Beamspun 1.8: Strawberry

Beamspun is a regular newsletter/mailout about narrative, tech and magic for a better world. Published on a Sunday around the full moon, expect thoughts and links on anything from renewable power to ritual energy.

Strawberry Moon / Solstice edition.
Local sunrise / publish time: 0346 UTC (+2m)

Announcement: For e-mail subscribers, Beamspun has now been migrated to Buttondown's newsletter service. (Feedburner was a little legacy, and is due to close next month.) Things you might like to know:

  1. I'll be reviewing it in more depth personally, but here's Buttondown's data privacy policy. Do let me know if you're not happy with the switch and we can work it out.
  2. If you're extra happy, then you can now choose to support the newsletter with a monthly donation, by going to the sign-up page. Nothing will be different for such premium subscribers currently, but maybe there's scope for 'bonus content' in future?
  3. I've only just migrated across and there are a lot of options to go through. Something somewhere will probably break, so hold on to your hats... (With luck, replying to the newsletter will work now, though.)

I future I'm hoping to look at migrating the archives and the RSS feed somewhere, but all in good time. There's magic to be done still.


Last month I rested, as life was a whirlwind around me. To keep things ticking, I wondered what humanity's greatest strength was. I have this increasing awareness that if things are going to change, like seriously Change-with-an-adult-C, then it's not a new technical paradigm that we need, but an inward one which re-asserts our own view of our very self.

A re-appraisal, honing in on that idea of praise, for we spend so much time worrying about ourselves and our future that we forget what inner resources we have. Which, in turn, cuts us off from our own resources, like when we really need to write something down and ask around for a pen, forgetting we had a pen in our pocket all along.

When we collectively realise just what strengths are innate and accessible to us, then maybe we'll have that 'ohhhh yeahhh' moment we're all waiting for.

Over on Twitter, I rephrased it as a request to complete the sentence "Humans are...". Responses were as varied as people, of course.



"An amazing creative force enabling science, technology and our spiritual destiny to be ultimately fulfilled."


The last of these was mirrored by a reply via email: Maybe humanity's greatest strength is "being human".

This might seem like a useless tautology at first. But after a period of letting it sit with me, it brought back a section of the Tao Te Ching:

"Tao is great, and heaven, and earth, and humans.
Four great things in the world. Aren't humans one of them?"

(tr. Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo)

The translation goes on to say: "Humans follow earth, earth follows heaven, heaven follows the tao."

This idea has stuck with me - this idea that humans are unique and special in our relationship with the world around us. That we emerge from, and are tied to, the environment in a distinctly magical, human way. And with it, the idea that we are each messy and complex, just as the soil and forests and deserts and waters are chaotic and thriving. Our own emotions, and all the scary and difficult and experiential things that make humans human - aren't these all an ecosystem in themselves?

And if our own sense of being human is not just one thing but many, what does that say about our current situation? Which bits of us are engaged when we go into 'work' mode, or when we take time out, or set out aims and dreams? Which parts of our emotional ecosystem makes us 'productive', and are we ever at risk from some sort of personal monoculture? Can we accept our own mess?

Til next time.


  • permacomputing: I was really pleased to find viznut's collection of random thoughts about "permacomputing" wich sum up and set out a lot of what I'm thinking about these days. It's wide-ranging, but I was particularly taken with the notion of yin and yang hacking, and the difference between how maintenance in a technical systems, compared to maintenance in a more dynamic, generative environment such as a garden.

  • narratives: I went along to 'Black, Gifted, and Represented', a session on Afro and African Futurism given by Edafe Onerhime for Manchester Futurists. You can watch the video and read Edafe's overview here - for me, it opened up another fantastic rabbit hole of where stories come from, why people want to tell them, and how we use labels like "solarpunk" and "africanfuturism" to draw those stories, and their tellers, together. We also live in an age where those labels are shifting all the time, and yet it can be so easy to do a search for them, find people discussing it, and learn more: as those conversations are written down, archived, and indexed, we can do in a few hours what used to take decades.

  • africanfuturism: And just to highlight it, Edafe linked to Africanfuturism: An Anthology (PDF) containing Nnedi Okorafor's essay defining the term 'Africanfuturism'.

  • stories: One for the stories-are-power crowd out there - here's a rundown of the Stories For Life gathering recently, covering reconnection and communities, and the links between stories and life. In many ways, they are like code libraries and modules in that they can be re-used and built on: "A story is a unit of narrative, like a tile to a mosaic or threads to a tapestry; together, several stories weave a broader narrative, a narrative that forms the fabric of our reality." (Via Dan Burgess)

  • zine: has launched issue 2 of Branch magazine, covering solarpunk fiction, sustainable web design, AI, and change. Enough articles to keep you hooked for days, even weeks.

  • re-art: The BBC looks at Dan Rawling's artwork, transforming metal vehicles and signs into ethereal outlines and shadows of trees and nature. As the article notes, the artwork is part of a show called Future Returns, at the 20-21 arts centre in Scunthorpe until 25 September.

An old petrol tanker lorry has been carved up so that its sides and tank now take on the ethereal shapes of trees.

  • photography: And Tommaso Protti’s work, Amazônia, is featured in It's Nice That. As Tommaso notes, there is often a big difference between how we get raised to think about something, and the reality and detail of it, and monochrome photography always gets to the heart of a subject, with all of its moments of culture and crucifixes.

Photo by Tommaso Protti: A chopped tree inside a cemetery near Novo Progresso, Pará state.

  • hivemind: Stumbled across the Solar Bee project, an interesting overlap between (community-owned, in this case) solar farming, and using solar power to remove the varroa mite by a special hive.

  • cities: And in Berlin, there are efforts to integrate wildflowers and bees with urban areas more, including flower beds on top of bus shelters. Over the years, I've found it bemusing how companies will find ways of turning any space into a place for advertising and sponsorship, but maybe that same mindset can be used for re-wilding too?

  • stats: I don't often link back to the data and context behind climate change, but Dr Jonathan Foley's breakdown, The Three Most Important Graphs in Climate Change, is a pretty sensible and clear overview of where different greenhouse gases come from. It looks at the balance between sectors and of CO2 sinks, including the importance of land use. And it notes sensibly that there can and should be a short-term strategy as well as a longer term plan, as different gases have different lifetimes and effects.

Pie chart showing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, from Dr Foley


Links to share? Got a mistake to point out? Or just want to say hi? Leave a comment on the blog, or drop a line through any of the following intertubes:

If you enjoyed this, then please spread the word and tell someone else that you think might like it - is the address to spread.

And if you're interested, I'm also documenting my own 'everyday solarpunk adventures' over at the 6suns blog. Albeit slowly. Slow is good though.