iv. Sustainability: The Soul of Astronauto

Introduction to Sustainability: The Soul of Astronauto (Sustainability: The Soul of Weave Transformed)

Some, however, would derive the word [sauntering] from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.

Walking, Henry David Thoreau

As stated in the preface to Astronauto, the era of Spaceship Earth parallels an era of return to nomadism, where home has taken on an ephemeral meaning. And when change occurs in the greater sense of the word, change affecting an entire civilization, this change places added strain upon several systems onboard our Spaceship. In the case of home metamorphosis, transportation has become a bearer of this added stress. And so in an effort to regain balance, the principle law which governs our Spaceship, we are forced to compensate for this added pressure brought upon by extended use; compensation in the form of greater sustainability with regards to the way we move from one home to another. In the case of transportation, a system who’s balance vis-a-vis sustainability had shifted prior to the era of the Astronaut, there is a need for compensation of an even more important magnitude.

Yet transportation, in theory, is a very sustainable concept. By definition, transportation is perpetually in motion, constantly shifting its location; the author of an unassuming footprint. Yet as in almost any machine, we find a cast of immobile parts supporting mobile parts, interconnected with systems within systems whose footprint may not be quite as fleeting. The tainted infrastructure of a sustainable idea.

You get into trouble when you ask a single question, with a single box for an answer, in which that single question actually is many questions with quite different meanings, but with the same words.

Toward a Science of Simplicity, George Whitesides, 02.2010, ted.com

The goal of Astronauto is as simple as it complex, and as contemporary and transitional as it is far-reaching and long-lasting. The goal of Astronauto is to compensate for this imbalanced transportation system by proposing sustainable innovations for our current mobility extensions. Innovations however, rarely come as single entities, and as in the case of Astronauto, reveal no isolated answer; indeed, never is there only a single question. The new mobility solutions must carry the many facets of function and sustainability, representative of there intended purposes. Whereas some solutions may rest on matters of more adequate propulsion methods, other problem resolutions may rely on observation through a wider lens; infrastructure that is lockstep with the values of the transportation it supports. An architecture in motion supporting a motion system. An architectural speedform. And in spite of how much connectivity exists between it and its transportation network, when a modular architecture’s virtues are inferior to those of a static infrastructure with regards to its intended purposes, let us put in place a static infrastructure that serves the requests of Nature on par with those of the Astronaut.

We can make all of humanity successful through science’s world-engulfing industrial evolution provided that we are not so foolish as to continue to exhaust in a split second of astronomical history the orderly energy savings of billions of years’ energy conservation aboard our Spaceship Earth. These energy savings have been put into our Spaceship’s life-regeneration-guaranteeing bank account for use only in self-starter functions.

p. 122-123, Chapter 8: the regenerative landscape, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, R. Buckminster Fuller

In the same spirit of any significant system, transportation’s largest imbalance comes to us in the form of its energy usage. Just as transportation itself, the energy that supports a mobility system is by definition in constant motion. And that which is in constant motion must be sustainable, for motion depends on regeneration. Transportation, a system of moments leading into moments, is the author of a endlessly regenerating narrative, shaped by a constantly shifting plot, and played out on a continuously varying stage. Energy however, is its producer. Consequently, the never-ending story of transportation systems within systems that propel our world cannot rely on a soon ending energy source on which we can place an expiration date. Indeed, as it is true for all infrastructure onboard Spaceship Earth, transportation energy itself must evolve into systems within systems of sustainable, self-replenishing and codependent fuels, authors of an never-ending autobiographical story of their own. In this case, more than any other, there is no single solution, but multiple possible answers. Energy must be an ambassador of the woven state of mind; several solutions whose total sum is greater than the whole.

For ten years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to hack civilization, so that we can get long-term thinking to be automatic and common, instead of difficult and rare, or in some cases, non-existent.

Stewart Brand on the Long now, Stewart Brand, 02.04, ted.com

Systems composed of multiple solutions and variables, themselves supporting systems composed of multiple solutions and variables, while relying on systems composed of multiple solutions and variables, offer the greatest chance at sustainability. Though appearing complex at first, a system composed of many anchors, significantly reduces the amount of strain on any single part, invariably resulting in a system defined by an admirable sense of balance. And balance is synonymous with long-term. A balance that is the result of a lessened amount of stress, allows for a less radical pace of change. A less radical pace of change, otherwise known as evolution, allows for adaptability, which ultimately, is representative of sustainability. And adaptability, by definition, is a harmonious process in which man, nature, and machine, in this case transportation, coexist in a woven system to produce an outcome favorable to all those involved. It is a process in which all three entities depend on the virtues of the others to an equal extent, yet is itself dependent on the ability of man, nature and machine, to refrain from too much reciprocal rewriting of the laws that respectively govern all three parties. And though a few instances of swifter change may be required in the present tense, if we wish to eventually reach this point of woven cooperation, I sense little opposition by proposing a plan for the future, that calls for adaptability on the part of all three concerned entities: man, nature, and machine. Because by adhering to a plan for adaptability, where that which should be left alone is left alone, and that which should change is changed, we adhere to a sustainable system of transportation, capable of adapting to the needs of man and nature. Likewise, we adhere to sustainable systems of man and nature, capable of adapting to the needs of a transportation infrastructure.

Ultimately, the motion that defines transportation, assures its capacity of existing in a state of no or little long-term disturbance; a capacity to change only what requires change, and during only the period of time which has been specified. A capacity to come and go with an unassuming footprint. A capacity that is the foundation and roots of Astronauto.

…for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

p. 129, Chapter 2: Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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