Redesigning RESPECT! 1976's Winona: Towards An Energy Conserving Community

I used to love strolling though the stacks of the Alcuin Library in Collegeville, Minnesota.  Though uncomfortably modern, the massive building housed a world-renowned collection of ancient manuscripts.  It's brutally minimalist architecture demanded respect.

As I fished for knowledge, it always floored me how painfully irrelevant or misleading the majority of books seemed.  A minority of books caught my eye, a select few proved captivating, and the occasional gem would boost my faith in humanity.

The Alcuin Library basement is an underground bomb shelter of smooth grey concrete lined with endless stacks of ancient books.  Well, ancient by my standards, anyway... and spanning the spectrum of topics which had been banished to "The Dungeon".  Most of the books down there were nonsensical, incomprehensible, or worse, but The Dungeon also yielded  the sweetest fruits.  That's where I discovered Thoreau's Journal, Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti, and the under-appreciated works of Kurt Vonnegut.

I'll never forget finding one of the greatest books I discovered in college.  It jumped out at me from the discard stack, so I bought it for a quarter.  The soft cover, coffee-table-sized book caught my eye because my hometown's name graced it's cover.  WINONA: Towards an Energy Conserving Community.

The book is the product of a year's work (1974-75) by the Energy Design Studio at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture.  A group of graduate students under the guidance of visionary architect Dennis R. Holloway modeled the transition of Winona, MN towards sustainability.  It was written in response to the energy issues America was facing at the time due to US domestic oil production decline after it's 1970 peak and unpredictable oil prices due to the mid-70s' OPEC oil embargo.  

In Winona: Towards An Energy Conserving Community they laid out the blueprint, timeline, and motivation for turning my hometown of 30,000 people into a self-sustaining, re-localized community.  All the particulars of Peak Oil were explained lucidly.  The integrated solutions we needed to transition towards sustainability were showcased thoroughly.  Basically, everything we should have started doing 25 years ago was laid out in great detail in that 35 year old book.

This visionary work by University of Minnesota architecture students would have been so inspiring to read in the year of my birth, 1981.  When I stumbled across it in 2004 it spoke more of humanity's greed, foolishness, and capacity to deny the obvious.  Though so simple a child could understand it, this book was apparently so ahead of it's time that even now most people haven't awakened to it's truths.

The collective consciousness has been so thoroughly raped by misinformation, distraction, and spin that obvious solutions to obvious problems meet near universal resistance.  Humanity seems bent on doing things the hard way.  Let's change that.

Here's a good place to start... even if we are 35 years late to the Appropriate Technologists' Party.

More pages of Winona: Towards an Energy Conserving Community are available here.

Note the graph of Peak Fossil Fuel Usage behind these guys hand-stenciling letters on a display back in the mid-70s'.  We got the point then, so why can't we admit it again now?

And remember: always check the discard pile.  How's that old saying go?  Oh yeah...


World's Largest Beer-a-mid? Nah, Just a Tombstone for the Oil Age: Christo's Mastaba

Proposed Mastaba: 500 foot tall stack of empty oil barrels.

Constructed of 410,000 stainless steel 55-gallon drums. 
Over the centuries, humanity has erected monuments to commemorate our achievements, atrocities, the passing of colossal egos, and other historical shit.

As the Oil Age skids to a halt, we should consider what to leave behind as testament to our era "in the driver's seat".

What defines us?

What will be our legacy?

How best do we sum up humanity's wild ride fueled by cheap, liquid energy?

Alcohol fuels our social lives just as Oil has fueled the last decades of technological progress, economic growth, resource warfare, and spiritual regression.

Nothing seems more fitting than a gigantic stack of empties.  The party's over.

Just as a beer-a-mid memorializes a big weekend of drinkin', a gigantic pyramid constructed of oil drums would let future generations know exactly what went down when the monkeys got into Mama Earth's liquor cabinet.

But pyramids have already been done, and are so Egyptian.  A "mastaba" (arabic for bench) would be unique and much easier to build since it's really just a gigantic stack of tipped-over oil barrels.

Back in the late 70s' the artist Christo unveiled plans for this gigantic Mastaba to be built in the United Arab Emirates.

Christo calls the proposed Mastaba "a work of art whose only purpose is to be itself", so I'm sure he won't mind if the rest of us attach our own meanings.

I see a tasteful tombstone for one of the most foolish and short-sighted cultures in history.

I sincerely hope this thing gets built.

Once the oil is gone, what else are we going to do with all those empty barrels?

I guess we could recycle them to save future generations a few bucks, but who really cares about the future at all anymore?

Also, by current standards 410k barrels of oil  isn't very much.

When global oil production peaked in 2006, humanity pissed through 85.6 MILLION barrels of oil PER DAY.  A mere one day's supply would fill ~210 of Christo's Mastabas.

Over the last 10 years humanity has burned through enough oil to fill ~720,000 Mastabas this gigantic.  Just how big, you ask?

• Bigger than the largest pyramid in Giza, Egypt.

• 150 meters (492 feet) high. 
• 225 meters (738 feet) deep.
• 300 meters (984 feet) wide.

Try to wrap your head around the total volume of that structure.

Surely it's enough space to rival the total volume of the largest stadiums on the planet.

Imagine the biggest stadium you've ever been to.

Now imagine 200 of those stadiums side by side.

Now imagine those 200 stadiums are all filled to the brim with oil.

That's what it takes to keep the global economy rolling along for just One. More. Day.

Most of that oil is burned wastefully in non-essential applications.  All that carbon floats off into the atmosphere as carcinogens and greenhouse gases.

The Oil Age is not sustainable.

The Oil Age is in it's death throes.

If we kill it willfully and mark it's grave well, perhaps some of our foolishness will pass away with it.

More Info on Christo's Mastaba... let's get the fucker built.


Lay Off The Sauce and Spread Truth For Our Childrens' Sake

Imagine if back around 2005, Whistleblowing Revolutionaries forced George Bush to go on TV and say something like this:

"My fellow Americans, we are invading Iraq because we need more oil.

Our Nation's economy is entirely dependent upon cheap oil.  The fortunes of my constituency are also very, ha, heavily invested.

Increasing global demand coupled with global supply limitations makes this an unfortunate and inconvenient truth from here on out.

We Americans must work together to decrease our dependence on all oil, rebuild our economy utilizing unprecedented innovation, and continue leading the world forward in the new millenium.

But yeah, for right now, we're stuck in the role of global aggressor because of our ongoing failures to innovate, regulate, and above all else, our collective unwillingness to contemplate cooperatively."

But that speech was never given because leadership wasn't being held accountable by the 4th Pillar of Government: THE FREE PRESS.  

Our corrupt political establishment is annoyingly butt hurt by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  Loonies like Palin have gone so far as to label WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, as if Truth, Transparency, andTrust  somehow threaten actual democracy.

We, the People, are expected to believe that our government's ability to operate in total secrecy is crucial to our safety and well-being.  It sounds reasonable at first glance, but a little analysis proves that shady and dis-informed democracy is dangerous.  Recent history abounds with examples of governance gone horribly wrong because secrecy ruled the day.

Back in early 2001 -- just two weeks into his sketchily "elected" presidency -- George Bush created a secretive Energy Task Force.  VP Dick Cheney met privately over 40 times with Big Dogs from oil companies and corporate scheisters of Energy like the pension-stealing Ken Lay of ENRON.

Released Doc from Cheney's Energy Task Force 
Cheney and Company refused to comment publicly about what they were discussing, and after years of legal wrangling the topics are still shrouded in secrecy.  We do know, however, that they discussed oil, Iraqi oil, and impending global Peak Oil Production.

A few months later the Twin Towers fell, and the stage was set to invade Iraq under the false pretense of Operation "Iraqi Freedom".

If an organization like WikiLeaks had existed then, maybe the fraud of Bush's election would have been fully exposed to the Mainstream.

Maybe the secret agenda of that oil-thirsty, corporate-bought administration would have been obvious from the get go.

Maybe most Americans would have realized that we were invading Iraq and Afghanistan chiefly to secure another decade of cheap oil.

Maybe many Americans, armed with the Truth regarding WTF was actually going on, would have realized the seriousness of Peak Oil a decade earlier and started implementing pro-active innovations to prepare Our Nation for the Post-Peak Oil World.  Maybe more Americans would have realized that our only long-term salvation came by way of drastically different values, a selective shakedown, and massive investments in EDUCATION and (implemented) INNOVATION.

Had an organization like WikiLeaks existed, we'd have known just what Bush and Cheney were up to.  Then, perhaps, more Americans would have realized that our only long-term salvation came in drastically different values, a selective shakedown, and massive investments in EDUCATION and IMPLEMENTED INNOVATION.

But that never happened either.

So here America stands: heavily medicated, blackout drunk on oil, completely scatterbrained, and right on the verge of chaos.

What would it take to push us over the edge?  The loss of FREE SPEECH and OPEN COMMUNICATION NETWORKS would certainly do it.

Don't Fuck with Our Internet.