• Avoid Winter War: Hexayurts and #Occupy

    by  • October 29, 2011 • Everything Else • 13 Comments

    This piece appears to form the foundation of Adbusters Tactical Briefing 18, which gets the basics but misses two important points.

    Hexayurt Encampment at Burning Ice, Brussels.
    Click for video of the winter camp.

    I’ve been getting a couple of pings a day about providing infrastructural support for #Occupy. I get pinged by email, on twitter, comments, through friends, at events. It’s taken me a while to come to a conclusion, and this post is it.

    Firstly, let me lay out my political stance: any political solution must solve our problems in a global context, recognizing things like “the 1%” is anybody making more than $34,000 per year.” #Occupy is very limited in perspective, in general, to local economic issues, and lacks (so far) a discourse that speaks to my concerns about global environmental issues and resource geopolitics. So while I’m sympathetic to #Occupy, it doesn’t directly address my concerns: I hope nobody gets hurt, and that the protests generate real action on poverty and inequality within the nation states these movements exist in, but without a genuinely internationalist and global platform, this is not for me. Sorry, but that’s where I am.

    Now, the second thread: advice for #Occupy on winter infrastructure. People were basically expecting something that looked like this:

    • Cheap polypropylene thermal underwear, two sets per person, with volunteer laundry services. And poly hats, too. You’ll need name tags for the laundry.
    • Synergy beds: cheap inflatable camping mattress (the 1/2″ thick kind) under a cheap foam camping mat (the 1/2″ thick kind), with a cotton sleeping bag liner to absorb moisture, a decent synthetic sleeping bag, and over the top a Heatsheet-brand space blanket (accept no substitutes) weighted at the corners or taped to the foam mat. The foam mat is essential. The synergy bed is lightweight but utter luxury – feels like a 3″ mattress!
    • Giant thermos flasks – 2.2 liters or more are cheap – and/or Jetboil stoves, which are incredibly efficient for keeping people warm by hot drinks.
    • Corrugated plastic folding hexayurts, probably the 6′ Stretch hexayurt, which builds nicely in corrugated plastic. The big hexayurt is just too big for those materials. The bigger, heavier foam insulation units probably don’t have the right dynamics for the occupation, being rather big and hard to transport. But small folding ones, ftw.
    • Use Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps (there’s a copy in the Gupta State Failure Management Archive to arrange meetings into Shelter, Supply and Safety quadrants, and learn how to use the naming scheme presented in that document to minimize or eliminate misunderstandings about infrastructure – it’s literally a series of agenda items for meetings, really, when you get right down to it! It’s a very simple, clean, efficient way to organize encampments and make sure everything gets done.

    But this is totally wrong. It’s a tactical approach to a fundamentally strategic and political problem: what to do with #occupy as winter approaches!

    I’m not saying there’s no value in Occupy Sustainability type appropriate technology solutions. I’m not saying that at all. But no set of kit can make your winter camps welcoming and hospitable and easy places of fellowship, not for long month-after-month occupations.

    So the problem must be considered at a strategic and political level.

    What I am saying is this: Avoid Winter War. Whether it’s Stalingrad or Valley Forge or the Talvisota, winter is not the friend of those involved in struggle. It might favor one side or another in terms of long term political outcomes, but both sides suffer, and the side with less support for dealing with the winter suffers doubly.

    So this is my advice on winter to #Occupy. Go #homeforthanksgiving. Declare victory, tell people you’ve held out long enough to make the point, and you’re going home to your families for the holidays.

    And then actually do it. Leave nothing behind but eerie silence. Clean up, Leave No Trace as they say at Burning Man, and then spend the winter getting your platform together and planning actions for the spring.

    Here’s my vision: in Spring, take-and-hold land and plant a hundred thousand wild flowers. In areas with bare earth, turn up with spades and grow food. Grow-occupy (#groccupy?) But work with the forces of nature, with the cycles of the earth, and cultivate a culture of growth, expansion, beauty and harmony. In winter, you will grow to hate each other, and the system.

    In the spring, you may see your way through to the universal love which changes all hearts, and into a culture of such beauty and nobility that nobody will crack your skulls for planting flowers and asking for change.

    No winter war.

    In the spring, make peace through beauty.

    Vinay Gupta,
    Hexayurt Project
    If you’re new to my work, this is who I am.


    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    13 Responses to Avoid Winter War: Hexayurts and #Occupy

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