Finding an effective, environmentally-friendly source of energy to replace fossil fuels has proven difficult indeed. The modest successes of wind, hydro-electric, and solar power have been overshadowed by embarrassing failures, like the Photosynthesizing Ford Taurus and Apple's lightning-strike powered IPod.
People have begun to lose hope that we can both save the atmosphere and power our world at the same time. But one researcher believes that we can do just that, and she recently found a promising new source of energy, hidden away in the small town of Challagalla, India. She discovered the power of the elephant.
"Humans have been harnessing the power of animals for millennia," explained Brenda Yarbough, junior researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy. "We've used the strength of oxen to pull our plows, the endurance of horses for our long-distance transportation, the propensity of seagulls' stomachs to explode when fed Alka-Seltzer to entertain our children, the list just goes on and on. The problem is, working animals are never particularly motivated. They have to be prodded and whipped into a half-ass effort, and even then you're getting maybe 35% of their potential power. The elephant-trainers of Challagalla have found an ingenious solution to this problem - it's a true innovation."
The Challagalla villagers employ elephants, the world's largest and strongest land animals, to perform a variety of tasks, including commercial transportation, heavy lifting, garbage compaction, political assassination, and high-pressure colon cleansing Yarbough claims the Challagalla elephants' work at least four times harder than other domesticated Indian elephants. In fact, the Challagalla elephants work so hard that most of the villagers don't have to work themselves, and can spend the day lounging in the shade, watching dubbed episodes of "Magnum PI."
"The villagers didn't want to reveal to me how they motivate the elephants - it's kind of their golden goose," said Yarbough. "Taking a lesson from the Spanish Conquistadors, I attempted to inspire awe in the primitive villagers so I could take the secret by force. But unlike the Aztecs, who believed Cortez was the god Quetzalcoatl, the Challagalla villagers did not mistake me for Shiva, despite the prosthetic arms I had duct-taped to my sides. They refused all offers of money - very generous sums of money, mind you - but finally agreed to exchange the secret for one autographed photo of Tom Selleck."
Yabough learned that the source of the Challagalla elephants' incredible power is pure, unmitigated rage. The trainers are able to induce strong feelings of anger in the elephants through verbal assault and physical parody, such as commenting on an elephant's weight problem, ridiculing an elephant for its fear of mice, or cowering from imaginary mice while holding an arm in front of one's face to simulate a trembling trunk.
"This could only work with an animal as intelligent and sensitive as the elephant," explained Yarbough. "As far as we know, Oxen are comfortable with their weight and horses are okay with their elongated faces - either because they have very high self-esteem or because they lack the cognitive capacity to understand they're being insulted. We think dolphins could be successfully insulted - they're very sensitive about being caught in fishing-nets and could be called 'chicken of the sea' or something like that."
Yarbough believes the herculean strength of enraged elephants could be utilized to generate electricity, which could then "light up buildings, power electric cars, and possibly eliminate the need for fossil fuels altogether." One problem is the number of elephants required to support an average-sized power grid, which she estimates to be in the hundreds. "I'll concede, that many elephants would produce a lot of dung," admitted Yarbough. "But don't forget, we're fighting against global warming here. I think I speak for all people of intelligence, when I say I'd rather see endless mountains of elephant crap across America than experience the annoying discomfort of slightly warmer temperatures."