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Beamspun 6: 24th May 2020

Local sunrise / publish time: 0358 UTC (-9m)

Hello world, you humans you. How are you? May always confuses me - one moment it's the start of the summer, and a month later the equinox is looming and I'm already thinking about autumn time.

Not to complain though. This week, I've been tending. Tending to the seedlings to make sure they don't get eaten or shrivelled up. And tending to my broken self-hosted RSS feeds and feed reader, which means I've inundated myself with links to catch up on from the last few weeks. Weeding and reading go together, huh? Anyway, a special shout out to Giuseppe this week for his data visualisations newsletter, which has fed in at least a few of the links below.

New moon, bank holiday, let's go let's go.

Links

  • #photos: Spana Reddy's featured Flickr images: "...we tend to forget that long before these places of worship were built there have existed natural cathedrals where the pillars rose from the depths of the soil and reached towards the stars."

Wabi-Sabi

  • #books: I tore through The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind this week, the true story of William Kamkwamba who survived famine in Malawi, and salvaged a scrapheap to build a windmill to generate electricity. The sheer sense of resourcefulness stood out for me, alongside the reality of an improverished world that many solarpunk writers seem to think is in the future.

"A windmill meant more than just [electrical] power. It was freedom."

and

"I threw my hands into the air and shouted with joy, laughing so hard that I became dizzy. I held the bulb in triumph and addressed the unbelievers. 'Electric wind!' I shouted. 'I told you I wasn't mad!'"

  • #stories: For a much shorter read, check out A Year of Lily's Sunflowers from Portsmouth's Pens of the Earth collective.

  • #news: A massive solar farm has been approved in Nevada - but the trade-off is that the existing habitat will be severely impacted. I have no ideas on how to tie together the needs of renewable energy with the needs of the rest of our ecosystem, to be quite honest, but it reminds me of the scalability issues raised by Low-Tech Magazine that I linked to a few editions ago.

  • #lifestyle: I've been following the 100 rabbits couple and their boat for a few months. Here, they set out some helpful advice for off-grid living and "learning to live according to the sun and the wind".

  • #economics: I'm fascinated by data-viz of the Simon Project over at humanprogress.org - this is a statsy look at how 'abundant' the Earth is, defined by the time you need to spend to earn money to buy things, scaled up to global population level. On one hand, it can be used to keep some perspective on how things have changed over time, and remind us just how lucky we are. On another hand, we can inspect the change of specific resources - metals, cereals, etc - which is really important when considering supply chains and what you - as an individual, a community, a country - depend on.

  • #tech: Sweden is looking at building wind turbine towers out of wood. Details are light - I wonder if this could apply to other structures too, like vertical farms.

  • #photos: And here's another tree tower in India's "silk city", Berahampur, courtesy of @Vijaykulange

An old brick chimney, dozens of metres high, has been taken over by a large banian tree.

  • #lifestyle: The Mossy Earth podcast on living slowly, taking time, and taking small steps to appreciate the world more.

  • #dataviz: A massive circular alert chart is one way to try to grapple with the challenges lying ahead of us. I don't know if it's useful, but if it encourages discussion, it feels like it has merit. To be perfectly honest, I yearn for the days when charts are sprayed and chalked across the streets, feedback embedded into our pavements like traffic directions. Make it so.

  • #rewilding: And closing up, here's something I've noticed outside my own door: Will Covid-19 lockdown benefit wild flowers on our road verges? "We need to rewild ourselves and accept nature's wonderful 'messiness’."

Solnotes

Death has been on my mind a lot recently, for obvious global reasons. Death happens all the time, but we think about it a lot more when the news covers it. But, conversely, it's also quite a taboo subject. We still cover up our grief, and struggle through times of passing like a traveller in a sandstorm.

The question for me is: How do we deal with death in a re-imagined society? I find myself particularly, almost guiltily, British on this - "celebration" and flamboyance are not something that come naturally to these isles, and so exotic death rituals and rites often seem to be other-worldly, or the stuff of tourismal legends. Either way, we invent ways to parcel such rituals off as 'otherness', and carry on with our own struggle.

A quote from the latest Technoccult newsletter sums this up, possibly unintentionally: "We have to make a better world than this. We have to be able to grieve."

To be clear, I think a lot about life too - what a time of year, when everything is growing and blossoming! But with all things, the yins and the yangs mean everything has a flipside - every May has its November, and we can't separate out "sustainability" into just one without the other - to do so just cuts us off from the bigger picture: Cycles.

The weeks are long at the moment, but the cycles are longer. Enjoy the path that curves.

Get in touch

For any feedback, suggestions, broken links, comments, or general 'hi there' type stuff, leave a comment, or you can find me hanging out in any of these places:

I'm also documenting my own 'everyday solarpunk adventures' over at the 6suns blog.

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