Franz Nahrada / Tagebuch /
Briefe Nach Archangelsk
|FranzNahrada: Since one of the finest Global Villages pioneers (GlebTyurin) works in Russia, I wrote a letter to his support to the governor of Archangelsk.
What I did not expect, the letter that I wrote was widely published.
Letter to the Governor: http://www.regnum.ru/news/1084881.html
First Interview: http://www.regnum.ru/news/1094909.html
Second Interview: http://www.regnum.ru/news/fd-nw/arxangelsk/1125332.html
Even more astounding is the amount of reprints this had caused in many parts of Russia, for example Volga region. see at the end of this page!
I am working on the followups and I intend to become clearer with the message.
I salute you as the leader of Archangelsk region - for the groundbreaking work that is done in your region in terms of rural development. I wonder if Archangelsk region could become a model region for the immense potential of integrated rural development.
My Name is Franz Nahrada and I live in Vienna. I am pulling together an international trans - disciplinary network of experts and innovators in five continents called the "Global Villages Network". We are connected to hundreds of different institutions and people, economists, ecologists, businessmen, architects, scientists, universities and research groups, majors and local decision makers, planners, journalists. I am also president of the Austrian section of the European Council of Villages and Small Towns ECOVAST.
We all share one vision, and we think this vision will lead us out of the deep crisis of rural areas - affecting almost every country in the world. The vision is to make rural areas livable again by global cooperation, by sharing knowledge, insights and tools and making them fruitful in a local arena. We think that rural areas could be much more densely populated and successful, if we really reinvented the village and small town this way. We are therefore in sharp distinction to the currently dominating very Western concept of commodifying everything as “Intellectual Property”. By this privatization, the participatory resources that enable us to work and improve our work, which means to achieve human progress and development are destroyed: a downward spiral of competence loss. We see a catastrophic decline in the overall fabric of society despite some productivity increases, a net loss of coherence, wealth and safety. More and more people, especially rural people, suffer from this. The current crisis is just a taste of things to come - and also a result of this decline.
At the same moment, we see the very real possibility of a new renaissance if we combine the new potential of technology and knowledge exchange with political will and guidance. There has been a revolution in technology which makes it possible to do a great lot of things at the local scale and share them - this means we need not waste enormous amounts of resources and time just to move people and things around. A new green chemistry is replacing fossil chemistry; thousands of materials can be made out of plants now. We cannot get only our food from agriculture, we can get cosmetics, packing material, bioplastics - possibilities are endless. I am sure there are ways and technologies which will allow to double and diversify agricultural production in the Russian Federation and raise hundreds and hundreds of Russian villages.
But the situation is grave, because rural inhabitants simply do not know how to use and have no access to these technologies. The spiral of backwardness is accelerating if we do not interfere. But what does it mean to support the villages in a time when each intelligent young person craves to leave them? How? This can only happen if we start a positive process of self-support. We cannot feed our villages, but we must allow them to feed themselves with information and innovative ideas that help to make them strong again. Their strength then is our strength. The process of feeding with information can be spurred immensely by allowing and supporting global cooperation of villages, sharing of existing knowledge and more: a process of empowerment, development, augmentation of communicative and practical abilities and therefore bottom-up knowledge building. This has already taken place in many corners of the world, and hundreds of “living universities” appeared - ready to share their knowledge with the world and get lots of ideas back.
We have identified the Archangelsk region as the most interesting partner in Russia for this process because of the spectacular work of your Institute for Social Initiatives. From our point of view ISHIs work in the Archangelsk region to mentally revitalize local communities was groundbreaking and has earned a lot of international recognition. In very short time dozens of local groups appeared in far remote villages and enacted outstanding deeds of creativity and productivity.
Information about this caused real interest in Europe, later in other parts of the world. The Director of ISHI Mr. Tyurin was invited to present “archangelsk technologies” on international forums in Germany, Poland, Serbia, France, Austria, Romania, USA, Finland, etc. This experience was highly estimated by such institutions as World Bank, UN Development program, ECOVAST, and many others. It is possible to find articles about Archangelsk villages literally in newspapers or sites all over the world. In 2007 Central and Eastern European Citizen network (unites 16 European countries) gave ISHI honorable award “The best development practice of 2007”.~Archangelsk village renewal practice has thus become a kind of brand in the international arena. This is an asset of your country, your region, but not only that: it is could mean a lot for people worldwide if it lead to a broader communication initiative. As we see it (and sometimes from the distance one can see more), your region could become an international model region of local development. I am writing this letter to find out if you would like to go on with this work and shift it on a new stage. We are interested in pilot regions around Europe. We would like to provide links with European rural development centers, universities, different international institutions. We would like to facilitate flow of information, exchange bringing information about cases existing in other countries experience. We might be helpful to get access to existing technologies and their promotion in your region. It does not necessarily require money. It requires systemic work with information, arranging flow of this information to your region. One has to find it, make data collections, systemize it, translate, adopt, and bring it to people in villages with the power of new media.
What we would need to emerge in Archangelsk region would be an internationally oriented learning center for integrated rural development. We have invented the "VideoBridge" - a technical setup with Broadband Digital Video via Internet, allowing local communities to share and spur their learning process in simultaneous cooperation. We are currently setting up the cornerstones for this "virtual university of the villages", and we are seeing that - once established - they self - multiply. Would be great if Archangelsk region could be the first cornerstone in the Russian Federation. We would also like to address President of Russia Mr. Medvedev and the Prime Minister of Russia Mr. Putin asking them to support this work on village renewal.
I will be very glad to learn if you are interested in arranging this work in the Archangelsk region.
Mr. Nahrada, your letter sent to the Governor of Archangelsk, published by REGNUM, generated certain public interest in Russia (and even in other countries), but it also generated questions. It seems that you have sent very unusual letter. It is an unusual step. What makes you to write and send this letter, what makes to do this step?
Maybe I did in a way unusual step but I think that we all (I mean people from all continents) are in such a situation, we are at the beginning of such a crisis, that we have to look for new solutions, new ways of doing things, new steps. Changes are required strongly. We can’t overcome modern problems if we all go on doing the same things that we did before. And we are now more than ever intertwined. Things that happen at one place of this globe have tremendous effect on other places. And I spotted a big if not the biggest potential for something to happen in Russia. Because nowadays Russia seems to be one of the most important players in shaping new approaches of constructing the world of the future.
Today it looks like nobody knows what to do with this economic nightmare. The world is just shocked. Hopes and speculations have bursted, the money has gone and the only people who stay really rich are those who sold their shares on time. The so called immaterial economy seems be almost dead, while the real economy in the USA largely shifted to making debts to buy goods from China, printing and selling paper (dollars) and playing war.
Modern crisis is affecting everyone, but in fact it is a crisis of certain western approaches and western economic concepts which turned out to be just a big bubble. We are facing the final bill for an economic development based on illusions and an enormously costly system of domination necessary to maintain the base of the illusion. The so called “globalization” has had a reverse effect: there are steel and car factories, agricultural factories, lots and lots of export oriented businesses everywhere: but they devaluate each other and their benefits are hardly any more enough to feed the general infrastructure. The outcome: the competition is negative, not positive: where is the cheapest labour, where are the lowest environmental standards and so on.
And we have to take into consideration that this crisis had a special bad effect on rural areas in different countries. Agricultural areas are extremely sensitive to crisis. If prices go down or much more in a crisis like this - the system is badly hit. We meet absolutely new challenges. Previous decades created already a situation when rural areas had to be subsidized by their national governments. This was necessary for food security, the basic needs of a society. Now, crisis will not let to feed villages as before, and consequences can be really menacing. It will again deepen the crisis in cities and everywhere. Until now, in each situation of crisis the real recuperation came from the fact that people were literally able to feed themselves. If we are loosing that, we are loosing everything.
So, we need to do new steps. We need to act. I am absolutely convinced that there are positive solutions. There are many exciting and unprecedented ways to act - based on new technologies, investment in peoples qualification, spreading of knowledge. But to get them, we really need to reestablish many things. Above all, we must understand the new role of the Local. We must understand how the global exchange of information can lead to an explosion of the productive potentials hidden in local markets, local cycles, localeconomies. Local small-scale production can be developed especially if it will be combined with new technologies.
Knowledge economy provides brand new possibilities for sharing, exchanging information practically for free and building wealth out of the right application of information. Technology now is totally linked with information as the driving force, be it with automation, flexible production, proper use of materials, the coordination of supply and demand chains an do on. If it we can combine it with the potentials of rural communities and with resources that are available in rural areas, new rural economy can be built.
We need to make all this available for people in villages. It is not easy. Maybe somebody might regard it as being just a fantastic scenario. But the pattern exists and step by step we can make it grow. So we need new ways of cooperation. We need to build information exchange, experience exchange. Or much better, we should take existing positive experience which can be developed further and support it with new possibilities, providing it with necessary information, know-how, technologies. And we need also good political will really oriented on changes.
And that’s why I decided to write to Russia. My letter to the Governor of Archangelsk region is was written because of bright and inspiring Archangelsk experience of rural development, which is already recognized as an innovation of international significance. And recently I was so much pleased to know that new Governor of Archangelsk region expressed strong will to develop it further on.
You should know that there are many people outside Russia like me who are in support of such developments. And that they have capacities to contribute. My role is that of a networker, facilitator, to match people with ideas. There are a lot of really useful, practical and experienced people who would have interesting ideas to contribute.
But I want also to make it in a way symbolic. In the face of Archangelsk region I want to address the rural areas of whole Russia, Russian people and Russian leaders. I wrote a letter to Russian people, which can bring hopes to people in rural areas of other countries. I think that the will for positive changes, that express Russian leaders, can play a decisive role in constructing brand new international realities, for example changing village renewal cooperation. Russia can play much more active and much more positive role in shaping new positive realities. I have been building connections to lots of good people and ideas that can shape these new realities and I dare to say: We would like to assist innovations in Russia, hoping that you will assist innovative development in other parts of the world.
It is pleasant to hear this words about Russia. But can you please explain, what kind of hopes can be linked with Russia ? What do you mean when you speak about good will of Russia?
I can say a few things. Russia expresses a strong will for changes and innovative development. Russia is looking for entire changes, focused on changes and innovations inside. Russia shows ambition to become on of the most dynamic place of innovation. There is a strong will to create overall national innovative system, to develop an economy of knowledge across all sectors of life. Until now this has been mainly expressed in space technology, nuclear technology, nanotechnology and other fields – but Russia has an equal opportunity in biodiversity, permaculture, green chemistry, new learning technologies, microfabrication, whole systems construction.
And I am sure this system should also include of innovative rural development (community driven development). Rural areas have huge significance for Russia with it huge spaces. And the country will not really succeed, if does not pay core attention the countryside - as the cost feeding rural territories will be very high and it will diminish countries potential and withdraw resources which can be innovations.
A country so vast that it is beyond our imagination in Europe, a country rich in resources and in space for development, a country with a very high educational and technological standard that it can make itself one of the worlds breakthrough powers. And that’s what many simple people wish you: to get it right.
One more important thing is that Russia has real will to build new world architecture of international relations and international security. International relation system built after the Second World War does not fit into reality any more. But what will come instead of it?
And everybody truly interested in the architecture of the 21st century should look at questions that Russia put nowadays, and take active part in the answering of crucial questions.
But to deal with that we need not only to talk about international treaties or role of bodies like G8, we need to think about new ways of dissemination of wealth and knowledge and revolutionizing the capacities of local economies.
And this is also the question how we need to deal with new terms of mutual dependence, which appeared in our global world. For example the crisis is shaking every nation, showing us the fragile nature of any isolated strategy - be it in political, economical or even military terms. We will suffer of something that had happened far away from us, let say on American market.
In reality we have become so deeply interconnected globally, that we need to look for new ways to turn this interconnection into mutual benefit, and overcome the old ways of pure competition. The economists have coined the phrase of "coopetition", meaning that without cooperation there will be no base for economic success for anybody.
As a global society, we have not the slightest idea of what it means that we are now networked and connected by the Internet. Most people thinks its pure fun and chatting, but we are in fact able to bring knowledge there where it is the most effective. People can learn and act in one place. Nowadays, the ones that want to learn have to leave the rural areas. The bright young people went to the centres, leaving the old ones helpless and without energy, and got totally absorbed in this new reality. Now the sun of culture can shine in every village. Knowledge is power, and global knowledge is the highest power. Knowledge multiplies faster than any other thing. And as a result, the material world can be changed completely.
But all these things seem to be so difficult, they need very high political will on the level, let’s say national leaders. So many people would say, why do we discuss it…
Yes, rural development requires political will, I am not sure of what level. But it is definitely needed. And as I already mentioned, that’s why I wrote to Russia. It seems that there is this positive will. But good news is that we can go forward with small steps. Very many things can be made very locally. And that is what we can offer. Offer showcases of localities that feed themselves with global knowledge and build productive capacities out of the expanded awareness and appreciation of what is possible. Let’s try to build what is called pilot or test beds (such clatters of new experience). That’s what we suggest to do in Archangelsk region.
And we don’t need to change much. We think at the beginning to build small islands of changes in village development. Start something small and help it grow. If it grows, go on doing it in another place or with another items. And it does not need much, we can just start it, combining our efforts.
Knowledge economy is wonderful for that. It does not need everything be big or huge. Information economy enables us to build smaller, more intelligent machineries. These devices can be deployed where the previous, industrial economy could not afford to go. They can be moved everywhere, instead of needing a big critical mass for production. The new automated generation of technologies allows decentralization, while making all information available at any point through networks.
You can download urban qualities into a village. Be it production, health, processing of resources, energy - lots and lots of things can be decentralized. Formally unused or underused assets suddenly become available. The knowledge economy is not about information in the computer, it is often useless. The information economy is about the process where the information in the computer meets a real potential of practical application, when it is linked to new way using real resources.
And Russia is full of them. Lots of spaces that can become cultured, augmented, liveable simply by the self supporting interplay of small but intelligent structures. Small is not only beautiful, but at the end, by multiplying, it can also be big, very big. Small structures are scaleable by multiplication, they can deal better with the resources in their environment, they can spread across a nations territory and still stay very well connected to each other. One technology, one idea invented on one point can be used everywhere, there is direct and sudden multiplication. We see the first traces of this model emerging, still immature, but nevertheless successful. We call them “Global Villages”. I suggest to develop this model in Archangelsk region by linking globally to the places of similar capacities and will and turn this region into a symbol of innovations in rural area if we succeed.
I think that can be beneficial for all. Russia can later move this experience to other Russian regions, and also “export” it to other countries, building new international architecture, mentioned before (as well as its own new successful international image).
I want to thank you for that conversation, which unexpectedly for me was mainly about very “high” or let’s say global issues. We talk about Russia in terms of global village renewal. But certainly there are other questions. I think we will return to them next time.
So I do not say good bye, I say see next time.
see final version here: FranzNahrada/TextsInEnglish/RegnumInterview2
1. As I understood, you mean that if we put a computer in a village and plug it to internet, it will allow to change a lot. That information itself will give villagers opportunity to change. But what can be changed with one computer? And what is in general village development?"
Franz Nahrada Even one single computer can attach the village to the big world and change its life completely. But it can be almost useless if people do not know how to use it properly or they don’t want it. A Computer is just a means to an end , it’s a tool in a process. We need to define the process.
Gleb Tyurin And the process we talk about is development. I would say so: if we can enable people in a village to come together, to form a development group, to find out what they want to do and start working with it - then the computer as a means of communication could be extremely helpful. Using the internet, people can get very important things - from how to develop new activities for example in building or agriculture up to ability to find customers for their handicrafts, etc. Then it really can change a lot.
Franz Narada But you see, we are not talking just about bringing the computer, we need to see it a little bit broader. We are talking about a new and revolutionary role of information. We can define the process in such terms: we work with creation of new abundance. We need to bring wealth to poor rural areas. But what is wealth? The understanding of abundance (and what brings abundance) is changing, we can see it. Its very important to see the difference to old green thinking. They said, don’t touch nature, leave it as it is. Now there is a beginning also among green thinkers that this has nothing to do with nature. Nature is abundant by its very nature. The sun is sheding in any moment 10000 times the energy that is consumed by the entire human race on this planet. If we had a square in Sahara with only a few hundred kilometers on each side (only 1/3000 of the planets land surface) and we constructed a power plant with photovoltaics, this would fill the energy needs of the whole human race. That is why new green thinking is rather wondering: how could we miss that abundance and still destroy our planet?
Gleb Tyurin I recall one of those famous green thinkers, Roberta Verzola from the Philipines, recently wrote that wealth is based on two things besides the sun that gives us energy and the earth that gives us the matter: ability of nature to reproduce itself (fertility) and the infinite nature of ingenuity of human knowledge, which is in fact based on sharing of information. Today in every piece of abundance knowledge is occupying very essential part, sometimes - the main part. For example, software is almost pure knowledge, pure information, it is just digits. It can be copied easily, reproduced indefinitely. And it can be brought to the village with the help of the computer
Franz Narada But there it can be some useless mass of digits or some pile of unrelated stuff that makes people sick if they even care. Or it can be really useful information, if it is connected to real life. Everything is about connection and context that turns this knowledge into abundance. Like the computer printer is getting smaller and cheaper every day and replaced the printing press almost completely, It’s the combination between digits and reality that counts. The information cannot only go to the minds, but also to machines. It can drive machines, give them patterns, like sewing patterns. Many small actions of the machines, driven by this patterns, accumulate to a result. One of the very first machines to be attached to computers was a sewing machine, that could make embroideries. And now every design that could be made somewere in the world on a pixel drawing priogram can become an embroidery. Its not the embroidery that is important here, but the principle. Our grandmothers kept some designs in their head, in their memory. Only some designs, but what would be the value an embroidery without that culturally transmitted information. The most valuable information is that about technology. And to become rich one has to be able to accumulate knowledge, use technologies. So the information coming from the computer also delivers knowledge about the technology needed to realize this information. Sometimes it still needs the human intermediary to apply technology. But even then you see drastic changes in results. There are many ways to peep potatoes, there are many ways to burn wood. Some are efficient, some are not. We need to have that information. Guess what: we have many cases where that was the only way to access the traditional wisdom of the villages. Our grandfathers and grandmothers knew a lot, about a particular climate, a particular place. But that was lost. Some researchers did most extensive research, finding some survivers to recuperate the knowledge and mirror it back to the present. The result was stunning. Technologies could be fine-tuned and combined with that knowledge.
Now there is a little paradox with information. If you want to own it exclusively, its real value, its real quality inevitably goes down. If you decide to share it, its value goes up dramatically. Why that? It can me modified, improved, contextualized, actualized by others. Information that is secluded is dead. Information that is open is living. Information must know about reality every moment. Even the secret services have understood this and have developed something called the “Open Source Intelligence”. The share (a bit) of their knowledge with communities on the internet. And they get valuable information back.
That all sounds interesting, indeed. Now lets look again at the combination of rural areas and information. Rural areas are full of resources, full of natural fertility – how does that relate to the quality of information that you just explained to us?
Gleb Tyurin So thinking from that perspective we see, that rural areas has chances, their specific niche: they are much closer to nature, they still stay in nature. People in rural areas can work with this reproductive features of nature (so it can be taken as a strength). Nature is self feeding, self reproducing. It is far better in this than everything we have constructed so far. Nature is information technology in itself. Every leaf of a tree consists of tiny quantum computers that compute how to handle the photons. We have looked at them as things so far: but in modern age we understand: they are perfect machines, self-feeding, self reproducing. We dream of that by the way, but we cant yet do it. Or lets say: perfect machines to fulfill their inner program. If we know the program of 10000 beings in nature, we can combine them better and we can be a programmer even without any genetic alteration. That’s what is called permaculture, fitting bits and pieces of nature together to a living machine with many parts that do the work that traditionally the humans had to do. Making the abundance of nature work for humans.
Franz Narada And as I mentioned in the letter, there are these other new modern technologies, which can be used locally, which can be taken to the countryside and create brand new economic possibilities by close integration of natural processes and human technologies. It means that countryside can in a certain sense compete and win the competition with industrial zones, as raw material can be processed on the place, used at the place and serve as food for new processes at the place. This gives an opportunity to save energy and money, what economists call leverage. In fact, resources can be much better reused and recycled or even up-cycled locally than ever before. This is an enormous economic potential if we draw the consequences, rediscover the potential of housing and living in the countryside. There is the one kind of people that apply technologies in agriculture, horticulture, agriculture. Use greenhouses, ponds, water cycles, microclimates etc. And then there is this new brand of people that are working with the computer. An increasing number of people is working with the creation of information. These people could well live in villages, in a kind of symbiotic economic relationship with the farmers, pay them for a “full term life support system” with fresh food, warm shelter, clean air, abundant energy, space to move and hundreds of other features. And if you ask me now if that means people should move from the city to the villages I would say yes this might be the case if villages will become attractive and micro-urban; but the first step would be not to catapult the gifted young people that are still there out of the regions. but give them opportunities to participate in the knowledge economy. The traditional city has acted like a vacuum cleaner and has depleted the rural areas from all its intellectual resources. We will see the birth of the networked city, the mothercity, I am almost crazy about the name of that city: the Arch-Angel, a big efficient structure that takes care of the surrounding region. In computer technology we have the expression of the hub, a central point where the network comes together, where the bits and bytes are exchanged. In fact information technology is about very intelligent structures of information exchange, the bridge, the switch and so on. And the more information they process, the bigger they get. The incredible decentralization of the internet would not at all be possible without these very powerful nodal points, server farms etc. Sometimes the energy consumption of such a computer network node surpasses the energy needs of a small city. We could be more energy efficient, but that is not the point here. The point is that the intelligence of the small is mediated by big structures. This is where our most advanced thinkers failed. Kohr and Schumacher said that the small structures are more efficient. We believe that too, but guess what: In order to make that work you also need a big structure. It’s the interplay of these two factors that is important. If there was not the city of Archangelsk as a vast information processing medium, I would not have any hope in the potential of the surrounding area. And that is also the problem that we have with visions of the rural areas that want to do away with big cities. I know they are even popular in Russia, but I thin they are very wrong in this point. Every living process needs a strong center – this is one of the main findings of pattern theorist Christopher Alexander. But the strong center is only one of many patterns, big and small. Alexander talks about the distribution of cities and towns equally. If you have only center and no life at the periphery, the structure is not fit to live on either.
Gleb Tyurin Economists tell us that cities are necessary, the UN predicts that in 2020 seventy percent of people will be living in cities. We think that is entirely unnecessary and wrong. It has nothing to do with economic realities. A strong city is a city that takes care of its region as an immense opportunity to build internal wealth that definitely also will spill over to export. But more than 80 percent of all business in this world is local business, while modern economy has totally forgotten the importance of place.
2 So could you please tell more about technologies that can be given to rural inhabitants?
Franz Narada There is an enormous amount of new technologies out there. They cover very basic needs like energy, building, food, but they also allow villages to do all kinds of productive activities and generate a surplus which they can exchange. Where to begin? Maybe, let’s start with the materials and resources available. Many regions in the north are rich with timber, used for construction and heating.
For example the energy efficiency of many traditional stoves is rather low, most of the energy is lost in the atmosphere. New heating systems make better use of the potential, so in some villages in Austria you can hear grandmother to say “We used to burn a little forest just to keep the house warm in the wintertime. Now we use the woodchips that we considered waste and the result is much better.” Energy autonomous villages like Juehnde or Mauenheim in Germany or Guessing in Austria do exist already, They put up a common system of biomass heating with high throughput and efficiency. They also use wind, ground heat, biogas from rotten grass and manure and solar energy. But sometimes the plants are considered too precious to be used as burning material or even to making fuel.
Gleb Tyurin I understand that most of our villagers can’t even imagine any changes in that sphere, as even supply of ordinary fire wood for many people in our villages is real problem. People have to give sometimes most of their earnings for this supply. But I can give an example of one of our village TOS projects in Velsk municipality. The group in village Chozmino managed to change the system of public heating of the village completely, they switched off old-fashioned public boiler-house and installed private boiling systems in each home. The effect was really enormous. Every family got an opportunity to get warm house in winter frosts instead of previous situation when temperature never went higher then 10 -11 degree Celsius. But each family also could save about 5000 roubles a year. But the municipal budget gained even more: almost 600 000 rubles saving for year. I think it is very pity that this experience was not exploited more so far. Of course we see in the West that the opposite could also be the case – that some common installments are more efficient that private ones. Maybe one for five houses will do best. All that is questions that need serius research.
Franz Narada Lets go on to the plants. Austrian chemical engineer Hans Werner Mackwitz says: “In some agricultural practices we use only one percent of the plants and burn the rest. Our core principle is to view any single plant as a source for many useful substances. Many components of this material can be used for natural cosmetics, health care and nutrition.” They are even the starting material for bioplastics, fully composteable and therefore less harmful and much more productive than the petrol-chain-based residues. They can deliver packing material and other kinds of hardware. But also the very process of plant growth can be influenced enormously in quality and quantity. Take the example of Austrian permaculturalist Sepp Holzer. He worked in heights above 1500 meters where conventional wisdom says nothing grows but timber. He started to prove people wrong and create an abundant garden of Eden just by using the incredible flexibility of microclimates, produced by clever combination of stones, ponds, plant societies, useful animals and so on. When he grew Kiwis in October, people began to understand that we can nature make work much better if we arrange it with a brain. Of course permaculture must be reinvented at any single location and the vegetation period in the north is much shorter. There are even institutes that totally focus on permaculture in Cold Climates that we could ask to share their knowledge.
Gleb Tyurin Permaculture is really fascinating. You have protective plants for mitigating the heat in summer. You have protective plants for repelling insects, or insects to protect against other insects. Animals are very important helpers, especially in summer. Lets’ don’t forget that good soil is produced by worms and many other invisible helpers. Did we ever learn to understand their interplay? We have taken natures power for granted, now we must understand and consciously apply and augment it. A few places have made incredible progress and they share their results. If we multiply these places and develop a spirit of sharing, we will grow good soil everywhere.
Franz Narada Talking about Animals: sometimes we are unhappy with the results of animals concentration. Take the example of chicken and their manure and life quality. A German guy has invented a moveable chicken stable and he combines effective density with good soil treatment. Others use chicken manure to heat greenhouses. It’s the interplay that counts, that’s the secret of the new technologies. We can again return to the more general principle of this, because you cant stop to bring examples if you want to be comprehensive. The principle is this: The old industrial technologies were placeless, whereas the new technologies automaticallylink to the potential of the place and feed it, fine-tune it, enhance it. They build on what is available, help it to self-reproduce and feed back. We bring them where they are needed. Take a new transportable sawmills that can be taken to forest and using it there: incredible savings in transportation by production on-site. Much of this has only become possible recently, by making it possible for the machines to adapt and react electronically.
Gleb Tyurin In many areas, its equally important to capture and clean water, there are new technologies that filter water and nourish plants at the same time, something which pioneer John Todd has called the “Eco-Machine”. Water treatment might also nourish microorganisms, algae, which then can be used as Biomass again. Of course our whole built environment is also a crucial technology. And culture of Russian peasants was to a very big extent based on using productive forces of our eco-systems, like South orientation of houses, special use different plants, usage of natural rhythms (what was known as a traditional peoples calendar, when days were given special names and there diversified system of omens and marks). Peasants had special knowledge when it was better to start their agricultural work, when to finish, etc. It was a huge and extremely deep system of traditional knowledge that had basic importance for survival of traditional rural communities. Today unfortunately most of this knowledge is lost, but not completely, as Franz mentioned we can restore it and combine it with modern knowledge.
Franz Narada But in any case we have to remember that there many opportunities to use potential of ecosystems. For example greenhouses that store heat and air humidity in the night with a system of stones, that serve as cooling agent in summer, the use of earth as insulation and even as building material, there is a lot of simple things that can be done. Houses can sometimes cluster together to save energy and infrastructure, allowing to divide labor and to use resources more efficiently. We see a myriad of new and efficient ways to increase energy efficiency, from stirling engines that turn excess heat into electricity to the very energy saving LED – Light Emitting Diodes as sources of light.
Gleb Tyurin There are also social technologies we have to apply. We should not forget that human beings are the highest value and the main driving force. We must find the way from isolation - where we are inefficient - to living communities – but this comes with conflicts and tensions that we have to act out productively. A good deal of this can be solved when villages dare to mentally open up to the outside world. Sometimes we discover our own value when we are not just lost in our own petty affairs, but we face a responsibility towards the outside. When do not just live together, but when we have a common purpose. One important social technology is to find a “theme” for the village, something to be proud of. It can be “bee-keeping”, “working with iron”, “collecting books” – you name it. That is the base of rural tourism, that you know that you go to a special place and visit people with a purpose. Its not a nameless village any more.
Franz Nahrada And this is also the point when information technology comes in – you see how far we are from the beginning with the lone computer. We must have a reason to use the computer. All the technologies I mentioned are very knowledge intensive. Probably you need to know much more than you ever needed to know before. As it was mentioned our grandfathers knew much more about the immediate environment than we do. But of course they did not know about the possibilities to enhance this environment with certain technologies. So it is clear that everything in the village starts with research, education, communication. Now this blends beautifully with the fact that information technologies can provide villages with a wide variety of new occupations. Like they can provide different services (like call centers, online consultancy, accounting, graphic or product design, all kind of freelancing, etc). If there are good internet lines or new fiber lines people can live in village and do their work online – even if their customers are based in cities. These are the people that also can do a good deal of work to help work with the necessary information locally. You see that there is a completely new system of patterns emerging. If we take only one pattern away, the system would not work. That’s the design challenge that we have called the "Global Villages Challenge".
Thats what you should definitely talk about more in our next round...
see final version here: FranzNahrada/TextsInEnglish/RegnumInterview2
some reublications of the letter of 18.11.08