In memoriam Klaus Arnsperger: “Ashes to ashes,” or a call for renewing our native wisdom

Hello everyone. It’s been quite a while again (almost three months this time) since I last posted something. Life has been intruding, so to speak. I won’t go into all details. Some of them are pretty mundane, others less so.

One event stands out for me though, strangely or not so strangely related to this blog’s theme through the passageways of metaphysical lucidity. My father Klaus Arnsperger died, aged 87, on January 13th in a hospital in Zurich. My mother, my sister and I held his hands and stroked his chest up until his very last breath. Continue reading

Fractality — Isotropy — Perma-circularity: Richard Register, Paola Viganò, and the new foundations of settlement design

As the US presidential election campaign drags on and becomes more and more alarming with regard to the planet’s true needs, I’ve been seeking intellectual and existential solace in my family and also in further forays into the “Ecovillage L.A. 2066” project I outlined in one of my earlier posts.

In this context, I’ve recently been reading stuff by Richard Register, the father of the “ecocity” concept and founder of EcoCity Builders. I love it. Continue reading

GUEST POST: Quasi-circular growth and the uncertain future of recycling, by François Grosse

The French engineer François Grosse, currently the CEO of the urbanism consultancy ForCity, whose quantitative analysis of recycling underlies the contents of my most visited and quoted post up to now, is doing me the honor and the pleasure of contributing this blog’s first guest post. He delineates the rationale for what he calls “quasi-circular growth,” based on his understanding of why (a) recycling might well be useless in the long run in a growing economy but why (b) a de-growth — or negative growth — economy isn’t the answer. Ultimately, he calls for a deeper cultural overhaul of our entrenched habits if we are going to usher in a perma-circular society. Continue reading

From the metropolis to the “metrochorio,” from the megalopolis to the “choriopolis” as a network of “kiklikochorios”

My collaborative-utopian-imaginative-radical open-action-research project Ecovillage L.A. 2066 has been out there now for a few days. It’s getting off to a somewhat slow start, but that’s probably normal. Perma-circularity is in itself a new notion to wrap one’s head around, and applying it to an urban “hyper-organism” such as Los Angeles might seem like a tall order even for those who are prepared to go perma-circular at full throttle.

So while, hopefully, the word gets around and gradually spreads, today I want to send out a somewhat geeky post. Some geekiness is called for, because we need a whole new vocabulary for the challenges facing us. Continue reading

Los Angeles, a perma-circular metropolis in fifty years? Launching “Ecovillage L.A. 2066”

It’s kind of a dream idea. A bit crazy, in fact — the stuff utopian ideas and innovations are made of. You might call it a thought experiment. On a massive scale.

I want to call it “Ecovillage L.A. 2066.”

The question: What if, 50 years from now, Los Angeles were organized and inhabited as an ecovillage, or – more to the point – a federation of ecovillages? A metropolitan ecovillage of 20 million people, envisioned as a perma-circular region: What would it look and feel like? What would have to change, and why would those changes – momentous as they would have to be – offer exciting new cultural and social horizons? Continue reading

The “Green Economy” initiative in Switzerland: Lessons from a sad but predictable defeat

This weekend the Swiss people exercised their democratic sovereignty to say “Yes” or “No” to a very important popular initiative, labeled “Green Economy.” Its full name was “For a sustainable economy based on an efficient use of resources.” This initiative was initially spearheaded by the Green party. In essence, it proposed a gradual reduction in the country’s ecological footprint to one planet, down from about 3.5, over the next 35 years. The final verdict was “No,” with a rejection of the initiative by 63.5% against versus 36.5% in favor. (If you need to brush up on what popular initiatives mean in Swiss direct democracy, click here.) Only the canton of Geneva said “Yes,” by a relatively short majority of 52%. Among all other cantons, the highest “No” rate of 78% was observed in the central canton of Schwyz; the lowest “No” vote was around 53% and came about in Basel-City and in Vaud.

This sad but predictable defeat for an extremely timely and important change of policy and mentality was driven by fear Continue reading

Glimpses of perma-circular America

Hello folks, I’m sorry it’s been so long since the last post. The summer came and went, and now school has started again, the daily rhythm has kicked in anew, and I’m realizing that more than two months have elapsed since I last posted anything. That’s actually strange because I have such a lot to report on!

Earlier this summer, my partner Agnieszka and I were in the western USA for most of July. We had our base camp in Los Angeles — one of the US’s least sustainable cities, or so it seems. It’s such a culture shock when you’re coming over from Europe, even for people  who, like us, have lived or grown up in the States. The expression “car culture” really comes into its own there. Most Americans, not so much by deliberate choice as by systemic necessity made gradually into a cultural value, use their automobiles in much the same way the average Swiss citizen uses their shoes. Continue reading

The three levels of the perma-circularity project

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not — I repeat: not — saying that repairing, re-using, re-manufacturing, and recycling are useless in and of themselves. If I were saying that, I would be going against my own deepest convictions as I see them embodied in the everyday practices of some of the people I admire most: the ecovillage dwellers who joyfully move towards a sufficiency mindset and remain within it, the permaculture geniuses who create tomorrow’s food, mobility and lodging utopias and implement them today, the “zero-waste” downshifters who devote their energy and creativity to living without treading heavily on the soil and the water, the voluntary simplicity advocates who patiently seek better, cleaner ways of consuming — and, yes, the industrial and agronomic engineers who spend all their efforts dealing with waste reduction and devising cleaner production solutions. Continue reading

One engineer’s deeper wisdom: François Grosse and the (re)discovery of the perma-circular mindset

Reading the previous post you may have thought: Okay, so perma-circularity is about circularity and permanence — about recycling, reusing, re-manufacturing, repairing, and reducing — but what does it consist in? Isn’t it some sort of neo-primitivist pipe dream? Do we really need to reduce? Why have zero or near-zero growth? Surely engineers nowadays are aware of the problems and have figured out ways for our economies to keep growing at the rates we need to have jobs and well-being, while constantly reducing our deleterious impacts on the biosphere?

Well, the answer is: No, they haven’t. In fact they can’t. Continue reading