Lovolution Around the Sun

 A commentary of Harvey Wasserman's Solartopia

by Doctress Neutopia

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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 by saying that his generation made a big mistake in rejecting the use of nuclear power. While he claimed to receive great personal satisfaction from growing crops on his land that he uses to fuel his biodiesel car, his travels have convinced him that the world's long-term energy needs cannot be answered with biofuels alone. Weil said he felt that nuclear power could provide safe, clean energy without destroying the biosphere.

Apparently, he is not a lone environmentalist who supports “atoms for peace.” One of Greenpeace's founders, Patrick Moore, wrote an article in the Washington Post  addressing how he came to believe he was mistaken about the dangers of nuclear power. He now realizes the necessity of using it in combination with other alternative energies.  Moore feels that since the deadly radioactive gases released at Three Mile Island were contained successfully--unlike what happened in the Chernobyl accident--this demonstrates the safety factor built into US nuclear power plants.

Moore feels that dangerous nuclear waste in the form of used fuel could be recycled, greatly reducing the amount of material that would need to be shipped to, treated and disposed of in a facility such as Yucca Mountain. The Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) countered this argument by saying that building new reactors would mean building Yucca Mountain-style dump sites every four years, an impractical task. The production of more nuclear power equates to more radioactive waste transported on our highways and railroads--more chance for “error or terror.”

Moore  observes that all technology since the invention of fire can be used for good or evil. He feels it is far better to live with the dangers of nuclear power, including terrorism, than it is to live on a planet whose atmosphere has been destroyed by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal. He sites the Clean Air Council's report that coal is “responsible for 64 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 26 percent of nitrous oxides and 33 percent of mercury emissions.” To counter this view, the anti-nuclear folks say that we would need 300 new nuclear plants in the United States to make any impact on halting the climate change gases. Since each plant costs 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 claims 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, for example James Lovelock, also support the use of nuclear power. At a dinner during a conference on the Gaia Hypothesis at Oxford University , he revealed that 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 lacks a spiritual dimension. For  Moore , 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 if there was a nuclear accident wouldn't it matter if a deadly cloud of radioactive gases was released? Isn't  Moore aware 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 for discussion or debate. He rushed off in his biodiesel car before anyone had a chance to catch up with him. Later, when I approached the editor of the Nuclear Resister, Felice Cohen-Joppa, and asked her what she thought of his pro-nuke statement, her comment was “How sad that he shows such a lack of imagination.” Her words were pithy and pointed to what is also missing in the discussions about the water crisis in the Southwest--imagination.

People have sucked down the water table so low that it has left dry river beds baking in the hot desert sun. No longer do otters have a river to swim in and native Arizonan frogs are going extinct. Perhaps the state of Arizona should adopt a motto of “The Killer River State.”

Some people seem oblivious to the consequences of such environmental destruction as if to say “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 balance, sucking the rivers dry and using the fantasy of limitless nuclear power for its mammoth energy needs. The lack of vision inherent in this rampant construction of unsustainable models is destroying communities and 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. 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 and even "morbidly" obese in unprecedented numbers because they carry a perverse and 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 deeds at universities. The rising of the seas from the melting ice caps, the loss of paradise islands in the Pacific, “dead zones” in the ocean, and 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. Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. But especially in our time, when universities and colleges are controlled by the military/industrial complex, imagination is more important than college.

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 the cooling off of the planet. Ironically, in 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. The destructiveness of 9/11 has awakened scientists to a potentially more destructive scenario and the complexity of our global climate problem. The crisis is more serious than we once thought.

One environmentalist on the radio recently asked us to visualize the world as having a global energy gauge, like a fuel gauge in a car. When the fuel gauge in a car is ignored the car stops dead in its tracks because the gas tank is empty. If we do not visualize this global resource gauge, some day in the near future, there will be no gas coming out of the pumps and more water running out of our faucets. Waking up in time to plan a new way of life is what our crisis is all about. Finding a vision that will work for everyone on the planet is our greatest challenge. We must find models for a global utopia and then have the courage to move in this evolutionary direction.

Solartopia

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 an engaging book called Solartopia in which he describes life in his version of 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 narrator who is traveling on a comfortable, hydrogen-powered, quiet “Hairliner,” tells the story of how public transportation systems such as the Los Angeles trolley system were killed in the US to pave the way for automobiles and sprawl. Now transportation systems, including the few private cars that are left in Solartopia, run on “H-bio-PV hydrid” energies.

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 in farms just outside the city. Solartopian children can hardly believe when they hear history tells of a time when people polluted the ocean and land with human and chemical toxic wastes. Now 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 roof-tops 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 heroines and heroes of the post-pollution world of Solartopia are engineers, architects, biologists and eco-entrepreneurs who lead us to a new epoch through their “creative genius and political commitment.” But in his book, it isn't the Americans who lead this revolution. Even though Americans developed the first solar cells in the 1950's at Bell Labs for NASA, when President Dwight Eisenhower decided to focus on the construction of nuclear power, the budding photovoltaic cell industry could barely be kept alive.

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.” As Europeans were preparing for the New Age, Americans were plagued with wars, radioactive wastes, and a fake democracy.

Wasserman writes, “By the time the US got out of the Bushes and into the Solartopian sun, the renewable technologies it had pioneered were owned and operated overseas. The world's once-richest nation could barely afford the energy to keep it alive. The jobs that could have been American were now everywhere but. While US troops fought and killed for oil, the best energy sources slipped away.”

Wasserman explains how the driving force behind the Solartopian Revolution was municipally-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.”

During a reflective moment, Wasserman's narrator says, “As the whales spout and the dolphins dance in the mighty Pacific below, we remember that first and foremost, we stopped the wars for oil. We evicted and imprisoned those who started them. We ended the global terror they funded. We reversed their push toward dictatorship. We took back our democracy. We based it all in our communities, our commitment to justice, our inseparability from this planet… and each other.”

Sighs of relief that the oil cabal had been imprisoned and a new era of humanity had been born, Wasserman, still leaves us on a critical edge in Solartopia. He says that “the jury is still out on whether we will survive global warming.” Solartopia was set in 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 redirect our thoughts about the injustices of the past, but it 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. 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--to run by the sun; pedestrian-centered with inter-city meg-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 21 st 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, 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. Wasserman asks, “Who today can comprehend gouging coal or pumping petrol-fuels or spewing radiation all over a planet whose sun and winds, tides and bio-fuels so easily provide all the energy a super-rich civilization could ever need?”

Arcology, the evolution of the city, could be located in environments inhospitable to humans 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 is that it would only work if it was a grid that couldn't be blocked by one nation state or another. It has 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 sun beams 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 deep 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 of 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." This would be a way for the US to gracefully accept the proposal made by China and Russia in the UN General Assembly to ban weapons in Outer Space, and instead, to shift their creative energy to building powersats that truly discover the peaceful use of the atom.

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. Just as no country owns the moon or the seas, the sun is shared by all. A powersat would be municipally owned by the people of the world managed by a transnational organization.

Alice Slater, founder of Abolition 2000 , suggests in “To End Nuclear Spread, We Must Give Up Ours,” that by establishing an International Sustainable Energy Agency we could phase out nuclear power, and thus, eliminate the threat of nuclear war because every nuclear power plant on Earth is a potential bomb factory. According to NIRS, nuclear reactors produce up to 40 bombs worth of weapons usable plutonium each year.” Slater writes, “We could easily fund the Agency, and jump-start a 21 st Century sustainable economy powered by the safe, clean energy of our sun, wind and tides.” By adding Outer Space solar power plants to this list, we make a quantum jump into a new awareness of our relationship with the sun by using our 21 st century technology to harness power for everyone.

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. Living in Arizona where the sun shines more than 300 days out of a year, let me start here. One would hope that the state of Arizona would have the common sense to use its shining resource to its utmost advantage and be a leader of photovoltaic cells. But, regrettably, the state isn't presently being governed by common sense on this issue. To wake up, it is going to require political action from democracy-loving people.

Common sense is also lacking at the university level. An electrical engineering doctoral student at the University of Arizona whom I spoke with after reading  Solartopia said that he was surprised that there were few, if any, solar panels on the rooftops of buildings at the U of A. Only a few courses were taught on the subject and they were only parts of other courses. He was so disillusioned with the department, he was thinking about dropping out and becoming a chef.

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 little 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 base to a solar-powered base—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. As long as CONG rules America 's universities, the pollution of the planet will continue.

Can the youth of America come to the understanding  that to begin 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 must 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

What this book review is calling for are 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 many people to buy and read his book because there is power in his 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 the present by erecting solar-powered arcologies of true love.

 

 

 
 



 
 
Human Extinction or Lovolution?