Extending the Dome in Sufficiency and Society

        32. At a commune in the California mountains, they are building a methane generator for the thirty light homes among the trees. It will take their food and body wastes and yield them gas for heat, cooking, and light -- they don't like electric light -- plus good compost. The technology is adaptable for a one-family dome. Depending upon the ecology of the location, a more ample energy-independence could come by supplementing this with generators powered by water or wind; by solar cells, expensive but elegant; or by another technology of sun-energy, like a steam generator run by a Mylar parabolic reflector. Such sources would feed a sophisticated battery storage system -- a moderate investment, until the technology involved gets better. But even now, tied to a small system of reconditioned auto batteries, they could supply current for light, the low-drain appliances made possible by sophisticated electronics technology, and occasional heavier power use, like washing-machine or soldering-iron. Decent steam-generator technology would make heavy-power independence ecologically sound in tended forest-land. It is available by dirty tools already, portable and within the reach of group means.

        33. I hope next spring to build a living model of a family-sized dome which will be a literal green-house. Inside, the quality of the light will be diffuse, the shadows edged with translucent green from the sunlight filtering through steam condensed upon plastic skins two feet apart, and through the garden whose moist roots bedded in clear perforated cradles will inscribe the dome in hydroponic latitudes and longitudes. And at the pole, sunset will gather distilled in the reservoir below the solar still.

        Within the skins of a thirty-foot dome will fit 2,000 square feet of garden, under intensive hydroponic cultivation. Polyethylene breathing panels on the outer skin will exchange new and used air. How many gallons of water cycle through a tomato's growth? Here the water, circulated by hand or sun-power, will be retained within an almost-closed system, making the dome desert-suitable. The nutrient input will be regulated: it will come from methane-generator compost plus chemical supple-ments -- supplied by an industry replacing the present life-destroying fertilizer and insecticide industries. No doubt about it, they can be retooled, if production and distribution are freed to follow the people instead of bind them.

        Such a large dome-system, perhaps extended by a ground-level closed system using special films to trap solar energy for more rapid growth, if artfully cultivated could support the people living within it, at least if they were vegetarians. To build and run it for a year would add $500 to basic dome cost. After that, running costs would be low, at most $200 per year. What living in this relation of completion with the rituals of their food might do to their heads can only be imagined.

        34. Myself, I like meat. I want to raise sweet fluffy rabbits and kill them with my bare hands, after their idyllic lives in a closed-system hydroponic pasture.

        What makes me squeamish is to buy red slabs wrapped in cellophane at the Stupormarket. With meat-processing as with television, we try by technology to divorce ourselves from the wheel of life and death. But it goes on, indifferent to our machineries, which may in turn be used indifferently to extend our perceptions or to numb them. There is choice in the matter. And I don't believe that the alternative to buying a roast of numbness for dinner is to retreat to the purity of stone-ground wheat and stone-age technology.

        What is destroying us is not our technology but the divisions we use it to extend. We need to be reconnected, not divorced from our machines too, our outered bodies. A plant has its awareness and spirit too, like a rabbit: we cannot live save by killing some principle of life. As long as that's true, good refrigeration makes sense. And so does learning how it operates, as part of the process of healing our divisions. One way for us to begin is to get straight with what we eat. Another is to reconnect with our machines as our extensions and to become involved with all aspects of our basic life-support technologies, reengineering them as necessary in the process.

        35. Many now make such designs. By a variety of technological routes and changes in disposition, the path is being explored toward dwellings that are both adequate and independent as full life-support systems: space, heat, power, water, food, the whole works; and that grace and reintegrate the lives lived within them. Taken together and with a good deal of hustling, and of course illegally, the technologies now popularly accessible give you or me the power to experiment with a first version of this Way, a light technological power-complex adaptable to home in almost any terrain and sufficiently sunny climate.

        36. Image of domes and other eclectic construction spread out across the land, discrete beneath the oaks, dug-in on the prairies, sanctuaries in the badlands. Local materials, local traditions of design, adapted to place and microculture. Managed forests tended for plywoods and nth-generation plastics, manufactured in forms for consumer use and equitably distributed. Even the present technologies of skin and foam plastics and ferroconcrete are less wasteful than the structural practices of cities.

        We have developed one of mankind's most magnificent machineries, the chemical industry, toward high art. Understanding the Ways of chemical form and synthesis, with increasing skill we can tailor molecules to explicit design needs. So far such powerful art has been turned to the cheek of Profit, its chiefest accomplishment the creation of miracle fabrics for shoddy uses. Were profit sufficient, this tool could equally be turned to creating a wood/ cellulose-based industry of plastics, systematically biodegradable, whose range of properties would include and extend those of present-generation plastics. Who knows, such an industry might become sophisticated enough to draw its materials directly from sun, water, and air -- the plants manage, and we are studying their Ways. But within this century, a first version of an ecologically sound and materially liberating housing industry is easily possible by changing our technical priorities and laws.

        37. If our society felt free to make this change, it would also feel free to let the manufacture and distribution of such an industry fall into the natural form of the local plant operating in balance with the resources of a terrain and the uses of the population that operates and is served by it. Such a model points away from centralized control systems towards a scheme of locally centralized facilitation of the needs of freedom. For such an industry, the forms of technology still leave room for many ways of cooperation more free than those of our control culture.

        38. Involvement of the community in determining the conditions of life begins in satisfaction of basic needs -- in shared local decisions about the plastics plant and its relation to local housing. Universal linkage and free access to computer technology can qualitatively change the handling of social data and enable radical democratization of the information upon which decision-making is based. [See sections 90 and 94 below.] So can extending involvement inward from the plastics plant, perhaps to the point where each citizen's training includes a period of work in local basic-support industry and practical learning from early on in such industrial arts, including their mechanical aspects. Outward from the plant, involvement extends to broader cooperations of local units, as necessary for a process of basic industrial development/manufacture, which in turn makes local sufficiency possible. From such a wide popular base of industrial acquaintance and self-determination, intimately linked by high communications technology, priorities and decisions can evolve through democratic systems, rather than through the Yang forms of the economy of profit and ignorance.

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