Imagine the Technological Possibilities!

Imagine if you could regulate heat loss and roof melting simply by switching from a flat roof to a roof covered in river rock, or a lightweight approximation of it. The insulating properties of the rock would keep the cold of the snow away from the roof, while the relative warmth of the snow would insulate the rock. Temperate change be gradual. What’s more, air flowing around the rounded forms of the rock would draw off the heat they give off while cooling under the effects of the snow, which would draw off the snow in channels, while allowing the insulating processes of snow and rock to continue. The rounded rocks are essential to make the process work. 

One Day After the Snow

Such a construction technique applied to even greater open spaces would allow for the gradual melting of snow, preventing sudden run-off events and allowing for a steady pumping of water through an environment. Notice how cheat grass uses thatch (below) to incubate seed in warmth, along a similar principle…

… while using the thatch to keep a warm layer of air next to the soil. By the time freezing happens, the soil will be drenched with melted snow. At that point, melting will add heat to the soil.

Three dimensional roofs with channels, that manipulate freezing and thawing processes to maintain steady states or gain an advantage on climate, that’s the way. Of course, you could farm like this, too. Then again, is that not the general form of Cascade, with an uneven surface generating warm valley floors?

The Big Bar Esker Against the Marble Range

And again?

My Grandfather Bruno Leipe and His Dog Pootzie Above the Similkameen, c. 1963

photo Hugo Redivo

In the case of the Similkameen, the warm valley floor is a sea of infilled river gravel in a deep glacial trench, which takes us back to where we began…

 

Cascadia is a dynamic land, isn’t it! By reducing run-off, and spreading out growing seasons, much of the work of industrial agricultural systems can be done at no cost, after original set-up. And we’re still talking about systems of depreciation and extraction, why?

Sustaining the Okanagan 14: Plant Tech

We exceeded the valley’s population carrying capacity 25 years ago. Our issue is water. You’d think it would limit human population expansion, but humans are socially clever and limit social access to water instead. To forestall an inevitable class revolution, it’s time to develop new water technology now. The plant world offers many examples of what can be done. All that is absent is the application of human cleverness to something other than social manipulation and IT. For example, the beautiful weed, Bladder Campion…P1180659

Silene latifolia

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Look at how the flower forms around an open chamber, with a spray of petals around its lips.

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This arrangement is not designed to capture water, but no matter. We have the technology to use this example to create water collection devices, which could stand inert until it rained, catch the rain, and store it by funnelling it from their petals into their bells. At that point, the water could be drawn down a hollow stem (tube) into a larger collection device, or when the level in each bell reached a certain weight the bell could tip, the water would pour out into a trough, which would then deliver it to a collection or distribution point. Alternately, little collectors like this (or banks of them) could be placed beside individual plants. They could collect rain, just as the plant, its root systems and the soil do, with this exception: when the water evaporated out of the soil with the sun that follows rain these little bladders could release more water, slowly, to make up for the loss. I’m sure devices could even be built that could be laid out as sheets, or which could be laid out in banks like solar panels. We have the technological intelligence, we have the manufacturing ability, we have a university, we have the thunderstorms, we have a great need, we have burgeoning social pressures, and we still have the possibility of a bright future. Bright futures are made. We would do well to get in focus.

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Living with Technology

When all the trees are gone, technology can fill the gap.

P1070468Mason Bee Nests in Plastic

Here’s a rainbird sprinkler, named after a robin, with a robin, that loves rain, using it as a perch as the rainbird extends the robin’s range by providing environment for invasive earthworms, which robins have learned to love, in the West Coast rainforest.

P1070457Cheep! Cheep!

Earth hasn’t given up yet.

Creativity, Technology, Art

Perhaps an image of creativity would be useful. Here is a vineyard at Hauterive, Switzerland. That’s Lac Neuchâtel in behind. The 21st Century term creativity here does not refer to the creative potential of the lake, or the creative energy flowing through the grape vines. Neither does it apply to the artful skill of the man or woman who pruned the vines, or the future skill of the winemaker who will help their fruit on their way to wine. Those are pre-21st century skills, and are not what is called creativity today.P1240407 In their place, creativity is a series of problem solving strategies that use technology to enforce codes of ownership, especially codes that eliminate communal energy or labour costs. These include: the spot-welded fence, a solution for quickly manufacturing a replacement for hand-woven willow hedges; the drip irrigation tubing, a solution for eliminating the need for community water systems and the adaptation of crops to landscape; close spacing of vines, a solution for concentrating minerals and sugars in grapes, on a per-acre basis, without costly inputs of stone walls to collect heat or the dispersal of animal manures; and upward training systems, to concentrate the fruit at one level, to allow for easy bird control, untrained labour, and rapid harvest. All of these are technological fixes for the replacement of human community, human artfulness (dignity in work and its use as extensions of human space), and human labour. Here are similar technologies applied in an orchard in Vernon, Canada:P2200483

The “problems” solved here are the exclusion of deer, who come for the growth these orchards replace, as well as the exclusion of people, to protect against aggressive insurance claims and to assert ownership; rapid productivity of the orchard, due to grafting onto ultra-dwarf rootstocks, enabling a rapid capital turnover and integration with marketing campaigns and the development of new apple varieties to build market without having to build quality or flavour within industrial packing and storage systems instead; the elimination of almost all labour costs; efficient saturation of chemical sprays; maximum light exposure. Again, they are all technological solutions, are all called creative, all manipulate relationships to the land by simplifying ecosystems (and creating technological dependencies, a kind of drug culture, as their foundations) and all eliminate common space, artfulness and labour. That is the observation for today: creativity is no longer art. Does it follow that art is no longer creative?

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Is it not the recombination of previous technologies into narratives of assembly and disassembly? Are not these narratives called arrangements? Does that not say that the role of human actors in contemporary creativity is to arrange technologies into narratives? Fine for novelists, maybe, but what about poets? If they’re not creative, what on earth are they doing? This man wonders…

journalist

This is not a poet. This is a German historian and journalist on the Kaiserstuhl, who is trying to figure out what the poet behind the lens sees. So is the poet!

~

More on that tomorrow!

Beauty, Art and the Self

Beautiful, isn’t it.
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This, too.
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Note the patterning in this kind of thing.

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Sure, it was carefully framed, but oh so many frames were possible.

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They all have pattern.

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They’re all beautiful.

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The patterning is the gift of human observation. In order for there to be thought separate from the world, the kind of sensory connectivity shown in the images above must be separated from the world. It must have an observer and a thing observed. It’s a game, designed for certain ends. To achieve them, the actual connections between the two, that unite them into presence, must be given a name, separate from the moment of presence, or the separation cannot take place. This word is ‘beauty’. Just up from the water, for instance, separated from it by the frame of contemplation, is a rich community of water plants that have adapted to living in air …

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… and just up from them, a bearberry plant that is living in the heat gathered by a boulder left by glaciers, like the ones in the pond above.
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It is the same moment. It can be studied, contemplated and used to further many ends, including human security and culture. The great discovery of scientific thought, a form of book culture, is that this unity can be divided into pages, which can be studied one at a time, as if they were words, discrete and without connection to others, yet look how the carpet on the soil adapts to minute changes in circumstance and light, such as in the image below, beneath a fire pine taken down by beetles.

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Those subtle changes and continuities are part of human presence. By people who have learned to inhabit a tool called the self, a kind of cognitive freeze-frame camera, they are beauty, an enjoyable aesthetic frame that pleasurably satisfies an ancestral, genetic self. Yet it is the world. Look how it changes, as recorded by the image below. Note that these are not discrete moments, as the photographs suggest. They are connected. They are a flow of energy. You know how to read them. This capacity is called beauty. It is a profound order, an inhabitation of order, a being, a being there, here:

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A camera is a tool that can create the separation required to sever this human connection, so that the remaining physical or cognitive material can be used to create a secondary, virtual world more suitable for severed selves to inhabit. The camera can be used for other purposes, but it is a constant battle to do so. The machine freezes time and uses that moment of freezing to recreate ghosts of bodily presence. That’s what it’s for. Take a look at this sequence. It is three views from one kayak at one moment in September, looking to the north, to the east, and to the west, all within about a second or two.

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Such descriptions of time are meaningless in the moment, but are of great use to the self that is a book. Just a moment away, the forces of energy and matter and time that those photographs render into images, look like this:

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It is the same moment, but extended differently into spiritual space. This, too, up on the shore.

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Presence would be better served by a term other than beauty, because that term does not differentiate between the book self and the human capacity to be present in a continuum. To the book self, the continuum is meaningless, and can only be intuited by yet more divided knowledge. To presence, the divided knowledge is a machine, a device, a tool, and not identity. The need for better differentiation is clear. The word that keeps getting in the way is “creativity.” This, for instance, is not a creative photograph:

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Nor is this:

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To be creative, it must serve the expansion of the virtual self and the replacement of the world of presence, and the infinitely gradated ability of the human body to read and extend that presence, through the combination of pre-existing elements. This would be creative:
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Those are beautiful things. They represent the colonization of the world of the self by the world of presence, its humanization, shall we say. It is another representation of the ability of the human body to find spirit, wherever it may be found, and in whatever form its presence may take. We should be very clear about the differences and similarities between that and this eagle (below.)
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The world, and other people within it, have become prey. It need not be so. Ah, here you are at last.

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The Technological Applications of New Scientific Thinking

I promised I would talk about practical applications for science based on observing the world in its own language. (This is commonly called phenomenological science, but I’m trying to find a simpler expression for that.) Better just to jump right in! OK, so here’s my wasp and her grub.

P1490820There are a bunch of different ways of thinking about her.

1. We could talk about the wasp laying her eggs in the living grub, so it can incubate her eggs and then provide food for her larvae. This is an evolutionary strategy. Discussions of this kind of science have so far lead to methods of using wasps for pest control.

2. We could talk about how the wasp is doing on a multicellular level what cancer does on a cellular level. This is an ecological strategy. It means a couple things. First, that the wasp has randomly found a successful approach that allows it to survive across generations by using surrogates. Second, that it is even possible to consider higher orders of life operating as cancers. Discussions of the latter kind of science will lead to technologies that use living hosts to transmit genetic material across boundaries that would otherwise destroy it. For the wasp it is winter. For humans, it is what we can imagine. Travel to Mars, perhaps. Deep sea travel. Who knows. Currently, such technology is most prevalent in cancer treatment and in computer virus transmission. Pretty aggressive military stuff. Note that the wasp does not have a military strategy. There are alternate technologies within that.

3. We could talk about the wasp as a wasp. It lifts this grub, with intent, and moves it through gargantuan expenditures of energy. To the wasp, this is not a grub. It is a reproductive chamber. It is its self and all its future. A human mother might look at a house in much the same way. The existence of a creature with this degree of intent, with, as well, a tiny nervous system and brain, should be enough to challenge human notions of identity and superiority. If the wasp can do all this with a tiny nervous system, what is our huge nervous system for? Variability? Potentiality? Is each of us all the wasps in the world?

And here I should stop, because it’s obvious what’s going on: in each case, technological application are easily applicable, yet they are always on the order of observing a behaviour, abstracting principles from it, and applying them to new circumstances, in machine-type ways. However, the wasp is just a wasp. The technology should be applicable in a wasp-fashion, or even in a human fashion, without resorting to technology. That’s just a language (and a powerful one at that.) What if there were a different language? What if we stopped thinking about the wasp and evolution and all that jazz? What if we looked at where she lives?

P1490841Kinnikinnik

The forest boundary berry of the Northwest. (Here, it’s growing on a lakeshore.)

Now we have three players: wasp, grub and kinnikinnic. Might as well throw in the stump, too. And the carpenter ants (no doubt) within it. And the grubs tunnelling (no doubt) under its bark. And the bear who comes by every few years, maybe, to shred the stump looking for them. If we think of them all together, then there is no evolutionary strategy, on behalf of the wasp, but, rather, a balance strategy. There are threads of energy in this environment. Evolutionary science reads them as competitive pressures, leading to temporary balances. What if they were balances, which led to temporary competitive pressures? Such an approach to science would lead to different medical technologies, one which included the artistry of its practioners. What if there were no individual species present here, but, rather, a constellation of species, that might be differently constituted elsewhere? Would not balance provide the stories, then, rather than evolution? Might it not lead to technologies which included points of balance? Usually, such technologies are called religions, but what if devices could be made that, in accordance with human input, could deliver individual results, depending on what a person needed? Would this technology be a kind of amulet? Yes, I think so, and I think this would, again, commonly be defined as a religion. Might it, not, however, be a form of psychology? Might the way forward for psychological science be not ESP and other measurable (or not) effects on matter, but on its ability to change the observer, so that he or she observed different material and thus had before himself or herself a different set of possibilities? Why not. Just a metre away from our wasp and her grub are the tiny fish among these stones, and the algae growing on them.

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Yes, there are fish. Look again, if you missed them. 

Lake and shore. Two different environments… or is that just a human bias? What if they are one, and the force that creates the wasp creates these young trout? What is their balance point? What is their surrogate, if they have one? The technology that comes out of such questions will lead to a healthy planet. We really do have to choose. Technology can be a set of mechanical tools. It can also be a set of energies. Those energies are not limited to the exchange of electrons to transfer electrical signals to effect certain results. What if the earth were your brain? What if its most important work were to stop action rather than to create it? That’s not a suggestion to stop action, by the way, but to transfer it into balance. This is why the scientist-poet Goethe said we should stop listening to Newton. That was 200 years ago. I think it’s about time. What are the technologies? I don’t know, but I promise, they are as large as the set created by Newtonian science. Some already exist. I’ll walk about some of those in my next post. Thanks for swimming with the fish with me!

 

 

The Great Tractor Show

In November, the poet Howard Brown and I are giving a show about tractors. He has the long poem. I have gallery walls. Somehow we’ll make this work. We’ve been taking photos. It has been haunting. Two farm boys at the end of the world of farming, suddenly seeing what we just saw before as work.P1410917 Here’s Howard, deep in thought and memory.P1410017So many guys out there, trying to find the shape of their bodies in time. There are no words for it… except for Howard’s maybe. Got any tractor stories? Any tractor photos? Send them along! Look at this old John Deere go, right in traffic!

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Amazing. Machines built on a human scale, as if they were tools. They were. Like I said, amazing.

 

Natural Lenses

 

The human eye is a lens. It is a just one among many adaptations of the energy fields of water molecules. Water lenses abound on this planet.P1160303

Cat Tail and Water

Lensmakers to the Sun. Look how the sun is focussed down like a laser. This effect is only observable in the weeks before the winter solstice, but is worth jumping up and heading out for when the clouds lift for an hour.

Sometimes lenses focus inwardly…

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Sagebrush and Lens for … Sagebrush

Water lenses have the capacity to change the size of the world, in relationship to the viewer’s point of view and his or her subtle relationship to the sun. I mean, the sun might be 150,000,000 kilometres from the earth, but moving a centimetre at this end of the relationship makes all the difference.

Here’s an example of this capacity of water lenses, put to commendable use…

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Starling, Keeping Its Water Drop on Me

In the science of the things of this world, things are what they are and are built up out of physical relationships over time, in which the current state of things is a representation of the refinement of older relationships. Tomorrow, I’ll show you the story of plants, discovered by the poet Goethe. Today, I’ll leave you with the cat tails, that Aboriginal peoples around these parts turned into basket and housing technologies…

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Baskets and Roofs and …

… it’s up to us to make new technologies.

That’s the trick on this planet: to see things that are on this planet and to make them, as water would, into things that are of this planet. In this context, making everything out of oil is to make everything out of dead plants compressed under the earth. It is to skip most of the history of life on earth and to make things out of death. Why, when one could live on the earth instead?

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Water, Offering