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re: sunman
14 jun 2004
anthony matonak  > wrote:

>well, i'm no expert in any of this but i can think of a few things that
>strike me as seriously wrong with it at first glance...

steve baer wrote this. he's rewritten it since. he is mysterious.
i can't explain it, but i can add some clarifications.

>>we must conserve energy, slow the creation of green house gases, avoid
>>economic collapse as fossil fuels run out.  we hear this all the time.
>>what if someone took it seriously?  what if there were  honesty  in
>>the solar energy field?  let us imagine sunman doing his sun work...
>i don't hear this all the time. the media hardly ever covers anything
>like this while crimes, trials, wars and death fill the airwaves.

agreed. we have to be in the right places to hear this talk, eg in a
group concerned with global warming or the kyoto treaty or middle-east
wars, or at the un, listening to scientist john page saying "we may 
have to stop burning oil before it becomes scarce and expensive,
because it will cause too much air pollution."

>what makes the author think people aren't taking it seriously?

suvs, cafe standards, too little solar heating, and so on. most people
don't care much about energy these days. they do care about money...

  non-profits to the rescue

  read about the energy foundation in mark dowie's new book _america's
  foundations_. the energy foundation, who's charter is to help renewable
  energy, has given away over $100 million in the last 10 years... dowie
  shows the money was spent largely on attorneys protecting the interests
  of shareholders of utilities and extractive industries.

  steve baer (on basic cooling research, at the cooling frontiers
  symposium, college of architecture and environmental design,
  arizona state university, 4-7 october 2001.)

>clearly there are people taking it seriously but they don't pose as some
>kind of superhero with a big s on their tights and call themselves sunman.

sunman sounds a lot like steve to me :-)

>besides, why conserve if you have more energy than you can use?


>why slow creation of greenhouse gasses instead of speed the extraction
>of them from the atmosphere?

as in "speed the extraction of co2 from the atmosphere?" how would we
do that? sounds uneconomical. some people say we should bury newspapers
in dry landfills instead of recycling them, if we want to reduce co2
in the atmosphere. others ("the carbon lobby") make tv commercials with
real white-coated scientists standing in front of lush greenery saying
more atmospheric co2 will make plants flourish, and this is good. they
don't mention global warming and more floods and more disease and fewer
humans. we haven't heard much from these people lately.

>why not embrace, even speed up, the economic changes that would be
>caused by fossil fuels running out?

with no oil, we might have fewer wars...

>>the schedules, the schools, the classes, the projects, the sounds,
>>the smells, the whole study of sun work, is different than mechanical
>>engineering which has mired us in ugly wasteful habits.

the university of michigan has a large mechanical engineering school
across the street from a very large architecture department. two years ago,
the me's all seemed to be interested in spacecraft, with no interest
in solar house heating. one of the 2nd year architecture grad students
was designing a solar house in texas, but she didn't know how much solar
energy fell on the site in one day, and she didn't know what a btu was.

>>sunman studies the animate as well as inanimate.  he studies animals,
>>their energy budgets and their forms... trees, shrubs, grasses and
>>their relationship to climate are important. sunman studies nature.
>and "sunman" skips all that study about mechanical engineering?

not all of it.

>>sunman is outside in the sun and under the night sky among cars and
>>buildings, beside bushes, trees, streams, rocks, and pavement with his
>>ir scanner.  sunman needs few desks, chairs, schedules or computers.

note the word "few."

>>he asks many questions, makes observations, aims at better
>>architecture, better means of heating and cooling, better
>>city planning, improved ways of getting around (back to your
>>feet and your bikes.) he aims at improving life, and making
>>our world more beautiful.
>...the picture of a superhero with an ir scanner as his magic weapon
>is just too silly for words...

ir scanners are useful tools. we can measure most temps without them,
but that takes a lot more time. how long would it take to measure a 30'
ceiling temp or a cat's fur temp in the sun without a scanner ? what's
the cold sky temp on a sunny day? how fast does a large dark thick metal
plate warm up in the sun, and what does that mean? why is a smaller plate
cooler? is it cooler to sit deep inside a shadow or just inside the edge?
steve walks around with his ir scanner and makes remarkable conclusions.

>>sun work is not a joke, not theater where students express themselves
>>as trees, clouds or rabbits, it is a science that uses mathematics and
>>measures things with rules, tapes, clocks and thermometers.

our sunday school classroom wall has a poster that says "principle 7:
we believe in caring for our planet earth," but the church grounds are
lit every night from dusk to dawn with 1,000 watts of high-pressure
orange sodium lights as "a beacon for unitarianism," which costs about
$1,000/year and makes more waste at the limerick nuclear plant and sends
about 10,000 gallons of fresh water per year up the cooling towers to
satisfy our advertising desires. we can "care for our planet earth" by
getting up every morning and saying "i love you, earth!" or by kissing
every dandelion in the yard...

>>sunman celebrates the equinoxes, the solstices and perihelion.
>>sunman is embarrassed to participate in contrived events such as
>>earth day and sun day. false celebrations ease the way to false
>...ultimately there aren't any false economics. the ugly truth will
>eventually smash itself over your head no matter how hard you try to
>hide from it.

that might take forever :-)

>it's just a question of how far ahead you see it coming and if you 
>choose to do something.

an interesting thought.

>>sunman does not want subsidies, solar tax credits, green energy laws
>>or other such influences on his work.  one can no more subsidize
>>the sun than heat it up.  if the playing field isn't level he walks
>>uphill, however disagreeable.  eventually he will find fair play.

would he have any evidence for this article of faith? :-)

>>sunman relies on business and trade and does not trust bureaucrats,
>>government, non-profit corporations, or politicians.  a btu must
>>always be a btu, a watt a watt, but a dollar?  what is a dollar?
>what makes a dollar any less real?


>money is measurable, useful and a basic tool of our civilization.
>other such tools are bureaucracies, government, corporations and
>even politics. painting the picture of our superhero not needing,
>or using, any of the tools of our current civilization makes him out
>to be superhuman, inhuman, a cartoon, unreal and impossible.

steve is real, but he may not share your taste for organizations:

  progress is difficult--how do we get ahead?

  i don't know. i can only suggest. find niche markets. wriggle
  forward on your belly. remember a killing round can come from
  in front but more likely from the rear. stay alert. scavenge
  supplies and ideas. advances will come by accident. do not retreat.
  do not organize, all organizations will be infiltrated and subverted.
  one cannot awaken public bodies that are now dead and replaced by
  squirming maggots.

  steve baer (on basic cooling research, at the cooling frontiers
  symposium, college of architecture and environmental design,
  arizona state university, 4-7 october 2001.)

>>sunman survives by the sun, not by burning taxpayers. sunman loves
>>his tools; his saws, his drill, his tin snips, pipe wrench, crescent
>>wrench, propane torch, silicone sealant, pipe clamp. to even think,
>>he must return to them.
>great, this paints our superhero as a "hands on" guy and goes to the
>extreme that he can't even think without banging on something.

banging on things can be enlightening...

>sure, it takes a lot of banging on things to make technology work
>in the real world but it also takes a lot of other things and
>not all of it happens in the tool shed.

well, sure.

>>sunman loves the feel of copper and aluminum; he loves to weld, to bend
>>metal, to tighten bolts.  he loves the sensations of thermal mass, of
>>bottles and tanks of water of stones and cobbles, bricks, slab floors and
>>masonry walls. sunman loves convection, as alive as a heart beating...
>ok, so our superhero is painted as low tech paranoid garage inventor.

who loves convection.

>this is hardly an image that people are going to rally behind unless
>they are themselves low tech paranoid garage inventors.

or convection lovers.

>>the real prize for saving money is the money saved. the real prize 
>>for saving energy is also the money saved.  the homeless sleeping
>>on grates and under bridges still survive only because they earn
>>such prizes everyday.

"comfort," vs freezing to death.

>>good architects know this and don't seek special accountings
>>to disguise extravagance, but celebrities want every prize, so
>>they have devised special point systems to flatter themselves.

leed comes to mind. and the doe dc mall decathalon contest in balmy
fall weather. a 100% solar-heated house might easily lose, if it
lacked curb appeal, pvs, jacuzzis and so on. remember when people
cared about energy?

  my message to architects and engineers is: look at the whole picture.
  in the trade press recently, there was an article hailing a custom,
  9,000-square-foot, architect-designed house as the latest in
  environmentally responsible design. its principal claim to fame
  seemed to be the use of natural, nontoxic finishes on the woodwork.
  in the rush to commercialize "green architecture," no one noticed
  that this house consumes more energy than a small new england town.

  if your goal is trying to build an environmentally responsible
  building, you're missing the whole point if you get all lathered up
  over a nonvolatile natural finish on the handrails, while you're
  connected to a plutonium generator down the road. it's the same
  "out of site, out of mind" again, with a new face. "i'm doing all
  i can for the environment, my architect specified beeswax on my new
  woodwork--someone else will just have to figure out what to do with
  all this radioactive waste"... and acid rain and oil spills and
  global warming and ozone depletion and unhealthy air quality and...

  you hear a lot about sustainability these days. i've been at this
  since 1973, long enough to be certain that, without addressing the
  energy issues, you're in the weeds. all the fuss over "my milk-based
  paints transported in from europe" is just a myopic distraction from
  the issues that really matter on a global scale. true, natural-based
  finishes are desirable, but they fall far short of the answer.
  establishing an energy infrastructure based on renewable resources
  is a necessary and fundamental precondition to establishing a
  sustainable society or to achieving sustainability at any scale.
  if you are not addressing the energy issues, don't even pretend
  that your buildling is environmentally responsible.

       architect steven strong in
       the new independent home by michael potts, chelsea green, 1999

of course there is more to architecture than heating. we need natural
fibers, and drama. :-) our local dalton bookstore has a dozen new feng
shui paperbacks, but none on the subject of solar house heating, not even
on cut-and-dried mass and glass, vs hot massy ceilings, and so on...

>the prize is the advancement of the human species and it's goals both
>individually and collectively. energy, money, architecture both good
>and bad are all tools to get to this prize. saving money and saving
>energy isn't the goal, they are only means to get there.

well, sure.

>if saving energy doesn't get people closer to their goals then people
>aren't going to do it.

and if it does?

>celebrities aren't any more evil or bad in the energy field than they
>are in any other field. it's hardly news that they contrive to award 
>and flatter themselves...

unlike our more self-effacing energy figures, like dick cheney...

>>sunman watches solar organizations overtaken by government and bent 
>>to serve political purposes and slander the sun. he watches wind
>>generators spun by taxes. he sees giant oil companies and their stooges
>>thrive in tax shine. isn't owning the wonderful oil enough for them?
>>it must be this way, the stooges say.
>more cartoon figures and exaggeration. maybe there is a better way for
>politics and civilization to operate but the sun doesn't care. changing
>the technology isn't going to change the players and no superhero with
>an ir scanner on his belt is going to turn bad people into good people.

how grim.

>>sunman wonders why all uses of the sun that make sense must be
>>neglected. why can't photovoltaic panels go to remote villages
>>and ranches where they are useful? why do the troops of solar
>>celebrities and solar stooges forget solar water heaters, day
>>lighting, passive heating, and cooling?
>why? obviously, it doesn't yet make as much sense as our superhero
>thinks and the troops of celebrities and stooges have some other goal.

the presence of other goals seem obvious.

>first, make it sensible and then sensible people will be
>more likely to embrace it.

i wonder what that means.


tired of iraq? do something about it. learn to halve your energy use
while having fun with math and science.

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me for an all-day workshop on solar house heating and natural cooling
strategies ("hvac nonsense") on july 9 in portland, or--see page 25 of

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