Walking Made Us Fly

“The first time I went on a really long walk, an absurd six-day walk following the exact border of a municipality in the east of the Netherlands, walking through fields, crossing canals, entering peoples’ houses, sleeping on the border in a small tent, I felt the way I had felt as a kid when I went out exploring the vast forest behind my parents’ house.

Some people would rather have wings but we don’t, we have feet. We were born to walk. Scientists say that walking gave us our brain capacity, walking turned us into the human beings we are. Walking made it possible for us to have the desire to fly and to come up with ways to turn our dreams into reality.

Walking made us fly. We can go anywhere. Still the easier it becomes to move through this world, the more disconnected we seem to get from it. We have to land again. Get close to the things. Be part of the world. Walking teaches us where we are, who we are. A slow speed makes our brain work fast. Makes us see more. Be more. And best of all: walking makes time disappear.”

Read more: A Soft Armour by Monique Besten. Previously: Our Right to be Oustide.

Adapting to Climate by Being a Nomad within your own House

While some people seasonally move between dwellings, others are nomads within their own houses. In such diverse places as Iraq, Algeria, and India, climates and cultures may vary, as do the directions and rhythms of movement. But all share migration within the dwelling as a primary mode of adaption to climate.

Families living in traditional courtyard houses of Baghdad, without mechanical ventilation or heating, migrate by day and season for comfort. In September or October, they move around the courtyard to rooms facing south. In April or May they shift to the north-facing rooms. In summer there is a daily vertical migration, the afternoon siesta being spent at the lowest levels and the nighttime sleep traditionally being taken on the roof under the stars.

old baghdad house

Picture: muhammadshnait91.tumblr.com

Such migrations mean that space is used with a freedom unusual in modern life and in the West. Recent correspondence from Mounjia Abdeltif-Benchaabane, a professor of architecture in Algiers, describes how rooms there have not traditionally been organized with regard to individual use or established purpose:

A living room becomes a sleeping room at night. Closets are full of mobile furnishings. In the morning everything is hung near windows to air out under the sun before being reused, perhaps in a different room. The kitchen is a multifunctional space. They cook on the floor even if they have modern tools.

A long-established Arab concern with privacy, in conjunction with the custom of migrating through the house, established the texture of some old cities like Baghdad. Since the roof is used for sleeping during nearly half of the year and the privacy of the family at night is fundamental, no house could look down upon its neighbor nor could one house look into the courtyard of another. The result was an effective building height control with advantages for solar access: no house could overshadow another, thus assuring wintertime light and heat to upper living spaces.

Quoted from “Ritual House: Drawing on Nature’s Rhythms for Architecture and Urban Design“, Ralph L. Knowles, 2006.

Our Right to be Outside: Three Mules

“You spot a somewhat disheveled man with three fully loaded pack mules walking though your community. What the … ?

This strange and, to many, awe-inspiring sight has been experienced by thousands of people in small towns and large cities throughout the western United States. But who is he and what is he doing? Is he lost in the wrong century? Is he homeless? Is he on a mission?

mulesThe Mules (as he refers to himself and the animals collectively) have traveled for nearly three decades through 16 states. For the last ten years they have lived outdoors. Even though he may not talk much when one first meets him, if the time and place are right, Mule will share something that he feels we should all be thinking about.

Throughout their travels, the Mules have noticed an ever increasing urban sprawl. Open spaces where they once moved through freely, and sometimes spent the night in a secluded spot, were disappearing. More and more cars filled up the roadways, and the expanding urban infrastructure seemed to serve one purpose: accommodate more automobiles.

At the same time, space for other means of self- transportation, such as bicycling, horseback riding and simply walking, were shrinking. Those alternative means of self-travel have often been confined to designated “recreation” areas. Also, as the urban environment exploded, natural habitats have vanished, or been “preserved” in spaces a fraction of the size they once were.
Mule sums it all up: “The space needed by The Mules to travel this country freely in all four directions on the landscape is being taken over by the suburban model of automobile usage, exclusively, and leaving no space for alternative venues of moving and living. In our travels, we carry that awareness and bring it to others. We’re a working model for that awareness, one step at a time, all day, every day.””

Quoted from 3 mules, via LLoyd’s blog.

Celebrating the Luddite Uprisings


Smash the machines“November 2011 – January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings, in which artisan cloth workers smashed machines which were destroying their trades, undercutting wages and forcing them into unemployment and destitution. Today, the industrial system that the Luddites were rebelling against has led to climate change and huge losses of biodiversity, and its new technologies, such as information technology, genetic engineering and nanotechnology raise equally profound issues. Yet anyone who raises concern about the price and side-effects of new technologies is harshly condemned as a ‘luddite’, someone supposedly irrationally opposed to technology and progress.”

“In fact, the Luddites were not ‘luddites’ in that sense: the idea that they were opposed to all technology is a history written by the victors. In fact the Luddites opposed only technology ‘hurtful to Commonality’, ie. to the common good, rather than the narrow interests of the few. They destroyed some machines whilst leaving alone others in the same workshop. So being a luddite today means being a sceptic about the dogma of technology as progress, not about denying the real benefits of some technologies. It means insisting that the crucial decisions about which technologies are developed are made democratically, not just imposed by corporations and technocratic elites. And it means standing up for our own ideas of what progress really is.”

Help celebrate 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprising: Luddites at 200 website. See also: “Lessons of the Luddites“.

What’s the Amish community’s stance on cars?

“To the extent that you are mobile in an automated or motorized way with something like a car or motorcycle or fast moving tractor, you’ve increased your radius of contact with other human beings, but at the same time you dilute the quality of contact within that radius.

So you can have more contact with a lot more people, but the quality of your relationships with those people, especially the people who are your immediate neighbors, is diluted. You don’t rely on them as much. It really drastically undermines the community.

The Beachy Amish — that’s a sect within the Amish — they decided to adopt cars. Then most of the young people left the group because they got exposed to the rest of the society and — poof! — they’re gone.”

Read more: Despite horses and buggies, Amish aren’t necessarily ‘low-tech’.

Where no one would believe someone could live

Der ingen skulle tru at nokon kunne bu” is a documentary about Jenny Endresen, an American woman who started a new, extremely low-tech life in an inhospitable part of Norway. It’s not my idea of a low-tech life (I would dress differently, for one thing) but there are some interesting things to see and to hear. Voiceover and questions are in Norwegian, but the woman answers in English. Hat tip to Cristiano Sandels Navarro.