2006 Year End message From Richard Nelson
I have been reflecting on the recent 2nd anniversary of the global tragedy of Tsunami that started me down the road to build a social enterprise business, with the hope that through my business I would have more power to make a difference for the wellbeing of the next generation and the world we are handing over to them. I am convinced that a business that provides products for building a better world can work most effectively for positive change, provided that we infuse a cooperative spirit into enterprise.
For two years now I and Jeraldine, my wife and partner in life, have been midwifes to the birth of this new business, Life Synthesis, on which our own sustainable livelihood will depend. Especially since Jeraldine (celebrating her 60th birthday last November and who really is a Midwife) is looking to retire. We are ready to explore a new adventure in The Gambia, West Africa, where we will be working together in a personal effort to demonstrate that the vision of a sustainable future for all is possible – even for the very poorest nations of the South Sahara, where resources will be most stressed by Global Warming.
Looking back to the first steps forward on this path, I established the Open Source community called Sola Roof in early 2002 as my personal response to the tragedy of 9/11 and so dedicated my inventions of record and much ongoing creative work to a Creative Commons Public License. This was an expression of my faith that we can all become collaborators in learning the “how-to” of sustainable living – and that Open Source knowledge can empower this global collaboration to find a way to live without harm to the planetary ecology. If we can mobilize such collaboration, then there is great hope for the universal success of all of humanity and the elimination of desperate poverty where hunger alone caused 15,000 lives (mostly children) to be lost today and every day. As a further initiative, after the Tsunami I formed my business, Life Synthesis, to work in the context of these Open Source principles to provide the global community some solutions that would be “in production” and market ready for deployment to create sustainable homes and buildings in our communities. Our Life Synthesis building products and systems enable anyone to bring a living ecology into the design and operation of our built environment – with the goal that these “living structures” would produce from sunshine alone all of our vital needs for life support.
Following the Pakistan Quake of October, 2005 Life Synthesis took a further initiative to design and build a portable version of such structures, which I call Eco Shelters?, which could be deployed for disaster relief. The need for a transitional shelter system was confirmed by observing the very difficult long term outcomes of Katrina, where even the richest country in the world has labored under the vast scale of damage that dangerous Climate Change can inflict and which will continue to escalate beyond the capacity of our “standard disaster response”. Now, the outcome of a year of team effort will see the demonstration in March of 2007 a working unit of the modular (and portable) Eco Shelter. I have been continuously incubating this project over the past year - not only to talk about the ideals and concepts behind this (which I recognize to be much deeper and wider in scope than Sola Roof) but to manifest a functional example; I hoped that this demonstration structure would inspire a wider and more comprehensive collaboration that will mobilize a multitude of groups who, by sharing their successes in an Open Source environment would assure that all of the best solutions are made accessible to all people in need.
It has taken so much time for our Eco Shelter demonstration to emerge partly because I am determined that the commercial enterprise team that will have the opportunity to implement this project with Life Synthesis will, one and all, support the Open Source ethic and not be too "proprietary" about controlling their "rights" but to demonstrate natural leadership that others will willingly support. But now this vision of enterprise cooperation and looking less to profits and more to the value of our work and products to build a better world is suddenly attracting a huge amount of support for action that has given birth to the “Green in the City” initiative. This will establish in London the beginnings of the collaborative framework that we have hoped for and it is both a locally focused event and a global forum where people can learn, discuss and be inspired.
At the heart of the Green in the City venue will be our real, live Eco Shelter located in the cultural center of London, the South Bank Centre, giving our message the biggest stage, the highest public profile and greatest media attention to communicate the importance of ecology in design. Noble Cities will be the sponsor of our “collaboration café” program that will draw on the long history of cities as centres of culture and progress for humanity. The International School for Ethical Business will organize a multi-sector participation and look at the positive and dynamic role of business to provide the answers to the global challenges that face London and cities everywhere. Both the public and professional community will have engaging and interactive opportunities to explore a deeper discussion about how our built environments (rural villages as well as urban cities) must begin to evolve and transform into environments for “Eco Living?”. This message, which is as much about lifestyle as it is technology, will be explored in depth by the Green in the City program.
I will continue to do all I possibly can to promote the Open Source ideal and further develop the concept of Eco Shelter in collaboration with all others who share the vision of disaster assistance that will not breed dependency. Disaster victims should be enabled to leapfrog into a sustainable future; applying holistic technology that will allow communities to rebuild on new, self reliant and truly sustainable patterns; thereby maximizing the results and benefits of “solutions of merit”. Through ecological design we can do better for the disaster victims; providing them a more powerful and effective means to restore self reliance, regenerate livelihoods and build long lasting prosperity, which can bring the Make Poverty History? goals within reach. We can do this by mobilizing a universal support for the Eco Shelter objectives and developing, through consultation, a shared vision for all the NGO, CBO and Ethical Enterprises who would like to pick up on this theme. We would like to inspire Global Unison in awareness, engagement and action; empowering people action.
I feel that I have been remiss in not keeping more in touch throughout 2006. I have been looking for our discussions to move past talk and into an action phase, and additionally I have been pre-occupied with the effort to establish a Sola Roof greenhouse project for Life Synthesis. Now this has been done and we are in the process of implementing with Stubbins Marketing, the UK’s largest grower and supplier of fresh greenhouse produce. The project is going forward now, after about a year of discussion and encompasses a commercial scale greenhouse demonstration project to be built within 2007 and a pilot project that is proceeding immediately. But just ahead of that is the production of the "Maxfordham Pavilion" that will be set up (it is our Eco Shelter demonstration) on the roof deck of the Queen Elizabeth Hall during March and this venue is the sheltered area for events and activities during a 3 month program from April to end of June. As mentioned above, the program is called: “Green in the City - Ecology is the Key". More details about both of these practical applications of the Sola Roof technology will be forth coming in the weeks following.
If our New Year wishes come true and we are overwhelmingly successful with the Green in the City, in collaboration with the South Bank Centre, Shell Foundation, Alcoa, Eden Project and others, then that will provide London a global leadership role and demonstrate many of the Keys to our local efforts for change. The venue for Green in the City is the Queen Elizabeth Hall Terrace and the sheltered space is provided by our Eco Shelter structure which will be called the Maxfordham Pavilion; providing space for gatherings of up to 150 people. The building is delivered by Life Synthesis Ltd, formed in association with TAG International, located in Kuching, Malaysia, who is the manufacturer. I will be over to Kuching from about the 24th of January for a couple weeks. Bill Watts of Maxfordham will also join us there to visit with Philip Yiin and we will explore a further greenhouse enterprise development in Malaysia with the participation of Nottingham University Campus of the School of the Built Environment in Kuala Lumpur. Our relationship with Dr Saffa Riffat, Head of the School of the Built Environment of Nottingham University has been developing throughout 2006, with some bubble research underway and a DEFRA grant is in a proposal stage through our collaboration with Stubbins Marketing.
I will also be visiting with our partners in The Gambia at their Ecotourism Spa Resort project; a social enterprise called “Gamspirit”. It is this initiative, established as a cooperative with the local Gambian village that Jeraldine and I would like to become personally involved. A first phase Sola Roof project with Gamspirit should be complete by end of February and would be presented and celebrated in London within a section of the Green in the City program that will focus on Eco Village? development. A few other solid connections with activities in Africa, including Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are also developing and will have the “world stage” of Green in the City for a period of time while the program focuses on Eco Villages for sustainable living and as the key to prosperity in the developing world. This will include music and dance festivals and cross cultural events with entertainment groups from Africa and the participation of African speakers, possibly including a Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai.
Our collaborative relationships are expanding and now include Sheppard Robson, Architects who will join an Eco Village? Development Consortium. Also, the firms Organic Power (bio-methane), Price Myers (structural and civil engineers) and Surfachem (soap supplies) are establishing a cooperative business relationship with our Life Synthesis enterprise network. With this widening circle of firms who are leaders in their professional sectors, there are a number of architectural projects that invite the use of the Life Synthesis products and know how. Every Life Synthesis structure would be a site for ongoing fund raising for Eco Shelter humanitarian projects - this also would be a request of the worldwide Sola Roof structures; on a voluntary basis. Thus we can mobilize the "Honor Payments" concept for "Pay It Forward?" donations to grass roots projects for sustainable living.
In the spirit of “working openly” I will be documenting progress (starting with this update) and exploring plans through my Wiki Blog and will also use Skype – my call-name is “Sola Roof”. I am accessible most any time that I am on-line (quite a lot of hours per week) and it will be great to line up as much support as possible as early we can in the New Year. From the first days 2007 promises to keep us on "action stations" - clearly, much of the above is still in a formative stage of discussion and development and I will trust that if, as has been the norm, we experience some setbacks or delay that I will have your determined support to keep pressing forward.
I wish all my friends and collaborators to be blessed by both giving and receiving in the year ahead and deepening in our understanding that God's grace is sufficient to our needs, Rick
-- Richard Nelson http://www.solaroof.org http://groups.yahoo.com/group/solaroof http://www.solaroof.org/wiki/SolaRoofGuy/Welcome Together we can BUILD a sustainable future