• Talk outline for Jan 7th in London – Infrastructure for Anarchists

    by  • January 4, 2009 • Infrawar, Personal • 7 Comments

    Infrastructure for Anarchists – 2 hours

    Outline of a talk I’ll be giving on Wednesday 7th of January at The Temporary School of Thought in London. See Six Ways To Die for a visual aid which talks about a lot of the material.

    Here’s the audio of the talk.

    two promises:
    -1> I’m going to teach you a way of seeing
    -2> Once you understand it, politics is going to look very, very different

    -part one – seeing the invisible grids

    –(run as visualization exercises)

    –Take the buiding we’re in right now

    –Imagine how it would be if the building had nothing.

    –Four ways of moving a service
    —get it on site

    –What are the pipes/wires/wireless that make it what it is?
    —clean water in
    —sewage out
    —-if you don’t do this, people die
    —electricity in
    —-warmth, cooling, light, cooking, devices
    —natural gas in
    —-you can only heat with this – cooking, heating
    –These services make this building habitable.

    -part two – who owns what keeps you alive
    –So what’s on the other end of these pipes, wires and deliveries?

    –POLITICS is what is on the other end of these pipes, wires and deliveries.

    –Clean water in, dirty water out.

    –Water, in the UK, is rivers, wells, aquifers, water treatment plants
    —London is more or less where they invented this stuff
    —John Snow identified a cholera cluster around a well in 1854
    —-and thereby gave birth to epidemeology
    —Most water infrastructure in the UK is fairly local

    –Sewage is fairly simple
    —Factories that sit on the pipes and purify the waste
    —Then dump it into the sea
    —Nutrient drain straight from the land into the sea
    —But of all technologies it’s the most safety critical
    —Get it wrong and everybody dies

    –In the developing world
    —privitization of water is incredibly political
    —water supplies can’t serve the population

    –Power, in the UK, is mostly coal, nuclear and gas.

    –Coal, nuclear and gas are *political* technologies.
    —-Miner’s strike, anybody (you’re all too young!)
    —-Weapons, massive govt. subsidies
    —-Public safety risks (windscale, chernobyl, 3 mile island)
    —-Russian gas production, price volatility, intl. tensions!

    –Transportation infrastructure is also incredibly political
    —-global warming
    —-fighting over the resource
    —-vast, vast, vast cheap energy input
    —-a gallon can move two tons of steel 60 miles
    —-you wonder why they fight over it
    –Government largely exists to finance and implement infrastructure projects
    —and to tax us to pay for them
    —-whether we like it or not
    –Unless you can do infrastructure for a whole population you need govt.

    –The fact is that we are incredibly _dependent_ on all of these levels
    —but we have very little _control_ of them
    —which leaves us vulnerable
    —-*all the time*

    -part three – relocalization for political autonomy

    –Infrastructure is the ANCHOR OF CAPITALISM.
    —costs billions of pounds to build power plants, sewers
    —we create a “town” as a legal entity
    —borrow billions from banks – with interest
    —then build the CAPACITY – water, power, disposal, whatever
    —per unit of service, this produces cheap services
    —but now we’ve become reliant on
    —-the city, which raises and relies on taxes
    —-the government, which oversees the whole system
    —-the banks, which lent the money
    —-the big companies, which build the infrastructure
    —-and the owners of the systems which keep us alive
    —–who are not us, are they now?
    –And the consequences of not doing this?

    –SIX WAYS TO DIE!!!!!!
    —too hot
    —too cold

    –To keep these things away from us, we made society
    —but we did it wrong, or at least half-assed

    –Get reform wrong, and these things come back
    —life expectancy in Russia has fallen by like 10 years

    –Map out the structures we’ve already identified into the 6WTD framework

    –The goal is to move as much stuff as possible back towards the center

    –So that *we* control it, not _them_ = individual political authority
    —is rooted in our ability to sustain our own lives
    —-without controlling anybody
    —-or being controlled
    —THIS IS GANDHI – Swadeshi


    –6WTD is really a simplified “Swadeshi Map.”

    -part four – urban and rural infrastructure

    –what’s the natural carrying capacity of the land on which London is built?
    —everybody else who lives here is living on the *infrastructure*
    —not on the land

    –let’s talk food
    —UK has 16m acres of arable land for 60m people
    —5 people per acre, say – we’re in the clear
    —Water is not an issue in wise-use cases.
    —-But the people growing the food
    —-Are not always the people eating it
    –nearly all the food going on in the UK is shopping and delivery
    —no local food growth, and
    —we don’t really deliver food by pipes and wires (yet.)

    –so this is the baseline: food, and food distribution networks.

    –manual farming takes a ton of time and isn’t very productive
    —unless you get smart
    —**really** smart
    —-square foot gardening
    —-raised beds in general
    —-Ivette Perfecto’s work on global agricultural potential
    —it’s hard to make a living growing your own food
    —-takes a lot of time
    —–and pays in food
    ——which is cheap
    ——because of tractors
    —see SPIN farming (small plot, high intensity) for another view

    —solar, solar, solar – konarka, nanosolar
    —how much do you really need? 10, 20, 30 watts? 2000? 5000? 10000?
    —heating with electricity is very very expensive and hard
    —wind is up when solar is down
    —-but small scale wind is hard
    –the hard ones
    —wet and dangerous
    —no power won’t usually harm you
    —dirty water and bad toilets will kill you on a bad day

    —capture, store, transport, purify
    —wells, rivers, ponds and lakes – not the sea unless you desalinate
    —very, very location dependent
    —-but carrying water is one of the world’s major jobs
    —-as women all over the developing world know
    —we use plumbing for a reason

    —super safety-critical
    —good technologies exist
    —-composting toilets
    —-thermophilic composting toilets
    —tons more work could be and needs to be done

    –put it all together, though, and what you have is
    —individual and tribe-scale infrastructure
    —under your own autonomous political control
    —with excellent portability
    —that you may be able to make a lot of yourself
    —that could scale to millions of people

    –That’s a new potential.


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


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