Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Our Cities Could Be

Had to pass along this No Impact Man entry.

Been wondering lately why our city elders keep inviting external forces that are basically trying to impoverish a lot of us (e.g. Wal-Mart) to set up shop. We'll even widen roads, etc. etc. What if the same investment (of money, labor, energy) was put into a rhizomatic energy grid? Like Denmark:

Consumers can not only draw power from the grid, but can feed power into it as well. For instance, homes equipped with solar-power panels could feed unused electricity back into the grid, adding to the total available supply....

It's far more efficient than most national electricity grids, which rely on large central power stations to send electricity exclusively in one direction from the power stations to the final customer. Only a third of the fuel energy burnt in power plants ends up as electricity. Roughly half is lost as heat and nearly 10% more is lost during transmission....

The change has taken Denmark nearly two decades to implement.

In other news, we've officially reconnected the sink drains to the sewer, as we're weary of hauling buckets of graywater. I'm waiting on the updated (5th edition) Create An Oasis book by Art Ludwig to come in through interlibrary loan, so I can figure out how much mulched swale we'll need to soak up our graywater when we can get the plumbing altered, someday. Also, someday, will come power tools and hose bibs to stick it to the plastic rain barrels.

Gotta go get a spider out of the bathroom now.

This cool, wet year we haven't really needed to throw even more water from the roof and the sinks into the garden (or really compost & fruit trees, mostly). But I think if we return to the desertification trend of recent centuries on Turtle Island, and recent millennia on Earth, it will be wise to redirect water that doesn't need sewage treatment to the land. Just think, huge paved areas shed SO much rain, the actual groundwater doesn't get replenished very much. When groundwater gets replenished, trees begin to grow and streams begin to flow! But no, we need to expand the already paved desert ... but coming from behind, the darkest East Side, the Bermuda grass is spreading from the edge of our yard out into the pavement! (It came from African savannahs, by way of Bermuda.)

Speaking of rhizomes, Ran linked to this nice article about "resilient community" and other nice words for anarchy. You almost don't need to read anything more than the diagrams and captions.

And does a cool, wet year herald a frigid, blizzarding winter?!?! Better get to cutting and splitting and stacking more firewood! And hey, heating fuel prices are expected to go up YET AGAIN this year! And hey, are those 23% yearly price increases compounding? The labor I need to cut wood and burn it isn't compounding. Till we run out of wood from our yard!

I'm slowly, slowly, slowly making progress on a cardboard box solar cooker. I'm about done gluing aluminum foil on cardboard, except for the reflector. It'll be nice to have an oven again. Another project for those not-otherwise-busy days.

I started with a "what our cities could be" and I'll end with another one, Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability. It's said that in petro-descent, the suburbs will be the slums of the future. But here a permaculturist explains how we can make the best of it. The previous link is to an HTML version, here's a .pdf where the graphics might me more legible, and I just found videos on YouTube. Haven't watched 'em just yet though. Looks like there's a future in retrofitting!

Crazy paradox.


sharqi said...

I just finished reading a fictional book by James Howard Kunstler, set in the petro-maimed future, just floating around ideas of what things could be like. I think we've spent the last 70 years building up this weird religion of crude ooze devotees. I don't know, I guess I can see how they made sense of it all, their ways of changing the world (then known as progress), and the awful repercussions we've known about for decades, and still seem unable or unwilling to change our culture of maximum harm. Ah, but cars, pavement, suburbs, strip malls--what?!

We spent all that time constructing not-nature, and we'll spend the next big amount of time deconstructing it, recovering once again our birthright of the gardens and paradise--or at the very least, you hope, some semblance of thinking and providing for one's self. The garbage dumps will be the gold mines of the next age. Can you imagine future archaeologists digging around through all of our massive junk & trying to figure it all out, especially all the plastic junk? I wish I were around to hear what they might say about us.

It seems like Springfield specifically is once again, decades behind "the next big thing". Our city government still thinks sprawl is progress, that more roads built equals a higher standard of living (because they never see the condition of the roads in the ghetto, I guess). Imaginary status has some meaning. Big mega-stores are quite desired, corporate chains, hooray. We done got us a Starbucks, boys, seven of them asamatterafack. ...and yes, on marches the bermuda grass, changing non-nature into its natural status, the chaos that is orderly if only we could recognize it as such.

It's weird that methods of reclaiming deserts have been known for decades, and still, we have big deserts. The deserts of the middle east were the fertile crescent. Lebanon was known for its cedars. Forget building this weird dream for 70 years, or 150 years, more like 10,000 years of undoing what works well.

I realized the other day that the boomer generation were the peak of the peak (America) of the peak (civilization). At some point it was known that we were pissing all over our habitat, and if we didn't stop, it would be pretty shitty for us shortly. Well, it's now shortly. It pisses me off, as I feel I got screwed along the way, but also gives me this utter sense of responsibility to my own child not to pass this bullshit off onto her & her descendants. I'll do whatever I can to hand off a world where you can breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the food, and not get cancer. She told me the other day she'd rather not have a telephone if she could have forests of pine trees. Hell yes! She gets it!

Enough ranting.


ben said...

You can build a Fun-panel solar cooker in less than an hour from a cardboard box and a few metres of aluminium foil.

Tom Sponheim
Solar Cookers International

donald423 said...