Beamspun 1.3: 3rd January 2021
Local sunrise / publish time: 0801 UTC (+0m - sunset is changing rapidly though)
Twentytwentytwentytwentytwenty... twenty-one! Well, we made it here. Here, to this future land overgrown with teeming life, where the sun comes up and goes down and we re-discover the corners of our houses and the world is brought together by invisible forms and the Great Human Network experiment turns into an infrastructure of its own. We have been on the road so long that we forget that where we came from was just as strange as what we encounter now. We stare out of the window as we bounce along unknown dusty tracks, and somewhere inside us, as deep as the soul, we hum to ourselves to comfort us and conjure up memories of better days and exciting places.
Happy New Year.
To be quite honest, I don't think I ever really knew what "normal" was to begin with. Politics and materialism, TV and war - none of these ever truly spoke to my belly or my heart. I have a fleeting memory of being a child, and thinking this might all be a dream, a concoction in the sleeping head of a giant alien slug, I think it was. Being on the move - walking, on a boat, in a cross-country train staring out at twisted steeples - reminds me how much we are on the world more than in it, passengers privy to observing the changes while we ourselves grow more slowly than trees.
The Hundred Rabbits' account of crossing the North Pacific by boat comes back to me a lot at the moment. How does one bring together the imagery of the open sea, the constant threat of being overturned by storm winds, and the contrast involved in reading such remote accounts via instantaneous electronic comms? What is this strange modern nomadicism that is sitting in wait for us these days?
On the other hand, where does our sense of static narrative come from, back in the "real world"? What form of continuity and connection keeps us sane?
I think back to the children's TV shows I watched growing up - and that sense of everything returning to normal after whatever adventures had occurred. Did that return make you feel relaxed and satisfied that the world was put to rights, or frustrated that television time seemed trapped in loops, that the characters never seemed to learn from their experiences, like their memories got wiped by the end credits?
Over at the 6suns blog I am thinking about alternatives, exploration and curiosity. My battery power is running out, and I feel dangerously close to those end credits, of having to plug back into the mains after 18 months. "Is that it?" I think. Did anything really change from running up and down the garden and keeping an eye on all that power usage? Do we just tell a bad joke and return everything back to normal?
This is also a trend I see in a lot of 'progressive' narrative - that we can just carry on what we're doing, but get our electricity and food in different ways. Change the source, but preserve the lifestyle. Ha ha ha, aren't we glad we all survived that episode, the onslaught of evil climate change, or the nefarioius intentions of a new global virus.
And yet, that narrative is probably the weakest one we could think up if we were writing this as fiction. Are we so afraid to give up what we have that our thoughts can only extend to changing our carbon emissions? Isn't this the opportunity to do something different, to form a life we actually want to live?
Yes, this is dangerously close to the uk government's "Build Back Better" slogan, which manages to alliteratively allude to Bojo, Britain, and Beer in its sweeping rhythmics. Does anyone really believe - or even understand - what it says? And yet, it says a great deal more than a lot of the other narrative out there, which wants to insist you can keep doing what you're doing now, just by switching electricity provider or checking labels.
People don't want to change their behaviour just to save the world. They want something better for themselves, for their family, for their community (and stop there - all national pride is an extension of community). The narratives need to do better than 'planet saving', they need to spin a vision of personal happiness, of empowerment, of something so tempting it lures you in with the glamour of faeries. (Hello again, Viridian Design.]
When the challenge gets real, it's too tempting to fall back on the old ways, to laugh and wait for the screen to fade out and the next programme to come along and wash it all away. The next news cycle, the next meme - distraction has the glamour and it knows it.
But I'm not waiting. 2020 was a year of waiting. Each day blurred into the next. Refreshing the news headlines became more important than eating. But not 2021. 2021 is the year to find new ways. To study the map, find a new path, and see who's up for following it. To finally decouple. To be inconvenient. And to laugh while doing so.
Low-Tech Magazine looks at the potential for coppicing and better tree management to make biomass energy sustainable.
NASA's big computing is being used to map trees better - how many teraflops of computing power do you need to change someone's perspective on nature, though?
Battery and storage tech has had a bit of coverage recently, including 50MW of liquid air energy storage in England.
And the FT take a really good look at the challenges of storing energy and electricity in a green future.
Greenpeace are working with indingenous tribes in the Amazon to bring drone tech to the local population, to monitor deforestation.
Over on Twitter, Janet Hughes has put together a list of Regenerative Agriculture tweeters. She also has the best job title at Defra: "Programme director for future farming & countryside" - or Chief Solarpunk, in short. (Bonus link: they have a blog)
Infrastructure built from wood? The BBC cover a wooden/electric cargo ship with sail, solar, and regenerative propellers, as well as (more curiously) a Japanese wooden satellite to help cut down on space junk.
Evidence to show fig trees co-evolved with wasps. Also, I love that "The body shapes and sizes of the wasps correspond exactly to those of the fig fruits".
And here's an incredible image from Masako Metz on Flickr to finish off:
Get in touch
If you enjoyed this, then please spread the word and tell someone else that you think might be interested - https://beamspun.exmosis.net/ is the address to spread.
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:
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- Twitter: @6loss
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- Email: beamspun (at) exmosis.net - until the spambots find me
I'm also documenting my own 'everyday solarpunk adventures' over at the 6suns blog.