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
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