prius has too much prime mover horsepower--over 60 kW!"

Toyota claims that they achieved better efficiency by running a larger engine more slowly. This will potentially provide an engine which is also capable of producing more total power.

April 27, 2011 at 12:39 AM ·

Here - and in Italy - a Corolla is considered as a quite a big car....  I have one and I find it just too big!!! Cars must shrink, I think.


April 27, 2011 at 02:28 AM ·

In the US, we have Big Sky, Big Roads, and Big Cars. Comes with the Territory :-)

Regenerative braking is a bigger factor for drivers who don't look past the hood ornament. They race up to the light and put on their brakes. Drivers who don't do that, don't need regenerative brakes, and yet the prius still gains a lot over the ordinary car driven with care, in city driving. You are correct that with gentle braking, it works and works great.

Yes, the Prius derates. It has the same displacement as a corolla (1800cc) but it is still too big, and too heavy. The drive system is complicated and heavy. For really impressive performance in town, you have to get the weight out. That engine should be an 800cc or maybe even smaller. It should only run at peak efficiency and the mechanical drivetrain link to the prime mover eliminated. 300 lbs could come out of that car. I know that the primary limitation to this is the batteries and I suspect that is the reason Toyota copped out and took it so incrementally.


It is instructive to look back. Cars used to be smaller all around.l The Porches 356 had what, a 35 hp engine in 1948? And that was a sports car. In the 70s and 80s even Americans drove small cars. When you see a Vega or a Chevette today, it is MUCH smaller than a Mini Cooper. They were smaller than the VW Rabbit (golf). But safety equipment is heavy and takes up space. The A and B pillars are now so thick, there is a blind spot looking forward, and you can't see back without a truck (external) mirror on ordinary sedans. The doors are practically a foot thick. In the 60s, before emissions controls, small block V8 sedans got 22 MPG, and inline 6 cars got high 20s. That's 1960s overhead valves with lifters and 2 bbl carbeurators. We spent almost 20 years just getting the mileage back using FI, EI, EEC, V V T, etc etc. Of course if we hadn't done this, we would be breathing the most acrid smog imaginable. Most don't remember how bad LA and Denver used to be...




April 27, 2011 at 02:48 AM ·

All true. There may be greater a greater overall success rate though in making smart products than in making smart users. Look at flow restricters for water faucets. The same thing can be accomplished by not opening the faucet all the way, but how many people wanted to be bothered with thinking about that?

April 27, 2011 at 04:22 AM · Enion, I will be in USA this summer. The place and date are not yet set. Where are you around in summer? I would like to meet you and come to your performance. If you come to Shanghai, please let me know. I will show you around. Organic agriculture is getting popular. There are a few organic farms selling by CSA approach. However I am not sure if they are designed with permaculture method. Permaculture will be promoted in China, as well as others such as biodynamics, no-till, intensive, etc. Awareness of food safety is getting higher here. Wei

April 27, 2011 at 05:05 AM ·


Regenerative brakes will work, but you are correct about converting to electricity; that is a serious high flow. I can think of two alternative methods off the top of my head that would be much more functional:

  • For gradual brake usage, convert to electric as normal
    For more agressive brake usage, transfer the momentum into rotational momentum using a depleted uranium flywheel. Offset the gyroscopic effect by use of conveniently placed rockets. OK, so maybe this isn't a serious concept...
  • For gradual brake usage, convert to electric as normal
    For more agressive brake usage, convert to compression into a series of progressively valved chambers; when the brakes are released, use the compressed gas to flow the other way, converting to electricity.

For bonus points, I can even think of a possible use of a spring mechanism that could be stored when brakes are applied, and the spring is used for the initial torque of any start; that would allow the gear ratio to start at speed, instead of trying to generate initial momentum from a standing start.

April 27, 2011 at 11:37 AM ·

The beauty of regenerative breaking is that it requires no additional mass. It uses the same electric motor--running "backwards."  Other momentum-capture devices are in fact costly--they add mass to the system and therefore have an additional overhead cost to accelerate in the first place.

April 27, 2011 at 06:12 PM ·

I was thinking of brushing off my horse this weekend (fully loaded 1 horsepower engine, with attitude)...too bad they're animalia non grata in the city...

I don't suppose anyone makes saddlebags specifically for violins?

April 27, 2011 at 09:33 PM ·

An interesting thing about musicians and luthiers is that if we lived  some centuries back   we  would be doing basically  the same things we are doing now, even without cars, eletricity, computers, machines, etc.


April 29, 2011 at 11:05 PM ·

That's why I pack up plants in my appartment...  when no more air will be found outside (not ennough trees for all the CO and CO2 produced...)

I'll have a few more days to live : ) 

Seriously, it's so important to plant trees to compensate.  I live in Quebec and a characteristic here is to have beautiful areas all separated by dull long roads... I see such space where trees could be plant and not a single one!  That's shocking... 

On a school project I once had to do, I suceeded in finding 15 different tree species only at my home.  (my grand father loved trees and planted many...)  I was thinking that everybody, me included, should do like him...

April 29, 2011 at 11:12 PM ·

The point about cars in general being bigger is well taken.  My first car was a used  '77 Corolla, and I don't think they make anything that small any more.  That little car with its 1200 cc engine got 30 mpg in city traffic, 40 on the highway.  Thank heavens they've quit selling Hummers (just what one needs to go to the grocery store for bottled water and lettuce!) but there are still tons of huge cars on the road.  I suppose part of the problem is that the average American rear end is vastly bigger than when my '77 was designed.

I was driving a teenager to his violin lesson a few days ago and we were stopped at a red light next to a Datsun pickup, probably early '80's vintage.  My kid was amazed that pickups were once that small.  Even the Prius is a good-sized car.  They'll hold four tall adults with room to spare.  It would be interesting to see what kind of mileage Prius technology in something the size of Toyota's Yaris would produce.

April 29, 2011 at 11:44 PM ·

"I suppose part of the problem is that the average American rear end is vastly bigger than when my '77 was designed."

Lisa, are you offering clues as to your age, and the size of your rear end? :-)

April 30, 2011 at 01:00 AM ·

The Tesla cars are fantastic and really ecological!  A pity they don't exist as everyday cars. 

April 30, 2011 at 05:19 AM ·

Tesla is a joke. A toy. Fun but nothing else. My friends put a 30hp electric motor in their Sunrace competition solar car. So what? It went fast uphill until the batteries ran out.

Corolla never had 1200cc. Always 1.7 or 1.8 liter (memory is foggy but I know it wasn't 1.2!). I had a '78 once. I also had a 72 Datsun 510. Now THAT was a small station wagon! I think even that was more than 1500cc.

EDIT:  In fact the "regular" as opposed to "deluxe" Corolla did in fact have a 1200 cc (thanks Lisa for the links!)

The Rear End issue is real.

The gas mileage has been disappointing the past 10 years. My 99 Corolla never does less than 32MPG in the city unless you put a hole in the tank. And 40+ on highway is NORMAL. Now they rate them 28/35. I know htey changed the rating, but I am going relative to real life, with a log book. The old Honda CRX (50 MPG without even trying) is in high demand from a wide range of people--from Hypermilers to Kiddie Race Car types.

Quebec is one huge Tree Collection, haha. And so is all of Eastern Canada. The rest of Canada is either a tree collection, a prairie collection, a lichen collection, or a snow collection.


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