Archive by Author | paxus

Electricity storage’s time has come

paxus:

I especially like the idea that battery technology today is where PV was 10 years ago. At the beginning of a dramatic drop in prices.

Originally posted on GreenWorld:

Part of the "smart town" Panasonic is building in Japan.

Part of the “smart town” Panasonic is building near Tokyo, Japan.

Everyone knows that solar and wind power are variable energy sources; neither on its own produces electricity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For that matter, no electricity source can do that indefinitely: nuclear reactors have to be shut down for weeks for refueling every 12-18 months and occasionally suffer unplanned shutdowns; coal plants break down and need repairs, so do gas-powered turbines.

Thus, backup power is needed whatever the main source of power may be. In solar and wind’s case, their variability is more pronounced. But their variability is predictable: for example, grid operators know that solar isn’t going to produce at night, when the sun is down. Of course, power demand is down most of the night too–not as big a problem as it might appear.

These days knowledgeable grid operators…

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The most ambiguous word i use

“Who is this ‘We’ you keep referring to?” One Facebook commenter wrote recently.  It is a great question actually.

In this particular case, i was referring to the intentional communities movement.  “We” are consuming dramatically fewer resources than our mainstream counter parts, because we are sharing.

who-are-we

But i also use it identify Twin Oaks and Acorn specifically, as large, established, successful, income sharing communities.

These are the toothbrushes "we" use.

These are the toothbrushes “we” use.

i regularly refer to the anti-nuclear movement as “we”.

no nukes

Sometimes “We” is the infamous Star Family

co-dads-kissing

Often i use the word “We” to denote the entire set of people who want to change the world for the better.

If we can just think more about "we" than "me"

If we can just think more about “we” than “me”

Occasionally, it is the term i use to describe polyamory activists.

polycule

But of course the most simple approach is the just do the simple translation in your head.  When i say “We”, it is always safe to compress it down to simple mean “i”

Commune as Applied University

In a recent blog post comparing the experience of life at Twin Oaks (or Acorn) with that of the mainstream i said a number of things including:

More security, less privacy.  More community, less personal access to money.  More flexibility, less resume building opportunities.

Tree responded to this by writing a comment that said:

You wrote, “less resume building opportunities.” I disagree. For all but the few members who are abandoning some high-profile career path to be there, TO has way *more* resume-building opportunities than outside. Arrive knowing nothing, manage a major program within a year. Many members use that knowledge to get or create great jobs when they leave.

And, as is almost always the case, everything Tree says is true.  It is perhaps because i once came from this high profile career path that i answered this way. career path

The FEC communities don’t require you to arrive with any particular skills or money, instead what you need is reasonable to good communication skills and a willingness to learn things and work. We will train you.  And as Tree points out, the training is vast.  You can learn how to run a business, or a dairy program, or a to program computers, or keep bees, or fix buildings, or teach kids, or how to get arrested at a protest, how to milk a cow, or run a saw mill, or a sewage treatment plant, or make cheese, or build a straw bale, or plumbing, carpentry or auto mechanics (please come and learn auto mechanics!).  And this is just the beginning of the list. A number of young members have come after college and learned many of the things which a trade school would have taught, but in a more relaxed and self paced environment.  They build elaborate tree houses, learned to cook tasty vegan food for scores of people at once, how to fish or skin a deer. work and life balance What the flexibility of community living provides in these cases opens an entire world of assisted self directed learning.  The communities have basically open “Teach” budgets in which you can get trained in anything that you are interested in and the member who trains you gets labor credits for the skills transfer (you as a student do not get labor credits, unless it is something you are learning to support one of our regularly budgeted domestic or income areas).

Nurturing a spirit of inquiry.

Nurturing a spirit of inquiry.

So Tree is right, if you are not trying to be the Chief Technology Officer at GigaCorp or the Senior VP for Operations at DowJones Inc, then a stay at the communes will not set your resume back, and could well advance it if you are motivated enough to learn inside of this myriad of possibilities.

Famous for playing video games

Willow and Jonah in Al Jazeera

Willow and Jonah in Al Jazeera

i would be lying if i said i was surprised that Al Jazeera managed to catch a picture of my son playing video games.  He plays a fair few of them.  This was part of a slide show of pictures they took recently capturing community life, which is part of a larger article they did on the community, featuring Willows other dad, Sky Blue.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Anissa (who is part of the Star family and was part of Willow’s parenting collective at one point) is capturing a little media attention with her son, Jed about kids eating the food they grow.

anissa and jed

[This post has been approved by Anissa and Willow]

Solar comes (finally) to (much of) the Southeast

paxus:

An update on the status of several southern US states regarding solar and specifically Florida’s absurd criminalization of solar installations/

Originally posted on GreenWorld:

Perhaps the most misleading state welcoming sign ever--at least if you think "sunshine" should equal solar power.

Perhaps the most misleading state welcoming sign ever–at least if you think “sunshine” should equal solar power.

When it comes to solar power, the Southeast U.S.–despite its abundant sunshine–has long been like the kid at the back of the class who refuses to raise her hand: a complete non-participant in the action.

That is now changing, rapidly.

The Southeast traditionally has lagged behind most of the U.S. in solar power, but that is beginning to change.

The Southeast traditionally has lagged behind most of the U.S. in solar power, but that is beginning to change.

Take North Carolina. From 2010 to 2013, solar capacity skyrocketed from 40 MW to 469 MW, and the growth continues. Solar potential in the state is enormous: a new report says the state could produce 30 times as much electricity as it currently uses with solar power.

And take a look at Georgia. It is now the fastest growing solar state in the country. Regulators there are requiring 525 MW of solar…

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How to get me to pay attention

[Update:  Rolling Stone has issues a lame apology for it’s poor reporting.  And people seem to think this changes much – it does not.  There are lots of reasons why, and the best summary i have found so far is here.  Thanks Abigail for the link.]

i tend to miss introverts who visit the community.  And so it was with Charlotte.  Acorn had a big visitor group and i had only heard her say a few words in the first couple weeks of her visitor period.

i had noticed that she was hovering around the edge of a number of the better conversations which pop up regularly at Acorn in the kitchen, or various living rooms or the smoke shack. And while she did not say anything, it was clear that she was listening.

Charlotte

Nine of us went to the anti-rape action at UVa which resulted in 4 communards getting arrested.

The way it is supposed to happen at an arrest action is the people who are risking arrest are trained.  They do a non-violence direct action workshop in which they roll play getting arrested including how to deal with different levels of threatening and physically assertive police.  You are given a lawyers number, often written in marker on your arm.  You are insured there will be people waiting for you.  If you end up stuck in jail, your plants will get watered and someone outside will be monitoring the system to make sure you don’t get forgotten.  And the reason we do all this is so activists will be prepared for getting arrested, so they wont have to worry.

Charlotte skipped all that.  No training, no prep, no reassurances, it was not actually even supposed to be an arrest action.  Instead of these things she just showed up with the conviction that rape is wrong and injustice should not be tolerated.  She also did not want her new friends to be arrested alone.  She stepped out of her comfort zone and into the arms of the begrudging police who kept telling us the action did not matter.

Except that it did.  I’ve never been in such a small remote arrest action which got so much press.  The New York Times, the LA Times,  The Washington Post, the International Business Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Slate, NBC, The NY Daily News, Washington DC news, and a host of other media.  And the University is feeling the pressure.  They are talking zero tolerance, which of course means nothing if the system is broken badly enough.  But if the current pressure persists, it will quite likely break the institutionalized rape culture which has flourished inside the fraternity system.  And truth told, if there is anyway this broken system is going to get better, it is by people being willing to step way out of their comfort zones to express rage about it.

People are talking and protesting about rape on campus for the same reason they are talking and protesting about cops killing unarmed black kids.  It is a huge on-going problem and the system in place was relatively comfortable ignoring it, until now.

Charlotte saw this was wrong and stepped up to do something.  Now she has my attention.

Charlotte was active before she arrived at Acorn

Charlotte was active before she arrived at Acorn

Charlotte was recently accepted as a member at Acorn.  i am happy she will be around more.

Better than average questions

I often start tours of the community with the following rant:

You have two options today.  The first is that you can get a good tour.  In this, we wander around campus for 3 hours, and i tell you entertaining and informative stories, and you walk away thinking it was probably better than a movie.  The other option is you can have a great tour.  This however takes work on your side.  You need to listen to me for a bit and then start asking yourself “Why couldn’t i live here?”  This will result in you having a bunch of questions which are not part of my standard script.  When you start interrupting my endless rambling and start asking these questions, you will get a great tour.

We get thousands of questions in the communities movement, many of them simple and demographic (how many people, average age, average stay, number of years since founding, how many kids, cows, cats, etc).  Many of these are boring, at least to us who answer them all the time.  And answers to many of these can be found on the communes FAQ page.

And every so often we get some get someone really clever who is thinking about good questions and the stock answers just don’t have it covered and so it is with a recent student inquiry from Appalachian State University who sent the following set.

1. How has living at Twin Oaks changed your life?
2. What are the benefits and/or challenges of income sharing?
3. What does egalitarianism mean to you, and do you think Twin Oaks is a role model for this?
4. What kind of sustainability practices does Twin Oaks implement/practice?
5. Why do you think Twin Oaks is one of the longest-enduring communities in the US?
6. Are the decision making processes at Twin Oaks effective and equitable?
7. Does Twin Oaks represent equal opportunity for all members?
8. How is the quality of life different at Twin Oaks (In comparison to living outside community)?
9. What are the most beneficial/negative factors of community living?
10. Feel free to comment on anything that you find note-worthy about Twin Oaks community.

I thought at first i could answer them with links back to my blog posts, but a significant number can’t be answered that way.  So here goes.

How has living at Twin Oaks changed your life?

i worry about money much less.  i hardly worry about crime at all.  i spend less time doing political organizing work.  i spend more time outdoors.  i spend less time commuting.  i spend more time lobbying or trying to influence people who i know and less time trying to influence people who i don’t know (at least face-to-face).  In terms of polyamory, i have become much more part of the Old Guard.  I am more focused on propositional politics than opposition ones.  It is much easier to deal with my choice to get arrested for political protest than when i had a straight job, and thus i do it a bit more often.

life changing event

What are the benefits and/or challenges of income sharing?

There are a bunch of benefit.  You can work less and have more.  You need not worry about being fired, or about not having your basic needs met.  And you are also modeling an ecologically friendly way to live, which if applied widely, would actually save the world.  The challenge is that it is off-the-chart-difficult for people to trust each other.  Even when it is clearly to everyone involved that they will be better off by pooling resources, people don’t want to do it and would rather work much harder so that their stuff can sit at home idle all day while they are working to pay for it.

What does egalitarianism mean to you, and do you think Twin Oaks is a role model for this?

There is quite some disagreement as to what is meant by egalitarianism.  Some people think it simply means “equal access to all collective assets (potentially modified by extraordinary need).”  Others think it means “every hour of work is equal to every other hour of work and that there is no such thing as “women’s work” or “men’s work”.  Still others think it means we are trying to create a society in which everyone is equal in as many aspects as possible, especially economically.  Regardless of which definition you use, Twin Oaks is absolutely a role model.

egalitarianism_symbol_by_black_cat_rebel-d592w6z

What kind of sustainability practices does Twin Oaks implement/practice?

So i think the two main sustainability models for Ecovillages are Dark Green or Net Zero.  Twin Oaks follows neither of these, and actually energy self-sufficiency is no where near the top of our agenda.  Despite this we have super impressive numbers for our climate damaging gases being mitigated by this high sharing lifestyle.  Central to all this progress is radical sharing.  If there is a single thing we need to export to the mainstream, it is how to avoid brittle agreements and share better.

Why do you think Twin Oaks is one of the longest-enduring communities in the US?

So, Twin Oaks is only one of the longest-enduring intentional communities if you leave out the tremendous number of Christian communities, many of which are much larger and older than we are.  There are lots of differences between us and these places, most profoundly that we have no charismatic leader.  And 47 years is nothing to sneeze at.  Part of our success was we chose a good industry to be in early on (hammocks) and reliable cooperative business partner (in our case Pier 1).  Twin Oaks has fear of change, so we are quite hesitant to change our practices, even if there are models of better ways to do things.

Timeless

Timeless

Are the decision making processes at Twin Oaks effective and equitable?

Twin Oaks uses a planner/manager system, which is a self selecting autocracy with a democratic cap.  I actually think the Twin Oaks method is a terrible decision making system (Acorn, which uses consensus, is much better of to their meetings).  This is especially problematic when we have internal overrides.

There are many directions

There are many directions

Does Twin Oaks represent equal opportunity for all members?

Not perfectly, but better than any place i have ever been or heard about.

How is the quality of life different at Twin Oaks (In comparison to living outside community)?

More security, leff privacy.  More community, less personal access to money.  More flexibility, less resume building opportunities.  More trust in your own determination of what is good for you (how often you take sick time, what time of day you should get up, do you want to be scheduled or figure it out yourself).  More values-driven people than money-driven ones.

What are the most beneficial/negative factors of community living?

For some people, the restrictions that the community places on members are quite problematic.  This blog post lists many of them. And the community is a model of how to cut your carbon footprint.  But again, this only happens  if people feel proactive about this.

Feel free to comment on anything that you find note-worthy about Twin Oaks community.

You might find this useful.  It is the re-post of an article written in for an academic press.  The article is called Island.

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