Sunday, October 26, 2003

Tapescript Journey 6 Part Two

Tapescript Journey 6 Part Two

My guide leads me through the woods, and I look up towards the treetops. The trees are high and mature, they must have been standing here a long time.

We come to a landing stage. We get into a canoe and paddle along what appears to be a canal.

To my left are wetlands that seem to stretch quite a way. As far as I can tell the wetlands are part of natural regulation of water levels and water purification. To the right, I see the perimeter of PORENA, with houses behind a screen of high reeds. Each house has a landing stage close by.

We turn into my guide’s house.

Screened by tall reeds, it looks idyllic.

“This is my favourite form of transport,” I say. “But what if it rains?”
“If it rains we wear rain clothes,” he replies.
That makes sense - ask a stupid question in this place and you get a straight sensible answer.

I see solar collectors on the roof, a nice balcony and a feeling of close to nature. It’s a very pleasant place.

Although they are close, you don’t see the neighbours because of the reeds and shrubs around the landing stage. We walk over the wooden patio, and I see he has food growing on the deck in large pots. We go in through glass doors. Inside it is comfortable, rather conventionally furnished. I especially like the breakfast bar overlooking the patio - to have breakfast and look out onto the canal and the wetlands seems a great way to start the day.

I suddenly start to think about shops and things, ”What about supplies?”
“Supplies come on a barge. And they come often.”
We walk out to the front of the house as a barge arrives. Soaps, toiletries etc, are available in small packs. I mused about that. Small packs mean you transport a lot of packaging per contents. On the other hand if you always have small quantities in concentrated form you transport less water.
My guide nods out towards the barge as it ties up at the jetty.End of Tapescript Journey 6 Part Two.
“I’m proud of the barge. Take whatever you want you need no money. We stopped money. Actually it was lot easier to stop money thank you might think. Just make everything free. And money is not needed, we just let it go.”

I think what might happen if one part of society stopped using money while others carried on using it… maybe the system could be abused. But I get no sensible answer.

“What about the rest of the world around you.”
“What about it?”

“There must be a pressure on you.”

“ You don’t need it, really.”

“And Jobs?”

“Well if you stop money you stop jobs as you stop ownership. Tricky, as ownership and money aren’t the same thing.

We had a credit system, and used it to redistribute resources. Everyone got a minimum credit. Those who got rid of their cars when changeover came had no problem.”

I ask: “Can you show me the rest of your apartment?”
My guest shows me through to the other side, which is rather different. This is the side that faces inwards towards the centre of PORENA. There is a wide-open space and then other dwellings. The space between the buildings looks familiar to me. These are the communal growing areas I saw in my previous journey. They make up some kind of circle inside this outer circle.

I see the houses curving round and I say aloud. “Of course this is radiality again.”
“Radiality?” My visitor says – “you know about that? I work as a radiality expert.
Well, it is about time we got together.”
“I need to know about radiality,” I say “I’m all ears.”

“There are several basic concepts of radiality. The first is the allusion to walled cities. Walls were built for defence, but they also work for temperature control. Cooler in summer by creating shade, and warmth in winter by keeping cold winds out and storing heat. We put solar collectors on the outside of our ‘wall’.

The city is made as a giant ring. The outside of the ring is residential and the inside for activities and inside is the park and water purification and biogas production area.”

I comment “It seems like a very simple design”.
“It is, but constructing it wasn’t.

We created the ring bit by bit, by removing roads and demolishing the existing buildings and replacing them with the radial design. We did it to reduce distances. You know, the idea of putting everything close to everything else.

“But how does that work in practice?” I ask. “I mean you need a transport system to make that work?”

“Not in this case, the buildings in the common activity part revolve. So you never have to travel anywhere. Stand still and it will come to you!”
“Hah!” I say, “now you are kidding me - revolving half a whole damn city you have to be joking!
You’re not joking. I see - but you’re right it’s ingenious. Wait, and where you want to go turns up.
But then the people in the building are moving. I never noticed it - why not?”
“Maybe you were not in that part.”
“Come to think of it I noticed all the corridors curved. The whole thing being built as a ring explains that. Wait a minute. If I get on that thing how do I get home as it turns away from where I live?”

My guest replies a straightforwardly to this as all the earlier questions:
“You either wait and your home will turn up or you take the train.”

“Don’t you get sick if it turns?”
“It doesn't run that fast - you hardly notice it.”

Struggling to take it all in I request more explanation. “I must say I’m having a hard time understanding this revolving thing, I hope you don’t mind me badgering you about it?

You can’t revolve a whole thing that fast. You can’t.”
“It revolves at 5 km/h”

Like when I was there. I didn’t notice.

“Oh not all of it moves, part of it moves.”

My guest draws diagrams and I ask and ask. If I were to summarise I guess it would go like this:
The area of common activity is a ring around the central area, of 10 km in internal diameter.

Inside the ring, raised on stilts, is a rather wide set of railway tracks upon which the rotating buildings rest. The roof is covered with solar cells that provide the main source of power to batteries and electric motors.

The speed is 5 km/h and it takes one day for the circle to revolve. The circle contains a long corridor. If you walk at 5 km in the direction of movement you travel relative to the ground at 10 km/h

In my first journeys I encountered trains so I ask how these fit in.

“You have seen different stages in the development of PORENA. And we always keep part of our development as a living textbook. As well, keeping old things going is often more environmentally sound than creating new ones as the energy investment is lower. We may find something better than the revolving ring, but we will try hard to preserve at least parts of it now that we have built it.”

End of Tapescript Journey 6 Part Two

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Verification Notes: Walking everywhere

According to an article in NEWSWEEK, October 6th 2003, recent research reveals suburbanites are walking less, and gaining weight. In fact the less dense housing is, the more likely people are to be overweight. Town planning is given as one of the causes as there is no “meaningful” places to walk to , like neighbourhood shops.
“We are building obesogenic environments,” says Dr Billie Giles-Corti of the School of Public Health at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

Some good news… Prince Charles is building an experimental town in Poundbury, designed to get people out of their cars.

Sound like the technique of RADIALITY, touched upon in an earlier visit would be useful. Unfortunately I did not go into the techniques very much. Something for a later trip.

End of Verification Notes Walking everywhere

Journey 6 part one

I need to change tactics. My search for technological solutions to ecologically sustainability turned up a surprise. In Porena, as I now call it, sustainability is based on culture, not technology. Technological inventions like the automobile, the radio, TV etc have all spread rapidly in our society. But in Porena it is ideas that have spread at that rate. How? That’s what I would like to explore here today.
Something tells me, to enjoy myself. I remember the message left for me in the central park on my first visit - enjoy yourself!
The Journey:
I’m looking at a tiled floor. I look up; I am in a waiting area. Some distance away I see glass doors and a London-type double-decker bus. As I approach I see PORENA on the front as its destination. Up on the top deck, a few people are already sitting waiting for departure. The street outside is wet from the drizzly rain that hits my face as a light spray as I go over to the bus. The road looks like a bottomless black river reflecting the streetlights through the darkness.

The bus leaves, turns a corner out onto a concreted dual carriageway.

“Fares please” I hear the conductor turn up. “I’m going to PORENA” I say, wondering how I will manage this as I have no money. No problem - the conductor just shakes his head slightly and moves off without saying anything. There is obviously no fare to PORENA. Why does that make sense?

Daylight comes, and the bus passes through gates opened in a high fence that is topped by barbed wire. The thought strikes me for the first time that a place like this may need to be separated from places which run on other principles.

The bus is now going along a dusty lane, through green countryside. Trees flank the lane and I see green fields either side of the road. In the distance I see what I presume I have come for, a city. The buildings reflect white in the sunlight which contrasts with the green hills behind.

We arrive at some kind of terminal building. I get out of the bus into the warm sunshine and go straight into a glassed hall similar to the one I left. I find the lift - my cream-coloured lift which has always there. Already now it looks like people are moving around one floor up. Again I get the impression the building is circular, and on stilts. I take the lift to the walkway above. I come up on the long corridor that seems to sweep around. Like the airport, I never really explored what was to the right so this time I walk past the cafeteria. They serve chips and mayonnaise, and the gift shop on the left. On the right I see the tail of a large aeroplane. Continuing, in the shop there are some books on display. I recognize the name of the author but can’t quite take in the significance of what I am reading.
A special stand for this author’s books contains titles like “Porena Classic” and “Porena Tales”. Special editions. I don’t want to look.

Ok this is a visit I can steer it. Not wanting to look into these books, and feely an eerie feeling for being closer to something than I would like, I carry on. The urge to drink coffee hits me. Coffee! - a good idea always enjoyable. Organically grown. I sit down and join someone at the table. I feel the need to talk to someone, just talk.

“Hi, I thought I would meet you here”
A guy in a checked shirt looks straight at me.

“I figured you would be needing some help by now.”
“Tell me about how you live your life,” I find myself saying.
Well today is like most days, I got up this morning, I live on the outskirts. There’s a lot of nice canoeing out there.
“Did you take the train?” I ask.
“ No.”
“ Did you come here to work?”
“ No. I was planning to meet you.”

“That’s great - you can help me out then? What do you suggest?” I reply.

Well, he said: “What do you want to know?”
My reply: “to know how you got rid of the cars.”

I know this is the big one. It’s not really the cars in themselves; it’s the need for individual transport that creates automobile traffic that creates environmental hazards.

“OK, let’s go and take a look.” He replies with a smile.
We go down to the ground again and under the building

I said, “This used to be a motorway, didn’t it?” I could see that when I first came. Is that true?”

“Yes it is, actually to show you this was part of my plan. Think of this as a study trip. Now, the roads were removed as part of making everything close to everything else. We gradually adapted the city along radiality principles.

I follow a circular path and then come out into a natural environment, trees, - a small wood.

“But how did you manage that?” I asked in amazement.
“Surely it is difficult to get consensus from everyone to do such a radical thing - I mean some of the buildings were probably in good shape?”
“Everyone was in agreement.” He explained there was no need for a lot of argument and debate about it.
I fumble to understand
“I can’t understand that. Everyone was in agreement. No I don’t believe what is going on here.”
He replies; “I know it’s difficult to follow, let me show you around.”

End of Journey 6 part 1

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Verification notes, Walking everywhere

Slì. Hope that’s the right expression, Irish. I’ve just been to Stockholm, Sweden, to cover a pump company. They have laid out (according to the Irish Slì) several walking trails about 10 km long. These are laid out in attractive parts of the city to encourage people to take long walks and preserve cardiac fitness.

I have not yet come across conscious use of design principles to enable people to walk, it seems that city planning more encourages use of the motor car.
End of verification notes, Walking everywhere.
Verification notes: Biogas and recycling of organic waste.

These methods are being tried today. Negative effects include bad smells polluting the neighbourhood.

The compost, produced a by-product of the process, shows unacceptable quality variations. Farmers reject it due to risks it might contain glass or metal shards that could harm cattle.

End of Verification notes, Biogas.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Reflections: Culture is the key to ecologically sustainable societies

The impulse from the last visit pointed to how young people will automatically learn to survive in the environment they grow up in.

By environment I guess you could mean


To me, all of these things spell culture.

Which brings me to my next observation…
To judge the sustainability of a society you need to analyse its culture.
OR to put it another way, sustainability, surviving on Earth, is a matter of CULTURE, not technology.

Evolution of culture is the key to survival, not technology in itself.
Neither is evolution of economic models based on market forces the key.

Factors to analyse would include
- The stress factors, and how much they promulgate footprint-increasing behaviour.
- The learning environment of children, in exposing them to natural systems.
- Value systems, emphasis placed on footprint reducing behaviour.
- Biosphere and technosphere separation.
- How the basic tenants of Porena Culture were spread.
- How the basic tenants came about.

It also means that technological developments will not drive sustainability alone. Woven into cultural development they will proliferate. does cultural development get driven towards sustainability?
Good question, and the object of future journeys.

End Reflections: Culture is the key to ecologically sustainable societies
Verification notes Journey 5


The Professor points out that the nervous system, or the learning capability, is an intrinsic part of man. As the youth reaches maturity, the ability to understand the natural cycles she is part of diminishes.

He said something about the functional efficiency of the epimyler.
My short research revealed that
- nerves are covered with myelin, a fatty sheath
- dysfunction of myelin is implicated in Autism and Parkinson’s disease
- there is little reference to what is outside (epi) the myelin

Some other research turned up a combination of computers and Bushmen knowledge. Scientists have given Bushmen somewhere in Africa hand-held computers to register animal observations.
Apparently, these Bushmen can read animal tracks, or spoor to such a high degree they can, for example, tell if an animal is being chased by a human or another animal. All intuitive knowledge.

My linguistics classes from way back told me that you need to learn a language at a young age in order to get the best chance to sound like a native. Combinations of muscles and nerves not used up to the age of about 20 simply wither, so you may not be physically able to make some sounds in the foreign language.

So, sure, by living and interacting in the environment at a young age the child/youth will pick up all they need to know to survive in that environment.

End of Verification note on Epimyler

Friday, June 06, 2003

Tapescript Journey 5
Today the bench in the waiting area is not oak but redwood - beautifully varnished red wood. It curves in a long arc.

I am more nervous now; I need to muster up courage. The creative process is not painless. Several deep values get challenged.

Past a newly varnished boat-like shape a cream coloured lift and a grey coloured lift stand invitingly.

I should take the grey one. In the lift there is a whole array of buttons. And paintings. I push the button which says UP. Alone in the lift, I check out the paintings; juvenile depictions of cows and fields and farms.

When the lift arrives the doors open up in front of a group of young kids. They are just playing. See-sawing right in front of the lift having fun - it's like a playroom in kindergarten.

In the quest to understand how a community can adopt the PORENA way, I end up in a playroom. Is this right, is the method playing games with me?

Get a grip on yourself Max; you promised you would give the method a chance. Keep describing.

"Hello, is there anyone in charge here?"
A little girl wearing a black dress comes up to me so I ask: "Hi is your mummy here?"
"She's at work."
"Who is in charge here?"
"Mrs Fanester."
Can I meet her?

The little girl takes my hand and leads me to Mrs Fanester’s office.

“Hi! I'm studying how societies use technology to live in a sustainable way. I’m interested in how sustainability, or the principles on which the community lives, is brought across to members of the community.

I have picked up that one of the keys to this may be the understanding of stress on the organism.”

Mrs Fanester replies by promising to show me something that will help me.

We look at a wall covered with children’s paintings. A tree. A house. A dog. A river.

I glance at the pictures but don’t get it.

I remember how I tried to look through someone else’s eyes in a previous journey. I stand behind Mrs Fanester.

The children’s paintings show that the ability to perceive and understand natural processes, and to be a part of them, is inbuilt.
The pictures themselves show elegant composition. And the ability to understand complex interactions and relationships.

What I am wondering about maybe seems so hard to find because it is already there. Inside of everyone. Child development in fact mirrors the biological process, and includes everything man needs to adapt to the world. It does not need to be taught, but it needs to be learnt. It doesn’t need to be learnt, that will happen. It needs to given the right conditions to be learnt.

That’s quite an insight.

“Mrs Fernaster, is there anyone you could put me in touch with, like a professor or something who could give me a deep theoretical briefing?”

I feel a bit like I am intruding on the kids, they seem to be having a good time.

I am standing in front of a man in a brown suit, with wire-rimmed glasses wearing a woollen knitted waistcoat.
He invites me into his office.
On a large whiteboard he starts to draw vertical lines about 5cm apart. Horizontally he draws a flat line through the middle of the vertical lines, which rises to a peak and then tails off.

Straining to understand I catch that the curve represents biological stress, negative and positive. It has to do with hormones and the period of formative years up to the age of ten.

I am getting that education as I know it is completely wrong. It is the environment the child experiences that forms the ability of the organism to survive.

The functional efficiency of the epimyler. (I must research this one) changes over time up to 17.

So if it is good for the child it will benefit the adult, and the formative years are a preparation where the child and the environment interact so the child, naturally programmed to take in the processes around it, reaches a state of intuitive capability.

Feeling like I have taken in more than I can digest in one go, I thank my hosts and leave.

End of Tapescript Journey 5

Sunday, May 25, 2003

For new readers
The full story starts back in the archives on the first blog. So off you go...

But here's a synopsis of events so far. I, Max Wahlter, picked up some good creativity techniques at a management seminar. (I'm a journalist covering technology and entrepreneurship.)

Looking to getting my career going in a better direction I decided to try the techniques out to invent sustainable technology and then market it.

The method involves you 'journeying' to a place where these problems have been solved and describing into a tape recorder.

These Blogs are my tapescript and notes.

But. I went to a community living in a sustainable way expecting to see a culture like mine with new ecological technology.
Instead I find a new ecological culture with technology I am familiar with.

And my job is looking even more in danger at the Journal.

I'm feeling a bit at the crossroads, but I'm carrying on trying to understand this community a little better.

Hang in there with me.

End For new readers

Monday, May 19, 2003


Porena Philosophy.
This is what I have gathered so far. Like my boss says, you have come at something from enough angles to be able to say you understand it. I am not sure I have covered enough angles. Anyway. My description of it, and it is mine I underline again, goes like this:
Porena Philosophy focuses on the organism (described earlier like the part of the human that evolved in the pre-historic times,) making up a community living in the biosphere. By reducing the risk of subjecting the organism to undue stress (that is, outside naturally occurring limits) risk of permanently damaging environmental pressure on the biosphere is minimized. That is to say reducing the risk that the ”footprint” exerted by the human community will not be sustainable.

To take an example in the ascendancy, the organism is so stressed by hunger that the community takes to fishing the seas to the extent that stocks of fish are reduced to a level of possible extinction.

I remember picking up, again not explicitly so I must tread carefully, that there were five main stresses. Let’s speculate.

1) Nutrition
2) Shelter
3) Mechanical
4) Societal, communal
5) Toxic

Which makes me think... how do they get this over to people. And what education system do they have. Must be the subject for one of the next journeys.

Reflections: Societal stress. They say they are going to cut back on staff even more at the journal. I am getting to experience this stress on my organism first hand. Although I know I am good at my job and intellectually know I can get another eventually, I am sure my body is taking the toll. I’m sleeping badly and get pains in my chest occasionally.

And not being able to pay my bills for food and my flat - I’d take a job that poisoned half the rivers.
reflections ends
Technology Notes journey 4

Flying saucersI see the ecological in these craft. Flying slow (need less fuel, need no road/ rail infrastructure, nature unspoiled)
Failsafe technology (no destruction from crashes)

Growing under glass on the southern wall. Warms up and insulates buildings while providing growing facilities near the house, as well as a nice extra room.

Cassettes. I have seen on sale at garden centers, small mini- greenhouses about the size of a lunch-box with ready-to-plant seeds and dried potting soil. These cassettes seem to be the same idea.

End of Technology Notes Journey 4

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

(If you are new to this blogg, I suggest you start in the archives at the first blogg - it will explain a good deal.)

Tapescript Journey Four part two
The urge to explore further takes me up the stairs, and it’s not a library I see but some kind of control room. Knobs and dials everywhere – I could swear I was on a flying saucer.

Slipping into the pilot’s chair in the middle of all these controls, I see “Porena” on the center of the screen.

You cannot just get into a flying saucer, which is also a library and fly it. Or can you? Looking at these controls it hits me. The most ecological machines are the ones that you cannot do any damage with. Ones that are failsafe. Completely. Like they are talking about controlling cars on the motorway, and letting the driver relax.
This one does the thinking for you. A guy come up behind me and, following his encouraging remarks, I push the lever to my right.
The doors close, and very slowly and gracefully we take off in the direction of Porena.

We’re flying low and slowly over fields of what looks like – is it bamboo or another fast-growing energy crop? I get the idea it’s for energy anyhow- Green oil.

I walk back down the stairs and start to engage passengers (is that what library visitors are?) in conversation.

Is there anybody who would like to show me how you grow food everywhere?

I get invited home. The houses, or maisonettes are built in wide circles, are cream coloured with tile roofing.
My host shows me the wheat grass on the balcony, the corn etc, all grown in hwt appears to be ordinary potting soil. Here’s what I got out of the interview.
They don’t have to grow food at home, because everybody grows food everywhere.
The cassettes I asked about contain cotton wool and start seedlings off, they can replant them on the balcony or in the area outside. This family has a skylight in the roof to let in natural light, and they put some plants under that.

Artificial light is not ecological and is not used.

I asked about composting and for that I need to go outside.

On the southern side of the maisonette the front doors open out onto a glazed in section, rather like a conservatory. Here, the heat from the sun warms the air,providing insulation and extra heating for the houses as well as a growing area.

This is communal and tended by everybody. The principle is permaculture. That is to say a plant and leave concept, bearing fruit and nuts annually requiring the minimum of tending.
I have to ask… how can you get along as neighbours, all helping out. Surely someone will slack!

The explanation comes back
“Everyone helps out as they understand it is in their own interest.”

In the glassed area they grow green peppers, corn, sweet potatoes and tobacco, for medicinal purposes. Tobacco is decorative too.

Outside, towards the center of the area, they have the composting machine.

It looks like a large black cauldron. They dry the organic matter first, using heat from the sun, before it crumbles into a kind of powder to be put back onto the soil.

Another thing, all buildings are designed with growing in mind. Horti-architecture. Cool name, huh?

I return to the craft, push a button labeled “Return”, the door closes and we hover off.
End of Tapescript Journey 4.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Tapescript Journey Four Part One

To today's question.

Explain more about how growing food everywhere works.

Large beige - coloured tiles make up the floor of the entrance hall. It seems to be a long way to the entrance area.

I walk toward a bench with what appears to be rubber plants growing behind it.

I sit down on this shiny, highly varnished wooden seat and look around.

Seeing a moving pavement, with a PORENA sign over it, I walk over and get on it.

At the end, steps lead down to a flat, wide open space looking like a construction site.

Coming out into the sunshine I see a large, round aircraft, like a flying saucer. Metallic, round and shiny sitting on legs.

Steps lead up to the door under a PORENA TRAVELS sign.

People are sitting in a circle, in comfortable seats. I join them. I guess the craft is getting ready to leave.

- Where am I?

- This is the Library.
- I see no books, maybe there is an electronic thing to...

- It's in the chairs, what you need comes to you.

There a few magazines around, I pick one up from the gap between the chairs. PORENA library. This seems to be an instruction booklet cum magazine for the library.

A picture of the library itself. People walking in to it. The latest news is a multiplicity screen on the roof, whatever that is. I turn to the section marked multiplicity.

A cross between a book and an etch-a-sketch shows up, with instructions to "hone in on what you want" using the knobs.

Finding it hard to concentrate and take it all in, I flip to the next page, an article about walking and then about growing plants. Featuring the seed trays and cassettes I saw in the kiosk.

It's all here, I'm on my way.
End of Tapescript Journey Four part one
Tapescript Journey Four Prologue

So to the continuation. Strangely enough, even though I have not actively worked with Porena recently, it has been working with me - a lot of things have fallen into place.

Like, looking back over what has happened I see I was encouraged to ask specific questions. Whatever the question was, it got answered. Often with a surprising answer. If it wasn't surprising it probably wasn't coming from the right place.

On the other hand I still am not any closer to "bringing back" my money-making invention.

End of Tapescript Journey Four Prologue
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