Solar Power and Social Power

Solar power looks like this …twoonyellow Hydroelectric power looks like this …

P1140185Magpie Hill, Bella Vista Road, Vernon

Got that? Life looks like this …

lovelyflyHarvesting a Solar Conversion Machine

Death looks like this …

p1140316Cigarette Wrapper Warning Label, Orchard Hill Road, Vernon

“Risk of Blindness”

Here is a social world that includes the living creatures of the planet as part of the human family …

P1130450Grasshopper, Seen by Artfully Moving the Human Point of View

The stone, lying on the surface of an old moraine, is an important well of solar energy during the cool grassland nights.

Here is a social world consumed with inter human issues …

P1140184Magpie Hill

Anything that ventures on the road gets squished. Note that there isn’t even a space for a human to walk. This road is only for cars.

Both types of human social organization, energy use and power distribution are human. This is human:

P1130619Wild Currants, Bella Vista

This is human:

P1130479Arrow-leafed Balsam Root Seedhead

This is human:


Mule Deer Doe, The Rise, Vernon

This is human:


Mark, You Dropped Something! Magpie Hill

Lack of respect for the earth is lack of respect for oneself. Treating the earth as a dead place creates the earth as a dead place.


Water in Prison, Bella Vista Road

Art and Beauty are not innocent.

All landscapes are ethical spaces.

P1140188Abandoned Orchards, Bella Vista

This is an ethical conversation.

Blessed be.

For the first time ever, Okanagan Okanogan will be taking a break. I’m off to the Palouse, Father Pandosy’s first mission on Ahtanum Creek, Dry Falls and the Sinlahekin — all in Eastern Washington. I hope to bring you back treasures.

Mapping the Formation of the Solar System, Now

In honour of my 500th post in this exploration…

P1130885The Okanagan Okanagan Nuclear Reactor at 500!

With a nuclear engineer, even! Hurrah!

…I’d like to ask a question of the ideal university. It is a question about water and soil atmospheres. Before I do so, let me briefly sketch out the story of water here in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

P1100448What the Okanagan Looks Like Without Bunchgrass

(But with tractors.)

This story starts with the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, which lie to the west of the valley. As it interrupts the flow of the atmosphere caused by the rotation of the earth, this volcanic arc acts like an aircraft wing. To the West, it forces wet Pacific Ocean air to shed moisture as it is depressurized in its climb over the mountains. To the East, such as in the image below …P1130811

Okanagan Landing, British Columbia

… it creates a depressurized zone, which loses water to the air as the atmospheric winds descend to greater and greater depths. The deeper the air falls, the more water it absorbs from the soil, without ever gaining in humidity. What it gains instead is heat.


Sagebrush, Queen of Heat

One clarification is necessary. Contrary to tourism brochures and brochures from water management branches of the government, It is not that the Okanagan Valley has no water, but that the water is pressurized within the air. For instance …


Water in Okanagan Landing

But most of it is in the air. Notice how it does not fall. Amazing! Don’t let the lake fool you, though. That’s 10,000 year old melted glacier, that is.

Here, maybe my early morning attempt at a graphic will help to illustrate the wing effect of the mountains, as they translate the energy of the wind into water balance.


A Simplified View of the Effect of Mountains on the Water Capacity of Atmospheric Winds in Western British Columbia

This whole process is powered by the formation of the solar system, during which the dust and gasses of exploded stars condensed under their own gravity, began to spin as their gravity bent their momentum, and just kept on spinning. The intriguing sense of balance, which gives a rainforest to the west of the Coast Mountains and a semi-desert to the east, is merely that original tension recreated in an atmospheric form. That brings me to the first question I would like to ask of the Ideal University:

1. Would a map of water in the grassland environments of Western North America viewed as an extension of the Big Bang help make more accurate water use plans?

OK. I have an answer to that one. Yes. Just what that would look like, though, is a task for the scientists and artist-scientists of the Ideal University. I am intrigued with the notion that this wing effect of the mountains, and the story of balance it tells, which extends deep into the earliest moments of the formation of the solar system, continues at finer and finer levels. For instance, above the soil of the Okanagan, available water decreases while heat increases. As a result, the air (and the heat of the sun, that represents its dryness) draws water up, out of the soil, while below the soil, gravity draws water down. The tension between upward and downward tending forces creates a continuous flat plane of water within the sloped hills, exactly like the lake in the valley bottom below.


Beneath the grass, this column of water is a cloud.

To the west of the mountains, where water is falling from the air abundantly, to form rain forests, this subsoil water is more like a river than any kind of a cloud.

Here, it’s kind of like this:

soil and air

There’s The Rotation of the Earth Again, in a Different Form

So, questions, right. Here goes:

1. Given that the grass that lies between the soil atmosphere and the air atmosphere embodies the same balanced tension as the wing of the Coast Mountains or the formation of the Solar System, what would a science that understood photosynthesis, and life itself, as an embodiment of the way the energy of water moves through these forces, look like?

2. Would that not mean that life takes on very specific earthly characteristics, because of the very particular nature of this planet and its very particular balancing of pressures?

3. Is not the structure of a plant leaf just another representation of these forces of balance? If so, what are the consequences of such an understanding?

Through rigorously working out such questions, art and science are united in the Ideal University. It’s not just the cloud of bunchgrasses that embody these processes. They work down to the molecular level. Here, here is a leaf:


Poplar Leaf, Gutted by a Leaf Miner

Note how there is a complex environment contained between the two surfaces of the leaf. In there, processes of pressure and energy exchange on a molecular level transform sunlight into solid form, which is the food for the plants, and for the leaf miners that eat them, and the birds that eat those, and so on.

And they work up to higher levels of organization, as you can see from these leaves:


Yellow Butterfly Drinking from the Mud Amongst the Young Yellow Dock

Well, not exactly from the leaves, but from the butterfly that takes a secondary characteristic of the leaves, their shape, and uses it to rise into the air, just as water does.

1. Are not humans, like you and I, not also part of this process of amplification?

2. Are we not also part of the Big Bang?

Ducks, too…

P1110028Big Bang Expressing Itself as Duck and Duckling, Pinaus Lake

Years ago, I had an insight that all views of landscape were ethical. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what that meant. It was almost purely a visual insight. I think I’m getting closer now, so, again, in celebration of (I can hardly believe it!) the 500th post into this deep ecological exploration, let me pose an ethical question.

1. In what way does the aversion of traditional technical science towards such explorations  constitute a denial of human rights for participation in the universe, free of the manipulations of social hierarchies?

2. Should not the human body be granted the dignity of belonging in the universe and being a part of it?

3. Does not the universe belong to us all, free of the distortions of individual human competition?

4. Does Darwinian selection only tell part of the story?

5. Is it not time to tell the rest?

Well, darn it, in the spirit of Okanagan Okanogan: Yes! I tell you (in case you haven’t guessed), I am excited about the contributions a combined artistic and technical science can make to the planet and its creatures. Thanks again for walking this path with me. I couldn’t have done it without your continued support.

The Ideal University

Yesterday, I started collecting questions I would ask of an ideal group of scientists and natural philosophers at an ideal university that merged art, science, philosophy and ethics into a unified field of enquiry.


Scotch Thistles, Quite at Home in the Ideal University

Even if the wind and rain have blown them over into a gravel pit. Notice the incredible balance of energies in their forms. That’s the energy of the universe you’re looking at.

Today, I’m continuing with those questions. They all have to do with the nature of the earth, as the third planet from the Sun, heavy with iron yet draped with water that has come from the edges of the solar system and is held here by gravity. It shouldn’t be here, but it is! On earth, the outer and inner realms of the solar system are united.


Sailboat, Sailing on a Comet One Hour Ago…

… in wind created by the gravity of the sun and the spinning earth. How cool is that?

This is not just a planet of water. Given that it’s a largely iron planet, sprinkled with water and surrounded with very corrosive oxygen, it is the planet of rust. Rust is fire.


The Earth, on Fire

Grass Demonstrating Its Nature as a Space Creature in Okanagan Landing. Note that life is fire as well. We are all burning up. In fact, we are this burning. How cool is that!

Yesterday, I provided images of grass gone to seed, with questions about light and the use of the human body as the most accurate of  devices for measuring its effects. In this, I’m following the poet-scientist Goethe’s remark that to use technical devices (and the dissections of logic that go along with them), as Newton did in his experiments on light and colour, is to produce the effects that devices (and dissection) can produce. The human body, he noted, is, however, the most accurate of measuring devices. To that, I might add that if that is so, what the human body measures is quite a different thing than that which devices measure. The potential within Goethe’s observation is as large as the universe and all of human interactions with it, especially when coupled with the equally powerful physical observations of technical science. And with that thought, let’s begin. Today, I’d like to look at gravity and water. Here they are, doing their thing:

P1130813Grass, Drawn up into the Sun? The Sun Drawn Down into the Earth?

Both at once. That’s the point.

So, questions:

1. If it were possible to use the human body as the most accurate of measuring devices, one which enabled scientific observation to be part of the observation, would it be possible to aid physicists in their work of looking to the edges of the universe and the very beginnings of matter, space and time by observing the earth closely?

2. If that were art, would that matter? I mean, if the observations were accurate and gave real insights into the nature of the universe? And if they were confirmable, by further study, using the precise logical tools of traditional science?

3. Would that not be an ideal university?

P1130797Hillside in the North Okanagan Valley: the New Classroom and Scientific Laboratory

It’s called a semi-arid region, yet there’s water within the soil.

Notice how in the above image the taught energies of earth’s gravity are primary, as they work themselves out according to the physical properties and resistances of various elements and processes, including the reactions of light on atmosphere and water in the very shape and nature of aerial creatures (that we call grass), which are anchored to the soil but not of it (and not made of it). The recognition of these shapes is what human tradition calls art. Ah, and then the questions.

1. What if it is not art? What if it is actually a precise measurement by a precise device?


More of that Precise Measurement

In the way in which the thistles respond to gravity and light, so responds as well the observing human eye — from within the moment, not from outside it.

This device might not only be the human eye and mind, and the ways in which it projects its image of the human body upon the earth and all things around it. It might also be a camera, and the manner in which a human can learn to use that camera and its predominantly human characteristics in an artful way. (“Artful” does not mean “art”, but an internalized process, incorporating a process or a tool into human self-awareness of space.) And so…

2. What is the relationship between the human observer, the observed world, and the human-styled device (which we call a camera), which the human observer reacts with artfully to extend its capabilities in entirely new, refined directions?

3. Is that not as precise as the most refined mathematics?

P1130644The Most Precise Mathematics

Thunderstorm on a Gravel Road, Bella Vista

Such meditations and observations lead me in philosophical directions. For one, ethics:

1. If technically-derived science (Newtonian science) denies the precise knowledge of the human observer in favour of logical and deconstructive knowledge, is it not denying the worth of human perception? Before we answer that, we might consider this:

2. Does the formation of the concept of art as a means of making a space for human perception and body knowledge (artfulness) outside of science further the development of human capability, or does it sideline it into directions which do not interfere with the trained, scientifically elite? Before we answer that, we might consider this:

3. Does that accord with society’s inherent or professed social goals? And:

4. Is a divergence from these goals, or a ranking of human knowledge that accords priority to one method of inquiry over others ethical?

wasp3The Patterning and Colouration of this Wasp is Not Called Art

Why then is human patterning and colour response, made in response to visual stimuli, called art, when it is as much of the world as this?

Does that not create a division between humans and the earth that the arts are then tasked to heal?



How is the Patterning of this Arrow-leafed Balsam Root Seedhead Different from the Patterning Observed by a Human Observer?

How can the arts heal a division that is artificially created, without denying the division?

Tomorrow, we will look again at water. I would like to talk about how the energies of the earth’s transit around the sun power the flow of water down through my grassland hills. 

P1130817Grass, Living Among the Stars

The Ethics of Science, Art and Light

Here’s some mullein blooming against a backdrop of grasses gone to seed. P1130568The seeds represent four months of light transformed into starches and stored in the seeds of the grass, which show up as bright light against the darker backdrop of the grass blades themselves.So, I have some questions about that:

1. Is light actually being frozen into shape here in complex carbon and hydrogen molecules?

2. Does that represent the nature of the earth, as opposed to the nature of the universe as a whole?

3. Are the human body and mind a sensitive tool for identifying these concentrations?

4. Can a mechanical or electronic tool be developed that would mimic this human process?

5. Could it do effective work?

6. Would it be worthwhile?

If so, it would be a combined engineering and aesthetic process, because this…


… is sure aesthetically pleasing. Again, questions:

1. Is beauty and aesthetic appreciation actually an accurate method of scientific measurement, as Goethe proposed 200 years ago?`

2. If so, what can it reveal that statistically-based, numerical science cannot?


If a human body is an accurate measurement device (so to speak) for the natural world, then the questions fly in rapidly:

1. What are the ethics of using mechanical or mathematical tools to measure the world instead?

2. What is the price that is paid? What is lost? What is gained?

3. Is that a price worth being paid?

4. What could be gained by integrating human measurement, through beauty, into scientific processes?

5. What would be lost?

6. What are the ethical dimensions of that choice?

Of course, there is another set of questions, of a very practical, procedural nature:


1. What are the aesthetic-scientific procedures best suited for these relationships between humans and the earth?

2. What part of scientific procedure do they adopt? What part of aesthetic procedure?

3. What kind of space and time do they create?

4. What kind of cities and human relationships come out of them?

And of course, the big question:


When can we start this exciting work?

The Biggest Mystery of All

Why yellow pollen?

white4sweatGreen Sweat Bee in the Chicory On Her Way Home

Why white pollen?


Wasp Bathing in White Chicory Pollen

No Yellow Pollen Cheating in the Mullein for Her

I just don’t know. For two weeks I have been working towards a list of really big questions, to lay out the outline for a new way of imagining the university. I’m thinking now that I can lay these questions out, a few each day, and build up a series of hypotheses and vital questions quite cleanly. I’m going to try that. But today, the really big question — “Why white pollen?”


Why yellow?


I dunno, but I think  the structure of the universe is explained by this.

Putting Questions in Place

Well over two hundred years ago, unified traditions of Western thought were recreated as philosophy (including science and mathematics), art (including literature, music, theatre and dance), and religion (including spirituality of all kinds,) all as diversions from nature. Accordingly, today the image below is viewed as an artistic intervention into natural space, in a manner in which art has taken over the former realm of religion and spirit and the natural space is defined by science.

P1130048Vancouver Island Folk Festival, Woodland Stage, Courtenay

I believe that this system of divisions no longer describes the world. What’s more, it means that the research and educational institution tasked with defining that new world, the university, has before it the chance for a kind of renewal that has not been possible since the 18th century. As I have walked the hills this past 22 months, moving through colonial, post-colonial and indigenous spaces, often all at the same time, I have found much beauty, many previously undescribed patterns, and many questions. Some of these questions are aesthetic, like this:

P1070709Is a Smokebush Beautiful to a Human Because it Shows the Mind its Own Neural Net?

Or is it because it shows the human body its arterial web?

Some of them are scientific, like this:

P1070708Why Do Smoke Bushes Have So Much Bloom and So Few Seeds?

Is it the way they are or is it our climate here? And why?

Some of them are philosophical, like this:

P1070137Is the Beauty of Lavender an Inherent Property of the Universe?

Or is it created by a human eye? Or by the technology of a camera? Do these questions have an ethical dimension?

I believe these are all important questions. In fact, I have thousands of questions like this. Tomorrow, I hope to begin a series of posts proposing areas of research that would benefit the growth and sustainability of the Okanagan Okanogan as a place, in all senses of that word, as a counter to contemporary philosophies grounded in a global sense of place. Both are important.


When is a Weed a Weed? When Isn’t It?

Scotch thistle is listed as a noxious weed. To whom?

P1120747Not to Western Swallowtails tattered by the wind.

P1120796Not to green sweat bees.


Not to bumblebees and Western Swallowtails at once. Maybe to ranchers grazing their cattle on old Syilx food gardens.




Slow Food: Robin Waiting for Dinner

This robin’s first brood were two such big louts that I think they burst their nest. Certainly, they fell to the ground, where she fed them for a week until they were big enough to flutter off and figure things out on their own. Part of their survival strategy was a glorious day spent learning to forage … for my strawberries. They ate every last one. So, now I know why I grew those things. This apricot, though, strategically swelling right above the robin’s new nest, looks about ready to be ripe just in time for her second clutch of eggs to hatch. I hope she’s saving it for herself.

P1120945American Robin and Her Apricot

Now I know why I pruned out the snag of branches in that place.