Saturday, December 31, 2011

EO Wilson's 2007 TED Prize Wish: The Preservation of Earth’s Biodiversity

This 2007 TED-talk by E.O. Wilson is not less relevant today. Let's hope the year 2012 will become the year the preservation of the Earth's biodiversity kicked off!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Love (James Kalb)

Tradition deals with things that are greater than we can grasp, and we can only accept it as a gift from those who came before us. It orients all human action, the work of natural scientists as much as anything else, and it cannot be manipulated, reconstructed or made scientific. Habits, attitudes and symbols are concrete, so traditions differ and each must rely on his own. The differences are no argument against relying on any particular tradition. Reliance is unavoidable, because we can think, know and act only from a particular traditional standpoint; other sources of guidance, such as social science, philosophy and personal opinion, are far too conflicting and fragmentary to create a general point of view anyone could live by. - James Kalb
Wow! I recently came above Jim Kalb and his tremendous blog. It's quite revealing!

Chinese children

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Zen View Upon the World (Less is More)


This article is inspired by the Alexandrine pattern 134, Zen View. The pattern states: “The archetypal zen view occurs in a famous Japanese house, which gives this pattern its name.

Let’s start with listening to the wisdom of A Pattern Language (Please note that the illustrations of the original text are missing):
A Buddhist monk lived high in the mountains, in a small stone house. Far, far in the distance was the ocean, visible and beautiful from the mountains. But it was not visible from the monk’s house itself, nor from the approach road to the house. However, in front of the house there stood a courtyard surrounded by a thick stone wall. As one came to the house, one passed through a gate into this court, and then diagonally across the court to the front door of the house. On the far side of the courtyard there was a slit in the wall, narrow and diagonal, cut through the thickness of the wall. As a person walked across the court, at one spot, where his position lined up with the slit in the wall, for an instant, he could see the ocean. And then he was past it once again, and went into the house.

What is it that happens in this courtyard? The view of the distant sea is so restrained that it stays alive forever. Who, that has ever seen that view, can ever forget it? Its power will never fade. Even for the man who lives there, coming past that view day after day for fifty years, it will still be alive.

This is the essence of the problem with any view. It is a beautiful thing. One wants to enjoy it and drink it in every day. But the more open it is, the more obvious, the more it shouts, the sooner it will fade. Gradually it will come part of the building, like the wallpaper; and the intensity of its beauty will no longer be accessible for the people who live there. - A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander et.al., page 642 – 643
Today, at least in Norway, we have too much of everything, and hence we value nothing. My father said that when he was a child they got an orange for Christmas. This was the only orange they got throughout the year. I can just imagine the intensity they felt of the flavor of this one orange, and how they wanted every bite to last forever. I can imagine how images of distant tropical paradises awoke in their minds. In this way this one orange for the year, enjoyed on Christmas Eve, became a “zen view” of flavors and distant worlds.

Now at the supermarket, oranges are amongst the cheapest of fruits — you can eat as many as you like whenever you want, and you grab and chew an orange without thinking. This once exotic fruit has become as ordinary as snow in wintertime. You don’t notice it. It can be the same with a spoiled view.

Definitely, less is more! Too much of something dulls our senses and reduces quality of life. Over-consumption and consumerism destroy our awareness and appreciation for the ecosystems that surround us. We all become like spoiled children on the Earth.
Per capita consumption in the United States as measured by gross national product (GNP) has more than doubled since 1969, with little detectable change in people’s self-expressed levels of happiness and satisfaction with life as a whole. - Joshua Farley
Big window panes have become an industrial-modernistic dogma, although Alexander has counter-proved it in pattern 134 and other patterns. Still, they just don’t destroy the view, they also destroy the building.
Large, plain objects or surfaces disturb the observer by presenting no information — the most disturbing being surfaces of glass or mirrors that prevent the eye from even focusing on them. We instantly look for reference points, either in a form’s interior, or at its edge. We need to comprehend a structure as quickly as possible, to make sure that it poses no threat to us. Large uniform regions with abrupt, ill-defined boundaries generate physiological distress as the instrument (namely, the eye/brain system) seeks visual information that isn’t there, thus frustrating our cognitive process. - The Sensory Necessity for Ornament, by Nikos A. Salingaros
Like it or not, here we are touching one of the major problems with earthships, they often have a front consisting of large surfaces of big window panes, and this way they become alien looking. This is something that should be taken very seriously by the earthship people, as I’m sure that with more focus on our sensory necessities this problem can be solved.

I like to close this article with the conclusion of pattern 134, Zen View:
If there is a beautiful view, don’t spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly at it. Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition – along paths, in hallways, in entry ways, on stairs, between rooms.

If the view window is correctly placed, people will see a glimpse of the distant view as they come up to the window or pass it: but the view is never visible from the places where people stay. - Christopher Alexander
This article is published at The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia on December 15, 2011.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Den beste definisjonen av den norske velferdsstaten til dags dato!

Moderate means can eventually reach ends that are not at all moderate. Liberalism in fact tends toward a sort of totalitarianism in the name of an absolutized pluralism. It starts with religious freedom but leads to enforced nihilism because publicly to express the view that one purpose is better than another is to create an environment that is oppressive for those who disagree. It starts by dividing power but in the end demands comprehensive state administration of everything to ensure the equal empowerment of all individuals. The bureaucratic welfare state and the world market are rational formal arrangements for promoting the mutual accommodation and satisfaction of individual preferences. In the end, they are the only principles of social order liberalism can allow. Other principles, like religion, sex roles and particular cultural norms, must be suppressed as irrationally unequal and oppressive. 
Nihilism and the abstract purposes of atomic individuals do not seem to me a sufficient foundation for social order. If that’s right, then liberal governments are likely to lose both popular support and rationality, and consequently become increasingly unprincipled, ineffective, and ultimately despotic. - James Kalb

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prejudice Comes from a Basic Human Need and Way of Thinking, New Research Suggests

Where does prejudice come from? Not from ideology, say the authors of a new paper. Instead, prejudice stems from a deeper psychological need, associated with a particular way of thinking. People who aren't comfortable with ambiguity and want to make quick and firm decisions are also prone to making generalizations about others. - Science Daily

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

YOU ARE HERE: The Oil Journey

A Multilayered Anti-Pattern

The problem is that we are adapting to the wrong things — to images, or to short-term greed, or to the clutter of mechanics. These maladaptations are known as “antipatterns” — a term coined not by Alexander, but by software engineers. An antipattern is something that does things wrong, yet is attractive for some reason (profitable or easy in the short term, but dysfunctional, wasteful of resources, unsustainable, unhealthy in the long term). It also keeps re-appearing. Sounds like our economy and wasteful lifestyle? Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros
CC Gjøvik, an example of a multilayered antipattern

The permaculture focus is on tracking patterns in nature and design, to create pleasure for ourselves and to find good examples for the world. Patterns work in a multitude of connections with their surroundings, and the more connections there are, the richer are the pattern languages the patterns are part of.

Unfortunately, although our pattern languages might have a deep poetry, not all people feel attracted to their harmony (meaning "the quality without a name"). Today’s disconnected people are attracted by antipatterns, this is because they are profitable or easy in the short term, and human nature is greedy and lazy. We are short term thinkers — in a world of competition the winner takes it all, and today’s capitalism is all about materialism.

Antipatterns are dysfunctional, wasteful of energy and resources, unsustainable and unhealthy in the long term, and they violate the human scale. Still, they are so seductive in their grand scale, and we are overwhelmed by their appearance and shiny surfaces. In fact, we have even made them our new temples!

Entering the consumerist temple

Book: All That We Share


Monday, December 19, 2011

Self-Organization

Photo: Takemori39 
One definition of self-organization: “Self-organization is the spontaneous often seemingly purposeful formation of spatial, temporal, spatiotemporal structures or functions in systems composed of few or many components.” Self-organization is visible in many cases in nature. Self-organizing systems are adaptive and robust. They can reconfigure themselves to changing demands and thus keep on functioning in spite of perturbations. - P2P-blog
No doubt, self-organization is the future of mankind and the end of today's totalitarian democracies

Real Wealth: Howard T. Odum’s Energy Economics

An oil product
The great conceit of Industrial man imagined that his progress in agricultural yields was due to new know-how... A whole generation … thought that the carrying capacity of the earth was proportional to the amount of land under cultivation and that higher efficiencies in using the energy of the sun had arrived. This is a sad hoax, for industrial man no longer eats potatoes made from solar energy; now he eats potatoes partly made of oil. - Howard T. Odum

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Livets teknologi – ei innleiing


I dag kallar eg meg for teknologioptimist, fordi dette omgrepet har fått eit nytt innhald for meg. Den tradisjonelle teknologioptimisten er vel ein som reknar med at økonomisk vekst vil leia til ny teknologi som ska redde verda frå konsumerismen sine skuggesider, og at det ikkje finst nokon grunn til å endre livsstilen vår, snarare tvert om. Men eg er redd dette ikkje er nok. For å staka ut ein ny kurs må vi endre heile oppfatninga vår av kva teknologi er og korleis han nyttast.

Her er vi ved eit kjernepunkt i den framifrå essayserien av Michael Mehaffy og Nikos A. Salingaros, som vart trykt i det New York baserte arkitekturmagasinet Metropolis Magazine i haust. Teknologi ikkje som noko statisk, men meir som ein morfologisk og utfaldande prosess av livet sjølv, djupt samanvevd med det livet vi er ein del av. Dette er det dei nemnde herrar kallar for livets teknologi, i motsetnad til ”dødens teknologiar”, som er rådande for vår livsutfalding i dag. Adaptiv design er òg ei god nemning.

På eit vis har ”teknologioptimistane” og ideologane same syn på verda då dei begge ser menneskesamfunna som skilde frå naturen, noko ein kan kalla ein reduksjonistisk ståstad. Ideologi er fåfengd så lenge han nyttar seg av ”dødens teknologiar”. No som vi har lagt bak oss ideologiane sitt hundreår og entra eit nytt millennium, er det på høg tid å sjå bortom ideologiane og heller byggja menneskesamfunna på livets teknologi. Dette synet har eg gjort greie for i ein annan artikkel som eg har kalla From Ideology to Technology.

Men kven er herrane bak desse metropolisessaya? Michael Mehaffy har eg ikkje kjennskap til frå før av, men CV-en hans er imponerande. Han er nyurbanist, og arbeider som forskar, planleggar og prosjektleiar innan nyurbanismen. Det eg merkar meg mest er at han har samarbeida med Christopher Alexander, mellom anna med å utvikle nye klassar av ”generative kodar” og ”pattern languages” (her vel eg å ikkje omsetja til ”mønsterspråk”, då det vert for tvitydig).

Om CV-en til Mehaffy er imponerande, kjem han i skuggen av den til Nikos A. Salingaros, som du finn her. Han er professor i matematikk ved The University of Texas at San Antonio, og har gitt monalege forskingsbidrag innan matematikk og fysikk. I 1983 byrja han eit samarbeid med Christopher Alexander, og hjelpte han med å redigere det monumentale bokverket The Nature of Order. Sidan den gongen har han publisert ei imponerande mengd essay og artiklar, samt nokre bøker. Den siste boka, Twelve Lectures on Architecture; Algorithmic Sustainable Design, har eg omtala her. I tillegg til å vera ein akta føredragshaldar er Salingaros tilsett ved arkitekturfakultet ved universitet i Italia (han snakkar flytande italiensk), Mexico (snakkar og spansk) og Nederland. Engelske Wikipedia gjev ein fin presentasjon av arbeidet hans.

Den fyrste som byrja å utforske den djupe koplinga mellom arkitektur og vitskap, og då særleg med matematikk, fysikk og biologi, var Christopher Alexander. Ikring honom har det etter kvart danna seg ein krins av arkitektar, forfattarar og intelektuelle, mellom dei Charles, prinsen av Wales. Dei fem fyrste essaya i metropolisserien omhandlar den radikale teknologien til Christopher Alexander; radikal, men djupt forankra i forsking og vitskap. Dette kan ein ikkje kan seia om dei ideologisk baserte doktrinane som dominerer hjå ”stjernearkitektane”, og dessutan hjå dei fleste arkitekturuniversiteta. Dei nektar å sjå sanninga i auga, lik blinde trellar under ”dødens teknologiar”. Les meir om Nikos si fortviling over det vonlause som pregar samtidsarkitekturen i det tidlegare essayet Cognitive Dissonance and Non-adaptive Architecture: Seven Tactics for Denying the Truth.

Men det er ikkje pessimismen som rår i metropolisessaya, her er det løysingane som får bløma, eller ”nyteknologioptimismen” om du vil. Sjølv har eg vorte svært glad i ”pattern”-teknologien til Christopher Alexander, som kan nyttast i nær sagt alle felt innan samfunnsbygging, men òg innan forsking og teknologi. Paradoksalt nok er det mellom programutviklarar denne har vorte mest omfamna. Arkitektane vel stort sett å forteie eller fornekte A Pattern Language, ei av dei viktigaste bøkene i det førre hundreåret. Nikos har utvikla denne teknologien vidare i artiklane The Structure of Pattern Languages og Connecting the Fractal City. Sjølv har eg nett skrive ein artikkel om kjøpesenter som eit av dei mest øydeleggjande anti-”patterna” i den norske samtidskulturen.

Metropolisessaya avsluttar med å omtala såkalla ”biofilisk design”, ein term skapt av krinsen kring Alexander, men som òg har vorte ”kopiert og misbrukt” av nokre av dei mest nihilistiske samtidsarkitektane. Eigentleg er det biofilisk design heile denne essayserien handlar om, at vi for å skapa heilskap må etterlikne og samarbeide med naturen og dei livsprosessane som omgjev oss. Dette er til vårt eige beste på alle nivå, psykologisk so vel som økonomisk. Eit system som ikkje tar omsyn til heilskap styrer mot kollaps, og det er dit vi er på veg no.

Essaysamlinga omtala i artikkelen finst her.

Artikkelen er publisert hos kulturverk.com.

A Conversation With Dmitry Orlov About Europe

[Première publication sur Orbite.info: Un entretien avec Dmitry Orlov]
I came upon Dmitry Orlov's writings—as with most good things on the Internet—by letting chance and curiosity guide me from link to link. It was one of those moments of clarity when a large number of confusing questions find their answer along with their correct formulation. For example, the existence of fundamental similarities between the Soviet Union and the United States was for me a vague intuition, but I was unable to draw up a detailed list as Dmitry has done. One must have lived in two crumbling empires in order to be able to do that. 
I must say that my enthusiasm was not shared by those around me, with whom I have shared my translations. It's only natural: who wants to hear how our world of material comfort, opportunity and unstoppable individual progress is about to collapse under the weight of its own expansion? Certainly not the post-war generation weaned on the exuberant growth of the postwar boom (1945-1973), well established in their lives of average consumers since the 1980s, and willing to enjoy a hedonistic age while remaining convinced that despite the economic tragedies ravaging society around them, their young children will benefit from more or less the same well-padded, industrialized lifestyle. The generation of their grandchildren is more receptive to the notion of economic decline—though to varying degrees, depending on the decrease of their purchasing power and how lethally bored they feel at work (if they can find any) . 
It would be wrong to shoot the messenger who brings bad news. If you read Dmitry carefully, scrupulously separating the factual bad news, which are beyond his control, from his views on what can be done to survive and live in a post-industrial world, you will find evidence of strong optimism. I hope that in this he is right. 
Whatever our views on peak oil and its consequences—or our distate for scary prophecies—we can find in Dmitry Orlov fresh ideas on how to conduct our lives in a degraded economic and political environment, reasons to seek fruitful relations with people you might not normally cherry-pick, or the most effective approach to the frustrating political and media chatter and the honeyed whisper of commercial propaganda (shrug, turn around and go on with your life). - Tancrède Bastié

Friday, December 9, 2011

ECONOMY: Ecological Economics by Joshua Farley

EXCERPT:

Many people would agree that the central desirable end of economic activity is a high quality of life for this and future generations. Conventional economists argue that humans are insatiable, and therefore economics should focus on endless economic growth and ever-increasing consumption. Considerable evidence, however, suggests that humans are in fact satiable-there is a point beyond which increasing consumption does not make us better off.

Market economies—in which the prices of goods and services are determined by the interplay of supply and demand in voluntary exchanges—play a critical role in the modern world. Market forces determine the quantity of oil pumped, minerals mined, forests cut, and fish caught. They determine the industries to which these resources are allocated, how much labor and capital are employed to convert them to market products, and who gets to consume those products.

In theory, competitive markets1 allocate factors of production—resources like energy, raw materials, land, labor, and capital—toward the most profitable goods and services and, in turn, allocate the goods and services toward those who value them the most, as measured by their willingness to pay. The competitive markets described in textbooks in theory maximize monetary value while ensuring that consumers are able to purchase market products as cheaply as they can be produced. What’s more, competitive markets achieve all this through a process based on free choice and decentralized knowledge, without centralized coordination.

The Great Depression, however, revealed huge flaws in market economic theory. Markets sometimes left vast numbers of skilled laborers unemployed, left machinery idle, and left food to rot on farms while the poor went hungry. The Great Depression helped economists understand that sometimes markets required government intervention to function well and to allocate resources appropriately. Confronted with this crisis, economists developed the field of macroeconomics, which explained how governments could use monetary and fiscal policies to keep economies healthy and growing.

When macroeconomics emerged, however, practically no one was aware of the coming challenges of global climate change, peak oil, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, or overpopulation. Economists focused on the problem of how to convert seemingly abundant natural resources into apparently scarcer economic goods and services. Since then, production of economic goods and services has increased more than eighteenfold in the United States, and nearly as much in the world as a whole. We have learned that intact ecosystems provide vital life-support functions upon which we, like all other species, depend for our survival, and that human activities threaten the planet’s ecosystems.

Unfortunately, market systems largely fail to account for the impacts of ecosystem degradation on human welfare. The ecological and resource crises we currently face are orders of magnitude more serious than the Great Depression, as they threaten not only the economic system but also human survival. We must develop a new type of economics that addresses these shortcomings.

Read the full report:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Koch Snowflakes

A very interesting article on fractals on the blog of Philip T. Keenan: Koch Snowflakes

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Sensory Necessity for Ornament

Ornament is a necessary component of any architecture that aims to connect to human beings. The suppression of ornament, on the other hand, results in alien forms that generate physiological and psychological distress. Early twentieth-century architects proposed major stylistic changes -- now universally adopted -- without having any idea of how the human eye/brain system works. - Nikos A. Salingaros
Read the article: The Sensory Necessity for Ornament

OWSers are Today's Pirates

So, far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered such savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates’ ethos. - Kester Brewin
Read the article: What we can learn from the pirates


The real pirates of today are to be found in the Occupy Wall Street - movement. Photo: J.J.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Suburbia, the True Tragedy of Norway and the US

Television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, generational changes in values–these and other changes in American society have meant that fewer and fewer of us find that the League of Women Voters, or the United Way, or the Shriners, or the monthly bridge club, or even a Sunday picnic with friends fits the way we have come to live. - Robert Putnam
Suburban disconnectedness

This is exactly my thoughts about what has become of the Norwegian "welfare-state" today! Read the article: Resiliency: It’s who ya know

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lake Randsfjorden & Dokkadeltaet National Wetland Center

The northern end of Lake Randsfjorden in Oppland, Norway. The wetlands of the Dokka Delta is situated here, where the river meets the lake. Full resolution available here.

Wisit the website of Dokkadeltaet National Wetland Center here.
North of Oslo, west of Lillehammer and south of the highest mountains in Norway, Jotunheimen, water drains through mires, creeks and rivers into the ramsar site and nature reserve, Dokkadelta. The water from the alpine mountain region Synnfjell runs through the protected river Etna and through the river Dokka, passing several aqua power stations, into the fourth biggest lake of Norway, Randsfjord. Wetlands, creeks, rivers, forest and vast alpine mountains invite to experience the landscape of the municipalities Northern Land, Southern Land and Etnedal in the county of Oppland. 
Dokkadelta National Wetland Centre has got the task to develop this compact ecosystem for experiencing the strong bonds to nature in the culture of this region. But also protecting the biological diversity of this typical nordic wetland ecosystem for further generations. Nature, where the black throated diver calls on the foggy lake at dawn, and the capercaillie play games on the mires at spring. Where pike and trout grow to capital size, moose is resting in the meadows and the trumpet of cranes sounds through the valley. Where the full moon paints the winter forest in silver blue and ski trails wind through the mountains of silence. Where beaver and men work in the forest and river shells tell their stories of the century. An ecosystem for knowledge and experiences. 
We wish you welcome to visit our region. On a journey to our birds, our animals, our fish, our plants, our insects and us, the people of Land and Etnedal. For experiencing fjell, rivers or taiga forests. For the adventure of dog sledding, bird watching, canoeing, hiking, cycling, fishing, hunting, picking berries, backcountry skiing or wilderness camping. Or for sensing the nordic nature on a chair of experiences? 
Novalis wrote: "If you hear the butterfly laugh, you know how a cloud smells.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Occupy Everywhere: Michael Moore, Naomi Klein on Next Steps for the Movement Against Corporate Power

How does the Occupy Wall Street movement move from “the outrage phase” to the “hope phase,” and imagine a new economic model? In a Democracy Now! special broadcast, we bring you excerpts from a recent event that examined this question and much more. “Occupy Everywhere: On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power,” a panel discussion hosted by The Nation magazine and The New School in New York City, features Oscar-winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore; Naomi Klein, best-selling author of the “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”; Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center and publisher of ColorLines; Occupy Wall Street organizer Patrick Bruner; and veteran journalist William Greider, author of “Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country. - Democracynow.org

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Historien om flaskevann

Som vanlig fortsetter forskning.no å være en reklamekanal for komersielle interesser. Denne gangen har de falt til et nytt lavmål, ved å promotere norsk flaskevann. Det er på tide å hente fram igjen den fremragende animasjonen "The Story of Bottled Water":

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Response from VillageTowns

Editorial Notes

A response from VillageTowns:

We were delighted to read the review of our VillageTown work and would like to add some comments, but your comments section is closed.

Øyvind Holmstad wrote "Unfortunately they don’t seem have the same enthusiasm for the compost toilet, but hopefully they’ll take this advice from Lester Brown."


We did read the links provided, but note that Lester Brown writes: "Collected urine can be trucked to nearby farms". That means we need trucks which means the VillageTown need to buy trucks, fuel them and use roads to transport the urine in those trucks. And where do we store the urine until it is collected? Do we need to include urine storage tanks in each house? That adds a few hundred dollars and then means we need to send trucks around to empty them. How long do we leave the urine in the tank before collecting it? And how do we vent the tanks if people have roof gardens up where the vent pipes need to go? The same problem holds for the faeces. A composting toilet makes sense in a low-density community such as an eco-village especially where the compost is dumped outside in the veggie garden by the home occupant. But it becomes a numbers problem in a common locality large enough to support a complex local economy (4,000 homes) that is intended as a complete community, which includes people with phobias about handling their own effluent, no matter how nice it smells. As the other link provided by Holmstad notes, it remains a taboo subject. Presuming each home has 2 composting toilets and each one must be emptied every six months (as manufacturers recommend), that means 16,000 clean-outs each year. With 250 working days a year, that means 64 toilets cleaned out every day, vehicles to pick up the compost and haul it away for the farms. And, while it is clean compost, it still will contain the heavy metals and the non-biodegradable medications that humans consume and expel. The important thing to understand here, that there is no inherent opposition to composting toilets. Rather it is a question of engineering. We are not advocating the 19th century solution that the referenced Lester R. Brown criticises. We agree with his points. When dealing with 4,000 homes however, all paid for and built at the same time, there probably are smarter engineering solutions.

The first point of agreement is that urine and faeces are not waste but surplus material. They have chemical and nutrient value, and it is an absurd waste to contaminate drinking water to shift them or to co-mingle them. Get them to the production centre in as pure a form as possible - as pure as they came out of the human body. To do this, first look at the Swedish separator toilets. Install two pipes, one for urine and the other for faeces. Use water or an equivalent medium to transport these surplus materials to the processing plant. At the plant, use appropriate technology to deal both with the medication issue (antibiotics, birth control and other medications expelled by the body) and the heavy metal issue that otherwise could concentrate these harmful or toxic chemicals in the food systems. Determine what nutrients are used for farm fertiliser (for example, feeding tilapia fish that are then ground up for fertiliser and mixed with food compost) and what may be used to brew alcohol that powers the farm tractors. Using biological systems, purify the transport water to a quality deemed safe to then return to the toilet so that it functions in a closed loop system much like the radiator in a modern car. Once charged, the system uses no new water, it just uses water as the transport system.

Beyond the two toilet pipes, we imagine more water pipes coming out of each home. Pipes are a lot cheaper than trucks, and once installed can last for centuries and require no personnel or vehicles. Install a pipe that goes to the kitchen sink, and install something akin to the old-fashioned garbage disposal for food scraps. Pipe those ground-up scraps to the food compost processing plant where they are higher quality surplus materials for compost, fertiliser or brewing stock for fuel. Don't use drinking water to run the disposal unit, but have an automatic feeder pipe below the sink that uses grey water. Have another pipe that comes from the roof to collect clean storm water, direct this to a reservoir. Instead of washing machines in every home, provide local laundries for villagers that uses closed loop water systems. This is especially important in places like Australia which just came off a ten-year drought.

In all of these ideas, do note that the decisions are not made in an ivory tower, or by the VillageTown Stewards as know-it-alls. Rather they are made when the funds have been raised and the project begins. They are made by scientists and engineers who are given a set of principles instructing them to find the best, smartest, most sustainable methods for solving age-old problems. The sad fact is that some of the best ideas out there get no funding because the system is too closed minded. The VillageTown approaches the industry with an open-mind, seeking the best solutions the market has to offer, and it does so with funds.

On another subject, thanks for the heads-up on "Alexander’s latest achievement, Generative Codes." We'll make sure it gets in there. Actually, we hope that when we get funding that Christopher Alexander and some of his co-authors may consider becoming consultants to the first project. There are some outstanding experts and many are happy to help, if we have the funds to pay them.

VillageTown Stewards


Related reading:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Geospatial Analysis and Living Urban Geometry

Suburban garden. Photo: Philip Talmage

"This essay outlines how to incorporate morphological rules within the exigencies of our technological age. We propose using the current evolution of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technologies beyond their original representational domain, towards predictive and dynamic spatial models that help in constructing the new discipline of "urban seeding". We condemn the high-rise tower block as an unsuitable typology for a living city, and propose to re-establish human-scale urban fabric that resembles the traditional city. Pedestrian presence, density, and movement all reveal that open space between modernist buildings is not urban at all, but neither is the open space found in today's sprawling suburbs. True urban space contains and encourages pedestrian interactions, and has to be designed and built according to specific rules. The opposition between traditional self-organized versus modernist planned cities challenges the very core of the urban planning discipline. Planning has to be re-framed from being a tool creating a fixed future to become a visionary adaptive tool of dynamic states in evolution."

Read the essay by Nikos A. Salingaros et.al.: Geospatial Analysis and Living Urban Geometry

Friday, November 18, 2011

Compact City Replaces Sprawl

Photo: David Shankbone

"Both in Europe and North America there is a growing concern about the development of urban form, especially deconcentration of urban land use in the form of urban sprawl. This has unintentional consequences such as city centre decline, increased reliance on the use of the private car, and the loss of open space. While governments try to regulate the development of urban form, there are no easy solutions. However, policies such as new urbanism and smart growth in North America, and compact city and multifunctional land use policies in Europe, though difficult to implement, have the potential to curb urban sprawl and the further growth in car use, as the cases of Portland, Oregon and Randstad Holland in The Netherlands illustrate."

Read the essay by Nikos A. Salingaros: Compact City Replaces Sprawl

Just Another Failed "Tower in the Park" (at Grefsen Station, Oslo)


This new project at old Grefsen Station is advertised to become one of Oslo's largest and most exiting housing projects. Well, some still think Le Corbusier's old idea of "the tower in the park" is modern and exiting. A pity his ideas didn't follow him into the grave, but continue to multiply.

By the way, the main investor of this project is ROM Eiendom, the same company that is given the task to develop the new Oslo Central Station area. I guess you can see the same flawed typologies: From Stone Desert to Glass Desert.

(Typologies like just a hole in the wall for windows to empathize the machine age, the windows exactly wrong to make the building "exiting", vertical pull design etc.)
Poor urbanism continues to be practiced, enthusiastically supported by the universities, because both private developers and city governments refuse to accept the scientific basis of good urbanism. They continue to listen to academic experts who dismiss human-scale solutions so as to promote their own ideologically-based mechanistic fantasies. - Nikos Salingaros

Juliet Schor Talks on the Plenitude of the Commons Economy at OccupyWallStreet

Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, holds a lively talk on the new economy at 60 Wall St.

She wrote Plenitude, a book on commons-oriented economics.


Related reading:

A Post-Growth Economy FAQ

Read the original article: A Post-Growth Economy FAQ.

Visit the blog of Make Wealth History.

By Jeremy Williams:

“Does a sustainable economy mean an end to progress and change?

‘I don’t want to live in an economy where everything is the same, where progress is halted and human creativity is stifled’, is a common response to post-growth theories. I agree absolutely – I wouldn’t wish to live in that kind of economy either. The new economy doesn’t hit the pause button on progress, innovation, science, creativity, culture or change, and neither does it go backwards. It just sets some new parameters, and will therefore deliver a different kind of change. Instead of bigger, we’ll have to develop better; qualitative change rather than quantitative. We may not consume as much, but our lives may well improve in all kinds of other ways – more leisure time, greater involvement in the arts and in local democracy, better health, and a cleaner environment.

Biodiversity Can Promote Survival On a Warming Planet, Mathematical Model Shows

Whether a species can evolve to survive climate change may depend on the biodiversity of its ecological community, according to a new mathematical model that simulates the effect of climate change on plants and pollinators. - Science Daily
Forest fruits from Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Photo: Christian Ziegler

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vi har gjort nok ugagn nå

Bjørvika er et eksempel på kald, kynisk eiendomsutvikling. Utbyggingen er foreldet før den er ferdig, skriver kronikkforfatteren. FOTO: Rolf Øhman
Gi meg en inviterende, nedskalert, menneskelig byorganisme, der det gode byliv kan utfolde seg. De høye egoistiske seg selv-nok bygningene burde vi være ferdige med. - Niels A. Torp
Translated: Give me an inviting, down scaled, human city organism, where the pleasures of city life can unfold. The high, egoistic, its self enough buildings we should be finished with. 
Herlig! Til dags dato den beste artikkelen som er skrevet om den pågående raseringen av min kjære hovedstad!

Les kronikken til Niels A. Torp i Aftenposten: Vi har gjort nok ugagn nå

ECONOMY: Money and Energy

EXCERPT:
Money and energy have always been linked. For example, a gold currency was essentially an energy currency because the amount of gold produced in a year was determined by the cost of the energy it took to extract it. If energy (perhaps in the form of slaves or horses rather than fossil fuel) was cheap and abundant, goldmining would prove profitable, and a lot of gold would go into circulation enabling more trading to be done. If the increased level of activity then drove the price of slaves or coal up, the flow of gold would decline, slowing the rate at which the economy grew. It was a neat,natural balancing mechanism which worked rather well. In fact, the only time it broke down seriously was when the Spanish conquistadors got gold for very little energy—by stealing it from the Aztecs and the Incas. That caused a massive inflation and damaged the Spanish economy for many years.

Selling the Oil Illusion, American Style

Thank you very much for this article! As Statoil, 67 % owned by the Norwegian state, is heavily engaged in tar sands in Alberta and also is into fracking and other stuff in North America, our energy minister Ola Borten Moe praises this engagement, as the future is here. So do the Norwegian media too, yesterday I read a long article in one of our newspapers (Dag&Tid) that the future of oil industry is in Northern America, having larger oil reservoirs than the rest of the world all together, and their production rapidly increasing. They wrote that the Hubert model and peak oil is just nonsense, and that oil sands and fracking is getting more and more clean and efficient as technology advances. So Norway has to engage in this stuff to be part of the future, it goes. Good to have Energy Bulletin to get a balance, but I guess nobody in Statoil or the Norwegian department of energy is reading your fantastic blog. A Shame! (My comment to the article in its comments thread)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Frå ideologi til teknologi

Michael Mehaffy og Nikos Salingaros har for tida ein serie av essay gåande i Metropolis Magazine, dei vert samla her. Eg har inga aning om kor lenge han vil gå - vonleg for alltid. Men same det så er det på høg at denne serien vert introdusert for eit norsk publikum, og eg vil fokusera på dei fyrste fem essaya om teknologiane til Christopher Alexander.

Essaya om Alexander sine teknologiar i kronologisk rekkjefylgje: 
Mønstre i sand orsaka av ferskvatnsavrenning. Foto: Martyn Gorman

Det tjugene hundreåret var ideologiane sitt hundreår, men alt i hop enda i vitlaus konsumerisme. Så det er openbart at ideologiar aleine ikkje har noko godt svar, sjølv om dei kan helde på mang ei sanning og vera ein reiskap for å sameina folk i eit felles krafttak. Lell vert dette fåfengd om folk ikkje har dei rette verktøya, eller endå verre, dei nyttar seg av "dødens teknologiar".
The insights we are gaining about these processes are opening the door to a new chapter in design — an era of “bio-design”, “biophilia”, and “biomimicry”. It’s an exciting promise, particularly in an era when our old technologies seem to be failing us. The crude industrial processes that powered our world for a century or more leave us with depletion, fragmentation, and decay. Living systems can show us the way to recover and sustain the damaged systems upon which life depends.

The design theorist Christopher Alexander has argued that similar processes have gone on throughout our own human history, and throughout the history of life itself. Life is a kind of “making” process of unfolding and differentiating production. The “technology of life” is governed by knowable steps. And we had better learn how to apply it, if we are not to be destroyed by the unsustainable technologies that surround us today: what we might call, on strictly scientific grounds, the “technologies of death”. – The Living Technology of Christopher Alexander

Redear Sunfish

Amazing!

"Fractalism" is the Best Model for Future Societies

What a fantastic article by Kevin Carson in today's p2p-blog! This build up under the statement of Nikos Salingaros that every stable system has fractal properties, where the smaller and smaller units outnumber the larger by far in numbers. We have no better way to organize ourselves if we want to become part of nature, something we cannot avoid if we want our societies to survive.

A fractal society will surely blossom! Photo: Dr. L. Rempe

As the p2p philosophy is a free culture, I reprint the whole article.

How Much of the Economy is Friction?

Charles Hugh Smith raises the question of how much of the U.S. economy consists of the actual output of goods and services, versus the friction entailed in producing them. As a small example, he cites a physicians’ group that includes ten doctors — and twelve billing clerks.

That’s the general subject of a research paper I did for Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS), The Political Economy of Waste.

The larger and more hierarchical institutions become, and the more centralized the economic system, the larger the total share of production that will go to overhead, administration, waste, and the cost of doing business. The reasons are structural and geometrical.

At its most basic, it’s an application of the old cube-square rule. When you double the dimensions of a solid object, you increase its surface area fourfold (two squared), but its volume eightfold (two cubed). Similarly, the number of internal relationships in an organization increases as the square of the number of individuals making it up.

Leopold Kohr gave the example, in The Overdeveloped Nations, of a skyscraper. The more stories you add, the larger the share of floor space on each story is taken up by ventilation ducts, wiring and pipes, elevator shafts, stairwells, etc. Eventually you reach a point at which the increased space produced by adding stories is entirely eaten up by the increased support infrastructure.

Do Plants Perform Best With Family or Strangers? Researchers Consider Social Interactions

Poppies and oilseed rape Poppies and other wild flowers mix in with the crop at the edge of the bridleway
A growing body of work suggests plants recognize and respond to the presence and identity of their neighbours. But can plants cooperate with their relatives? While some studies have shown that siblings perform best -- suggesting altruism towards relatives -- other studies have shown that when less related plants grow together the group can actually outperform siblings. This implies the group benefits from its diversity by dividing precious resources effectively and competing less. - Science Daily
This small article in Science Daily held some interesting thoughts about the permaculture practise of guildsDo Plants Perform Best With Family or Strangers? Researchers Consider Social Interactions

Thursday, November 10, 2011

From Ideology to Technology

Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros are running a series of essays in Metropolis Magazine at the moment, they are all published here. I’ve no idea how long the series will run — hopefully forever. Anyway, it’s time to introduce this series to permaculture people, and I’ll be concentrating on the first five essays about the technologies of Christopher Alexander.

The essays on Alexander’s technologies in chronological order:
Patterns in the sand caused by fresh water run-off. Photo: Martyn Gorman

The 20th century was the century of ideologies, but it all ended in mindless consumerism. So obviously, ideologies alone are not the answer, although they can hold many a truth and be a tool to unite people behind a common endeavour. Still, all this is pointless if the people do not have the right tools, or even worse, if they are using the "technologies of death”.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Brains Come Wired for Cooperation

"What we learned is that when it comes to the brain and cooperation, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts," said Fortune, of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "We found that the brain of each individual participant prefers the combined activity over his or her own part." Science Daily

This study fits very well to the last essay of Mehaffy and Salingaros about self organizing of cities. We are created for cooperation, for the creation of unfolding, living structure. It's just our governments and the corporations which restrict cooperation and unfolding to happen naturally, and thus destroy communities in the name of modernism.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fyrrig furu i herlig naturhus

Foto: Bjørn Erik Larsen

Sjelden lekkerbisken av en interiørartikkel i Aftenposten, fra det livlige furu- og natursteinshuset til arkitekt Bjørn Eik og kona Grethe. Herlig å se en artikkel som avviker fra det sedvanlige boligporno-konseptet!

Les artikkelen: De har huset fullt av trær.

Besøk Arkitektkontoret Eik her.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward


Dokumentaren er tekstet på norsk.

Den tredje veg

Les artikkelen til Dave Pollard: All About Power, and the Three Ways to Topple It (Part 1).

Dave Pollard lister i denne interressante analysen opp tre veier for en endring av nåværende verdensorden. Han faller ned på den tredje vei som den beste, å utsulte det nåværende systemet.
The third way to bring about major global change is incapacitation — rendering the old order unable to function by sapping what it needs to survive. This is the method that disease uses to prey on fragile and vulnerable organs, that parasites and venomous creatures use to weaken and sometimes kill their (much larger) hosts, that terrorists use to paralyze their enemies, and that innovative businesses use to undermine, render obsolete and supplant bigger, less flexible businesses. For those of us with neither the patience or religious fanaticism to wait for a global natural catastrophe, nor the naivety to believe in a successful ‘popular’ revolution, this third way is the only way to change, and save, our beleaguered planet.
Meget interressant! Problemet er naturligvis at uten innsikt i Alexanders teknologier vil også denne veien feile. Nettopp derfor er det at jeg har viet mitt liv til å studere disse teknologiene, for å inkorporere dem i permakulturbevegelsen, eller den stille revolusjon, som den også kalles. Utsultingen av nåværende verdensorden må skje gjennom permakulturens utbredelse, og gjennom at denne gjennomsyres av den nye kunnskapen gitt til verden av Christopher Alexander.

Relatert:

Barry Schwartz: The Real Crisis? We Stopped Being Wise

Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for practical wisdom as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world. - TED-Talk

Can We Have Post-Peak Oil Thrivable Societies?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"I find the ideas in the fractals, both as a body of knowledge and as a metaphor, an incredibly important way of looking at the world." - Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, New York Times, Wednesday, June 21, 2000, discussing some of the "big think" questions that intrigue him
An Escheresque fractal by Peter Raedschelders
Further reading:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

La oss slippe unaturlig stråling

I Øst–Europa er grenseverdien satt til en 10 000-ende del av den vi har i Vesten. Denne forsiktighet er blitt latterliggjort og forskningsmessig «motbevist» av Strålevernet. Men i mai ga Europarådet anbefaling om å «redusere grenseverdien for innendørs mikrobølgestråling med en faktor på 10 000 i første omgang». I tillegg anbefales å «forby trådløst nett og bruk av mobiltelefon og trådløse fasttelefoner i klasserom og barnehager». Det økende antall barn med hjernesvulster har antagelig bidratt til ny forsiktighet. Her har selv motstand mot babycall blir oversett. Som engasjert i trafikksikring, helseskader ved røyking og bruk av amalgam har jeg, i begynnelsen av slikt helsearbeid, fått høre hvor hysteriske krav om endringer har vært. Som «konspirasjonsteoretiker» gjelder det nå også etter syv års engasjement for de EL–sensitive. - Berit Ås
For meg er det revnende likegyldig om det er farlig med ikke-ioniserende stråling eller ei, selv om jeg er engstelig for min datter og eksponerer henne minst mulig. Poenget er at det er utrivelig med alt som er unaturlig, også unaturlige elektromagnetiske felt. Dessuten er mastene angstskapende i seg selv!

Høyspentmaster forbi småbruket Gryteengen på Østre Toten, 15 m unna huset og 5 m fra hagen. Dette småbruket skulle jeg ha arvet og gjort til en permakulturgård, men jeg orker ikke å leve mitt liv under ei høyspentmast. Å anlegge kraftgater innen permakulturens sone 1 og 2 må bli forbudt, da det er her designet er som mest intensivt, og kraftgater her ødelegger alt. Mine historiske røtter er brutalt revet opp av en arrogant og likegyldig stat. Og verden har gått glipp av en permakultur-demonstrasjonsgård.
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