There’s more to come but lets face it ten minute’s of your time isn’t a lot to ask for is it….
In order to move forward sometimes we need to take a step back. Here is an article about just that,
Primitive Living as Metaphor
Adapted from Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills
Here in Montana I practice and teach classes on primitive or stone age skills–which is to say, camping with little or no gear. We build shelters that are warm and comfortable without a sleeping bag or blanket. We start fires by rubbing sticks together. We harvest and use edible wild plants, make baskets, and tan hides–that sort of thing. Fundamentally, these are skills that allow us to discover nature by participating in nature. Instead of merely hiking through or camping in it, we can move in and become part of the process. It is an intimate way to learn about nature by using it. For instance, just the process of using plants for food, medicine, and materials causes a person to become more aware. You learn about the specific properties of each plant, and you learn about the communities of plants and animals around each plant. As you collect these wild plants you begin to notice different soil types, and how the soils affect the plants growing there. Thus stone age skills are a great hands-on way to interact and discover nature. Yet, primitive living is even more than that. Primitive living is a metaphor that teaches us about ourselves and the world we live in.
A metaphor is often a story about life which is simplified into characters and settings of stereotypes and symbols. We learn simple lessons about life from fanciful stories about princes and princesses or Old Man Coyote. We may not be able to describe exactly what those lessons are or how they affect us, but the stories do nonetheless make change in our lives. In today’s complex world, primitive living is like a metaphor, but it is better. Primitive living is a metaphor we participate in and act out. Life is simplified down to the bare essentials such as physical and mental well-being, shelter, warmth, clothing, water, and food. We go on an expedition to meet those needs with little more than our bare hands. As we quest to meet those needs we learn to observe, to think, to reach inside ourselves for new resources for dealing with challenging and unfamiliar situations. We build up our personal strengths, and at the same time we interact with and learn about the world around us. In a story we can only join a quest in our imaginations. But in primitive living, we physically leave the contemporary world. We journey into the world of primitive stone-age skills, and we return with knowledge, wisdom, and strength to enrich our lives in contemporary society.
I experienced the power of this “participatory metaphor” when I was sixteen. I went on a twenty-six day expedition with an outdoors school, where we hiked 250 miles, ate little, and generally endured a lot. The personal strengths, the wisdom, and the ability to persevere that I brought back from that “quest” have helped me to be successful in contemporary life more than any other single thing I have done.
In a similar way, my wife Renee and myself went on a “quest” together, an adventure where we started in Pony and walked five hundred miles across Montana to Fort Union on the North Dakota border. That was a year before we were married. At the time we could not give a definitive answer as to why we were doing it. But looking back, I would say we were testing and building our relationship and our abilities to work together towards common goals, before formally committing ourselves to a long-term relationship.
Thus, primitive living is a metaphor that brings out our inner resources. At the same time, it is also a metaphor that teaches us about the resources of the earth as well. You see, the person who carries in a lot of gear, from tents, to propane stoves, with the intent of living “no-impact”, is, metaphorically speaking, living a lie. Such a person may claim to practice no-impact camping, but the truth is, the resources they pack in had to come from somewhere.
Our contemporary lives have become so removed from hand-to-mouth survival, that we sometimes delude ourselves into thinking our items of survival come from the store, rather than from nature. We think of ourselves as being somehow separate from nature. We think we can draw lines on the map and separate “wilderness” from “non-wilderness”, but really, there is only one wilderness and only one ecosystem, and we are part of it. Like the deer eating grass, or the robin bringing materials back to build a nest, we all must use the resources of the earth to maintain our own survival. This is true whether we live in an apartment building in the city, or in a wickiup in the woods.
Primitive living allows us to practice living on a model scale. By “living” I means that process of procuring our needs for physical and mental well-being, including such things as shelter, fire or energy, water, and vegetable or animal resources. In primitive living we are faced with these needs as realities we must meet. We are faced with the realization that in order for our lives to go onward, we must take from the world around us; like the coyote stalking a mouse, we must kill and use to survive. It is too easy to forget that in the contemporary world. We think resources come from the store, and we forget that there are impacts and consequences, throughout the ecosystem, from our every purchase, our every decision. In primitive living we face those consequences directly. We can see the effect of our needing to eat causing the loss of life of a plant or an animal. We can sense that by picking the berries from the bushes we may be taking someone else’s meal. Primitive living is a metaphor that gives us an awareness of the true costs of living, no matter where we are.
The metaphor of primitive living can also teach us that it may be okay to take from the earth; that perhaps we do not need to feel guilty about our actions, only aware of them. The deer takes from the ecosystem and causes surprising impacts; it’s presence causes successional shifts throughout plant and animal communities, destroying habitat for some and creating it for others. Similarly, the presence of humankind living primitive, today or yesterday, creates all kinds of havoc in the ecosystem. Groups of primitive peoples rewrote the ecosystem daily as they hunted and gathered for their needs, or torched the brush to drive the game out. Even an individual person displaces habitat, competes for food, and forces the animals to take new trails, all influencing successional communities. Perhaps our contemporary cities are not so different. They are still wilderness; only different successional plant and animal communities are favored there. Primitive living, as a metaphor, can teach us that, like a bluebird eating a fly, perhaps it is okay to take from and alter the ecosystem. It is neither good nor bad, it is simply reality.
Of course, primitive living also reminds us that our link to the ecosystem goes both ways. We are participants in the ecosystem and therefore we have no choice but to take from it, and we will inevitably alter it, but also, for our own survival, we must maintain it. Our actions affect successional communities of plants and animals in the ecosystem, and we are included in those communities. Succession will forever be in a state of flux, for as long as life exists. Nature will continue on, ever changing, destroying habitats, and creating them. In the face of global climate change and ozone depletion, it is important that we consider what successional changes may mean for our own species.
Primitive living is a metaphor for living. It brings us face to face with our own survival. It brings out our inner resources for dealing with challenging situations, and it reminds us, that no matter what technologies we have, we are still in integral component of the ecosystem. Primitive living is a model for living that gives us the basic foundations, the very laws of nature, upon which all of our solutions, in primitive and contemporary living, must be built.
The number of threatened Doncaster libraries taking part in READ INs this Saturday (February 5th) is steadily growing, but there are still more libraries to go. If you have time to pop along to your local branch to stage a READ IN or to encourage people to sign the petition then click here to get in touch with the SDL campaign. You can keep up with events by visiting the SAVE DONCASTER LIBRARIES blog. Libraries covered so far…
Saturday 5th February 2011 (see the posters and flyers page at the SDL blog)
Read Ins at:
Bawtry (10am – 1pm) with authors Helena Pielichaty (Girls FC series)
Led by – Lynne Coppendale (SDL), Lorna Foster, Neil Carbutt
SDL campaigners present – Louise Harrison, Joyce Sheppard, Gulay Dalkilic
Author Alan Gibbons, speeches tba, petitioning & leafleting
Rossington (time tbc)
Carcroft (time tbc)
We’ve designed some posters for the SAVE DONCASTER LIBRARIES campaign. Please download the following PDF files, print some off (the more the merrier) and distribute them as widely as you can to help support this important cause. And don’t forget to visit – http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/ – to offer your support!
The following article first appeared in Issue 7 of Steampunk Magazine and is published under a non-commercial Creative Commons License (this blog version was originally posted by The Liberi). We’re re-publishing it because we feel that it shows that there’s still a place for Utopian Dreams in our bleakly unromantic modern world. With a little imagination, a little science and a whole lotta good design, even potentially devastating pollutants like ‘mermaids tears’ may one day be turned into a vital resource – retroactively adhering to the 6th principle of permaculture design, ‘Produce No Waste’.
Towards a brave new land
(and the Making Thereof)
by Professor Offlogic
illustration by the very wonderful Sarah Dungan
“A courageous Future lies ahead of us. We wave goodbye, on no
uncertain Terms, to the invisible Workings of the cyberian World.
Our Future lies in an honest Technology, a Technology that is within
our Reach, a Technology that will not abandon us, a Technology that
requires not the dark Oils of subterranean Caverns.”
–A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse
Past attempts at colonizing the high seas have usually remained at the conceptual level, with plans running aground due to “inside-the-corporate-box” thinking, high up-front costs of marine super-structures or outright chicanery.
Capital has been very leery of investments in a field of uncertain precedent such as creating Free Enclaves in international waters. While there is at least one “residency” cruise liner (The World of ResidenSea was launched in 2002), no claims of sovereignty are made for it, and the sticker-price limits it to multi-millionaire residents. Might a more ad hoc, low-cost and Low Tech approach to creating a new nation on the High Seas fare any better?
Terminology & Pejorative
The term “microstate” isn’t branded with the same giggle-factor as the term “micronation”, which has come to be used in a pejorative sense to refer to abortive and/or crackpot schemes to usurp the “rights” of “legitimate statehood” from presently recognized “nations” of the status quo (AKA ‘The Old Boys’ Network’). The term “neostate” might be applied to a newly declared independent nation and the human population proclaiming allegiance to it, but since the “state” part of neostate still carries the usual baggage of intrusive regulation of personal behaviors, public morality, excessive taxation etc, the term “Free Enclave” will be used in this writing, as it is the author’s hope that anyone going to the trouble of creating a New Land will not be taking with them the outmoded ways of the Old Lands (including racial, ethnic, economic, spiritual/religious or gender disparities). Any entity achieving this is a truly Free Enclave.
Microstates: Where Size Doesn’t Matter
Let’s look at present-day examples of internationally recognized microstates, with an eye for commontraits. Most are remnants of the consolidation of European states, or former island colonies.
State of the Vatican City
A landlocked, walled sovereign city-state within Rome, the Vatican holds the current record for smallest cost of carpeting. Contrary to the popular, it didn’t officially exist as a sovereign state until the Lateran Treaty of 1929 (a good year if your
name begins with “His Holiness”). As the smallest sovereign squat on the map, at just over 0.17 square miles, it has a unique economy based on a “spiritual protection racket”.
The crime rate within the territory measured against the resident population of some 824 persons would seem enormous: Civil offences committed each year corresponding to 87.2% of the population, with penal offences running at a staggering 133.6%. The most common crime is petty theft—purse-snatching, pick-pocketing and shoplifting. “The Vatican—soft on crime? You be the judge!”
Reason for statehood: Fear of being sent to Hell.
The Republic of Nauru
Basically a small rock in Micronesia, it is currently the smallest island nation, just 8.1 square miles, and the least populated member of the United Nations. Declared a colony by Germany in the late 19th century, it was then passed around between
Australia/New Zealand/England, briefly the Japanese Empire then back to the Aussies again, until gaining independence in 1968.
Nauru was good for only one thing: Mining phosphate rock. While that lasted the Nauruans boasted the highest per capita income in the world. Once the phosphates ran out they dabbled at being a tax haven, experimented with money laundering and for a bit ran an outsourced detention center for Australia (the Pacific Solution). That cash-cow recently gave out as well.
Reason for Statehood: Depleted of all resources, nobody wanted it anymore.
The Most Serene Republic of San Marino
Bar none, the oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, having been founded on 3rd September 301 by Marinus of Rab, fleeing the religious persecution of the Roman Empire. San Marino was the world’s smallest republic from
301 to 1968, until Nauru gained independence. It is devoid of natural level ground, landlocked and completely enclosed by Italy.
If one gets elected to head of state there, one must accept or be jailed (wow, drafting politicians, what a great idea!). Even Napoleon refused to conquer them, saying “Why? It’s a model republic!” and continued his devastation on states with less model
Reason for statehood: San Marino was a refuge for those supporting Italian unification in the 19th Century, so in appreciation, Italy left them alone. What with being way the hell up in the mountains and having nothing worth going to the trouble of taking (except for a wonderful view) everyone was happy.
The Principality of Monaco
Completely enclosed by France, Monaco—occupying about .76 square miles—is largely regarded as a tax-haven, with around 84% of its population made up of foreign (and wealthy) citizens. Monaco retains its status as the world’s most densely populated sovereign (and smallest French-speaking) country. Starting with a land grant from Emperor Henry VI in 1191, Monaco was re-founded in 1228 as a colony of Genoa. It has been ruled by The House of Grimaldi since 1297, when Francesco “The Malicious” Grimaldi (disguised, coincidentally as a Franciscan monk, or “Monaco”, in Italian) and his men took over the castle on the Rock of Monaco. It’s been an up-hill battle ever since. The French Revolution swallowed them up, and then they got assigned to the Kingdom of Sardinia, which made a lot of patriotic Monegasques very surly.
Reason for statehood: As part of the Franco Monegasque Treaty of 1861, the ruling prince ceded some 95% of the country to France in return for four million francs and sovereignty. In 2002 a new treaty with France removed the stipulation that Monaco would remain independent only so long as the House of Grimaldi continued to produce heirs.
Micronations & Pitfalls to Avoid
Now we’ll briefly survey both ends of the micronation spectrum, their strengths and weaknesses.
The Principality of Sealand
Located on a former World War II sea fort (HM Fort Roughs) about six miles off the coast of England, Sealand is ruled by Prince Roy and Princess Joan (and de facto Prince Regent Michael, since Prince Roy retired to the Suffolk). Total ‘land’ area is a whopping 0.000193 square miles (about 500 square meters). Although Sealand is held in dubious regard as a micronation and is without acknowledged diplomatic relations, its existence has resulted in the closing in certain loopholes in the United Nations Convention on The Law Of The Sea (UNCLOS 1982, Article 60 sub 8, relating to artificial structures within an Exclusive Economic Zone, with Article 80 applying mutandis to artificial islands, installations and structures on the continental shelf).
Reason for statehood: Not worth the trouble, and has arguable standing of sovereignty under established legal precedents at the time of its founding.
The United States (Under Emperor Norton I)
Perhaps the most unruly, rebellious, and treasonous micronation, it occupied the approximate space between Emperor Norton I’s ears between 1859 and 1880.
Eccentric, yes, perhaps even insane, but Robert Lewis Stevenson’s step-daughter, Isabel, wrote that Norton “was a gentle and kindly man, and fortunately found himself in the friendliest and most sentimental city in the world, the idea being ‘let him be emperor if he wants to.’ San Francisco played the game with him.”
Reason for statehood: Pre-existing condition that ignored the “Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico” (those treasonous curs!).
Common Threads & Loose Screws
From the point of view of the Old Boys, it is easier to leave a small state with insubstantial natural resources alone than bother with taking it over. Geographic remoteness or being otherwise inaccessible helps in retaining independence, as does payola and/or the ability to dole out anathemas. Providing useful services like being a tax-haven or money-launderer can be a double-edged sword if you don’t do it for the ‘right people’. As regards to micronations and their rulers, bestowing yourself a royal or imperial title may severely dent your credibility in the area of establishing formal relations, either with other countries or your own.
The Electric Reef: A New Approach
Professor Wolf Hilbertz developed a process for accretion of mineral structures by electrolysis of seawater in the 1970s. As BioRock, the electro-deposited minerals are comparable, if not surpassing, the compressive strength of reinforced concrete … and self-repairing, as long as the power supply is maintained. Hilbertz and his colleague Dr. Tom Goreau established programs to use the BioRock to repair and sustain damaged coral reefs in 15 countries around the world.
Mimicking the way clams, oysters and coral produce their shells from the minerals in sea water (though far less sophisticated), low voltage direct current is applied to a metallic frame (rebar, chickenwire, metal mesh) submerged in sea water. Calcium carbonate accretion (as the mineral aragonite) occurs at up to 5cm per year on the submerged frame, sequestering CO2 in the process. Power requirements are modest, about 3 watts per square meter.
Hilbertz went on to survey suitable sites located on undersea mountains that met certain desirable criteria: Locations in international waters, relatively shallow, easily harnessed ocean currents, good prospects of aquaculture and sea floor resources.
His aim: Creating autonomous, self-assembling island micro-nations.
Two likely sites were identified as prime locations for the project, to be known as Autopia Ampere, on the Mediterranean sea mount of Ampere (about halfway between the Madeira Islands and the tip of Portugal) or Autopia Saya, on the Saya de Malha Bank (east of Madagascar and southeast of the Seychelles) in the Indian Ocean.
In the 1997 Popular Mechanics article, Hilbertz said the fact that ocean-grown cities could stand on their own economically and become independent and self-governing entities poses what he believed to be one of the biggest barriers to their creation: There is no legal precedent regarding national ownership of a newly formed island that is beyond a nation’s territorial waters.
His plan: “We’ll establish our presence there and stake a claim, and see what happens. If anyone challenges us, we have lawyers ready to argue our case. We’ve had so many legal opinions that we decided just to go ahead and see what happens.”
Sadly, the Autopia project was interrupted by the sudden death of Dr. Hilbertz in August 2007.
Et Tu, Nemo?
Suppose an anarchist collective, tired of the oppression of those land-lubber states, decide to pool resources and head out for the Low Frontier of the High Seas to found a Free Enclave?
Site selection for a Free Enclave is a matter of “looking for loopholes” (as W.C. Field explained of his leafing through the Bible); in this case the term for “loophole” may be “terra nullius”, a place belonging to nobody else.
At one time, a nation’s territorial waters were defined by the range of their cannons (the Ultima Ratio Regnum principle). Nowadays, cannon-shot goes a lot farther, and every ‘budding democracy’ (or junta) with a few yards of beach-front property can declare an “Exclusive Economic Zone” out to 200 nautical miles of their sea-coast baseline. In addition to this, the Old Boys’ rights to resources on or under their slice of continental shelf are codified in the Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Assuming you’ve done your homework ahead of time, you’ve located a likely sea-mount or bank that is not in an Exclusive Economic Zone or on the continental shelf of a nation signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (this is the loophole you are looking for, since there is no Article dealing with artificial structures/islands except in those two cases).
- Sink metal forms connected to low-voltage power sources as discretely as possible (to
avoid ‘Imperial entanglements’);
- Accrete artificial coral foundations for at leasta year;
- Establish your outpost on the BioRock structures, then expand the Enclave to your heart’s content;
- Establish sustainable economic activities to support the Enclave.
Load up supplies (metal framework components, windmills, diving equipment and maybe a VIVACE array or two) and make the first expedition to, say, a suitable site bordering one of the North Pacific Gyres.
The initial metal framework could be installed within a week, with the placement of sacrificial anodes, floating windmills or submerged VIVACE arrays (to keep the framework power flowing) could take a bit longer. After this, it’s a waiting game, but time is on your side.
The artificial coral will continue to slowly accrete a nucleus for your new Free Enclave. The denser your metal framework, the faster the structural strength will improve (though at the cost of a higher power level to keep it growing). More BioRock frameworks over time would improve the stability and permanence of the Free Enclave, as well as provide a better habitat for future aquaculture.
‘Soylent Black’ and Its Deadly Legacy
Even though Providence chose to secrete the bulk of Liquid Petroleum at great depths inside the Earth or under the vastness of the Seas (surely a major hint to “use sparingly”), few resources of such diverse potential have been squandered so blithely, most of it having gone literally “up in smoke” via Infernal Combustion. Much of that which was not used to darken the Skies Above still haunts us in the form of Petro-Plastic, esteemed so lightly that it was considered disposable, to be cast off without a second thought, imagining that what was out of sight was out of mind.
In Shelley’s words:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
We may now reassess the true meaning of “out of mind”: The formerly ‘lone and level sands’ of once pristine beaches, even on the most remote archipelagos on Earth, are covered many feet thick in plastic flotsam, jetsam and dead sea creatures, with the enduring plastic legacy remaining sea-born clotting expanses of the ocean so thickly that it surpasses the mass of marine life, in some regions by seven-fold or more.
Down and Out in the Growing Enclave
A budding oceanic Enclave can harvest many things from the seas, including the hundreds of tons of free-floating plastic debris. Plastics don’t biodegrade, per se, but they do photodegrade: The UV rays of the sun break plastic masses down into smaller bits and pieces commonly referred to as “nurdles” or “mermaids’ tears”. These granules, typically under 5mm in diameter and resembling fish eggs, are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds and other sea creatures … all in the name of disposable plastic “culture”.
A harvest of mixed plastic nurdles can be sieved from the water by the proprietors of a Free Enclave and separated from fish and zooplankton (plastic isn’t generally phototropic, doesn’t instinctively swim up-stream, etc) in skimming troughs. Nurdles can be sorted by type of plastic using a series of vats containing fluids of decreasing specific gravity. The first vat will allow the heavier plastics (and other debris) to sink, the next heaviest plastics will settle out in the second vat, and so on.
Solar collectors could be used to heat the harvested plastic batches (for recycling into a variety of items useful for the Enclave) or desalinating water without wasting the precious electricity needed for mineral deposition.
Pontoons made of recycled plastic could be arranged into a grid around the ever-accreting base structure, with salvaged fishing nets strung over them to give your Enclave a little more elbow-room. If these pontoons were to be equipped with simple two-stroke pumps (perhaps bellows molded into them during manufacture), the energy of the waves could be easily captured to provide additional electrical power.
“Growing” construction panels on metal mesh would be a natural progression for the Enclave. These could comprise solid floors and walls connecting the coral columns, as well as provide an exportable product.
With a little ingenuity and recycled plastic, frameworks for submarine quarters could be grown, sealed and inhabited, with access via BioRock elevator shafts: Picture a “seascraper” as a sky-scraper in reverse. Like a medieval fortress, the subsurface quarters could provide submerged refuge in times of trouble.
So, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Technology, as usual, is the easy part. Dealing with the Old Boy network of traditional states is likely going to be the major hurdle faced by the new Free Enclave. Since Hilbertz’s Autopia plans were interrupted without firm precedent being set, the usual tools remain available for dealing with conflict that may arise:
Lawyers: If you do create a new island, better be prepared to spend years in court defending your title to it, unless you have plenty of …
Guns: Sealand has had to rely on force of arms to protect their claims of sovereignty a time or two. In general, anything you can do to make yourself indispensable or more trouble than you are worth to annex (rhythms with “Switzerland”) is worth the cost, which brings up …
Money: The universal lubricant. The more “bread” you have … the better tasting your sandwiches will be (to put it politely). Engage in sustainable aquaculture, BioRock panel exports, etc. to build financial reserves.
The Free Enclave, artificial or not, will be private property, with any attack viewed internationally as an act of piracy. The international community/Old Boy network will likely write the pirates a very sternly worded memo (stained with their crocodile tears) if your Free Enclave is attacked.
The Nemo Doctrine
Existing clauses of the UNCLOS-1982 state that artificial islands and structures have no claims to territorial waters, so a prudent level of defensive capabilities within a reasonable radius of the Free Enclave is probably advisable to make moot that point of contention. The mechanics of maintaining territorial integrity are beyond the scope of this text, though the “Nemo Doctrine” that freedom hinges on nullification of the power of any state to subjugate, should be a guiding principle. Remotely triggered buoyant “aquatic RPGs” placed in a series of defensive radii on the sea floor might be worth investigating. Augmentation of these relatively passive perimeter defenses with super-cavitating torpedoes, MANPADS, “Phalanx” type air defenses and selective jamming of SATNAV signals would likely ensure de facto sovereignty of a Free Enclave.
Building on shallow water sea-mounts/banks the Free Enclave will sidestep any “hazard to navigation” clauses in the UNCLOS (the hazard being well known and charted), and if anything, the Enclave on top diminishes the hazard by increasing visibility and provides another trading port for commerce. The beneficial bioremediation of coral destruction and CO2 sequestration will lend you emotional resonance with the populace outside the Enclave and generate political ‘brownie-points’ (or even swing a lucrative CO2 sequestration outsourcing contract from members of the Old Boys network in the process). “Doing well by doing Good” is at least karma neutral and would be a ‘no harm—no foul’ alternative to the tax-dodge/data haven/money laundering schemes usually resorted to by other microstates.
We’re great fans of The Survival Podcast, they never fail to reveal some little gems. As part of their recent Permaculture as a Solution for Modern Survival broadcast they linked to some great video clips from EcoFilms Australia which show exactly how sustainable food production can be…
How permanent is Permaculture? Try 2000 years! 😉
The PermaFuture Project is still under development, so we weren’t planning on starting a blog or website just yet, but the situation regarding Doncaster’s libraries is too urgent to wait.
In the face of drastic spending cuts Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) have decided to close 14 of its 26 local libraries…
Picture from Save Doncaster Libraries
The council allege that they’re targeting libraries in our region which are ‘under used’, but Save Doncaster Libraries refute this claim:
This is simply not the case. Cantley Library, for example, is an incredibly well-used library which serves a huge area including Cantley, Branton, Auckley, Finningley and Blaxton, yet is under threat of closure. If any libraries are under-used, it is because their opening hours and resources do not meet the needs of their communities. This is due to poor management by the council and a lack of promotion of the role and resources of the library service, not a lack of need from the people of Doncaster. Julie Grant, Assistant Director of Customer Strategy and Development admits in the Library Service Review itself that:
“We recognise that our marketing and outreach resources are insufficient to have real impact.”
So we’ll say it again: the closures are based on cost-cutting alone, the review is a sham, and the changes and the proposals do not take into account the needs of communities or the value of libraries.
As our fiery friends the Barnsdale Brigade pointed out recently…
As we’ve said before the only real way to fight the coalitions devastating attacks on community life (it’s ironic that their proposed ‘Big Society’ is going to be used to decimate ‘Small Community’) is to focus the remaining public funds and existing resources on the development of a sustainable and self-sufficient local infrastructure.
Doncaster has an incredibly rich and varied resource base – fertile agricultural areas, strong centralised transport links, vast swathes of council/public owned land, an abundance of brownfield sites, several unique ecologies, an industrious if undervalued populace, etc, etc – which should make us one of the richest regions rather than the poorest. The only reason we’re not thriving is because central government – both Tory and Labour – have continuously dis-empowered local government – and local government has consistently aided and abetted them!
The economic crisis, combined with peak-oil and climate change, now makes greater localisation a vital imperative. The council should focus its expenditure on promoting locally produced energy, food and resources rather than the appeasement of central government and big business. This would allow more money to circulate for longer within our communities, which would in turn protect people during the hard times ahead. We need to become ever less reliant on an ever less reliable government.
In order to do this we must develop the relevant knowledge and skills within our communities. And local libraries would be perfect for such an endeavor!
Libraries are not just about literacy – though Doncaster has such a low literacy rate that this alone should be reason to keep them open – they’re about knowledge and communication – which will be vital to the creation of a self-reliant future.
We think that they’re absolutely right. Our libraries are not in trouble because they’re ‘under-used’ by the people, they’re struggling because they’re under-valued by the DMBC. As storehouses of knowledge and centres of communication our libraries could become the perfect places to research, develop and promote the skills and knowledge vital to a self-sufficient and sustainable future. This wouldn’t require any extra funding, just a little imagination and reserve – both from local residents and the local authorities.
William Kamkwamba‘s story illustrates perfectly how important libraries can be.
As a child growing up in Malawi, William survived a terrible famine. His family were unable to pay for his education, so he decided to educate himself by visiting the local library. Here he found a book called Using Energy which contained pictures and information about wind turbines. Realising that wind generated energy could help with irrigation he decided to build a wind-turbine for his family. Using library books he taught himself physics and mechanics, and using scrap materials like an old bicycle, old radios and a rusty nail for a drill he began to experiment. At just 14 years old he succeeded in building his first windmill.
William has built several windmills since which help to provide electricity for his family and to pump water to their crops. In 2010 William Kamkwamba was one of four recipients of the GO Ingenuity Award, a prize awarded by the Santa Monica based nonprofit GO Campaign. The grant helps Kamkwamba hold workshops for youth in his home village, teaching them how to make windmills and repair water pumps, both of which proved to be transformative skills for this young African leader.
You can read William’s full story in his inspirational book ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind‘ – why not order it through your local library!
Anyone interested in creating a better future for our children will realise how important libraries are, and what a powerful tool they could be if they were not so under valued. Join the campaign to SAVE DONCASTER LIBRARIES!
And if you not lucky enough to be a Doncastrian, but still live in the UK you might want to check out this map of cuts and proposed cuts to libraries throughout Britain – http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/library-closures-the-full-infuriating-picture