Building, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Nikos A. Salingaros December 6, 2012
By Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros. First published in Metropolis Magazine.
Though overshadowed by his written work, Alexander’s built work has been
prodigious, with some 300 buildings around the world. Above, a title image
from a 2009 exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Chances are, you have heard of Christopher Alexander because of his most famous book on architecture, A Pattern Language. What you may not know is that Alexander’s work has spawned a remarkable revolution in technology, producing a set of innovations ranging from Wikipedia to The Sims. If you have an iPhone, you may be surprised to know that you have Alexander’s technology in your pocket. The software that runs the apps is built on a pattern language programming system.
How did an architect come to have such influence in the world of software — and as it turns out, a lot of other fields? (To name a few: biology, ecology, organization theory, business management, and manufacturing.) It’s a fascinating story — and it might just have something to say about the state of architecture today, and where it might be headed.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, People Systems, Society, Village Development, peak oil — by Samuel Alexander November 24, 2012
Editor’s Preamble: I would exhort readers to ignore the potentially off-putting length of this piece, to instead step into, and allow yourself to be absorbed by, this important and worthy attempt at future-visualising. Readers who have been following my own work over the last several years will recognise and appreciate the themes covered. From my own perspective, what follows is a highly pragmatic view on the potential near-future of civilisation, and I truly feel that the speed and shape of progression (i.e. objectively and cooperatively planned and peacefully implemented), or, regression (i.e. unplanned, reactive, desperate, monopolistic and individualistic), and ultimate form of that future will largely depend on how many people are objectively considering these themes and adjusting their lives, and their influence, accordingly.
Photo © Craig Mackintosh
by Dr Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne.
When [we have] obtained those things necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, [our] vacation from humbler toil having commenced. – Henry David Thoreau
If a society does not have some vision of where it wants to be or what it wants to become, it cannot know whether it is heading in the right direction – it cannot even know whether it is lost. This is the confused position of consumer capitalism today, which has a fetish for economic growth but no answer to the question of what that growth is supposed to be for. It is simply assumed that growth is good for its own sake, but of course economic activity is merely a means, not an end. It can only ever be justified by some goal beyond itself, but that is precisely what consumer capitalism lacks – a purpose, a reason for existence. It is a means without an end, like a tool without a task. What makes this state of affairs all the more challenging is that the era of growth economics appears to be coming to a close, due to various financial, ecological, and energy constraints, and this is leaving growth-based economies without the very capacity for growth which defined them historically. Before long this will render consumer capitalism an obsolete system with neither a means nor an end, a situation that is in fact materialising before our very eyes. It seems that today we are living in the twilight of growth globally, which implies that the dawn of a new age is almost upon us – is perhaps already upon us. But as we turn this momentous page in history we find that humanity is without a narrative in which to lay down new roots. We are the generation in between stories, desperately clinging to yesterday’s story but uncertain of tomorrow’s. Then again, perhaps the new words we need are already with us; perhaps we just need to live them into existence.Comments (7)
Energy Systems, Village Development — by Tim Barker November 23, 2012
So where does the ‘appropriate’ in ‘Appropriate Technology’ come from? To me, it is technology that ‘fits’ well into a place or setting. You’re not further enlightened? Okay, I’ll make some generalizations and go from there. For the ‘technology’ part, I like W. Brian Arthur’s definition, whereby technology is the capture or use of a phenomena for a specific purpose. So this could be everything from construction of a compost pile (consciously promoting the action of bacteria to break down organic matter for whatever reason) to a system of community governance. The ‘appropriate’ comes in when you recognise that some ways of developing local communities resonate better with human behavior than others — say, community land trusts as opposed to landlord/tenant arrangements.
The appropriate part is generally covered by the following:
- it is human centered and human scaled
- it is easily replicable and understandable
- it focuses on locally available resources
- it tends to be labour intensive but energy efficient.
A lot of people look to Barack Obama as the enlightened leader, the psychopomp who will lead the world away from the brink of catastrophe and into a new era. I see him in a somewhat different light. I see his election as the American expression of a global shift in consciousness that is already well underway. He may or may not be able to fulfill his promise of hope in any specific policy area, but the fact of his election speaks to a dramatic sea-change in the global Zeitgeist.
An individual in crisis may experience a sudden transformation or awakening as a response to an intolerable situation. The current crisis of civilization is starting to impact hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe, especially since the world was plunged into the economic crisis that is further compounding our accelerating ecological, environmental, energy and social crises. The sense of imminence created by this convergence is causing enormous numbers of people to wake up and wonder WTF has been going on while we dutifully lived out the consumerist dream. While we were sleeping that dream seems to have become a nightmare as the materialist utopia we were promised morphed into a cruel, life-destroying hoax .Comments (6)
Following on from the last one, this John D. Liu video from the Environmental Education Media Project takes us to the steppes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. If you love learning from different cultures that find ways to survive and flourish in circumstances and climates very different from your own, as I do, then you’ll find this an interesting piece.Comments (0)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Earth Banks, Education Centres, Land, Plant Systems, Rehabilitation, Soil Conservation, Swales, Village Development, Water Harvesting — by Sabrina Faubert November 22, 2012
I’m not sure it’s possible, looking back now, to say exactly what I was expecting when I hopped on that plane and flew to Ethiopia for an internship at Strawberry Fields, but one thing I am sure of is that it’s been one of the most transformative, edifying experiences I’ve had in my life.Comments (2)
Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Village Development — by Ognen Oncevski November 16, 2012
This article is not just a call for a support, it is also a message of gratitude to all of you who shared your stories on this website and gave us inspiration to move forward and aim towards the creation of a more human world.
Before I get to the main point of this article, I would like to tell you about our beginnings. It all started when a bunch of friends who share a common vision for a world in which humans live in harmony with nature decided to get together and make their vision come to life. We formally joined an organization called The Green Ark. It was exactly five years ago when we decided that we wanted to do something more, to transform our revolt into organized action which would be useful for our community. However, our beginnings were not all that glamorous. Back then, our knowledge of the permaculture ethics and principles came solely from reading books and watching videos like The Global Gardener series, Establishing a Food Forest, etc. And since none of us had taken a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course, we were a bit apprehensive, but very excited at the same time, when we embarked on our first project – to start an urban garden.Comments (7)
Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Village Development — by Dagmar Diesner November 2, 2012
Clearing the entrance with the help of friends (April 2011)
La Cuccagna emerged in March last year, here in Italy, as one of some of the projects from our organisation, Montagna Viva. This organisation was founded as a catalyst to undertake projects to revive the countryside, in the form of doing — in common — something together, or using the term ‘commoning’, as it is described in the growing acknowledged theory of the commons and its communities.
Massimo and I decided to initiate a common garden project after realizing that we did not want to spend all our spare time in our kitchen garden, isolated from the community. Within a couple of weeks we got a group of like-minded people, and La Cuccagna was born. Even though we started with bare land, the name, standing for abundance, is inspiring enough to attempt capturing all the abundance of fruits, herb and vegetables that nature delivers us here in this tiny Italian village in the Apennines.Comments (0)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Compost, Conservation, Food Forests, Food Shortages, Irrigation, Land, Rehabilitation, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Structure, Swales, Village Development, Water Harvesting — by Stephanie Blennerhassett October 31, 2012
PDCs are tricky. For two weeks we tumble into this community of unfamiliarly familiar, curious strangers. The constant whirlwind of habits, obligations, and distractions that composes our lives momentarily dissipates and we are thrust into this world where our main responsibility is to be open-minded, observe, think, learn, and connect. Yet, at the end of the day, we are singular beings and we all have our lives that we will return to. As PDC participants, we are exposed to this new paradigm together, share bemusement at fractal patterns and individual inspirations, and then suddenly depart the entropy we fell into and hopefully go off with the intent to use permaculture as a framework for making society and the environment more resilient.
However, after I was formally introduced to permaculture, as a nomadic recent college graduate, I was not sure how permaculture could be a tangible part of my life. The fulfillment from a sense of belonging and purpose I experienced during the PDC instilled within me a restless need to contribute to a project and/or community. So, I found myself asking, “Now what?”.Comments (4)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Community Projects, Eco-Villages, Markets & Outlets, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor October 30, 2012
This is a fun and very inspiring talk by Incredible Edible Todmorden champion, Pam Warhurst, on the great work her town is doing in northern England and its growing influence around the world. One of the many encouraging things I take from this talk is hearing how local businesses in Todmorden are, with the renewed interest to support them, being able to diversify their offering, and hence make Todmorden more self-reliant and thus resilient.
The standing ovation at the end of the video says it all….Comments (0)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Society, Village Development — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor October 29, 2012
The video above is a nice, brief summation of our present predicament, and ends with the only really logical conclusion — permaculture, and resilient, interdependent communities living in the real economy. It’s well worth watching and sharing. Regular readers of this site won’t learn anything new, but should find it yet another useful tool for educating others.
For myself, I am constantly disappointed in mainstream media coverage of the historically unprecedented convergence of issues humanity now faces. Supposed ‘experts’ in economics and business stand in front of us, upbeat and flashing plastic smiles, whilst spouting utter nonsense. They continue to subscribe to, and promote, an impossible belief — that being to ‘grow the economy’, perpetually, on a finite planet. This is the most absurd faith-based religion I’ve ever encountered, and yet it has become the status quo almost everywhere on this tired old earth.
All a great power has to do to destroy itself is to persist in trying to do the impossible. — Stephen Vizinczey
Aid Projects, Biological Cleaning, Community Projects, Compost, Conservation, Fencing, Irrigation, Land, Material, Nurseries & Propogation, Plant Systems, Potable Water, Rehabilitation, Seeds, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Structure, Swales, Trees, Village Development, Waste Systems & Recycling, Waste Water — by Alex McCausland October 25, 2012
Editor’s Note: Regular readers will have appreciated Alex McCausland’s regular and comprehensive reports from precariously positioned Ethiopia, and the great work he and his team have been doing on the ground. If you want to learn practical permaculture and gain real-world permaculture aid work experience in a location rich in agricultural history, then please consider taking Alex’s next PDC, to be held in southern Ethiopia between December 10 — 22, 2012. Your tuition fees directly support this important educational aid work.
The Hafto Solar Community Water Project site project is a solar powered water supply facility for the surrounding community of Hafto in the Hadiya Zone, South Ethiopia. The project was planned and implemented by a German NGO called DWC and is owned and run by a local NGO called SMART. The facility supplies water to about 1500 surrounding community members within an approximate 1km radius. There is a small charge for the water of about 0.01 Ethiopian Birr per liter (1$=18Birr) which covers the running costs of the project. The community members currently come to the site with donkeys to collect the water in jerry-cans which they take home for use.Comments (3)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Community Projects, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Food Shortages, People Systems, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson October 23, 2012
Our local areas and community are likely to play a much bigger role in our future resilience, so it makes sense to begin to include active community participation in our children’s lives. Children often enjoy having a sense of being an important part of something that matters and even young children can develop a feeling of ‘ownership’ in their particular part of a project. When children feel vitally involved they will take much more of an interest and be open to taking on board new ideas and skills that will be invaluable to them in the future.
There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Community is a really great educational vehicle — after all, it’s the way young people learned their life skills in past times. We can once again make it a part of the way we prepare our children for times to come.
Below are some ideas for ways children can begin to get involved with developing greater community spirit in their neighbourhood.Comments (5)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Village Development — by Craig Gallagher October 19, 2012
Wadeye is the Northern Territory’s largest aboriginal community. Having been here just over a year now I can say I have become quite acquainted with many of the indigenous locals and I will be quite sad when I soon leave. However, to paint a brief picture of reasonable accuracy, the town itself is the result of yet another white man horror story created on behalf of English royalty.
Twenty different clans (who feuded from time to time) were not meant to be bought together to live in one community, so there is much violence amongst them — every night of late — and it’s the reason I am awake at 2:13am writing this.Comments (3)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Education, People Systems, Presentations/Demonstrations, Village Development — by Lee Frankel-Goldwater October 18, 2012
Final Project for the Master of Arts in Environmental Conservation Education, NYU, Submitted August, 2011
by Lee Frankel-Goldwater
Click to download (300kb PDF)
The system of Permaculture design is an appropriate and well-defined model for teaching and implementing the goals of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). When the United Nations declared the years from 2005-2014 to be a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), the field of ESD was launched into a period of heightened global awareness and growth. Through a comparison of the core principles of Permaculture and ESD, thereby weaving the two systems together, it is hoped that the benefits of applying Permaculture towards the goals of the DESD can be made clear.
Permaculture is a conjunction of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’, a point that hints at its founding principles. It is mainly a design system that, through the careful observation of nature, seeks to combine traditional wisdom with modern ecological knowledge to aid in the development of sustainable human habitats. It was developed in the global environmental context of the 1970’s to be a compact, dynamic system of thought, drawing on a wide variety of design techniques, that could be easily taught and applied to any climate or cultural setting.(1) In the time since its founding, Permaculture has been refined and has become a highly regarded system with many potential applications for addressing critical, present day issues related to sustainability and education.Comments (0)