Welcome to Beamspun, a solarpunk newsletter of sorts. Bringing some hope, magic, practicality into a strange and future world.

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Beamspun 1.5: 28th February 2021

Local sunrise / publish time: 0645 UTC (-14m)

As I sat out in the garden the other day, the clouds rolled in casually from the sea. Small fluffy cotton things, stratocumulus if I remember right. While I stared up at them, my eyes and my mind conspired to convert them into a flat plane, like an optimised rendering out of a videogame - something about their uniform movement and their gentle shading made it all feel so unreal.

I remembered back to when I was a child, bored but happy gazing out of a bedroom window, browsing the sky like a book. I didn't wonder where the forms had come from, or even what a cloud was. I just reveled in their continual drift through my frame of view, their constant shifting of tails and wisps.

Among all the screens, have I really forgotten how to see the world?

Thinking further, I realised just how complex our relationship with the planet really is. Every day, within a single minute, we encounter diverse - often jarring or contradictory - sources and senses. We may take in the sight of a bird seeking out worms, and at the same time the radio informs us of the latest climate change news, and in the moment we are caught between our immediate awareness, and a global network of perspectives.

I find myself working more and more across all of these layers, trying to find new tools and techniques to bring them together in some coherent way inside myself. Perhaps we can identify or discern some order here, to help us navigate the chaos. Something like...

  1. What we experience for ourselves, our own direct knowledge
  2. What we pick up and how we think, learned from immediate others we trust - our friends, our family, our community groups
  3. What we take in from the wider sources that we trust - news outlets, scientific results, broader global conversations
  4. Re-creations and simulations, the mirrors that play aspects of the world back to us - media, computer games, stories and narratives
  5. What we don't know, but feel inside us - the subconscious, and the areas that magic, divination and spirituality help us to feel

All of these are equally useful and dangerous, depending on the powers involved and our own biases. But we can aim to gain an understanding of all of this, in order to make well-rounded decisions, and to find routes through to those new modes we're going to need to survive. Each of these areas provides different sets of opportunity - chances to discover new things about the world, abut others, and about ourselves. We can't sit back and assume we know everything.

Last weekend, the family and I went for a walk in the nearby countryside. We visited one of the many white horses cut into the hard chalk of the earth: lost steeds haunting the landscape, searching for their gigantic riders.

At the horse's head, on the prow of the hill, all of those layers seemed to wrap together. I took in the view out over the valley. Other local walkers nodded as we passed them. A metallic disc on a round, brickwork stump listed out compass points and distances for nearby towns. The horse, trotting through history, sang thoughts of the surrounding hills.

And all around, wreaths and ashes scattered the path and the wooden fences. In among all that weather, a place to rest. Silver metal plates adorned a nearby bench, linking identities with longitude and latitude, visitors with views. I wonder which of us has the most accurate picture of the scene.

What's your favourite place to go to where you can just sit and see the world as it is?

A wreath attached to a wooden fence in front of the drop down into a valley

Links

  • Solarpunk?: Wired covers the Forest Guardians project, using recycled phones, cheaply-designed devices and solar power to automate sound surveillance and listen out for illegal tree-cutting in Indonesia. (via Espen)

  • Art: Stumbled randomly across FabFungus, a project from 2019 by Szymon Kaliski, Marek Straszak and Arek Zub. It grows digital forms using cellular growth techniques, ending up with shapes that look like frenzied natural designs:

A selection of 3D-printed shapes on pedestals, resembling natural patterns mixed with geometric designs.

  • Writing: Over on Mastodon, Shane Finan gives a gorgeously poetic rundown of an aging tree: "...The whole tree is so densely surrounded that it is near impossible to photograph, always obscured as if it had planned for its own privacy."

  • Writing: Grist's Fix lab is running a climate short story competition - looking ahead 180 years, deadline April 12th, free to enter.

  • Narratives: Daniel Christian Wahl writes about moving towards a regenerative cosmology and a more interconnected worldview. A perspective of "Universe" culminating in our world today gives a much grander sense of story, perhaps one we can reconnect to in order to re-oin ancient past with distant future, and our own place within that.

  • Events: Moar futures. March 1st sees Decolonizing Futures, a talk on "science fiction subgenres that are decolonizing mainstream futures by broadening our views on ancestrality, utopia, afrofuturism, indigenous and LGBTQI+ perspectives." I don't think we can take climate change seriously without looking at the separation and power imbalances going on in the world, so discourse like this needs to be embedded in everything we do.

  • Gaming: Hyperspace Harvest is in very pre-alpha but worth a look with this description: "Oh no, you died when the planet blew up! But you've been reincarnated by a giant space mammal and now you run a farm on its back." It's a free download in its early days, and a devlog sets out limits and future ideas.

  • Seaweed: The FT ran a series on changes in food recently, including a video on seaweed farming in Norway:

Solnotes

  • Do you have links to things you think would fit well here? You might be working on an interesting project, have published an online gallery you're proud of, or just seen something magical. Drop me a note at any of the details below, and I'll start linking back to people.
  • I've been thinking about use of images, and whether it's possible to tip people if I use their content. I'm thinking about some sort of Patreon or tipjar thing that readers could contribute to, to help pass on appreciation - let me know if you think that's a good idea, or if you have any recommendations on how to go about such a thing.
  • I'd also be interested if anyone has any reviews of relevant books or magazines - nothing lengthy, just a small paragraph will do!
  • I have a new aim of posting Beamspun after each full moon - hopefully changes to personal life will make this easier, but we'll see how it goes. General busyness makes this one a bit thin, too. Think of it as winter hibernation.
  • Also, loadaverage.org has finally bitten the bullet, it seems - use the Mastodon link below to contact via the Fediverse now.
  • Go fair. Tread the Earth. Wield love like a sword.

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:

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

Close-up of a metal plaque on a bench that reads "Smile"
 

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