nature-integrated homes for independent living
- 1970's alternative community founded by Robert Bornn on an island in
Technology and Diagram
Scope of the Struggle
By Robert Bornn
The island has gone through many years
of industrialization and now that reclamation is planned, the people of
the project and those of the Stonington community will both share in the
humanizing of the island and in the seeking and exploring of alternative
energies. The human dwelling environment is where we begin our personal
search for a better world. The outer environment is an area of great
importance and forms a critical link between humankind and our planet.
It deserves much study, subsequent awareness, and appropriate actions.
The inner environment (i.e., human dwelling environment) calls for immediate
study as well since it is absolutely critical that houses positively reflect
the people who inhabit them.
By Robert Bornn
The main value
that the island has had for us so far has been in evaluating the role of
shelter in of how we live. The housing that will follow this
evaluation will be the result of a combination of structural and human
The main idea,
so far, can be seen as a new direction in housing. A prototype would
include not only an expression of ecological awareness and potential for
living in phase with nature, but a possible harmony between people which
has become a more distant reality daily. The upheavals in our personal
lives due to role re-evaluation and new human needs awareness have also
brought forth new demands that our dwellings reflect these positive changes.
The need to be alone, to be responsible for one's own life, the sharing
of time based on free desire, not environmental or social pressure, should
be part of any overall design plan.
One way this
can be expressed is by construction of houses by and for the individuals
using them. Having each person have their own dwelling is
the beginning of that new human potential. Having that house designed
and built with friends and in a cooperative fashion makes that idea economically
feasible. The costs, while greater for a separate dwelling than for
a nuclear family style dwelling, actually diminish within the context of
cooperative purchasing of materials and group building.
brought about by such a building effort may in themselves be of a substantial
benefit in learning cooperative venturing. One question is about
people's prior relations. Will people still live together?
Even if one has built a home for themselves they will still see each other
as much or as little as they desire. Even though it is probable that
the majority of time will be spent doing the same things and spending time
similarly, the needs for privacy and the needs for individuation and subsequent
identity strengthening will have the possibility of fulfillment.
This last set of needs is almost never met even if the people involved
are cooperative with each other, due to simple limitations of space and
how that space is allocated. Someone usually ends up with a less
than desirable part of the house as their territory.
When an animal's
territory is transgressed, aggressive behavior is noted; with people, anti-social
behavior starts cropping up. It is quite hard to imagine, especially
if the relationships are close, as to why anyone would prefer to live alone.
Yet in reality people do live alone on this planet. Voluntary socialization
is what makes people a little less alone.
If people build
their homes near or attached to others, yet completely self-sufficient,
then their interdependency is purely emotional (as it should be) rather
than a result of role and housing pressures.
may evolve from individual housing. Less anti-social and aggressive
behavior and more positive interaction between men and women, adults and
children, we believe will occur. Fixed role stereotyping will diminish
under cooperative and equalized housing. We believe it's the key
to establishing a better harmony between people and a consequent harmony
exert a reinforcing effect on various behavior patterns. If the total
environment is planned by its future inhabitants to exert a positive reinforcement
of new and freer patterns, then after a time the meaningful changes will
be apparent. This is part of what we're attempting. Housing
which evolves as it is constructed and lived in, is another goal.
By Robert Bornn
|Often it is felt that energy is simply
electrical watts, horsepower, and so on. In fact, the calories in
food, along with oxygen, are the primary energy sources that are most important
to consider. Earthworm technology, as we call it, concerns the orderly,
efficient, and lowest cost method (in terms of environmental impact and
money) of converting what is waste to one organism into food for another.
Earthworms, by favorably altering the structure and contents of the soil
or of concentrated sewage and organic refuse (sweetening and aerating it),
thus provide a better grade soil. These worms in turn become
the food for fish and also poultry. We intend to raise fish in large
quantities in the vast quarry pits. Fish eat earthworms, people eat
fish. Fish refuse will be worked through by earthworms. Excess
refuse will become fertilizer or can be anerobically digested into methane
gas. In practical terms, we feel that the most efficient system we
can devise for waste conversion and high protein production comes down
to earthworms. This means we will be utilizing a single organism
which produces a useful by-product, in addition to its primary use.
We expect our first form of production
of electricity to be unregulated and to be intermittently generated by
wind, solar energy, tides, and water currents. This energy could
be stored as hydrogen, a product of electrolysis, in batteries, and someday
in nylon flywheels. The steady-state usable electric power will come
from hydrogen fuel cells and batteries; the gas, or course, may be burned
directly as stationary engine fuel or in heating plants themselves.
The production of hydrogen as fuel from the intermittent electrolysis of
sea water also provides oxygen. Oxygen in turn may be burned with
waste wood in the production of methanol, which in turn can be used for
mobile engines. Hence our overall approach involves the conversion
of static material (granite scrap) into dynamic money which becomes capital
investment in equipment which utilizes forces which are renewable and have
a low environmental impact. They also work simply. Earthworm
technology may help us to achieve this next chapter of our conversion to
a post-industrial era.
When the scrap granite is sold, the
land itself may be reclaimed. The compost heap will cover the scars
and become soil. From this soil grasses will grow. Animals
such as goats and sheep will follow. Grazing fills yet another space
in the overall plan of reclamation. The animals, of course, provide
food and their droppings in turn, can be processed with the human "waste."
We feel that the term "waste" or "refuse"
means that we have simply failed to utilize a material to its limit.
Our inability to to define everything as useful
is what creates garbage and sewage. On that note we are currently
preparing to research and propose new and alternative systems of municipal
sewage collection and conversion for the town of Stonington. It looks
very positive at this time. More of that in the next issue.
|Copyright (c) 1972-2005
by Robert Bornn. All rights reserved.
of the Struggle
By Robert Bornn
The first issue of the Island Quarterly
reaches you in the midst of a number of epic struggles. Artificial shortages
of every sort plague people. In George Orwell's 1984, a book that
has predicted successfully a number of ongoing trends, shortages are linked
with specific political controls for the benefit of the totalitarian government.
Orwell did not grasp at the time the enormity of the future power of the
multinational corporations as pseudo world governments, which decisively
regulate fuel, foodstuffs, and control development or depression of the
people. However, even this timetable falls a decade past a number
of actual practices. Although the oil regulation plans are the most
obvious, the insidious food control and almost all other economic controls
are imposed and accepted with latent disinterest. "Life is too hard
to struggle constantly with every power wielding specter from every devious
corner"' from a machinist friend. Hence the controls spiral upward,
while people grow further from succeeding in their personal goals of a
better world. Environmentalists are now under attack as being a cause(!)
of the energy problem, much as the boy who shouted that the emperor had
no clothes and was the cause of the nonexistent garment. As recycling
becomes more and more acceptable, population gains wipe out any real improvements
made simultaneously. Focusing on specific issues and problems is
becoming more important as time grows shorter. It is inevitable that
a number of imbalances are likely to become more overwhelming as time goes
on. Some of them appear under the guise of good luck -- milder winter
weather is one such occurrence. I feel it is something entirely different
that what it appears to be. As our project becomes more equipped
to observe and record, specific relationships between environment and behavior
and environment in relation to food and energy production will be clarified.
The diffusion of the seasons is one
such example. There is a phenomena starting to become more apparent
now that was first noticed around fifty years ago (perhaps even further
back and is intensifying lately. The last three winters have
proven so far to be a fairly good example of this diffusion. Characterized
in the New England area (and Northwest coast) by a snow fall followed by
an unusual and rapid thaw with accompanying unseasonably mild weather for
a day or so with heavy flooding. This coupled with the loss of snow
cover usually means that when the insulating cloud cover disappears the
cold returns and the front has a more severe effect on the ground and soil
structure. This manifests itself with obvious pipeline damage (freeze-up).
And not so obvious soil structure changes. The structure change in
itself results in trees losing their root strength and subsequent windstorms
down them in great numbers. Recent summers have likewise shown this
diffusion. They have been wetter and cooler than normal. Spring
has brought more insect activity than usual. Autumns have been generally
warmer with more precipitation.
Using a sense of caution about all
new climatological changes is wise. Who actually can predict with
any degree of certainty what sort of changes will produce what sort of
long-term effects? The point is that seasonal diffusion may be an
example of a complex and often subtle interrelationship of man's specific
actively aggressive efforts to survive. As these attempts of vast
population survival continue more and greater imbalances of the environment
are to be expected. Although most microclimatological changes are
relatively easy to monitor, the results of these changes are often generations
away. Without sufficient data, the usual extrapolations are considered
by the industrial world as unacceptable and those advocating a conservative
attitude are viewed as doomsday merchants. It is very doubtful whether
there would be a change in business practice of critical industries even
if sufficient data were know. An obvious example is the mercury and
heavy metal pollution related paralysis in Japan in which the responsible
companies preferred to subsidize the misery as a simple cost of doing business
rather than facing their more costly responsibility of protecting the environment
in the first place, at the risk of greatly reduced profits.
Although there is a beginning movement
of ecological awareness, the incidents of breakdown in the systems of food
growing and production, the problems of energy source production, transportation
and use bring new realization of the overall seriousness of these problems.
Of all the signs and hints of what is happening, perhaps the contrived
energy crisis will help to show the complexity of interdependency of our
life-support systems. If one believes, as a growing body of people
do that there is a sufficient amount of food and other energy available
for everyone, provided that the resource management directions are in phase
with natural directions, then the crises will be resolved. This,
however, presumes a certain sense of good will and a belief on the part
of many, that all shortages are in fact either contrived or simply a product
of archaic controls gone haywire. This sense and belief is actually
quite rare and its lack is evidenced by the hoarding (stockpile) of human
strategic materials and energy supplies. Until a basic set of beliefs
is radically altered, the best efforts of all the environmentalists will
be for naught, since the population and its presumed needs will far outreach
the supplies as they are controlled. Nationalism and unequal distribution
of life-support products on a global basis, of course, is a part of the
problem. A part of the solution should always be full utilization
of indigenous materials and energy sources no matter how "inefficient"
their land use may appear in the eyes of "professional" engineers and technocrats.