Villages in the Sky: DIY World Change

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The dream dies October 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — paxus @ 6:21 am

(sara) we’ve been quiet for a really long time.  no posts, no updates.  and still it seems, while browsing our history, that there are some people still paying attention, waiting for our next announcement.  i only wish it were some good news.

more than a month ago i got a call from a girlfriend of mine, telling me that our host community had voted us out.  the proposal to extend our timeline a year was not accepted and suddenly VIS was without a home.  and the blow came unexpectedly as our advisors had reassured us they thought the plan would be palatable to a community that had acknowledged that the timing was poor for a big festival.

immediately after the vote i was on the phone with one of our board members in missouri, spiraling through a series of emotions: anger, pain, resilience and hope.  she had me convinced that moving on without east wind was the only true path.  and while i still savor that conversation and appreciate the intention, it seems that the energy to push this project to completion is spent.

after a year of hard work spread amongst too few core organizers, the momentum and the dedication to launch VIS doesn’t seem to be manifesting itself.  and we are officially abandoning the project with mixed emotional responses of sadness and relief.

it’s true, the decision was made awhile ago and it’s been a bit too painful to make public just yet.  we have been lucky to work with some amazing people and still it wasn’t enough.  i hope that the work we’ve started will inspire others and that some thread of this vision will come to fruition in the near future.  until then, we’ll keep dancing in other circles, singing up the spirits of new and brilliant projects.


the best part of fundraising June 21, 2010

(sara)  a couple of days ago, i was stressing out.  fundraising has been the biggest challenge for me since we started this adventure more than a year ago.  i’ve done non profit energy organizing, but never from the position of executive director and to jump straight into non profit management from scratch has been a huge growth experience.  and i relish bringing a bit of my “green-ness” to the position.

there’s no easy way to keep track of the leading projects competing for the “G4C” and i was going through project by project checking vote counts only to discover that we’d been bumped out of 5th place by a project that hadn’t previously registered in my tracking efforts and had jumped all the way to 1st place.  we need to hold onto at least 5th place to stay in the competition after july 6th.

i’ve been a lot of places in the last year, fallen in love with a lot of people as i’ve worked to hussle this festival.  and before that i was working closely with young activists across south carolina and the southeast, where i’d formed a tight kint family of climate activists defending the south against dirty energy.  it’s one of my greatest sadnesses, that i fall in love so often, form deep relationships and then move on only to lose touch because of the sheer number of people i want to hold in my life.  so when i saw that we were down in votes, i hesitated.  as a youth activist i learned to harness the power of facebook for event promotion, network strengthening, etc.  but i hadn’t been in touch in so long, and now, when i needed help i would pop back into the lives of so many of the people i’d lost touch with.

but i bit my lip, swallowed my guilt and hunkered down at my computer for a blitz of facebook wall posts to old friends.  after a couple of hours, i re-emerged from the realm of computer thin connections and hoped for the best, still feeling a little cheap.  but my friends rose to the occassion and took my breath away.  not only did we move into third place, but i’ve written a dozen love letters, reconnected with more friends, and am now making plans to see many of my southeastern family while i’m in south carolina for the next couple months.

just a part of the family i'm rediscovering

nothing about this project is normal.  and even if we don’t get the 10,000 dollar grant, this has been an exercise in reconnection and has reaffirmed my commitment to making this project happen in raucous style.  it’s not that i forget how much i love the idea of a festival that changes the world, it’s that i get so blinded by the stresses and challenges that i am not always connected to the thrill of what we’re doing.  and any project that allows me to strengthen old and new relationships under the guise of fundraising is a project i want to be a big part of.


if you haven’t voted yet, or made all of your friends vote, it’s pretty simple.  just go to: and follow the instructions for voting.  thanks so much!


Pressure Drop – Delaying the festival May 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — villagesinthesky @ 11:01 am

(Paxus)  “Realistic” is a curse word in my house.  It is what is used to stop people from following their dreams, from opposing things which seem unstoppable (like nuclear power plants) and to get people to conform to restrictive social norms.

This is an ambitious project, but there are lines which are too far.  When we start  burning out our people or the goals become more important than the spirit, it is time to step back and re-assess.  When we looked at where we were and where we wanted to be by June 1st, we decided we needed to change the plans, it was too much too soon.

In a series of charged meetings with our advisors and a bunch of phone calls we decided to delay the start of the festival, til at least the fall.  [Summer events on this site are simply too hot to consider].  We made this choice just before Sara’s birthday and it was one of the better presents we could give her i think.

One of the factors was that we had not raised enuf money to buy the minimal number of things we needed.  And almost miraculously, right after we decided to slow down, te first real outside money came in.  But we did not second guess our choice.

A smaller crew will continue to work on the site, and we are still planning on getting up the dance floor in the next couple of weeks (the pole barn and first zip line are basically completed now).

For those who were planning on coming in a month, our apologies and request to keep watching this space as the new evolved project shapes itself.

For those who want to come to build up camp, do be in touch we will be working thru May on construction and organizing and we still need your help.

We are not being realistic, we are just shifting gears.

almost completed Pole barn


The Amazing Mr Parrott April 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — paxus @ 4:26 pm

When Ish first told me about his friend, i was skeptical. He described a simple electrolysis device which Charles Parrott had developed and added to his car which dramatically increased his gas millage. i studied enuf classical economics to believe that any inexpensive millage enhancing device would be embraced by Detroit as a way to stave off the need to retool assembly lines due to federally mandated millage requirements.

When i talked with Charles, my perceptions began to shift. An unassuming man, he was clearly an inspired tinkerer and capable inventor. When i asked him why he did not take his hydrogen generator into business he said “Business would be boring.” It was also clear that he appeared to be more interested in new projects, growing algae for energy and zip lines and tree houses (which is why he was interested in meeting me).

He gave me an early version of his hydrogen generator, which is pictured below. The theory is simple enuf, the device breaks down water using electricity the car produces while driving but can not store because the battery is full (this device likely would not work as well on hybrids which are more clever about energy use and conservation). Water becomes hydrogen and oxygen gas which is then feed into the carburetor where it burns hotter and more efficiently than the nitrogen rich air which generally inhabits that space.

i called my old engineering friend Rez to ask him about the physics of the proposition. Rez pointed out that electrolysis is not an especially efficient operation but that neither is internal combustion, despite decades of refinement. That the equation for the increased energy was

Enew = (Egas + EH2 – Eelectrolysis) * Fnew

Enew = Energy with combined gasoline and H2 fuels with enriched O2 (oxygen is the oxidizer)
Egas = Energy running just on gasoline
EH2 = Energy from burning the hydrogen
Eelectrolysis = Energy to run the electrolysis (this is not free, when the battery is full the alternator doesn’t have to work)
Fnew = Efficiency factor for the engine running gasoline/hydrogen/oxygen-enriched fuel.

Average gasoline engines are ~20% efficient, wasting 80% of the energy in the gasoline. The real gain will be in Fnew jumping due to improve flame propagation speeding the combustion and making it more complete.

Rez took some exception to my calling the surplus energy from the over charged car battery being called “waste energy” and in the end concluded that the only way that the physics would work would be for the burning of these gases to increase the actual efficiency of the car engine, which he held was possible and a bit tricky to measure. Rez also scanned the internet, found many studies in the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) publications finding that efficiency improvements of 12% (a study at MIT) and vastly reduced emissions [ see abstracts at half way down the page]. Interesting design of a electrolysis unit that uses the waste exhaust heat (which does nothing else useful) to make the H2 and O2.

Were  i not obsessed with this festival i might dive into this device and do some testing.  Charles says he drove it from Springfield MO to San Diego and got 60 mpg while an identical vehicle (owned by a friend) got 48 mpg – both Geo Metros.

[Pictures to come]


Building and breaking and emboldening April 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — villagesinthesky @ 2:08 pm

(Sara) It isn’t easy, this game of culture creation.  In fact this post comes late and is being written in Virginia, because I was told I was going on vacation and nearly forced into the car.  The stresses of the project have been overwhelming and nearly too demanding, but give me a good book, a couple of days hiding out and I will recover.

Seed camp has started and is motivating me forward and westward.  What we’re building at seed camp is more than pole barns and dirt ovens, we’re building a family, a foundation for the festival.  The people we’re working with are brilliant, bold and deeply compassionate.  Fifteen people moved onto a piece of land in the middle of the foothills with no electricity and no running water.  Some of the first things we had to address were practical: waste management, food storage.  So our friends at East Wind built us a composting toilet for the site and trained us in human waste management.  Shiloh, who came out to cook, had read about earth boxes on the internet and started digging an angled box into the ground, lined it with large rocks from around the site for insulation, and packed it all in for refrigeration.  Jason built the camp some furniture out of salvaged slab wood and brush piles for burning.  And more projects carry on as I hide away in Virginia: a dirt oven for baking bread and such, a sweat lodge, solar showers.  This is exactly what we want to be inspiring people towards with the festival: inventive, creative and simplistic solutions to living in this world more cooperatively, more symbiotically.

But the physical infrastructure doesn’t even touch the depth of the emotional and human infrastructure we’re building.  It’s hard to avoid each other in our small space with limited creature comforts.  At night we gravitate towards the campfire, because it is the most compelling source of light (the only other being one propane powered lantern).  During the day we work and play with each other.  And already we’ve tested the capacity of our small village to hold each other and support each other and challenge each other to grow.  It came right as we were about to drive the 1,000 miles back east.  We were thrown by the request and almost unanimous support of camp to take one of our volunteers back with us, unexpectedly.  It was true, he was tricky–easily distracted, not working as much as he could be, socially awkward and just beginning to grow up.  There was a series of conversations about it: checking in with different camp members, getting the advice of those who are and would be living with him, speaking with him personally.  And when he heard the decision of the camp, he was shaken, it wasn’t an easy decision, and he wanted one chance to speak with everyone himself before riding back with us.

I sped away along the soggy and potholed roads to negotiate our parking lease with the next door neighbors and talk about trucks.  While I was gone something unexpected and profoundly inspiring happened.  The unwanted camp member spoke with the others at camp and everyone met without him to make their decision together, without the interference of some pesky “lead organizers.”  The unanimous decision:   let him stay, we will help him grow, keep him on task and pick up slack where he is sure to drop it from time to time.

With the good news, I got back in the car, my heart breaking.  I knew I needed to leave, or I would be nearly useless to the project, but I was leaving behind something so thrilling.  We had gone through hell together, with tensions building between the project and our host community.  But they’d broken just the day before and we were stronger for it, more determined.  If nothing else comes of this wild project and this last year of my life, I will owe it the experience and learned wisdom of building community, being taught by others the strength of cooperation and the true meaning of “it takes a village.”

The ommission from this story is that I was so exhausted and spread thin that last day, that I didn’t care what happened with this camp member.  I would have made the more callous and less challenging decision.  And I’m humbled to be part of a group, of a family, that will remind me what the right decisions are when we’re creating our own culture.  It was a challenge to my own growth and I don’t think they know it yet.  It will have to wait until I get back to camp.  I can’t wait.


The New Plan March 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — villagesinthesky @ 1:05 am

(paxus) Sara and i were arguing about being “realistic” there are lots of things we don’t know about the project.  How many volunteers we will have? where money will come from after our small seed funding?  Can we promote this very remote event with any success?  Sara did not know that the word “realistic” has been used as a club against many of my ideas.

What we ended up agreeing on (instead of realism) is sequencing.  That we dont know how much we will get done, but by choosing the order of the construction we will set our own internal priorities.  There is a growing group of project advisers from inside East Wind who are working with Sara and Pilgrim on the ground.  Yesterday evening they were brilliant and came up with a plan that Sara told me about on the phone.

The essence of it is to ditch the bunkhouse for workers right now, we dont need it in the very short term (most volunteers can camp), it is not directly supporting the tree house construction.  And as Sara points out it is a good building to do later when we have a stronger need and when we have more skilled folks on the site to help, since it will be the base of operations for future festivals and likely the most utilized structure we build.

So instead we are starting with the pole barn and the first zip line.  Then cisterns and more zip lines and other tree house platforms.

Architects proposal for tree house and zip line platform


Dates and Ticket Prices February 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — paxus @ 6:08 pm

Our favorite outlaw laywer Diana from Brooklyn was rightly chastising us the other day for not being public with the dates of our fair event.  So without further ado:

Villages in the Sky will be held from June 1 thru 6, 2010 in the Ozarks

It is not so simple with the ticket prices.  We dont really have ticket prices, we have something between ticket conversations and negotiations.  Originally there was going to be a grid, with two axes.  Your ticket price increased by the amount of wealth you had access to and it decreased by the eco-friendliness of your transport here.

Using this scheme roughly, we have sold the first ticket to someone who is worth more than a million dollars and they bought it for $1,000.  Of course only a tiny number of tickets will be sold at this price, but if we are serious about taking on climate change and peak oil – the folx who are going to pay for that are well off.

So now what we are thinking is something like

Students and low income    $50 to $75

Working or middle class    $100 to $250

affluent                            $500 to $2000

if you have no income and any willingness to help do landscape work, construction or set up for the event the best thing to do is to plan to come early during seed camp.  Participants in seed camp get free access to the event and get feed by the festival before it starts.

Travel discounts:

If you bike or walk or come by greasel to this event you are having the minimal carbon footprint and you can cut your ticket price by 60%.  If you are taking a train to the nearest city you can cut your price by 50% – contact us about arranging shuttles.  If you are taking the bus you can cut your ticket cost by 35%.  If you are carpooling with more than 2 adults people or taking the bus you can cut your cost by 20%.  If you are flying any leg of the trip you need to pay full ticket price.