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Lovolution Around the Sun
by Doctress Neutopia
A commentary on Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, (2006, Bexley, Ohio, 84 pp.)
Earth Day 2006
Dr. Andrew Weil was the keynote speaker at Tucson, Arizona’s 2006 Earth Day festival. At the end of his speech, he shocked the audience when he said that his generation made a big mistake when they rejected the use of nuclear power. He said he got great personal satisfaction from growing crops on his land that he then uses to fuel his biodiesel car. But, he said, traveling around the world he has seen the world’s energy needs and he felt that biofuel wasn’t the answer for our long-term energy needs. Nuclear power could provide safe, clean energy we need without destroying the biosphere.
Apparently, he is not a lone environmentalist who supports “atoms for peace.” One of the Greenpeace founders, Patrick Moore, wrote an article in the Washington Post about how he was wrong about the dangers of nuclear power and now he has come to realize the necessity of using it in combination with other alternative energies.
As far as the question of the dangers of nuclear wastes, Moore felt that used fuel could be recycled, greatly reducing the amount of waste that would need to be treated and disposed of in a facility such as Yucca Mountain. The Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) counter this argument by saying that building new reactors would mean building Yucca Mountain style dump sites every four years, an impractical task. More wastes means more radioactive material being transported on our highways and railroads which means more chance for “error or terror.”
As far as terrorism, he said that all technology since the invention of fire could be used for good or evil. But, for him, it is better to live with the dangers of nuclear power than live on a planet whose atmosphere has been destroyed by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal. He cites the Clean Air Council’s report that coal is “responsible for 64% of sulfur dioxide emissions, 26% of nitrous oxides and 33% of mercury emissions.”
But the anti-nuclear folks say that we would need 300 new nuke plants in the United States to make any impact to halt the climate change gases. Since they cost around $4 billion or more to build and seven or more years to complete, they will not offset the climate changing factors quickly enough to make a difference. Moore implies that coal is the major factor in releasing global warming gases whereas NIRS says it is fossil-fueled vehicles — not electricity — which is the major cause of the problem.
In a radio interview, Moore mentioned that other noted environmentalists like James Lovelock also support the use of nuclear power. At a dinner during a conference on the Gaia Hypothesis at Oxford University, Lovelock revealed how he thought we should build nuclear power plants in deserted places like the Brazilian tropical rainforest. His statement didn’t surprise me because his hypothesis lacked a spiritual dimension.
For him, Gaia is a science, not a religion. But irrespective of spiritual context, what biologist in his right mind could think a place that is home to more than half of the world’s estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insects is deserted? And then, if there was a nuclear power accident, it wouldn’t matter if a deadly cloud of radioactive gases was released? Didn’t Lovelock know that “one-fifth of the world’s fresh water is in the Amazon Basin?” What would happen if that water was contaminated?
After Dr. Weil spoke there was no opportunity to debate his reasoning. He rushed off in his biodiesel car before anyone had a chance to catch up with him. When I later approached the editor of the Nuclear Resister, Felice Cohen-Joppa, about what she thought about his pro-nuke statement, her comment was, “How sad that he shows such a lack of imagination.”
Some people seem oblivious to the consequents of such environmental destruction, saying, “So what? We can always desalinate the sea by using nuclear power plants to energize the pumps.” And so urban sprawl continues growing out of control, sucking the rivers dry and using what seems to be limitless nuclear power for its mammoth energy needs. This vision of the world as it is, and continuing to grow in an unsustainable pattern of development, is destroying the world. To change our current energy and water use requires radical vision and action.
Our environmental collapse doesn’t just involve the physical dimension of the crisis, but a spiritual, moral, ethical and aesthetic dimension.
Our environmental collapse doesn’t just involve the physical dimension of the crisis, but a spiritual, moral, ethical and aesthetic dimension. How we treat nature is how we treat ourselves. If we exploit nature to extinction, we are exploiting the human species to extinction. The outer world is a reflection of our inner lives. Americans have become fat in unprecedented numbers because they carry with them a sick, gluttonous mentality. Not only are they addicted to oil, but to isolation, political corruption, and a permanent war economy that trains people for its dastardly deed at universities.
The rising of the seas from the ice caps melting, losing paradise islands in the Pacific, “dead zones” in the ocean, the increased severity of storms and droughts around the world are all caused by living in a destructive, chaotic pattern of development. To think beyond the crisis requires imagination.
We need to imagine big because our crisis is big. It is a global crisis. Not only are we in the midst of global warming, but global dimming. Pollution particles have created massive haze clouds that stunt the pan-evaporation rate, resulting in cooling off the planet.
Ironically, the three days after 9/11 when air flight travel was suspended over the United States and the air began clearing up from jet fuel exhaust, scientists discovered that when we clean up the atmosphere, global warming accelerates because the dust particles from the haze keep the temperature down. So, perhaps the terrorists actually did us a favor by stopping air traffic for three days because it showed us the complexity of global climate change and that the crisis is more serious than we once thought.
Finding a vision that will work for everyone on the planet is our greatest challenge.
Finding a vision that will work for everyone on the planet is our greatest challenge. It is a challenge to find a global utopia and then find the power to move us in an evolutionary direction.
So what is this new imagination that will save us from the “brink of ecological Apocalypse?” Harvey Wasserman, founder of the No Nukes movement, has written a charming book called Solartopia in which he describes life in his utopia. In his book, the tyranny of the past is known as King C.O.N.G—Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas. Wasserman writes, “CONG was an ungodly cabal of desert sheiks, corporate sharks, military madmen and religious fanatics. Together they coated the planet with a slick glaze of petrol-pollution.”
To solve the energy crisis brought forth by King CONG, Solartopians use a variety of technologies, which he terms the “Green Powered Trinity.” It is a society run by renewable energy primarily from the sun and from the indirect effects of sunlight such as windmills and hydroelectric dams. Energy crops such as hemp and switch grass are also used to energize his “brave renewable world.” Non-solar renewables such as geothermal energy and “lunar” (tidal) energy are also part of the green trinity.
In Wasserman’s utopia his narrator admits the fact that suburbs and automobiles were twin evils. He writes, “…most [suburbs] made Americans slaves to the car, in barren, isolated tracts that were deeply alienating and depressing. At war with nature and community, these endless, faceless tracts had no human or natural center.” Early in the new millennium, the “sprawlburbian bubble burst.” He visualizes the crisis; “car commuting became a financial impossibility. Urban mass transit could not be revived fast enough to reach the burbs.”
The task of the Solartopian era was to convert the sprawlburb into self-sustainable communities or to be decomposed.
The task of the Solartopian era was to convert the sprawlburb into self-sustainable communities or to be decomposed. To do this, Solartopians had to “face the waste” by developing a production policy of “zero tolerance for waste of any kind.” The narrator in Wasserman’s utopia states, “Today, nothing — nothing! — on Earth is manufactured that cannot be totally and entirely recycled or composted.”
Laws in Solartopia require every building to be a self-contained recycling center. Organic matter is used in parks and gardens inside the city, on rooftop gardens, and for farms just outside the city. Every city has a “high-power waste digester” making Solartopia into a post-pollution reality.
He describes New York City using decentralized solar collectors on rooftops and in window panes on every building, making buildings self-sufficient. But there also seems to be a national grid fed by renewable energies. Wasserman writes, “In the 1660s, when it was still New Amsterdam, Manhattan hosted North America’s first working windmill. Today, with a super-conducting electric grid and a nation devoted to bio-fuels and ultra-efficiency, the Solartopia dream has come to New York — a city that no longer sends its young to war in search of energy, and no longer fears attack from oil-funded terrorists.”
The heroes and heroines of the post-pollution world of Solartopia were engineers, architects, biologists and eco-entrepreneurs who led us to a new epoch through their “creative genius and political commitment.” But in his book, it isn’t the Americans who led this revolution.
Europeans who invested in wind power were the first to decommission their nukes and move in the direction of the “alchemical mix of hydrogen, bio-fuels and solar/wind powered electricity.” While Americans were busy fighting wars for the last remaining oil fields in the Middle East, Europeans developed a society of renewables that guaranteed their national prosperity. Wasserman writes, “So they engineered an economy around total recycling and a manic avoidance of inefficiency in all its costly incarnations.”
Wasserman explains how the driving force behind Solartopian Revolution was municipal-owned electrical power systems. Democracy itself created Solartopia by people demanding green power. Starting with voting in solar power bonds for $100 million dollars, a people’s force was politicized with the power to create a regime change. But voting in the Solartopian revolution wasn’t enough. People who wanted a green-powered democracy had to fight for it. “They used tactics never dreamed of, media they invented, levers of power they pulled out of nowhere, strategies that should never have worked.” In other words, they were creative. Wasserman lists the Four Green Horses of the anti-Apocalypse as: “community ownership, social justice, financial prosperity and ecological survival.”
Wasserman lists the Four Green Horses of the anti-Apocalypse as: “community ownership, social justice, financial prosperity and ecological survival.”
Wasserman says that “the jury is still out on whether we will survive global warming.” Solartopia was written about the year 2030, a time when the ice caps have melted and the weather patterns are chaotic. Species are still going extinct because of the decades of abuse from habitat loss and poisonous ecosystems they have had to endure. Radioactive emissions and petrol-pollution continue to plague the Earth. Wasserman writes, “Every day, we wake up trying to figure out how to do more. Every night, we wonder where another hidden time bomb from the rotting corpse of King CONG will blow away the progress we have made.”
A Solartopian Arcology
Wasserman’s Solartopia is not only a positive prediction of the future and a way to direct our thoughts about the injustices of the past, but he outlines a course of action for how we must bring about Solartopia. However, I want to challenge Wasserman to reach even deeper into the saving solar vision. What I mean by this is that even though he gives us a brilliant picture of a world of rooftop gardens and solar powered panels — ecocities — we still need a vision of entirely new city designs that are wired — or unwired — from scratch to run by the sun, pedestrian-centered with inter-city mag-lev trains so that cars are not necessary for transportation needs. Constructing cities for compact living would eliminate sprawl and inefficient waste as well as conserve water.
Since social justice is one of the four horses of the anti-Apocalypse, such a city needs to be designed at its core with the thought of creating a civilization based on human rights, redesigning a new social architecture that allows each and everyone the possibility of becoming a fully self-actualized human being.
LA and NYC, America’s archetypal megalopolises on either coast of the United States, are not 21st Century Cities, no matter how many solar panels are on rooftops or trolley systems hook them together. The foundations of these patriarchal “dinosaur cities” were not designed with the intention of fostering social equity, the essence of social justice.
To create such a solar civilization requires us to imagine an evolutionary city design …
To create such a solar civilization requires us to imagine an evolutionary city design, what architect Paolo Soleri calls arcology, the union of architecture and ecology. Perhaps there is another Green Trinity in the making: arcology, solar power, and global democracy.
Arcology, the evolution of the city, could be located in inhospitable environments such as underneath the ocean or in Outer Space. I see a time in the near future where solar power plants in Outer Space provide a world energy grid, envisioned by Buckminster Fuller in his book Critical Path, the necessary power to create a network of arcologies on Earth and beyond.
Explaining the world energy grid, Fuller said that windmills put in strategic locations throughout the planet could produce enough power for the world’s energy needs. However, the political catch to it is that it would only work if it was a grid that couldn’t be blocked by one nation state or another. It had to be a current running free and as global as the Internet.
One of the arguments made by Patrick Moore about why we need to use nuclear power is that wind and solar power are intermittent and unpredictable. He writes, “they simply can’t replace big baseload plants such as coal, nuclear, hydroelectric.” By using the sun as the nuclear power plant (that it is) and beaming the energy from solar power stations in Outer Space to Earth, it could give us a source of constant sunbeams that brings light to us 24/7.
If we rearrange the concept of using nuclear power on Earth to using the sun as a nuclear power plant at the center of the solar system, we don’t have to bother with what to do with the waste for thousands of years to come because nature will take care of it. Nor would we have to live with the fear that terrorists might get hold of bomb grade nuclear materials because they would be out of everyone’s reach.
In the future, I see solar-powered sails projecting starship arcologies into deep space. To thrust us beyond our present global energy crisis, propelling us towards a future as galactic time/space travelers, is going to take all the best minds of the world, not only in the sciences, but in the arts and humanities. In this vision, there is no room for nationalistic thinking. It takes world cooperation, transcending national borders and transforming our species into a universal human society.
To begin to acquire the funding needed to build the project, the US could transfer the $8 billion annual program allotted for the development of new nuclear weapons into research and development of an International Space Solar Power (SSP) plant, a “powersat.”
Phasing out the use of nuclear power on Earth and moving it into solar collectors in Outer Space would comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s guarantee of an “inalienable right” to “peaceful nuclear technology” which is the law that Iran is now using to justify its development of nuclear power. Since it is the “inalienable right” of all peoples of the world to be able to tap into the sun by using powersats, it would mean that no one owns the nuclear technology because everyone owns it. So a powersat would be municipally owned by the people of the world managed by a transnational organization.
To thrust us beyond our present global energy crisis…is going to take all the best minds of the world, not only in the sciences, but in the arts and humanities.
Collectively we must learn and learn quickly to think like a planet, to tap into our “planet code,” the consciousness of Gaia, to enact the cosmic blueprints of our species’ survival. Solartopia is definitely part of the code. The vision of a beautiful world is inside our DNA. It is also in the surf of every wave that hits the land at the edge of the sea. If we tap into this cosmic energy from the sun, a universe of stars will open up to us. We turn away from being on a globally-warmed slave corporate-state planet steaming with radioactive waste producing babies born without brains, toward evolving into a planet where freedom reigns with an energy that is “too cheap to meter.” Finally and forever we are free to build futuristic high-tech car-free arcologies of our finest dreams.
Where to start?
Like all big pictures, great ideas start in small ways. Wasserman’s narrator says that people have to use their imaginations and fight to get green energy instituted.
I recalled a time to him when I was a graduate student in Future Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. University administrators planned to build a solar engineering building to house their renowned solar engineering program. But during the Reaganomics years, the building plans were scrapped. Solar engineers who had come from around the world to study at the program were out in the streets with their inventions. How clear it is to me now that those of us who are part of this Solartopian vision have been under attack and oppressed by a vicious, war mongering, torturous culture that has no reverence for life.
It is one thing to stop the war in Iraq and bring the troops home as the peace movement demands, and it is another thing to convert the economy from a plutonium economy to a solar-powered economy—to end King CONG’s wars for good. Standing up for liberty and justice at home is a social revolution or what I call a “lovolution,” the collective action of love to revive common sense.
Can the youth of America make the link that to end foreign wars abroad requires them to demand solar panels be installed on roof tops at their state universities at home? Can they understand that in order to have a positive future they must insist that money that is going into the war machine move into research and development of a world energy grid using among its list of renewable energies — solar powered plants in Outer Space? Only then can clear and clean thinking resurrect campus dead zones that have resulted from the corporate, King CONG, takeover of American universities.
Solartopian organizers needed
This book review is calling for university organizers who have the vision and people talents to start Solartopian clubs on college campuses. Their purpose is to research the university’s energy plan. Once the control of King CONG is pinpointed, the group’s focus could be to organize protests until university campuses are converted into green energy, peace and lovolution zones. The first task of this transfer of power would be for the university’s mission statements to be rewritten to reflect their alliance with the International Sustainable Energy Agency. The agency’s ultimate goal would be to coordinate building a network of solar-power arcologies using Earth and Outer Space-based technologies.
So, for me, Wasserman has mastered the art of utopian literature. This is not a typical book review because true utopian fiction is a special kind of science fiction. Its purpose is to create political action guided by the ideas in the text. I hope this review will lead millions of people to want to acquire his book because there is power in vision. Once the vision becomes part of you, you are a changed person. You are turned on to the life force within. You understand that King CONG’s destructive forms of power are cancer, and you want to do everything in your power to heal us from centuries of ignorance. You see the need to bring King CONG’s corrupt politicians and corporate heads behind bars so that we are emancipated to sail light years ahead of now by erecting solar-powered arcologies of true love.
Doctress Neutopia (EdD, Future Studies, University of Massachusetts) worked at Arcosanti with architect Paolo Soleri. Currently she is producing a documentary on visionaries including Richard Register, Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Leonard Shlain.
[2 apr 07]