My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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5/26/2006

George, Keith and the Chocolate Factory


Just back from the Chocolate Box Architects meeting. This step in the campaign consisted of getting two well known architects active in the area to come and give their opinions and expertise. We met with Keith Hallet(who has set up many local wonderful places like the scrapstore/better food company and redcliffe futures - all with a running theme of community involvement) and George, were joined by Jackson and Paul, as well as a lot of the core Chocolate Box people and of course local residents. The architects seemed very capable and very open to the very same community participation, sustainability, and self build ideas, although offering their own improvements to our ideas by saying that the self build could happen within the framework of the existing buildings (thus offering many many more self build plots), and seemed to warm to the idea of a reduced traffic build that favoured bike access or connections with the railway.


I arrived early and got a chance to speak in person to Keith, then George about the leaked planning application plans we all got a look at. It had been put in that day by Persimmon and the building plans were there for us to see. They had a quick look and could make lots of comments on it. They both agreed this was a useless plan, below average, seemingly not worked on since the consensus meeting back in April - except now it had a bit of mixed use, but still complete demolition of all existing buildings and no environmental assessment. Not to say they are useless: Persimmon had bought this smaller company which in turn had bought the option to buy. And this was George's fault! So it's perfectly fine to believe that Persimmon have done this on purpose so as to get rid of the burden or to quickly get it passed through so as to do something else with the site at a later date, or because of the deadline imposed by Elizabeth Shaw.


Let me explain about it being George's fault though - he went once to a party in the fantastic covered streets that form the main three routes though the factory. He thought it was a wonderful place then - with so much very clear potential for a bustling market place, a thriving community area like the Coin St Market in London (where the local people turned the table on plans to build executive apartments and luxury hotels, and to this day are involved in keeping the original feel). George suggested to the owner that they should buy the plot (at the time they had only the long term lease of the land). Now they have done so, but it's a bit of a shame they weren't able to carry on with that idea - not just ecological and architectural, but ultimately this site can make much more money if made through a participatory process with the community than another blank suburbanisation(I made up a word!) of the community landscape. So it's all because of George that Elizabeth Shaw got the factory in the first place. Oh well, can't blame him. Now he wishes he'd stayed quiet so he could just buy it himself I guess... :)


We talked about all sorts of things - including the objection which is legitimate at this point and until Wednesday: EVERYONE - please say this in your letters to Ian White (which I think are better if printed and with signatures, addresses etc, but can be emailed as well - you still have to say where you live) - Say something like this:


My name is xyz, I am a resident of xxxyyyzzz and I am writing to express my objection to the current planning process for the Elizabeth Shaw chocolate factory site. I understand there was a two phase consultation involving one meeting with residents of Carlysle Road, one meeting with some more adjoining streets, where already drafted plans were simply shown vaguely at the few residents who could turn up, and no evidence of actual participation of the huge amount of local residents who have lived and work alongside this huge piece of history we are so lucky as to have in our area. I do not believe this constitutes a consultation.


And if you didn't live on the streets that were flyered in the second "consultation" you could add something like:


"For this reason could it go on record that I was not consulted, and I judge this to be a failure on the part of those involved in planning this development."


We have until Wednesday 31st to send these as emails or whatever. Another template has already made it's way to the easton bristol discussion group. The chocolate factory website has Ian White's email address and I imagine office address - if he gets it on Tuesday it still counts.


The other thing we can do is form a neighbourhood development trust - which can be as anarchic or as authoritarian as it's members want it to be, and would guide and centrally manage the actual planning process which would follow from having got rid of Persimmon(don't quote me on this last bit - I tried to get more details on what the role of the trust would be but although it sounds brilliant I don't really know what it all entails in terms of our involvement). Persimmon probably don't actually want the site, but if they do, George says he can prove very easily that they are not making as much money, or extracting enough value in terms of voters(which might interest people in the city council), and of sustainability and value creation for Bristol. His experience of working with Persimmon is that he would never do it again.


The neighbourhood development trust in Coin St in London comprised 18 families who dropped everything to constitute it and get everything going with the initiative of the neighbours. Community participation. They created a 30 page document with a proposal. I didn't get the details of that but Dave taped the meeting on video... We spoke for the first time also of trying to involve the Muslim community, although we hear the elders are insular and probably won't get involved, the younger generation is a bit more business minded and might want to help sort out the plans so that we consider muslim house building rules for example.

5/14/2006

Equilibrium Epiphany


So came my epiphany. In the realisation that no-one knows when the end will come, and that we are actually in charge of deciding this. Peak oil is just a tiny part of a much larger point which is our having grown to this size in terms of our consumption of resources for the first time in the history of life. As a Buddhist this is significant because it's a turning point for humankind. If we can survive this issue, we will really be making an incredible cause. There is only one way to do this, and it's to finally realise the connectedness, or even just see the logic in not taking the world to the extremes we've taken it. We have already gone too far and it's not going to be easy to get out of this mess.


But there are changes afoot - even Google realise that working with small companies and not seeking to dominate is the business. And one little bit less do we resemble a steaming pile of maggots over a corpse, now lacking the larger millipedes who storm around or the larger ants. And now each of us has to stop and eat a big leaf so our stomachs can stop hurting.


A Study of bus companies operating in rural regions found, in a very innocent manner, that


In addition to conclusions stated in the APTRA paper (Brown & Tyler 2001), to
achieve, maintain and improve ridership and revenue on new community run
local bus services it is recommended that:
a) the service should be set up for a minimum of two years based on full
community consultations concerning frequency, costs, fare structure, funding
and bus stops
b) timetables should be as simple as possible
c) amendments to timetables, routes and fares should be minimal, after full
community participation.


On the other hand
over here, no-where like that amount of money would go into a community run bus service, like the usbus. But really the way to run these things is through public consultation at all levels. Local people are like shareholders of the service and can boycott it, or work with it to improve it so we already have these rights and can make them work for us. It makes me wish I could somehow join a green party as I see that so much of this - like decentralised energy is actually proposed with no idea of the technical and social implications of switching to these systems. How can you go to a government and not include a demonstration of something like this? They need success stories, they need proof that British people can club together if put under stress, that we can create things through our own efforts. This wouldn't be news to anyone I know around Bristol - making the greatest things happen, from an experimental collaborative orchestra to a volunteer-run cinema, to improvised parties in the street to fight for the chocolate factory with decks and reggae and barbeques and children playing football in the street followed by heavier drinking in one of the houses later on. This with people I'd never met before - such a great experience!


We create and are part of and hear of and help in so many community and locally run services, as well as the groups and rooms we might be a part of in the online world - and the thing about them is that they are driven by our interest and the desire to make things happen that are not happening. This is a magic that the government could tap into and run using incentive streams. This would suit Tories or other posh gits on bikes with the executive car behind them. It would make the government smaller and reduce taxes just through not having to pay people more, but just devolving the running of services to community formed organisations. And these could be like small businesses.


It has been said and attempted before, but no one has tried to make a participative state using the telecommunications technology we have, and which is not going away too soon. You can make a computer out of lots of locally sourceable materials, and it could be possible to maintain a highly specialised production of slower computers even without the bits mined in Africa to make them go faster. Ricardo Semler, from Semco in Brazil - the absolutely participative factory which was a success story twice in it's career, recently avoiding the web bubble crash by having chosen not to go down the lane of venture capital funding, which they thought would somehow control them - he has something quite unique - a pedal powered laptop for reading his email. This really forces him not to spend too much time just messing around on a computer.


We should use computers and telecommunications - mesh networks, wifi networks, telegraph poles, text messages - try and get them to run on a minimal infrastructure and set up day to day voting systems to help run the decision making process.


It doesn't have to be on a national level, just even as a subversive alternate decision making process, but a well made one, a believable one. Efficient Anarchy.

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