Offbeat

Owning Your Own Secret Island: Why Not?

North Dumpling, a two-acre stretch of grass and gravel off Long Island Sound, is an island nation with its own constitution, visas and currency. Its king (well, sort of) is Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and more than 400 other successful and patented products who bought the tiny island in 1986 for a mere $2.5 million. He reigns with other lesser nobility; namely, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s who preside as Ministers of Ice Cream and other lesser but nevertheless titled knaves who serve as Ministers of Brunch and Nepotism.

Dean Kamen is quite a guy and even his private island is a sort of invention because he has made it the most carbon-neutral kingdom on the planet. The word he uses is “carbon-negative” and he stresses that others can achieve this as well by following their dreams and working hard. He told Matt Lauer in a recent interview:

“We’ve taken science for granted lately, but we’ve got to create a generation of kids that are as passionate about innovation as they are about football. Science and technology and engineering and innovating, it’s for everybody. It’s critically important; it’s accessible, it’s fun and you can make a fortune.”

Kamen ought to know about making a fortune that because he certainly made his when barely out of secondary school. The self-taught inventor has developed many products that have had a profound impact on the world, including the insulin pump, all-terrain wheelchair, robotic prosthetic limbs and of course the monumentally popular Segway scooter, which has seeped into popular culture as a major phenomenon.

Some have labeled Kamen as a cross between Thomas Edison and Bruce Wayne, whose creation of Batman’s alter ego is known for his cry: “whoever would have thunk it?” Kamen’s genius has propelled him to the status of one of the leading electro-mechanical engineers in the world.

Almost immediately after he bought the land, Kamen began clashing with the local authorities from the town of Southold, N.Y., which has jurisdiction over the island. He wanted to install a wind turbine to generate power but local officials blocked him claiming that it was against zoning regulations. The genius maverick came up with his solution for local tyranny; he decided to unofficially secede from the United States and then President George Bush played along by signing a “non-aggression” pact with the new kingdom of North Dumpling.

Kamen replaced all the island’s lighting with LEDs, which cut down his in-house energy consumption by 70 percent. The tiny nation has its own navy; albeit one boat, its own mysterious mini Stonehenge, flag, constitution and newspaper, The North Dumpling Times. North Dumpling welcomes visitors by issuing a visa that applies identifying marks of both the visitor’s face and buttocks!

Think outside that stupid box, guy and gals.

Maybe you too can be king or queen of your own kingdom some day.

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