Considering the Practical Implications of Philosophical Discourse

Many of us can theorize about the ideas of Chardin or even Soleri and yet the idea of practical philosophy is to link to theories with our practical experiences. Many times I felt frustrated listening to School of Thought (and I know I am not the only one who has felt this way) observing that Soleri had created a barrier between the reality at Arcosanti, and the philosophical theories behind what he calls Arcology. What’s more is that ideally a linkage between our own practical goals of being more sustainable and effective in this world and the vision of sustainability that many of us seem to share would be clearly marked out. I dont feel this is the case at Arcosanti.

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For Arcologies to Thrive you need Intercity Rail

One of the challenges of Arcosanti is that its building has not really proceeded very robustly. People have joked that at the current rate of development that it would take about 500 years to meet its current goals of having a population of 5000.

However regardless of the flaws of the project itself in developing an effective process to meet its larger goals of becoming a real prototype for sustainable urban development we need to consider the larger cultural, economic and political environment.

For a car free Arcology (or more realistically an compact Ecocity type development that reduces auto use) to function properly or even a network of them In America today or sometime in the near future, we need a intercity rail transport system to handle transportation between these sustainable urban centers.

Recently I came across a NPR piece that sought to “help figure out why the train system in the United States is so lame…” Writer Ben Jervey went on a cross-country Amtrak trip, New York to San Francisco. He wrote about it in the recent Good Magazine in an article titled “Train in Vain“.

Really there was nothing new about it. Basically Ben said the problem is with the rails. The rail lines that Amtrak uses are a joke and basically operate on 1920 type technologies and designs.

While Europe, China and Japan test out 300 mph maglevs, we fret with 5 mph curves that slow Amtrak’s flagship Acela to a snail’s pace.

It is really about priorities and a failure of leadership. While not wanting to engage in partisanship here, the Republicans have been particularly friendly with the auto and oil related vested interests and quite antagonistic with those who have suggested the need for more mass transit and rail based intercity trasport.

Now we are faced with outmoded rail infrastructure and a huge investment in a car transport system that at 4 dollar a gallon gas seem quite uncompetitive with Europe and Japan’s robust public transportation infrastructure. Possibly this is another sign of the failure of American leadership that has encouraged low density, high consumption type development not just in the USA but around the world through its particular brand of neoliberalism.

Chardin & Arcology Theory

On the tours I often mention that Teilhard de Chardin’s influence on Soleri is revealed by the fact that he wants to name a building at Arcosanti after him.
While his influence on Soleri’s Arcology vision and philosphy is unmistakable it is a bit confusing to consider the links between an aethist philosopher and one who was religious. Yet in seeing the Arcosanti video that tourists view before the tours it is also evident that Soleri has attracted many spiritual thinkers such as Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School.
In the article “The Cosmos, the Psyche & You” by Carter Phipps we see many interesting connections such as the mention of The Acquarian Conspiracy by Marlyn Fergerson. Fergerson was one of the panelists at Paradox III in 2001. The book is seem as popularizing the new age movement according to Phipps.
Yet he attributes the real relevance of New Age Thought to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Carl Jung.
Since Chardin is the focus of Soleri we will focus on him here. Arcology would not be Arcology if it were not for Soleri’s discovery of Chardin. The key components are all there Interiorization, complexity and meta-evolutionary theory – that is seeing Darwin’s evolution as part of a larger universal process of development that transcends the neo-Darwinists reductionistic understanding of life as revolving around Selfish Genes. Indeed what we see is a conscious universe in communication with itself through subtle means. Hence the term Noosespere. It was de Chardin he saw the evolutary process as indicating an emergent point that he called the Omega Point. Soleri then followed up on this with his book the Omega Seed seeing Arcology as the vessel or container upon which to germinate that seed and bring it forth as part of common and dominant human experience. As in a previous post I note the Technology Singularists and their notation of patterns emerging within technology development which seem to be converging in a synthesis that will fundamentally alter the human experience of reality as human beings and as living creatures.
Yet the question comes back to an essential understanding of the universe. Are pheonmena connected and links together in a holistic system that we little understand because we are bound by the conventional scientific understandings of the day that are based on the philosophy of modern reductionism? And while Soleri’s polemic against animism continues unabated, it seems that the very notion of noosesphese is saying that there is a life force around the planet that consists of energy flows between conscious beings. Possibly for monothests the idea of consciousness applies only to human beings and thus for Soleri Monothesism is the lesser of two evils (Animism being the greater evil). And yet why do we have to close our minds to the possibility that humans do not have a universal or even an earthly monopoly on consciousness?

Boycotting High Gas Prices

Many are calling for boycotts against the high price of gas:

I would file this under “better kind of wrongness“… the idea of boycotting gas prices.

Yes transport costs are high but still relatively low compared to Europe in which some countries pay 8 or ten dollars a gallon.

I think overall higher gas prices are a having a positive impact in helping us to consider the true costs of sprawl and overconsumption and also consider alternatives to that dominant model of development.

Also the positive to high fuel prices is that they are encouraging people to consider Arcology as a real alternative to urban sprawl at least during the tours in our discussion with people visiting. It really seems to have an impact with people on the tours.

I also notice that 4 dollar a gas impacts how I drive. Suddenly I am driving less than 55 on the hills to Prescott to save gas!!

People are not going out as much and when they go they are more aware of getting the most out of the trip.

Also people are buying gas efficient cars and leaving the SUVs and big trucks behind in droves.

Using Science and Rationalism to Explore Consciousnsess and Spirituality

Stephen Budner recently sent me a email from an interview with Dr Charles Tart on ShrinkRapRadio #34, April 23, 2006. Forty Years of Consciousness Research. In the piece Dr. David Van Nuys, aka “Dr. Dave” interviews Dr. Charles Tart (transcribed from by Kerstin Sjoquist):

Other intelligent men and women were going through this same kind of crisis, and they realized science was right in a lot of ways – there was a lot of nonsense in religion, but was it all nonsense? And they came up with the brilliant idea of: can we apply the method of science? Not the particular findings at any moment, but the method to investigate various phenomenon – spirituality, religion – and begin to separate out what was true and important, and what was false and superstitious. That was an inspiring vision for me, and basically that’s what I’ve been doing the last 50 years.

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BFI Challenge Applications Posted Online

Last year a colleague and I submitted an application to the Bucky Fuller Institute Challenge.

Libby Hubbard (aka Neutopia) recently told me that she read my application online.

The central focus of our application was to raise funds for the development of a Holistic Learning Center by which participants from all walks of life could be immersed in more holistic approaches to living. The term we use at oneVillage Foundation is EcoLiving and it implies taking the concepts of sustainability and applying to how we live and see the world – seeing that in truth it is a seemless whole.

Apparently BFI got a benefactor to provide an amount to run the challenge and also for a yearly grant. The idea is promoting visionary thinking like BF pioneering but also finding ways to put into practice.

The winner of the 2007 contest was John Todd who has pioneered Living Machines.

Dr. Todd was presented a check in the amount of $100,000 for his winning project Comprehensive Design for a Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia. Dr. Todd was also presented the OmniOculi, a limited edition sculpture by artist Tom Shannon, commissioned for the Challenge.

You can view our application here:\

Vincent Callebaut’s Compelling Lilypad Imagery

Frabz Nahrada reports (in the Arcology Discussion Group on the subject of “Dream of swimming arcologies floats around the world“) from Austria that the buzz in Europe last week was with Vincent Callebaut’s
compelling lilypad imagery.

He notes that its been a “long time since any similar arcological designer reached the mainstream imagination:
nice slide show with full screen images
same images, but at your pace and choice

Press examples

“seven architects derscribe how we live in 2058”, (Le Soir)

Thanks Franz for sharing…