My view is that we are at an interesting intersecting of events and ideas as well as experiences. Possibly this is the real meaning of the 2012 prophesy? And I know all the skeptics and how they say the predictions are not accurate. I am not an expert on all of this, but what I know is that we have a lot of people who in history and throughout it seemed to attach a lot of significance to these days in which we now find ourselves together in. I feel this also intuitively and I know many others in this world share my feelings.
It has been great to get a chance to experience Europe once again. The last time I was in Europe was with my political science advisor in college (1995) as part of his month long class trip to Europe (he was from Switzerland). During that experience I travelled to the UK, France, Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany and Switerland as part of a focus on the EU which had just expanded into the EuroZone.
The trip was not just for fun (as is the case for this one), I was expected to write a report/research paper to get college credit. What I realized from the process was that essentially the dichomy between Europe focusing on the quality of the human experience and the USA moving towards a desire to express success and meaning through the consumption of a high quantity of things. In particular I focused on the difference in transportation systems noting that Europe had a sophisticated, well connected mass and intercity transit system and the USA did not. I considered that this difference may be a major factor in evaluating the ecological, social and economic sustainability of the two cultures/societies.
This time I get to explore some of what I missed the first time including my time here in Vienna at the Hotel Karolinenof. The hotel was first built in 1911 and has been run by the same family up to now. Franz Nahrada is now the person in charge. Franz has been an advocate of more sustainable grassroots development for many years now. He and I converged by way of our mutual interest in the work of Paolo Soleri and Arcosanti/Arcology.
Earlier this week I had a chance to present at Linux Woche (Week) in Vienna (May 2-4) about the emergence of Open Source Hardware (OSH) and the results I gathered from a conference I had attended earlier in that week – The Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam in New York (April 26-28).
I attended this event at the request of Franz who wanted to consider how the information and proceedings at the event in New York might be relevant to share with folks who have a similar mindset and vision in Europe. As a result of my attendance I put together a presentation for the Linux Woche event that put forward some of my perspectives about OSH and its potential larger social implications. After the presentation I was interviewed by Anna Masoner who was a reporter from Austrian Public Radio.
Today is the Global Villages meeting. Franz is considering how a shift can be made in his life so that he can support the development of a Global Villages movement that leads to local village empowerment as an alternative to corporate globalization. His vision is expressed here at the Globally Integrated Village Environment (GIVE) website.
One of the lingering thoughts from my reading of Soleri’s Magnum Opus City in the Image of Man was the Map of Despair. Its an idea put forward by environmentalists who lament the imposition of a grid like structure over natural systems in so called developed areas. Actually what I interpret Soleri as referring to is the aesthetic and sensory impact of over-development.
The idea of over-development relates to the current situation of humanity on many levels and layers of reality perception. For example it can range from bloated military and health care costs to elevated levels of obesity in affluent nations. It also can be evident in the way everything has been mapped out and fenced off with the modern grid.
This begs the question: how many devices do we really need? The folks in the corporate world when they get all excited in their eHome prototypes, they become increasingly out of touch with the economic realities that most of us face. The bubble hits home when the line for the company’s expectation of consumers buying products without any rational sense of them providing something meaningful for people in terms of say increased productivity, hits the reality of their being only so much money people can spend on these things.
A crash is when the two lines intersect. There is not limitless money just as there is not limitless resources. And that needs to be considered as well – this idea of a moral and ethic obligation for us as consumers to think about the ecological and social implications of these vast industries that produce these products of our modern world. Also in the consumer frenzy we tend to overlook the reality that there might be better things we could be doing for ourselves as well as humanity than considering what has become little more than business gossip about what these corporate titans are doing?
When we consider the huge impact of making the computers on the planet, Apple and other companies are some of the worst ecological offenders of our time. Especially when you consider Apple’s anti-recycle and anti-repair attitude when it comes to getting the max life out of its products.
For me the reality of Apple’s selfishness and arrogance is most obvious when it comes to their obtuseness in regards to this idea of making more ecologically and socially responsible computers – despite its huge cash pile. I think this is the kind of innovation that really matters for the future of humanity.
The open source guys are different. These see the world different than the dominant cultures of the computer world today: Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and Google. Linux designers continue to design low power systems that do pretty much everything most of us ever need on computers that are 4-7 years old or more. Also there is amazing work to get to low power desktop capabilities on ARM systems that cost 50 dollars.
We are rapidly moving towards the realm of absurdity when it comes to many consumer sectors and the options their offer which are so much more than most of us consumers need for our everyday lives. For example the Retina screen is close to the limits of what our eyes can see, in terms of display quality and definition. So as our ecofootprint grows, the reality is that we can really do just fine with older and more compact technologies, using a fraction of the computing and technology power we now have at our disposal in our phones, computers, cars and even washing machines.
iWatch is the latest and most obvious sign that despite all of our state of the art technologies we still feel like it is not enough. Maybe its not enough because we are not focusing on what is important in life?
I encourage people to just stop a moment and consider this idea of much is enough. Maybe we are reaching this point of pretty much having all that we need in these technologies. Possibly now the real innovation should be focused on making them last longer so that they don’t have to be replaced so often. In this process, we can reduce our ecofootprint and focus on more pressing issues like extreme world poverty and global climate change.
Arcosanti at a Crossroads: Is it a Museum and Monument to Soleri’s Legacy; an Experimental Urban Laboratory or both?
Arcosanti is at a key place in its history with a new president succeeding the founder Paolo Soleri. A little over one year ago when I was still living at Arcosanti as a resident, there was much hope regarding the fact that Soleri had finally handed over the reigns of power. The time when Soleri motivated and inspired people to come and work for him at his project to promote his idea of Arcology as a potential model for the city of the future had long passed.
The question for the project now is what is Arcosanti and why should people commit their lives to this so called city of the future? Especially if it is the case that there is no longer a strong and passionate belief (as well as a realistic and believable plan to implement them) that the plans created by its own founder Paolo Soleri will ever be realized or completed?
I changed the name of this blog from Life@Arcosanti to Life After Arcosanti to reflect my changing status. I am no longer a resident of Arcosanti and I currently have no plans to go back on a permanent basis (but who knows what the future will bring these days?).
The goal of the blog is to continue to look at the Arcosanti Experience as a unique effort to explore and consider alternative living environments. I am also interested in how a movement could emerge to reconsider Paolo Soleri’s ideas – a reformulation process if you will – in which we might enable a more dynamic and intellectually rigorous process for looking at Arcosanti and the future of Arcosanti. Possibly a ArcoWiki could be set up and folks interested in this idea that led to the formation of Arcosanti could get involved in sharing their intellectual visions and ideas of what Arcology and Arcosanti represent for both themselves and humanity.
And what about the 7000 or so people who have come to Arcosanti for various periods of time and participating in the living and building of Arcosanti over the last 43 years of its existence? How do they figure in this process of trying to build the world’s first prototype Arcology?
We’ll also look at the psycho-social implications of Arcosanti Life and consider the various interesting social and psychological dynamics of the project and relate them to larger social theories as well as Arcology.
Finally what is the importance of this idea of serving as a model in the progressive movement? Should all progressive experiments like Arcosanti be accountable to not only participants, donors, residents, etc., but also the larger movement itself in terms of an obligation to be what we say – to be the change we want to see in the world? Should the notion of stakeholder ownership be taken seriously in non-profit management and how does that challenge prevailing management theories and practices including those currently in practice at Arcosanti and the Cosanti Foundation today?
Also in relation to considering this idea of Arcosanti as a model; an experimental laboratory – how do Arcosanti and Sustainability connect? Does Arcosanti’s inability or reluctance to develop a serious set of sustainability and appropriate technologies taint its image as a model for future cities and sustainable living?
The above questions and issues will continue to be discussed here as I consider the impact of the project on my life and my life beyond Arcosanti.
I would love your inputs.
So please let me know your thoughts.
Best to you…
928 202 0515
In the summer of 2012 we were staying on the roof because it was hot inside. Somebody had this weird eye allergy and it looked worrisome. So I took him to the local hospital. He ended up being fine but on the way to the hospital I was speeding because I was still worried about his condition and it was late in the night and I was tired. Unfortunately I got flashed by one of those Big Brotherish, Robot Speeding Ticket machines.
A former boss once had a bumper sticker on her car: REALITY IS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU. You have to think about that for moment and consider what it really means. Sort of like I think when the Chinese might have said that old Chinese Proverb to one another: “May you live in interesting times.”
We don’t have to use our imagination much to consider the sudden and shocking way that our lives can be devastated and even destroyed by a single simple mistake in judgement when driving. To imagine the shattering glass, metal, plastic and human bodies too. Suddenly two separate autonomous bodies merge as one in a violent crash of high speed metal and plastic crashing, smashing and literally exploding into steaming heaping hulk of destruction. In the really bad accidents – that’s when the crying and screaming starts if people are still alive or conscious – that is. At least with a gun, the violence is much cleaner and clear cut.
Last Saturday, Cosanti Foundation president Jeff Stein presented at an event organized by a group based in SF called TEDxMission. The name of this particular event was called TEDxMission 2.0 The City. It featured discussions with leaders in the sustainability field. There was a specific focus on innovative ideas and technologies relating to urban design (and particularly in terms of the Bay Area): “to share the powerful narratives of urban innovators and organizers, stewards and artists, builders and tastemakers.”
Besides Stein, the other speakers I recognized were (my thought is that these people could be a potential network resource for making Arcosanti more sustainable):
- Brock Dolman is a permaculture expert who is well known on the west coast. He is a Occidential Arts & Ecology Center Lecturer (OAEC) in Occidental CA and a guest lecturer at the Regenerative Design Institute in nearby Bolinas. Sewing Circle is an intentional community small ecovillage/intentional community that is interwoven with OAEC similar to the way Cosanti Foundation is with Cosanti Originals at Arcosanti.
- Geoff Lawton excited a lot of people by what he was able to achieve in Jordan on a dryland permaculture project that showed much was possible even in a very desolate desert environment. Considering the challenge that Arcosanti faces in growing food in a similar climate, he might be a great link towards increasing agricultural productivity.
- James Hanusa has been active in the Bay Area Sustainability community. We crossed paths via the Global Summit 2010 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Currently he is CEO of the Urban Innovation Exchange a SF “economic development organization that co-creates innovation ecosystems rooted in sustainability and culture with an experiential approach.” Most recently according to their website, they enabled a design charette between Rio and San Francisco for the Bay2Rio+20 Group. Hanusa is doing work that seems to fit well with Michael Gosney’s presentation to TEDxMission at an earlier event: “Designing the Control Panel for Spaceship Earth“.
Paolo Soleri in my view is better at taking ideas and repackaging them into a holistic explanation of reality called Arcology than creating something totally new. Indeed Arcology is a amalgamation of a diffuse set of ideas including: evolutionary biology, big bang physics, organic architecture and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin‘s Omega Point philosophy.
A case in point is the fact that in researching this post, I just realized that people had been discussing this idea of “being less bad” in relation to the “dumbing down” of the sustainability movement, years before Soleri began talking about “Better Kind of Wrongness.” Yet it was Soleri’s take on this concern of “being less bad – by focusing on superficial choices that might be used to give one an undeserved “green stamp of approval” – was what dominated my mind’s eye. It colored how I saw the world and often this is the danger of seeing the world too much in the lens of one way of thinking. Group think is a relatively new word that describe how a very smart group of people can be trapped by the insularity of their thinking, especially if they see it as just one solution or way seeing the world. That is one challenge to places like Arcosanti and those who are attracted to Soleri’s idea of Arcology is that they may become stifled by the projection of one influential visionary’s idea of how the world works.
I’ll be exploring this idea of GroupThink and the implications on Arcosanti and Arcology in future posts. For now lets to take a retro look at the good ole days of School of Thought discussions at Arcosanti and consider this idea of Better Kind of Wrongness and what it means to us in relation to putting forward a better way of living on this world.
An important thing to remember in this process, is that if we can’t figure out how to temper our passions of critical thinking about the power brokers and decision-makers at the top of society who often formulate the world’s ideas often without us, we may become more like them than we might want to admit. For what is most important today is not just to point out the WRONGNESS, but to see the shining lights of the people all over the world trying to create nodes of Convergence around the RIGHTNESS. Focusing not just what is wrong but to cleverly figure out how to change people’s minds by point out what is right, is the only way we’ll create the kind of change we’re hoping for. (more…)