Sunday, June 13, 2010

natural flow exemplified in this NGO!
This blog describes the activities of global nomads T.H. Culhane and Sybille Culhane as they work on the Solar C3.I.T.I.E.S. mission: "Connecting Community Catalysts Integrating Technologies for Industrial Ecology Systems"

Those technologies mentioned in the video clip are “home scale” energy solutions made by local people from local materials. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel or try to create something new out of whole cloth. Like Aydogan Ozcan’s use of cell phones as microscopes and Ken Banks use of existing cell phone networks for vital SMS empowerment we also try to repurpose local, “found” materials, and off the shelf, ubiquitous technologies, both real and virtual, analog and digital, to solve the problems of sustainable development and education. We know we can solve many our energy, waste, water and food problems using simple solar and biofuel technologies. In this slide we see technologies we developed in Egypt that use recycled materials we knew would be available in Alaska.

To bring this to scale we need to use our new media technologies and social networking tools, things like google earth and google sketchup, open source 3d animation and multimedia production software to make learning the energy systems easy for people. We use the ipod touch with a handheld projector to erase literacy and language barriers, projecting the animations on walls and rooftop satellite dishes as screens. And we compose songs to spread the message which we take around the world with solar powered music groups to environmental festivals like this one in India.

And the thing is, we can’t just use all this great multimedia technology and educational materials to talk about environmental issues if we aren’t teaching people how to actually solve the problems themselves. This is why we have this two pronged approach -- work collectively to develop safe energy technologies and then use social media to broadcast the solutions.

So in this presentation I’m going to weave together two threads - one is the very simple low cost technologies we are developing and implementing to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and forest resources,

The other is how we go about spreading the message the these technologies are in fact so simple that you CAN try them at home.

This year I have been blessed to receive, with fellow Emerging Explorer Dr. Katey Walter, the first National Geographic Blackstone Ranch Innovation Challenge Grant for combining our different projects into an application to help the world. Katey is an arctic biologist working on newly discovered microbes that are producing greenhouse gases at freezing temperatures and I’ve been using microbes to clean water and produce biogas for cooking and electricity, heat and fertilizer. We decided to team up, kind of like Wonder Woman and, I dunno, Captain America? ... to see if we can harness these microbes to make garbage to biogas systems more efficient and then use social networking and media technologies as well as airplanes, to take the results from household to household and community to community, around the globe.

This is because when we met last year here we figured that if technology and globalization gave individuals disproportionate power to do bad things and form terrorist networks than by the same logic it could amplify our power to do great things for the world, if we found a way to pool our different talents.

The Blackstone Ranch Foundation Innovation Challenge has given us a way to formally create those synergies. Certainly this motley crew of cartoon action figures makes a formidable league of superheroes. The question is how to bring us all together. What would the first unifying project be for what we call "the Nat Geo E-Team"?

At Solar CITIES the word “CITIES” with a C cubed stands for Connecting Community Catalysts Integrating Technologies for Industrial Ecology Solutions, and we operate with a belief in Collective Intelligence, Crowd Sourcing, Cloud Computing and Citizen Science. We believe the intelligence is in the network and once we pick a project that has rhizomal links to issues we all face in common, our special abilities will start to complement each other. We picked household waste to biogas solutions for our Blackstone project because it provides a possible solution to the challenges of clean renewable energy, public health, waste management, fertilizer and food production, water conservation, wildlife conservation, poverty alleviation and climate change. Not bad for a single simple technology. But how to spread the message so everybody could pitch in with their piece of the puzzle?

In 1966 at the age of 4 I read my first Dr. Seuss Beginners Books, “Come over to My House” and learned about the power of social networking to bring peace and understanding between different cultures. The message was clear -- make friends from around the world, from different walks of life and then invite each other to live at each other’s homes for a time and share ideas and perspectives. This way you get to know firsthand the problems and solutions sets available in each environment. As the Irish say “If you want to know me, come and live with me”.

So we decided to go and live in homes in rural villages and urban slums and work together on collective problem solving.

My wife and I moved into the slums of Cairo and built a solar hot water system with our garbage recycler friends but later went back to Europe when our baby was born. But we were able to continue improving the system remotely by making simple animations and sharing them on facebook and youtube with our friends in Cairo.

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