I am dozing on the plane to Freetown, Sierra Leon.
Can't really sleep in coach but if you are tired enough you can close your eyes and be almost in sleep mode which does bring you back a little bit. Not a surprise that I am wasted... in the last several weeks I have been on a two week build in Haiti; then to Australia trying to get an executive order on the desk of the Premier of Victoria to help the victims of the floods and fires get fast track permits to rebuild sustainably; then to China for what was going to be a presentation for 13 people which grew to 35 people and then was at 350 by the time I got there. This turned into a demo building project and talks of major development of Earthships there in China. Then we can't forget Tulsa, Oklahoma just after China, where I had to speak to an American Institute of Architects gathering. Speaking to the AIA is always a chuckle because the State of New Mexico took my architects license a few years back for pushing the envelope toward sustainability too fast. Now I get paid to speak to the architectural professionals about just that... pushing the envelope faster toward a better way of building buildings on this planet.
So... I am tired on this plane to Freetown. In my almost sleeping stupor, I can here laughter and chatter of the other passengers going to Freetown. They are all up out of their seats and hanging out all over the plane and talking and laughing. I am in an isle seat and the woman next to me in the center seat is having a conversation with the guy across the isle from me and up a row. Their conversation is rolling back and forth through my space while I attempt to sleep. They occasionally include me in the conversation cause they know I am not really sleeping. I throw in a word or two here and there.
I am already "in" Freetown. I just don't know it yet.
The people on this plane are not like the usual bunch of drunks on vacation celebrating to the extent of the allowable booze consumption on a plane. These people are just enjoying themselves on the way to Freetown and give the impression that they are just one big happy family... me included. Finally I do wake up a bit and climb out of my seat to go to the toilet. I still have my sunglasses on as I wear them to help me sleep. As I head back to the back of the plane in the semi dark inflight lighting of the jet, further darkened by the sunglasses, I see nothing but white smiling teeth and whites of eyes. The sunglasses blended the dark faces of all the African people into the semi darkness leaving just teeth and whites of eyes to tell me that I am the only non African on this plane.
Could have fooled me! Cause I felt right at home. The energy on this plane was really "up" and unified more than any other flight I had been on and I was being pulled right up and in there with them... African or not. If this is the third world... I'd like to join up.
"Can you charge my music on your computer Sir?"
"Sure" I said.
We touched down a while later and they all broke into the national anthem of Sierra Leon. I hummed along.
I have come to Freetown to recon for the future building of an eight room school using the Earthship concepts. I am to stay with local architect Alfred Barlatt and get delivered to his home by Shannoh Kandoh. I walk in to the little apartment that he has for me. He shows me the shower that does not work and the toilet that only works when the electricity is on which is only about half of the time.
I have recently come from our build in Haiti where we built a beautiful little mini villa in two weeks. It has a bucket flush toilet that flushes with the botanically treated water from a delightful bucket shower with banana leaves draping over the bottle brick walls from the open sky. All this is powered using electricity from the sun to pump the flush water which was used to take a shower in the day before and is now stored in the botanical cell. This very simple system is not only a pleasant experience; but it always works. I imagine just what is possible here in Freetown... and all third world countries. It is time. Under developed countries have an opportunity to lead the heavy economy burdened developed countries into a new age. This situation could spawn a "shot heard round the world".
In Taos, New Mexico where we have developed the Earthship concept, we get about seven inches of total precipitation per year. We have developed a water harvesting system that uses the water four times and makes this pitiful amount of water sustain the Earthship homes we have built there. Freetown has something like three meters (ten feet) of rain fall per year. Yet they haul water in diesel trucks to almost every building and pump it up to plastic tanks on the roof tops to gravity feed down into the buildings. Just the Earthship water harvesting system alone could change the lives of these people. Every roof top could direct water into a cistern and there would be more than enough for each household. Water would never again have to be hauled. Showers would always work... but it doesn't end there.
All the buildings are without a functional sewage system. We could take the sewage (liquid waste) water and run it through our easily built botanical cells and contain and treat all sewage on the site of every building while producing flowers and food at the same time. We do this every day in New Mexico and most recently in Haiti. We could easily teach these methods and empower the locals to turn their sewage into beauty and food. This seems a bit better than raw sewage running in the streets and down to the sea. We are talking about a decentralized water/sewage treatment system for every building... for every home. We are not talking about a major conventional centralized water/sewage system funded by the World Bank for Freetown which has already been done and failed. We are talking about teaching the people how to do this themselves in their own buildings and changing the quality of life radically and on a cellular level with minimal funding. This would obviously minimize many of the health issues in a big way. We are talking about empowering people to take the rain and gravity and biology rather than World Bank funding and improve their quality of life themselves... but it doesn't end there.
COMFORT CONTROL WITHOUT FUEL
The climate is hot and muggy. Fans running all the time (when the diesel produced power is on) and people sweating. We can show them convection driven ventilation and thermal storage of cool temperature. All the buildings can be modified by installing insulation made from recycled materials and applying simple physics for convection air movement and adding thermal mass for temperature stabilization. This will reduce electrical energy needed for air movement and temperature control and provide free comfort for all the people of Freetown. The name "Freetown" takes on a whole new meaning... but it doesn't end there.
SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY
The diesel produced electricity of Freetown is only on half the time. When it is down many people use noisy and air polluting gasoline generators. The diesel produced "grid" energy is delivered in a marginal infra structure. This could be replaced with minimal solar and wind systems on each building. These systems are working in New Mexico at our headquarters every day. The people of Freetown are already used to having power only half the time. They are perfect for demonstrating the success of using less power from sun and wind but having it all the time via battery storage. The use of LED lighting and the need for less temperature control appliances due to more physics being used to bring the buildings into the comfort zone will further the reduction in power needs. We are now talking about power, water and sewage on a decentralize basis for all of Freetown... but it doesn't end there.
The sewage systems produce food and flowers. Food can be produced in and around every home simply as a result of living there and using the shower and toilet. The plants in the rubber lined botanical cells push out oxygen as they suck up the sewage water. This oxygen is what cleans up the water. The result, in addition to containing and using sewage on site, is rich growing soil for food production. The production of food in and around the home can reduce money and fuel used in the production and delivery of food for stores and markets in addition to creating lush automatic landscaping... but it doesn't end there.
RECYCLING OF GARBAGE
We stopped by a dump while driving home from the site for the school. We showed the dump owner pictures of plastic bottles used as bricks and glass bottles fabricated into beautiful stain glass walls.
We showed him tires pounded with earth for thermal and structural walls. We showed him card board and styrofoam bagged up and used for insulation. We showed him colored metal panels harvested from discarded refrigerators and ranges and washing machines used as roofing shingles. He saw a whole new commerce to his business of managing/burning waste. He and his small staff lit up and said they wanted to start separating these materials for us right now.
"Thank you Mr. Mike."
"We will see you soon?"
We envisioned the garbage in the streets of Freetown being cleaned up while producing building materials in the same movement... but it doesn't end there.
All new housing and buildings in Freetown could be built applying these very basic aspects of physics and biology. This would bring the quality of life of the people of Freetown up to the best in the world. We envisioned all the people, those happy people on the plane, having a better quality of life than most people in the developed world. This would be a life whose "insignificant economy" is supported by the secure sustenance of the people. Their sustenance would be secure because it uses all renewable phenomena and there is no middle man between them and their sustenance. It is simply the result of encounter with the unarguable phenomenon of the planet.
The sun is a reliable "unarguable" phenomenon. It cannot be bought or sold or corrupted. It shines on worms, bugs, white people, black people, plants. germans and jews. It does not discriminate. Without an understanding of its power it is relentless and ruthless but if it is understood it can be a large part of our sustenance. It will kill you if you are trapped in the desert with no cover for several days. It will save you in a freezing climate if you direct its rays into a shelter made of mass. It is up to the one who encounters the sun to understand how to encounter its unarguable power and benefit, not die, from it. This is the way of all earth phenomena. We understand... we whisper to them and we find sustenance free for the taking for all people. This is the knowledge of unarguable phenomena we need all people to have. This... so all people have everything for free all the time. They do not have to buy the sun. They encounter it. No longer is economy between us and sustenance.
In this scenario, all people are equal in their ability to encounter. This is taught and learned. No one can ever take this from you. The economy crashes, you still have the ability to encounter the unarguable phenomena for sustenance. They are always there.
They do not make promises they can't keep. They are transparent. They are true. You are the only variable factor of your own sustenance. All you need is the vessel to float and encounter in this world of sustenance for everyone. The Earthship is that vessel... earthship.com.
THE USING OF LESS IS THE MEANING OF MORE
LIFE IS EASIER - BURDEN TURNS TO BUOYANCY
Small (even minute) sources of energy become interesting when energy needs are minimal. This makes the acquisition cheaper and less impact on the quality of life and the planet.
We think of our energy demands and needs of the future and we wonder... "how we will provide them"? This need, this demand - like an addiction to cocaine - perverts us into thinking we must have nuclear power. This is selling out our planet, our future and even our present ability to exist in a healthy existence.
Only extremely mega sources of power are considered today in a world of extreme needs. What if we cut our needs in half? What if we cut our needs by 75%. This would all of the sudden make very subtle forms of energy look attractive.
We are crossing a bridge here. We weigh four hundred pounds and the bridge is only good for one hundred and seventy pounds. What is the answer here? Risk death by trying to cross the bridge with obviously too much weight... or loose weight?
The point is when we need radically less energy or food or whatever, lesser forms of energy and food will begin to look interesting. We won't be jumping to the conclusion that we need massive forms of dangerous energy like nuclear power. We won't be able to be convinced by those who play on our own addictions and excessive needs. A small wild straw berry in the forest is thrilling to a creature with a small stomach. To a giant creature with a huge stomach, it is hardly observed at all. This makes me want to reduce the size of my stomach.
I have heard the phrase... "who will feed China?" in the future. With less needs and encounter of unarguable phenomena... each individual in China will feed themselves. Each individual in Freetown could show the way.
THE INSIGNIFICANT ECONOMY
Native peoples and plants and animals have existed for many centuries and have not had a significant effect on the Earth’s ability to support humans. These creatures encountered earth phenomena for sustenance. They did not have an "economy". They did not have "garbage".
Modern developed humans have been around for only a couple of hundred years and already they have had serious adverse effects on the ability of this planet to support healthy human life. These modern developed humans have an economy. This economy has bred for them a thing called garbage. Are ECONOMY and GARBAGE the ingredients that have caused modern humans to adversely effect the Earth's ability to support healthy human life?
The modern world has a constantly ailing system to sustain a monstrous and oppressive economy and that economy is supposed to sustain the people... IT DOSEN'T!!
A greater world would have a system to sustain the people... and the sustenance of the people would sustain a more insignificant economy. Economy should not be a beast that... unless it is happy and balanced the people suffer. It should not be a beast that shits out mountains and mountains of garbage all over the earth. It should not be a beast that wars are fought just to feed it. It should be an insignificant aspect of an independently healthy and secure human existence. Economy is the result - not the means - of sustaining people.
Sustenance for people means provision of comfortable shelter, water, electricity, food and sanitation for every man, woman and child on the planet.
The modern world economy produces garbage on an insane level. A greater world based on sustenance for people would transform and consume garbage. Garbage is the result of economy. Sustain the people and you will transcend economy. Transcend economy and you will transform/eliminate the very concept of garbage. Transcend economy. Transform garbage. Have a life.
The key to "having a life" for all people is found in the sustenance for all people... not just some people, but all people.
The developed world has the sustenance of people dependent on the monstrous beast of economy that must be healthy before it can sustain people. It never is healthy so the sustenance of people is always in question. Drastic measures are constantly being taken to keep the economy happy but they never work. All ideas and evolutions are subject to the economy. No matter how well a new concept works for the people and/or the planet; if it is not "economical" it is discarded. The economy hinders the evolution of living methods on this planet in a time when evolution is the only way.
Developed countries have become locked in to systems that are clearly not working but if they are not used the economy will suffer which will result in the people suffering. Economy must not delineate the direction of our future. It must be the insignificant result of it.
Freetown has the chance to embark on a completely new concept of living on this earth. This is largely because, unlike cities in the developed countries, there is no existing major infrastructure in place here. Developed world infrastructures place a throat hold on the people by locking them into to technologies that were so time consuming and expensive to construct that they must be used for at least fifty years. This prescribes a fifty year increment of evolution which in these times will be fatal. We must evolve every day to keep up with climate change and dwindling resources. Decentralized, cellular individual approaches allow almost daily evolution. The expense and time to change or evolve one home or build a new one is much less than changing and evolving an entire nuclear power plant that took billions of dollars and many years to build. This is one of the penalties of centralized utilities.
The fact that there is nothing in place in Freetown is its ticket to a better way of life unavailable to the developed world because the developed world economy won't allow methods that do not support it first. The methods we are discussing for Freetown support the people first and allow constant evolution on a cellular individual basis. They provide evolving sustenance for the people first and the resulting economy that follows is reduced to an insignificant house pet rather than a controlling yet inadequate beast.
We fantasize about people understanding simple methods of acquiring utilities based on physics and biology that can provide them with a secure sustenance of life not subject to a middle man or a beast (an economy) that must be fed before them.
That is the fortunate nature of undeveloped countries. They are not yet developed in the wrong way so it is not too late to take a better path... a path that proves to be more difficult for developed countries already in the harness of massive centralized systems that torture the planets ability to support human life while they slowly collapse from their own weight.
In general, the developed countries have the illusion of sustenance provided by corporate and government economy based rhetoric that provides a stress filled living pattern that has become a deep rut almost impossible to get out of. This results in an inability to evolve and in most cases an inability to even see that evolution is necessary.
Japan is the most recent example. It has been reduced to a third world country since the nuclear incident resulting from the earthquake and tsunami. The only difference between Japan and Freetown, Sierra Leon now is that Japan is contaminated beyond the possibility of human existence and Freetown is just wading in sewage. I choose the sewage. Simple biology can remedy this. Not much can be done to remedy radiation pollution in Japan.
Japan, like every other developed country, has become dependent on developed world economy based utility systems. These systems are based on a healthy economy first and a quality of life for people second. It will be hard to go instantly from abundant mega energy to logical minimal energy. Their living methods and buildings are not set up for this not to mention their mental/emotional needs after having mega energy for so long. The people of Sierra Leon have never been there. They are innocent, alive and ready to turn the sewage and garbage of an inadequate attempt at developed world living in to a paradise of nature based balance and sustenance simply not possible for developed world peoples.
The radioactive contamination of the Japanese lands is a result of a phycological contamination of all developed world countries. This phycological contamination prevents the very thought of a more earth based method of living... a method of living that provides a lasting secure sustenance for people from which an insignificant economy can emerge. Sierra Leon can look at the developed world and say...
"Let us go another way".
The momentum of a wrong direction is a new phenomena all over this planet. To escape the inertia of this momentum is now the primary concern (though they do not know it) of all developed world peoples. You just do not see the need for viagra, stool softeners, anti depressants and anti aging drugs in a third world country. These are the "gifts" of the pharmaceutical companies who are the pimps of the economic troll that prevails over the developed world. This clearly illustrates, along with the developed world's obvious climate and environment disasters that the undeveloped countries are the lucky ones. They are the ones who have been spared the irreversible and fatal illusion of happiness of the developed world insanity. They have done without enough that their needs are small and manageable. Physics and biology can easily provide for these minuscule needs. The result will be a decentralized, individual empowering sustenance that will lead to health and happiness and the evolution of humanity to a level only dreamed about in the developed world.
Back in London after my time in Sierra Leon. Developed world feels pretty good. We have to try and make it more sustainable before it crashes and throws us all back to the dark ages. It will be so easy
to plan now for a sustainable future for all before it is too late. Freetown can be the demo city for a greater world.