Suburbia Loving Americans Slow in Seeing the Forest for the Trees with Regards to Sustainability

Idling_Infographic_01There is just something alluring to me about this graphic which exposes the truth about idling a vehicle in a very detailed graphic form. It shows all the fuel and energy we could save, if we just exercised a little common sense about how we use or vehicles.

Related to this was my recollection of surprise, while in Boston last year and observing and learning how many law enforcement and emergency care and response vehicles are constantly left with their engines running. The thinking is that they need to be left idling so that the emergency personnel will have the quickest possible response times. Knowing this now, it would not surprise me that law enforcement makes up a disproportionate amount of motor vehicle emissions associated with idling a vehicle. Whether this makes any real sense or not, obviously people continue to resist efforts like the organization Sustainable America that made the graphic below as part of its The Truth About Idling A Vehicle Campaign.

Yet maybe its also the sustainability advocates that needs to change and rethink some of their approaches? I give the example of the recent efforts by Boulder county administrators to implement a “sustainability tax“. While to us sustainability advocates, a tax devoted to discouraging waste and encouraging more sustainable development and practices seems like a no brainer, for most in the mainstream it seems like another unnecessary burden funding more government bureaucracy, as essential services are faltering. Even in a “sustainable eco-green capital” like Boulder, it seems we can’t really get our act together and offer a real model of what a medium sized sustainable city might begin to look like. This is a key point that sustainability advocates have a lot of trouble understanding that there is no rational reason for understanding much of how our economy and society operates – it just works. Most folks don’t really spend much time thinking about the larger implications of what they do, much less the larger economy. The resistance to serious sustainability efforts has little to do with the idea that turning our vehicles off when we are not using them, is really not a very difficult thing. The challenge comes from rethinking our habitual existence and this exposes the real challenge of serious sustainability efforts. To get people to fundamentally rethink how they live their lives and their sense of value in terms of how they use their time and get things done, means more work and effort and so many folks in this society are so stressed out and overworked just doing what they do to survive and compete.

We saw this even at Arcosanti, where many visitors expressed their confusion and dismay to me over the years about the fact that the project had not been able to organize itself as a more compelling model of sustainable urban living. Arcosanti is just reflecting a larger social pattern of the sustainability community in terms of its inability to respond to the larger scale patterns of unsustainability by creating holistic, working, living and breathing models of eco-conscious, community oriented living. A larger counterpoint though to well intended efforts such as the one on the right is that they are “incrementalist” and also piece-meal in that they don’t address the issue of waste in the economy in a comprehensive and fundamental way. Soleri went so far as to say that they really constituted little more than a “better kind of wrongness.” This was his way of saying that they were not really substantive or meaningful in creating the kind of “Reformulation” he said was vital to our civilization’s survival.

From a Solerian perspective, the issue of “Muda” (which was popularized in Anglo-American culture in the green business reform book Natural Capitalism) is not about wasting less but rather fundamentally redesigning the whole production or consumption system from the ground up to synergistically minimize waste and to efficiently and frugally use natural and human resources/capital. Thus a campaign about idling a vehicle can risk diluting the more powerful and compelling need for what Soleri termed a “Reformulation” of our economy and society towards something more ecologically and socially sustainable over the long term. Because it can be overwhelming, considering all the initiatives and campaigns to reduce waste and bad habits, many of which have been operating with limited success in terms of produce systemic change in overall metrics of consumption, Add to this, the notion that possibly what has been lagging in this process is a more holistic manifestation of social change (consider that this might be one mandatory requirement for building a sustainable society).

Some have termed the missing link in the sustainability movement as being the development of Collective Intelligence to optimize the effectiveness of social networks to achieve the goals needed to create a sustainable society. We are still working in our linear segmented silo based realities. This is where I want to separate the dogmatism of Soleri in terms of his mega dense urban city planning vision called Arcology with the larger Arcology idea of a fundamental change in the way the society operates and consumes resources. Through still being debated a growing body of research does seem to support the idea that large densely packed cities like Manhattan (and secondary to that the subsets of NYC that radiate out from that uber-dense core and even go into the suburban fringes of the megalopolis) are on many levels more sustainable than say suburban or rural regions which in the USA are particularly dependent on the logistics of Car Culture. However this does not take into account the social and political issues that come up with dense urban development. In many the regulatory framework is restrictive and cumbersome for innovators, especially when it comes to groundbreaking sustainable projects. Also the spatial issues and shifts are dramatic in that there space is much more of a constraining factor than in rural and suburban regions.

Finally there is an issue of logistics in terms of the energy to bring resources into the city from the rural areas and the reality that they city is dependent on these rural regions for its life. What if these lines of supply were at some point depleted or broken? I suggest this quote from an article titled “The Green Case for Cities” by Witold Rybczynski in The Atlantic Magazine does address some of the issues mentioned above in relation to offering a more comprehensive approach to sustainability that includes social, economic and environmental considerations (the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainability) and a more “moderate” level of density than what Soleri proposes in his Arcologies:

A Thoreau-like existence in the great outdoors isn’t green. Density is green. Does this mean that we all have to live in Manhattan? Not necessarily. Cities such as Stockholm and Copenhagen are dense without being vertical. And closer to home is Montreal, where the predominant housing form is a three- or four-story walk-up. Walk-ups, which don’t require elevators, can create a sufficient density—about 50 people per acre—to support public transit, walkability, and other urban amenities. Increasing an area’s density requires changing zoning to allow smaller lots and compact buildings such as walk-ups and townhouses.

Soleri, regardless of how realistic his super dense Arcology model is or was, was correct in seeing that the costs of low density development has an inherent inefficiency to them and that the future of humanity is tied to our ability to reverse prevailing low density development patterns that lead to this built environment blight that we call “Suburban Sprawl.” The cost of building roads for example to service low density car culture is actually higher than in supplying and sustaining high density urban based societies. So while we focus on issue like not idling our cars, buying organic food, bolting solar panels onto our roofs and saving water by not brushing our teeth, its likely that if the underlying dynamics of how the built environment of modern American society don’t change, that little real progress will be made with regards to sustainability.

Whitehouse.GOV: Engage and Connect

The Whitehouse recently sent me one of their mass emails (at one point I subscribed to get updates from the Obama White House) with a request to fill out their survey:

ENGAGE AND CONNECT

President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most.

They asked what the primary issues of concern were for me and I answered that no 1 was the Environment and no 2 was Education. There was ample space after each to explain my answers.

Below is my response:

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Considering Pelletizing of Bio-Waste as a Source of Food & Energy

As we consider what an compact Arcology themed Ecovillage might look like as the first step towards larger more ambitious EcoCity Development, we need to look at where the energy is going to come from. Its seems to be understood that such a model of development should be self-reliant in the production of energy if possible. The type of energy mix would depend on the location and assets of the property where the project was located.

While Arcosanti itself may not seem like the ideal location for a biofuel facility given that is located in a arid/semi-arid region of the world, the fact that much of the property of the project is part of riparian zone does permit some consideration of woody biomass potential. Indeed several of the buildings at Arcosanti are heated by fireplace and despite this it seems to only have scratched the surface of the total woody biomass capacity of the site, as evidenced by the many fallen branches and trees seen on a hike of the riparian areas.

Regardless I wanted to talk a bit about the promise that pelletizing might have in relation to converting waste biomass into fuel and feed in a ecovillage with many characteristics similar to Arcosanti.

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Exploring Possibilities for Local Sustainable Food Production in Haverhill MA

buderman:

At the current time I am in a town in the Northern Metro Area of Boston called Billerica MA which I plan to discuss more later in relation to the ShowTime Series Weeds.

I am staying with a friend a Kyle Wakefield who I met through Jimi Carnazza. Kyle is interested in exploring possibilities for collaborating in the areas of sustainable community and business development. He is especially interested in converting vehicles to run on vegi oil and alternative earth building such as Cobb.

So we are looking at a few project possibilities while I am in the area.

Last year Jimi asked me to help him establish the nonprofit Full Circle Earth by becoming a co-founding board member.

Today Kyle and I went to the town of Haverhill MA a city of 60000 in Essex County is on the extreme northeastern part of the MA right next to New Hampshire.

The reason for visiting was to see Dudley Farm and to evaluate it as possible site for the building of our proposed Environmental Education EcoCenter.

Before meeting Roger, who was to be giving us the tour of the property, we went in search of the downtown Haverhill in hopes of finding food – a quick burrito or something like that. While unsuccessful in seeking out a meal before the meeting, we were encouraged that after almost giving up we found that there a descent central business district in Haverhill that was actually thriving.

We saw lots of pizza places but not much burrito or wrap places. Haverhill like a lot of old mill towns in New England has struggled to rebound from the demise of its industrial core. Apparently the long time mayor has had some success in revitalizing the urban core by luring artists and creative types into the old mill buildings by offering them as converted lofts. Over 150 million dollars has been put into revitalizing the urban core which includes am impressive number of high rise buildings considering its size and that most of the highways leading to the center of town were two rather than four lane – which by the way was a common thing I noted in all of MA.

After giving up on our search for food, we met with Roger and explored Dudley Farm which is nicely situated just a few miles outside of Haverhill town center. Roger is young 22 but we were impressed with his maturity and the strength of his convictions. Originally from Sacramento, CA he has found himself in Haverhill though his wife’s family’s ownership of Dudley Farm. With his History background Roger is interested in making the property a model for communal farming. We discussed the idea of creating something a bit more diverse and community oriented than the typical nuclear family farm of American Lore.

We heard from Roger that the mayor mentioned above who had supposedly done so much for urban revitalization in the urban core of Haverhill, did not seem to care much about open space. Roger say that he seems to be encouraging the rapid development of the remaining farm and rural properties in the town.

While the offer to use the land for our Nonprofit for free seemed generous, he said that he or his family could offer no guarantees that we could have long term use of the land. This was due to the fact the owner was old and that once he died the land might be divided up by his four children. Despite this it seemed a generous offer and something I saw a real opportunity for FCE’s development.

The small town coziness of MA and New England also comes at a cost. The challenges of farming in many MA towns, exposes a major flaw with MA’s Town Governance System. This system of governance has encouraged the urbanization and in many areas the suburbanization of rural areas by imposing laws that are designed for cities in rural areas and by encouraging the spreading out of development between the small towns so that Boston melds together in a series of long belts around the city that stretches up 60 miles from the city core and covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the state as well as spilling over into New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

The overspilling of development and resulting regulations seems to have created a lot of resentment and confusion in rural areas to what is urban and rural. One example is that in the New England Town System there are no urban and rural boundaries, only towns that become urban by way of suburbanization or a historically dense urban core. Even smaller more rural towns in NE seem often to embrace rigid regulations on farming. In many cases though, the imposition of urban restrictions against animal farming seem to make no sense as in the case of Dudley Farm. Such blanket regulations also increasingly fly in the face of the burgeoning back to the land movement that focuses on more local food sustainable food production.

Yesterday I talked with Anne Wirstad who worked with Richard Nelson pioneer of the SolaRoof Passive Solar Bubble System for several years in Norway (here is a Youtube video of them “LifeSynthesis – bubble generator testing in Norway” testing out the system in 2012), that was calledAgriPod. In 2013 they started her own initiative (Anne and her partner Robert working in Norway with a local municipal waste management business continued the work started under AgriPod. This included securing a grant from the EU to further develop the AgriPod SolarBubble/SolaRoof concept into a working prototype.

The SolarBubble system always intrigued me because I saw it as a system of great potential to allow for minimization of heat loss at night from passive solar heated buildings. While the focus now is on greenhouses we are seeing that this type of technology could have a wide application throughout the building industry.

Originally posted on EdenSpace Project:

At the current time I am in a town in the Northern Metro Area of Boston called Billerica MA which I plan to discuss more later in relation to the ShowTime Series Weeds.

I am staying with a friend a Kyle Wakefield who I met through Jimi Carnazza. Kyle is interested in exploring possibilities for collaborating in the areas of sustainable community and business development. He is especially interested in converting vehicles to run on vegi oil and alternative earth building such as Cobb.

So we are looking at a few project possibilities while I am in the area. 

Last year Jimi asked me to help him establish the nonprofit Full Circle Earth by becoming a co-founding board member.

Today Kyle and I went to the town of Haverhill MA a city of 60000 in Essex County is on the extreme northeastern part of the MA right next to New…

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Review of Headlines from Feb 26 WSJ Newspaper

I went to Starbucks the other day and read the Wall Street Journal while talking to a friend who was chatting and texting on her tablet.

While I have pretty much abandoned print newspapers and magazines as a source of news I found it useful to go through and consider the major news of the day in this way. Something about the newspaper format helped to me to organize the pressing issues of the day in a more cohesive way than the way I usually do it with the web browser.

Whats interesting is I found a Reuters Digest of all the headlines from the WSJ for that Day.

White House Weighs Future of NSA Surveillance – Don’t worry no one in government is serious about any kind of radical reform of anything including military and intelligence spending or practices.

BitCoin Hits Hard Times as Shutdown of One Trader Rattles Market – The Mt Gox collapse cost BitCoin traders 450 million dollars. I never understood the idea of people making huge amounts of money in BitCoin. At least when you invest in a stock you have an idea you are investing in something and have information about that investment. Possibly BitCoin was more about investing in the future like say Gold or another commodity. It was about the idea the BitCoin was the money of the future for the Global Economy, so get in now before it really takes off. Yet I think we need to look at the fundamentals of BitCoin and consider what it is and what it does that traditional money trading and transfer systems don’t offer.

Tesla Shares Hit Record High on Anticipated Battery Deal – Elon Musk who made his fortune through PayPal originally has had a series of well known successes several of which relate to sustainability and green business – his electric car company Telsa and also the solar install company called SolarCity. Apparently the punctured battery case fires proved a minor distraction. Good. Hopefully Telsa can bring the price of electric cars down and in the process also find better ways to power up these vehicles such as setting up a network of alternative energy powered fueling stations across the country. While electric according to many experts is still better than conventional powered vehicles, it involves using a power grid that is primarily powered by fossil fuel and still nearly 50 percent powered by coal.

Supreme Court Eases Rules for the Search of Homes – In addition to that it affirmed a right of authorities to conduct pre-trial freezes of defendant assets. I think there is a problem with the Supreme Court at a very fundamental level that has to deal with years of Republican nominations of pro-corporate establishment types that is now finally gaining traction with a series of decisions that seems to support corporate rights over individual rights.

3 Eu Countries Freezing Aid to Uganda – What about US? This reminds us of the reality that a cleavage has emerged between more modern regions of the world where its citizenry has embraced many key aspects of an individual’s right to choose their lifestyle and places like Africa and Asia where it seems this kind of change is more slow going. Indeed in some respects there even seems to be a race among countries in Africa as to who is going to impose the most Draconian laws against homosexuality. Really it exposes the troubling reality that we have to shift our thinking and accept that much of the world is not ready to see human rights as including the right to choose to be a homosexual. Thus we need to consider that countries that imposes these rules should not have as favorable status as nations who share our values and respect the right choose one’s sexual preference without persecution and the risk of imprisonment or even death.

Detroit and Creditors Debate how Quickly Judge should Resolve City’s Bankruptcy CaseWhat we see here is not about Detroit, its about the structure to rebuild our decaying urban cores and infrastructure while support and subsidize car culture and sprawl. The irony is the very car culture that led to Detroit’s rise is not precipitating its fall.

US Gov Proposes Banning Logos for Snack Foods & Soda in Schools + US Obesity Rate among Preschool Children Drops 40 % over Past Decade - Possibly these two news items are a sign of a shift away from pandering to corporate food interests at the expense of our country’s health. However the fundamental problem is that the corporate bottom line sees more profit in promoting ill health than good health. Part of the issue is that we don’t know how to profit promoting good and healthy lifestyles and living.

Marketing chief rises at Yahoo - Marisa Mayer is recovering from the marketing flop that led to one of her hand picked high level execs being fired by her after just 11 months on the job, by elevating a new rising star to the top marketing position in Yahoo. The real story though is not in the corporate gossip but rather the way in which this rising star is using Hollywood star power to market a company in a way that seems to crossing new boundaries. Still not sure what it is Yahoo at least seems to be able to buy up star power to polish its image and promote its products and logos. Ultimately though what matters is if people find a service compelling and Yahoo still has yet to demonstrate it can offer the kind of integration of services that other big name IT players offer like Google, Facebook and Apple offer in the mass market and IBM, Oracle and Microsoft offer in the corporate market.

Citibank alumni rises within Obama admin to rival Goldman clique in Washington - So now Citibank has replaced Goldman as the go to people in Wall Street Revolving Door Politics? Which do you prefer Coke or Pepsi? I prefer neither and I think Obama needs to say YES WE CAN stop kissing corporate America’s ass in Washington!

Arcology Related News and Commentary for 01.11.14

Since I feel like I have become too much of a news consumer of information and that it has become like an addiction, I have been trying to shift the dynamic a bit and make it a focus to write about what I read more. Rather than just add my voice to the comments section of a page I am viewing or post it to my Facebook Page, I am trying to make a concerted effort to compile information into my blog in capsule form. I do try to keep an Arcology or Arcosanti theme, but I am also casting a wide net and am adding things that might be worthy of consideration within an Arcology themed project/ecocity.

Please feel free to send me anything you have and or are thinking about and I will post here: buderman@gmail.com

Here are some of the headlines and issues I am looking at now…

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A Modest Proposal for a “Grounded” Plan for “Arcology Realization”

An email sent to several Arco Alum noted a lack of groundedness in the discussions that we have been having since the Sept 20-21 Soleri Memorial gathering at Arcosanti. This got me thinking about some past ideas about how the lack of grounding in our lives can lead to psychological dis-association in terms of how when we lose connection with the real we find it difficult to “get real.” Grounding in this use to me means a way of thinking about how to do something that is based on commonly accepted understandings of reality and how to do things.

Anyone who offers a radical or alternative way to do things, needs to be able to demonstrate how they will work in the context of prevailing socioeconomic strategies and approaches. If you are not able to do this, you run the risk of not being taken seriously and becoming lumped together with a long progressive history of failed “Utopian” experiments to build a idealized society where social justice, ecological responsibility and economic equality are the prevailing norms that govern that society’s operation.

With Arcosanti we face the need to “ground” a project that has lost its grounding through a long process of disassociation from the everyday reality of how things get done. In order to do this we have to figure out how to empower ourselves. This includes developing our own personal grounding so that other may trust to put the change forward at Arcosanti on an organizational level that would assure a reversal of the prevailing organizational strategies that seem not to be effective.

What is Empowerment and How Might it Ground us
Such a notion of groundedness or a lack thereof relates to a larger issue in our lives. A relatively new term has emerged – Empowerment – that has so resonated it has become a Buzzword. Regardless of its over-use, its still useful in considering both how we empower ourselves  (self-empowerment) and how that leads to other’s empowerment when we seek to work together effectively to solve a common problem or challenge. When people do not have the support or a way to support themselves and their network to become empowered, it is difficult to get grounded and focused and make a commitment to do something relevant to their dreams and vision. I see empowerment as not just a psychological process but something rooted in spiritual self-realization and destiny.

Understanding How Arcosanti Might have Lost its Grounding
Paolo Soleri after a high level of success in creating a modest, but still inspirational model for reversing the damaging trends of suburbanization and materialism in America, in the 70s, was hit with a series of set backs. This included the death of his wife in 1981, when she died relatively early in life of cancer. Many saw her as a grounding force for Soleri that kept his male often obtuse and reactionary brashness in check with a more feminine nurturing and compassionate energy. Some believe it was this more nurturing energy that kept the Arcosanti/Arcology vision in balance so that it could exist as a inspirational model for as many people as it did in the 70s.

The project’s stagnation or even some might say a gradual downward spiral over the years can be tied to a shift away from this sense of a grounded reality of what can be accomplished (practical idealism) and towards the unreal of putting Arcology on a intellectual and philosophical pedestal so that it stayed in the realm of “Utopian Thinking.” That is where Arcology becomes codified into our consciousness so that it becomes confined to the realm of thinking that Soleri so loathed  - that of the Utopian Intellectuals…and to see Arcosanti be typecast in this process as another in a long line of “failed Utopian experiments.”

It was Soleri’s own actions of removing any practical import from the thinking and actions of Cosanti Foundation, that led Arcosanti to became more of a storyline for fantasy and science fiction thinking, than any serious plan or proposal to develop a more integrated and innovative approach to urban design and human habitat construction. Discussions with Soleri (such as with School of Thought) revolved around repetitive and rambling discussions about Materialism, Consumerism and Suburban Sprawl on the one hand and on the other, the Grand Delusions of the spiritual and religious side of humanity. I found that materialism-spiritual duality was what guided this man’s transition from a hands-on visionary who was also a doer creating many inspirational architectural icons and artifacts at Cosanti to someone who was more abstract and rambling in his thinking. As he grew into old age it seems that he lost his ability to present fresh ideas and stimulate people on an truly inspirational level intellectually.

As Soleri gave up on the idea of spirit, he embraced a more mechanistic way of seeing and doing things. This included the embedded and very stubborn notion that Arcosanti could not function as a a community – at least not until his ideal architectural design of Arcology had manifested at Arcosanti. The result was that for 40 years, the idea of the Arcosanti Ideal was molded and guided almost exclusively by Paolo Soleri (in what many included Soleri termed a kind of dictatorship) with the people living there basically on the sidelines. Some became quite critical of this power relationship equating the role of the workers and residents of Arcosanti as basically servant to master – as serfs, house slaves or indentured servants making this man’s dream a reality.

There emerged an increasing contradiction in the project’s designs and everyday operation that mirrored an internal struggle with him. In fact it appeared very much that he was a man in two worlds; that of the new consciousness and paradigm, but also stuck in the old with a strong imprint of his only true mentor Frank Lloyd Wright. The new man Soleri was guided by non linear designs that not only mimicked, but flowed around and embraced natural forms – as is evident at Cosanti. The key point in the shift of the mythos of the Soleri story appears to be with the death of his wife Colly.

After Colly’s death, it seems that old man Soleri fully and decisively emerged, increasingly embracing a monolithic, mega-structure architecture defined by large and linear modern forms that while often circular were ecologically inspired only in superficial ways. Indeed the very scale of most of his Arcology designs express this problem in that they were not to ecological or human scale.

A lot of designers believe that the way we design things reflects our thinking, consciousness and belief system. It appears that the evolution of his mega-structure style of architecture mirrored his reluctance to find collaborative and collective ways for bringing in talent. His reluctance to share power with the community at Arcosanti, exposed the rise of old man/old world Soleri and the demise of the more engaged and grounded young Soleri. What emerged was a leadership style that had more in common with Phil, the Duck Dynasty Patriarch, than with a leadership style which progressives might expect in a model Utopia.

I guess what I expect as a progressive is a leader that encourages the rise of a consensus culture that embraces and values the dissenting view, seeing this as the foundation of a true democracy or democratic process among a group of people. This includes embracing and cultivating a diversity of ideas within the Arcosanti/Arcology community to create a culture that values critical thinking that is both inward and outward oriented. Also important is to cultivate a Collective Intelligence that is not dominated by any one particular name of personality but rather reflects a grounded group consensus in which the process of making decisions is shared and not dominated by a group at the top of that culture or network.

Rethinking Arcosanti 5000
Cosanti Foundation says Arcosanti 5000 is the official plan but almost no one (at least no one who matters financially) takes it seriously (yes its particularly challenging for the tour guides because people are always asking questions about why only a small portion of the project is complete after 40 years).

Arcosanti as an aspiring prototype Arcology often seemed quite absurd to the conventionally trained rational professional. A major critique of Arcosanti 5000 (the plan designed to make Arcosanti become a model or prototype Arcology) is that it was conceived without any consideration of the tools or methodologies used to build large modern buildings and construction projects. The developer was loathed and disregarded as a greed driven appendage of capitalism, that led us to suburban car culture model of the modern American Dream.  Yet nothing was offered to replace that model and present a convincing alternative development model for building sustainable cities.

A Reformulation Plan for Arcosanti
Now that Paolo Soleri has died, I suggest that all the things he and his staff put forward as the goal and mission of the project now has to be reconsidered and Reformulated. I would not throw out everything Soleri had in mind, but I assert that reformulation is an apt term in that we need to develop some process for fundamentally reevaluating the existing designs that are being put forward as the project goals.

A ground up (bottom up review) reformulation plan would look at the following:

  • How to finance such a grand scheme project like Arcosanti 5000.
  • A clear timeline for how to build such an ambitious project
  • A realistic budget, practical financial foundation or business plan
  • A comprehensive team of experts that would be needed to execute such a complex and cutting edge project with consideration to the complex engineering involved.
  • A clear or convincing explanation as to how the project would pay for itself and sustain an economy large enough for 5000 people.

The plans for Arcosanti need to be totally revamped, because the project will never be taken seriously by the people who we need to make it a model sustainable habitat for humanity and transform Arcology into a viable approach to building sustainable cities.

Arcosanti Critical Mass
There was an attempt to bridge the huge gap between current Arcosanti reality which has been flatlined or went into a incremental level of growth and this bold ambitious attempt to build a ecocity of 5000 people, its called Arcosanti Critical Mass. This intermediate state of Arcosanti was designed to create the basic infrastructure for what would be needed in a Arcology type development including a population of 500 people. It was not clear where the 500 people number came but possibly it came from Soleri’s assumption that this was the minimum population for the amenities that would be needed to consider Arcosanti as a Arcology. My suggestion would be to move away from a fixation on the Arcosanti 5000 and focus on the more modest and realistic goal of building the Critical Mass scale and scaling that number down from 500 to 150-300. Key to even this more modest number would be to convincingly explain how an economy will develop, sustain itself and thrive in Arcosanti’s relatively geographically isolated location.

Issues with Building it Now
The to “BUILD IT NOW” discussion that Alumni participated at the Soleri Memorial in Sept at Arcosanti expressed the need to build something anything and as quickly as possible. I understand this desire but my concern is that it is part of the meme (“Arcosanti is a construction site and not a community” and “to play the music you must first build the instrument”) that Soleri perpetuated. Looking at the memetic patterns in society my view is that he actually borrowed this notion from mainstream capitalist society. We see this when building becomes an obsessive and overriding sign of progress and growth that steamrollers over any real, long term consideration of what the development process has on the lives of the people who are supposedly its beneficiaries.

A Professional Business Plan for Arcosanti Critical Mass must Ensure not just a Return on Investment but a Return on Quality
So we need to put together a professional plan for moving the project forward that is realistically scaled in relation to what we have now and also financially viable in relation to offering some compelling research or income potential for investors while also ensuring a good quality of life for the people living at Arcosanti. So for a socially conscious development we have to consider not only the financially driven Return on Investment to investors, but also the socially driven Return on Quality (of Life) to stakholders.

There are several important considerations for this kind of reformulation of Arcosanti:

  1. What do the existing people involved think about this process
  2. What about the needs of the people who would be living, working and shopping in these buildings when and if they are built
  3. Making the whole thing seem realistic and palatable for investors or donors.

Selecting a Team of Experts
To address what has been lacking in the past planning of the Arcosanti’s becoming the world’s first prototype Arcology is to form a core “Team of Experts.” They would be selected from diverse backgrounds with the primary requirement that they share Soleri’s and our commitment to develop a model Arcology that is a compact and sustainable model of urban development. This group would go through the key architectural components of Arcosanti 5000 (which is the plan for the completion of Arcosanti) and rethink the entire concept from the bottom up.

Arcosanti Critical Mass needs a Strong Business Plan
To sum up, the future development plans of Arcosanti must be redesigned so that that they can be taken seriously by the people who have the resources to rebuild momentum for the project. The needs of the stakeholders (and particularly the residents of Arcosanti) must also be a core consideration of the new project management dynamic. Ensuring Paolo Soleri’s legacy will also be a consideration in this process. Regardless developing a strong and viable business plan will inevitably involve a fundamental rethink of many of the assumptions that led to the existing goals of the project in order for Arcosanti and Cosanti Foundation to realize its mission.