The thread increasingly surrounded by darkness Riding out the winter (decline) of industrial civilization

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Windmills are flippin’ great.
Wind powered factories: history (and future) of industrial windmills.
Greer reminds us that: “Windmills with a net energy of 5- or 6-to-1 are hopelessly inadequate to power an industrial society, but deindustrial societies with grain to grind, water to pump, and many other uses for mechanical energy will find them just as economically viable as did the agrarian societies of the past.”
So ran beat you to this one. But his main point doesn’t really overlap yours—although its better. The decentralization thing is part of having to use the energy on site.

(Not to be confused with wind turbines—kinetic to electrical. Windmills are kinetic to mechanical

Here’s a thorough article on their history
(you’ll need some way to identify images not attributed to you)
To generate an electric current from mechanical one must use a dynamo, a generator. Generators have magnets of very specific shapes—they require copper coil which requires mining, refining, and shaping—all processes that can’t really be done without a functioning industrial base. But a windmill where the mechanical energy is put to use on site can be built out of things just lying around, aluminum sheet metal—someone in the article’s comment section believes truck axles would be a great and readily scavengeable component of a home or locally built windmill. No complicated parts.
I especially like the section on the little design tweaks the Dutch came up with to “automatically” adjust to varying wind velocity. The technology is based on spring-loaded shutters that open to spill air in excess of what the sails can handle. It’s exactly the kind of intermediate transparent technology we’ll want to carry into the deindustrial age.

Also, Ran points out that the electrical energy produced by our modern wind turbines can be transmitted and therefore centralized. But windmills convert kinetic energy directly to mechanical energy that’s used on site, making them “allied to a more decentralized society.”

Also interesting is how steam powered mills came along and derailed windmill technology just as innovators were hitting their stride.—As it’s been done many times before, this moment can be famed as a kind of separation point—where we gave up using ambient energy and started borrowing from the past/future. Another point where the moment of humaniti’s break from using ambient energy to a drawdown method is clearly visible.—see overshoot.

The people designing these things today would have a speed control system operated by computers—little servos made at some (fossil fuel run) factory in Korea. If something broke the little part would have to be shipped half way around the globe. This is fine if all the complex systems of manufacture and delivery are still in operation and they’re still making these little micro-chip parts somewhere. But not so feasible if it’s not. The important thing is—can the thing be built and maintained using materials and skills available locally—the workings of all components should be visible meaning one can discern how it works just by looking at it. If it needs a computer to function forget about it. Simple, elegant design.

From the comment section:
In the comment section everyone seems to want to put “an army of techno geeks” on improving windmill design but they’d all want to just make them huge, out of some exotic composite material with computer speed control—make them complicated basically.

“and that is the future that everybody has in mind.”

Of course it is impossible to operate a flat screen television or a laptop with mechanical energy, but many other processes could in principle still be driven in that old-fashioned way. Grain still has to be ground, wood still has to be sawn, seeds still have to be pressed, but now we use electricity to drive machines that perform the same processes. This electricity can be generated by means of modern wind turbines, or other renewable energy sources, and that is the future that everybody has in mind.

However, there are some reasons that might make it interesting to revert to a direct conversion from kinetic to mechanical energy. Planting a few million high-tech wind turbines, covering deserts with solar plants and developing a smart grid and an elaborate electrical car infrastructure all sound attractive, but the most important question is whether there are enough material, energy and financial resources available to make those dreams ever come true.
Windmills that convert kinetic energy directly to mechanical work could be operated without exotic materials.

Materials found closer to home

Kinetic to mechanical vs. kinetic to electrical—we’ve gotten used to the convince of electrical energy—generated at one point, used at another. So we convert kinetic into electrical then convert it back into mechanical.
But in taking a look at what mills were used for—food, paper, textiles, lumber—essentials basically—not for making DVD players and automobiles.
There will be many thousands of heavy duty trucks sitting around and the drive line components are admirably suited to recycling into windmills.

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Brownlands Fitness
This piece was meant to be much less ambitious. It was shot over seven afternoons and I almost broke a leg falling off a wall (yes the camera was rolling). As far as how this ties into the larger project:

thode Naturalle is —pioneered by a French naval officer that was super impressed with the fitness level of a tribal group he encountered while stationed in Africa. He recognized that their athleticism was a product of their lifestyle. Practitioners of the hunter/forager subsistence that characterized the human existence for most of our specie’s history—their days were filled with running, leaping, carrying, climbing, balancing, and throwing. The Frenchman designed a workout around these skills with an emphasis on balance and harmony and trained the French Navy with it. This article sheds some light on the modern day manifestation of his method.

The training is actually more like play than anything else. You slow down when you need to but strive to be constantly in motion. You’re outdoors jumping over, running along, leaping from, climbing, carrying and throwing objects of unusually varied shape and texture; engaging with the materiality of the world.
Closely tied to Méthode Naturelle is Parkay and its more embellished and stylized cousin: Free Running. The predominantly urban activities involve tracing a swift and efficient path through the city. My favorite thing about Parkay is its potential to subvert established routes through the city. Walls are scaled, rooftops leaped between, and benches vaulted while sidewalks and paths are generally ignored. Jump London is the definitive documentary on it. The black guy in the film who’s credited with being free running’s first, is ripped yet still moves with grace.
On a treadmill it’s possible to zone out. I’ve nearly fallen asleep on one. The running surface is so regular that it requires just enough concentration to maintain a straight line. Not so out in the real world where the uneven pavement and irregularities of trails requires sure footing. The brownlands provide an extreme version of this real-world inconsistency. Running through the space demands an appraisal of each stride’s potential landing. Avoiding an ankle twist requires uninterrupted focus.
Methode Naturelle declined to almost total extinction and failed to propagate itself into the modern era
Will we once again live in a world where these types of movements are a daily necessity—not just the privilege of a few super fit dudes swinging around in the Brazillian jungle

Once a space of regulation, has since become deliciously disordered

transgressive and transcendent possibilities.

The joy reaped from being able to act out of control

Engage with matter

The materiality and status of the ruin as waste means that it is constituted to accommodate these spectacularly deviant acts.

Radical engagement with the material world.

A large unsurveilled space for play

A casting off of self-consciousness

The looseness of ruined space permits a wide range of practices—frowned upon or marginalized elsewhere.

Few preferred routes along which bodies are channeled and little semblance of material and spatial order to suggest that bodies should engage with space in preferred ways.

To show that assumptions about their social uselessness, derived from assignations based on economic value and utilitarian notions of order, are groundless.
Because Methode Naturelle is normally practiced outdoors in a “natural” setting, shooting it in what was formally the most unnatural of spaces is…

Once a space of regulation, has since become deliciously disordered

Tim Edensor describes how the many obstructions and obstacles within ruined space impel one to pass through it like a child at play:
The moving body must perform in accordance with these contingencies and thus it is coerced into a more flamboyant, expressive, improvisatory passage through space at variance with the minor movements of a usually self-contained bodily comportment through the city, where a fixed stride, steady gate and minimal gestures delimit interaction with the environment. The body is thus enlivened by the varied operations it needs to perform in order to negotiate this obstacle course. Jolted out of its fixed composure, the body can rediscover unfamiliar exercises in which a more expansive physical engagement with surroundings is induced, a somatic experience bearing the memories of childhood play…”
While aesthetics was clearly a concern, I thought it more valuable to give the brownlands a voice. The writing is on the wall and clearly states the desire of those who currently use the site, for it to remain feral. I’m sure its non-human inhabitants (including a thriving colony of frighteningly large rabbits) would agree.
Radical engagement with the material word—the brownlands potential.
At odds with the smoothed over textures of the city.

appear naturally accommodated disorder and the status of the ruin.

Drawn to the industrial abandonment’s potential to critique the highly ordered spaces in which we live, I’ve begun to consider practices particularly suited to the disorder of ruined space. In doing so, I hope to expose widely held convictions regarding the social uselessness of such places as shortsighted and naive. In this spirit, I set out to design a physical training program that would make use of the Davis Brownlands’ varied forms and structures. Loosely based on Georges Hébert’s Méthode Naturalle
with a nod to Parkour, the idea was to see the space as a vast playground; to evaluate the objects within it for their potential to be scaled, lifted, leaped from, or bounded over. Once home to a sprawling tomato processing plant, most of the site’s original constructions have been removed, erasing the spatial order they provided. Very little remains to suggest how the space should be engaged with or to delineate routes along which bodies should move. This blank-slate condition permits a freedom of movement greater than that found in parks and other spaces designed for exercise. There are no illustrated placards on the site’s blocks, short walls, chunks of concrete, and jungle gym water tower explaining how to use them or which muscle group they’re intended to strengthen, yet each begs to be incorporated into the routine.

The fact that the space is between uses and therefore under-determined, a non-space set apart from the city, means it’s beyond the prying eyes of fellow citizens. It’s a space in which one is free to act in ways that might elsewhere be limited by a restrictive self-consciousness. I was running at the site one afternoon while a barely-clothed couple shot gender reversal themed fashion photos of each other. Although the space feels remote, the existence of a world outside the fenced tree-lined compound is occasionally brought to one’s attention by automobiles trickling along the horizon.
What you’re hearing is me pounding on the inside surfaces of the same empty water tank that provided acoustic enrichment for some recent whistling performances. Because there’s nothing like raping out a high-decibel noise to get you pumped up to run around, primal drumming with two halves of an old broomstick became a pre-workout ritual. The sound waves have nowhere to go and bounce around inside the enclosed column until they coalesce into a thunderous roar better heard through earplugs. It’s a noise that would certainly draw attention and probably concern were it made in a more regulated part of the city. The production of an insanely loud sound, typically considered antisocial behavior, is afforded sanctuary by ruined space.

In some ways this piece is related to the Dixie Square Skate video I shot some time ago. Both involve physical activity performed in an abandoned space and highlight the transgressive potential of such environments. Because they’ve been relegated to the world of trash, derelict spaces don’t shoulder the burden of having to provide a revenue stream. The activities they accommodate can be partaken in without money exchanging hands. The choice to set both videos in the context of ruined space implies a refusal to participate in commercialized, officially sanctioned forms of recreation.

I sent the video to Erwan Le Corre, founder of “MovNat®,” who’s life goal is to commodify Méthode Naturelle. The dashingly handsome Frenchman had this to say regarding my contribution to the discipline:
Very honestly Brett:
That is just parkour to which you have added a vague lift and throw. You definitely move, but obviously without any method, it is just random, and you have added elements that have nothing to do with Methode Naturelle, so clearly you are missing the point and naming this "La methode naturelle" only contributes to spread misconception about what it is.
So basically, you may think it looks cool, but it is definitely not helping actually.
I do encourage you to go on training outside and broaden you skill, that is super positive! But I certainly do not encourage you to call what you do "methode naturelle" unless you extensively study the method first, and have an experience of training by the method with competent people. You need knowledge, and knowledge is not to read a few hints about it you can find on the internet. Right?
Think about it, and maybe you want to learn with me one day.
Best regards,

Erwan Le Corre

Founder of MovNat
I suppose if you’re claiming to be the founder of a way of moving that’s innately human, anyone who demonstrates that it’s possible to move naturally on one’s own is a threat to the business. Very honestly, I resent the implication that I’ve so completely lost touch with my “true nature®” that I need an expert to sell it back to me in the form of a “seminar.” I’d love to train with you Erwan Le Corre but I can’t afford the $240 registration fee. Maybe I’ll develop a method for “optimally efficient” digestion and we can trade secrets.

I did however take Erwan’s thinly veiled suggestion that I change the piece’s title, replacing it with one I think he’d approve of.

Look and think like children

Thought of as discipline

The city as a playground

Never go backwards

People like to watch people being physical

Enhanced spatial awareness

Jump London
Methode Naturelle
The aim of the Methode Naturelle is to develop a complete and healthy human being physically, mentally and morally through the training of the vital natural capacities of the human species that were necessary for our survival as hunter foragers. Georges Hebert the founder of the Methode Naturelle was a French soldier who served in Africa and was inspired by the natural athleticism of the natives he encountered there. The motto of the Methode Naturelle is etre forte pour etre utile meaning be strong to be useful. The training of the Methode Naturelle is not to reach an aesthetic goal or to win an athletic competition it is to prepare the individual to be a strong useful person capable of helping him or herself and the others around them in wide variety of situations.
The vital movement capacities of the Methode Naturelle are to walk, run, jump, climb, quadruped, balance, swim, lift, carry, throw and defend.
A Methode Naturelle training session should be between 20 and 60 minutes and include as many of the natural capacities as possible (generally). The ideal conditions for Methode Naturelle training are in a natural environment with as much of the body exposed to the elements as possible while maintaining modesty. Which is not to say you cannot train the Methode Naturelle in the city or a gym or with shoes on only that this training is not the ideal.
Training should be daily or close to it.
Parkour—see wikipedia
Explain how you and the couple were there doing your things at the same time.

Faster editing—just nonstop running, jumping, climbing, scaling, sprinting—exhausting to watch.

Two versions—one with best clips only to sticks audio—short
One long version with every take—ambient audio—day separation (almost a ‘making of’ version
Questions to resolve:

Scene order will be critical because

Duration—as long as the actual routine, incredibly long, short and sweet

Audio—music, binaural, rhythmic drumming inside the tower or on the outside surfaces maybe with some primal howls

When to shoot—over the course of a day so that lighting changes can be detected, within the same half hour window each afternoon for a week or more?

You should begin with a bunch of running only clips—the tight one’s first—just your feet landing then your legs, pulling away with each shot

then work in the walls. There would be the possible illusion that you’re being chased—running for your life from something. Then start dropping in the climbing clips—the handstand clips and it shifts to something voluntary—something motivated by fun rather than fear, but it mimics the a sort of primitive survival feel—that run for your like—flight response—and the setting is kinda scrubland prairie with a concrete base.

Good way to work in the nice graffiti—which would be another good clue on what the space is and what the piece is about.

This piece has ties to a bunch of stuff:

Methode Naturelle


The transgressive potential of ruined space. —see Dixie square skate edit—

Basically its just one more way that the undetermined quality of ruined space makes them perfect for transgressive behavior such as this.

The audio track was once again recorded inside the tower—it’s really loud—its noise on an order of magnitude that would attract attention anywhere within the city’s regulated spaces—I mean where else can you bang as hard as you can on the inside of an enormous steel drum while shouting primal streams at the top of your lungs.

Also—I wanted give the space a voice—it speaks through the words painted on its surfaces. It clearly wants to be left alone.

Recorded over seven days—that same late afternoon window

During five days of shooting I came a cross a group of skaters shooting a video, a couple high school kids shooting something and a couple doing a fashion shoot—all creative endeavors.
This audio is the ritual before starting the workout or after finishing
Because it’s so undetermined I can make an amazing amount of noise unlike what would be allowed anywhere else.
It might be nice to have a version that’s one uncut shot.—the best back and forth
Maybe keep it in chronological and watch your clothing wear our rather quickly with tight edits.
Its actually reasonable to be shooting it because it’s better exercise repeating the same drill a couple times—it reflects more accurately the exercise component of the piece.
Something is happening when the clips are edited well—there’s a subtle illusion that you’re actually just bouncing or picking the tie up immediately—the immediate turn around illusion
Drumming tips—do your build-ups and taper-offs more delicately—keep time but start really quiet, building slowly and steadily.
You still need to work in the “reflect” stencil
The sticks feel magic—they have the energy of pounding on the tower stored up in them afterward. They’ll make a great donation gift.—maybe a whole series all broken and battered.
The difference between yours and Greg’s approach to overpopulation:

His is a political viewpoint where the world is divided up into countries and birthrates are analyzed. It’s a political tweak that needs to be implemented, in this case, a woman’s rights thing—problem solved.

You approach from an ecological standpoint—we grew more food, population grew accordingly—population growth is directly tied to hydrocarbon use- the oil we eat, so the solution becomes stop propping up populations in marginal areas—population will always expand into the availability of food.

Sometimes I just feel like I make better work when I have a muse around—someone that’s into the work and makes me want to get better—someone to talk through ideas with. Ya know! That’s not such a bad thing—were designed to be social creatures right?

Second run editions – first ten to donate also get a stage one adverts DVD. Of which I will not be producing any more. (don’t forget to link to support section item in amendment post)

Manhattan’s Highline photographed by Joel Sternfeld.

One of New York’s few remaining feral spaces has finally been purified and absorbed into the regulated urban fabric; reincarnated as a park. “Weeds” have been replaced with preferred species neatly contained in beds, sending a clear message to creatures and plants that might attempt to play an active role in the making of an environment: “hey thanks nature, but we’ll take it from here.”
Urbanites can take their lattes up to what was once a disused elevated rail line overgrown with and sit on brand new benches and walk along . because decay is not allowed to occur in a modern city because it makes the seamlessness of modernity seem preposterous.
The high line—lower manhattan—industrial ruin to a public amenity

Kunstlercast website images

Peculiar urban structure

Velocity of industrialization

A freak of urban nature that people are enjoying

From un undetermined space to one regulated by the NY department of parks. I think I would have preferred it in it’s earlier manifestation.

This is the kind of abandoned urban space I would have preferred left undetermined. But such a space, one where the forces of decay are clearly visible, cannot be allowed to exist in the modern city—it challenges the illusion of seamlessness of modernity (see ruins book) Now you have to enter at certain times and will be directed to a hotel where you can buy a drink. Kunstler called the space a freak of urban nature wondering why we cant just design good outdoor public spaces instead of having them just appear by accident.
Ruins Pages: 101, 165, 71-72, 98, 42, 47, 58-59
The fabric of the past must be trampled down or converted into a sandblasted approximation of its former self…

Frenetic impulse to smooth and encode

The world of creatures and plants as active agents in the making of environments remain firmly outside the city limit.
Replacing “weeds” with preferred species contained in beds, it’s like the parks department said, “hey thanks nature, but we’ll take it from here.”
It’s a threat to the conventional orderings of rural and urban
Demonstrating the biotic blows between the urban and the rural

We’re about to embark on a fantastic adventure together.

You’ve been hand selected to support the endeavor
What an awkward party
The thing about Halloween costumes is that everyone is allowed to put down one thing—usually An uncomfortable mask or prop.
People with multiple uncomfortable props may need to choose wisely
My costume name:
Highly evolved human

Super anything

Super hero

Highly evolved man

Super B
Causeway postcard (wikipedia) and alternate shooting location for workout
The videos will be the story’s illustrations to help establish setting/context and make the story more vivid—visual context material—like the opening scenes of a film establish a mood.
I’ll be riding through the world’s industrialized nations— documenting with precision the monuments we have just built for the future—
Bay bridge image—at night—video maybe.
The eventful bikeride

Almost hit by a tanker truck

Team America passing

Flat tire


Both of us running off the road

Pink top gray shorts girl.. “Hello!”


that was good, now all we have to do is wait for her to show up at Mishka’s.
Crop tight for constant movement—tiring to watch but beautiful—actually tiring to watch sounds like a bad thing.

Make sure you continue to emphasize the power plants, containment domes and elevated roadways as monuments to be—what we were able to build with all that ancient sunlight

Maybe start working in a few fiction posts—like the three riders at night that hit something big.
Or from the top of a rusty turbine
Of the passer-bys that hear the far off sounds of someone drumming on the inside of the tower.

My best guess is that we're headed for a steampunk future, something like Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun or Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles, a mix of industrial scraps, low tech, high tech, and post-mechanistic paradigm tech, or "magic".
Add to booklist
James mentioned the microwave as being “magic”

I agreed.

Anything that I can’t look at and explain to you how it works—that’s magic.
JP’s future floor cleaning robot vid.

Nuclear bomb drop
Walk the entire causeway for documentation.

Do the port of Sacramento concrete piles

Add these to shooting locations for welcome video
Under causeway



Port of Sac—concrete piles

The pretty spot where 80 crosses the Sacramento River
Edward Burtynsky photographs, “both the epicentres of industrial endeavour and the dumping grounds of its waste.”

Manufactured Landscapes, a beautifully shot documentary by Jennifer Baichwal, chronicles the artist’s work in rapidly industrializing China.
"begs to be hung on the wall, studied, absorbed, and learned from"

“in the hopes of opening their eyes to the realities of the contemporary world.”

Current exhibition: Oil

Witness the landcapes “we’ve created in the pursuit of progress”

global cycles of energy, production, and waste

The industrial sublime

Incredible music

Follows the global flows of the materials of the industrial age


First, thanks for getting back to me—I know you’re busy so I certainly appreciate it.
Yeah, your favorites are my favorites. I envision the project to be a multi-year, multi-continent research endeavor where I’m cycling solo through the world’s industrialized nations, documenting the inflection point between the growth/contraction phases of the industrial age—perhaps ending up in China—the last country likely to launch a full scale industrialization effort. I want to tell a story about what this period might be like using video, audio recordings, still photography and writing—sometimes projecting 50, 100, even 200 years into the future. I’d visit, document, and write about specific sites—industrial ruins, megastructures (framing them as monuments to the industrial age), and landscapes of industrial production and waste a la Edward Burtynsky. The project’s goals are as follows: (in order of relevance)
1. Document and interpret the contraction phase of the industrial adventure with an emphasis on the landscapes and structures left behind.
2. Piece together a viable image of a stable low-energy future.
3. Identify and refine a skill set necessary to thrive in the transition to a new paradigm: practical techniques for living on the margins.
4. Offer potential symbols and narratives of a new spirituality emerging on the heels of growing disillusion in the religion of progress.
5. Encourage readers to accept the impossibility of preventing the industrial age’s conclusion, face the coming age with courage and begin mitigation activities in earnest.

The main thing I’m unsure of how to proceed on is funding. I don’t have a place to “keep up” and would essentially be living and working on the road. I estimate I could do this for at least the next four years for around $10,000 a year. Ideally, I’d have a modestly sized group of supporters, maybe 200, that annually donate collectively just enough to support ongoing research and bicycle based travel. The project obviously produces a lot of visual material as well as found objects I’d like to channel into an incentive program that would allow donors to be part of the project. I’d also be into grants but have no idea where to start here—any ideas?

The next immediate step is to produce a welcome video debunking the myth of progress and introducing people to the project. When this is done I’ll launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $2000 I need to get from LA to Houston. This amount includes a high resolution WAVE recorder (focusing more on sound in stage three) and some required bicycle upgrades. Then it’s off to Houston ASAP.
Any suggestions, criticism, contacts—send em my way.

Thanks again,


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