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Let Our Children Learn How to Live Well Without Causing Harm

Imagine a school that offers the opportunity for our children to learn the basic skills needed for living securely without causing harm.

How to run everything with solar energy, how to grow food and raise chickens, and transform all food wastes into compost.

This drawing needs to come alive with people doing what they would be doing if real !!

So, please imagine - it's about 9 am, and the place comes alive with kids and teachers and expert gardener/teachers working in the gardens and harvesting salad greens for their lunch, and perhaps, some days, enough to take some home;

- imagine them in the greenhouse, sowing seeds just right - transplanting little seedlings,

just right;

- imagine them in the barn, collecting eggs for quiche for their lunch, and perhaps, some

days, enough to take some home - or sell to raise money for some good cause.

- And imagine them with the animals! The many kids who came to visit Solviva loved loved

being with the chickens, sheep, bunnies and burro, and they loved looking at the mini

creatures through a 10x lense - wow!

Deep immersion, hands-on shoulder-to-shoulder with skilled teachers, learning to do it the right way - teaching them how to do it right, so they can feel the satisfaction of success, and praise for job well done. And always encouraging any ideas that may be even better.

Needless to say, the barn would be kept immaculately clean, with all animals living on a wonderful healthy deep Solviva bedding system (read all about it in the Solviva Winter Garden post) (Science has shown that spending time in close contact with animals, compost, soil and plants is of great benefit for strengthening our children's immune system. Google it!)

Much more about this proposal, further down this post.

Some of you may be asking, WHY? Plants? Animals? Growing food? What does that have to do with our kid's education?? They already have too much work just keeping up with all the testing!

Well, dear Friends, here's why:

Nowadays, our children are so aware of the many ways we are causing harm - they hear about the devastation and suffering caused by floods, fires, heat waves, droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes.

And they have heard about Greta Thunberg and her pleas to stop burning fossil fuels and causing CO2 pollution, which is, of course, the primary cause of it all, and is also the root cause of most of the wars and violence around the whole world.

And by now, they have probably even heard about how the U.S electric grid is dangerously vulnerable. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), there are more than 55,000 transmission substations in the United States. We are told that they are extremely vulnerable to both physical and cyber attacks, and that this is already happening with increasing frequency, and that an attack on less than 10 of them could crash the entire national grid. And, if that happens, everything would stop, immediately, without any warning, and it would last for a very very long time.

Everything depends on the grid - few things function without electricity. No more deliveries of oil, propane, gasoline, food, meds, supplies of any kind - and for those of us who live on islands, no more ferries. And within a few days, no more town water, because no more backup propane to pump water from 150 feet below ground up into the water tower.

And there would be no help coming from anywhere else, because it would be the same everywhere. If we are unprepared for such an event, most of us will freeze and starve in the dark.

Our children also hear about how solar energy can heat buildings even when the sun is not shining, without causing overheating, and can make electricity and hot water - and that cars, buses and trucks can drive with batteries powered by the sun, all without any fossil fuels, and without causing any CO2 pollution. And they hear that food can be produced locally year-round in solar greenhouses, without needing any heating fuels, grid electricity or toxic pesticides.

And yet, they see that their own homes and their own schools are still totally dependent on the grid, and are still heated with oil or propane gas, and the cars still run on gasoline, and their school buses still run on stinky diesel fuel. And they hear about how much CO2 pollution this is causing, and how much it's all costing.

And they may well wonder, WHY are their parents and their teachers and just about everyone else still doing this?! Especially since it seems that switching from fossil fuels to on-site solar is so easily done, and would save so much money. This is a valid question.

I think the main reason for this paralyzing inaction inertia passivity is that most people are still woefully unaware of the fact that, if we set it up right, we would no longer need any fossil fuels to run anything in our lives, because we can do it all with solar power. People still find it unbelievable that we could power it all with just sunshine.

I can understand this disbelief, because, I must confess that even after all these years of direct experience, I myself still find it hard to believe that sunshine can do all that - but then, I also can't believe that TV is possible, or computers, or talking on the phone with my brother 6000 miles away in Sweden - it all feels impossible.

Yet, there it is, undeniable in its reality.

Likewise, what I and others have discovered and proven over so many years is undeniable: it is indeed possible and also highly advantagous to live in ways that don't require any fossil fuels.

We simply do not need fossil fuels any more. They served us well for 150 years or so, but they also damned near killed us, and now it's time for us to act like grownups, and open our eyes to the facts that are self-evident before us:

- with the right setup of onsite PV panels, batteries, inverters, solar heating and heat

storage and insulation, we'll be able to keep warm, cool, clean and secure;

- with wood chips, we can reduce nitrogen pollution to near zero, and thus heal our ponds;

- with gardens, greenhouse, coldframes, freezers, dehydrator, longterm storage for grains,

seeds, roots, squashes, beets, cabbage, potatoes, predatory-safe chicken haven, and

animal-compost, we'll be food secure;

- with all-electric appliances and tools, we can keep everything running;

- and with EV cars we can keep driving.

It will all be so much more secure and reliable and dependable and convenient, and it will even reduce our cost of living, by a lot! (See the post about Energy Self-sufficiency)

The consequences for our communities are catastrophic when our schools and other municipal buildings remain stuck in the business-as-usual, fossil-fuel-dependent format. Here's a sad tale from my own community, Tisbury, a small town on the small island of Martha's Vineyard, with less than 3000 taxpayers, most of them with very limited income.

In 2016 it became obvious that the Tisbury elementary school urgently needed to be expanded and upgraded. But, instead of having community meetings in which we would have a chance to develop our own collective ideas about what kind of school we would like, the powers-to-be instead did the usual thing: first hiring off-island State-approved corporate consultants. "They are the Experts - just trust them, they've done lots of schools."

True, but look at those schools!! There is zero solar design! Full of fancy, flashy fluff, they feel more like malls. Also, these school designs are so obviously padded with immensely extravagant expensive features that are in no way needed for the safety, education or wellbeing of our children.

These schools are typical of the prevailing ignorant, arrogant, B.S. designs.

Looking and feeling more like malls than schools. What were they thinking?!

The Tisbury school, now under construction, is like a kick in the stomach for our children, like a death sentence, for several different reason:

- because it has forced upon them an immense debt burden - $130,000,000 - for which they'll have to pay immense taxes over the next 30 years.

- because, in the event of a longterm blackout, these buildings will become uninhabitable, because without the HVAC, the indoor air will turn toxic within hours -

- and because these buildings will continue to consume immense quantities of fossil fuels, and will therefore continue to cause immense amounts of CO2 pollution, which will increase the severity of global warming, which will increase our children's suffering.

This school is a pox upon the town, and it was strong-armed into being by just a few exceptionally close-minded and ignorant local individuals, who made it their business to minimize input from us, the town residents and tax payers, and clearing the tracks for the rapid advancement of the corporate architects' disastrous design.

Our children will of course ask, "How could you just condemn us to such an immense debt burden, and such a blatantly insecurity school building, and such an unlivable future??"

It's like telling them straight out: "we really don't care about your longterm wellbeing"

The saddest part about hiring these Professional Experts is how it dumbs down the whole town population - everyone feels intimidated by these Professionals with their glossy presentations and slick confidence ("oh yes, we are the best solar experts!").

However, all it takes is a look on their website, to understand that there is not a smidgeon of evidence that they have ever done any solar design at all. But hardly anyone is calling them on their bluff. And the few who do are shushed or ignored. People just want to hold on to their hope that these expensive Experts will give us the best school at the lowest possible cost. "Just trust the Experts!"

People don't know enough to understand that those Professionals actually do not understand anything about solar heating and energy efficiency, which is proven by the insane designs they have produced, and which the town then unfortunately accepted.

And they have never heard of a school or any other municipal building that is energy-independent, energy-selfsufficient without using any fossil fuels. They may never even have been in a solar-heated building that does not get overheated.

They have probably never experienced the wonder of walking into a greenhouse in the middle of a fierce winter blizzard, filled to the top with hanging gardens full of thriving greens and fragrant herbs and flowers, all thriving without any heating fuels or toxic pesticides. And if they did come to visit Solviva on those days, and saw it for themselves, nobody would believe that it could ever be replicated. So they dare not speak up against the Professionals, or call them on their bluffs.

People are still choosing to believe that thermal solar for space heating and hot water is too expensive, too breakable, too unreliable, too ugly, and gets too hot. And the main forces in our society, starting with the fossil-fuel industry, are doing all they can to maintain those myths.

There's something deeply sinister going on.

We must always keep in mind that these Professionals are part of a conglomerate of corporations, and that their primary responsibility is to maximize the profits for the investors and stock holders.

And we must never forget that these Professionals get paid a percentage of the final cost of the project. Just think about that for a moment!

Thus, it's only natural that these Professionals are tempted to recommend designs and materials that are far more expensive than they need to be (it's called padding), for the simple reason that it will result in higher profits for them and their corporations. This will bring them praise and prizes, and job security.

It's their corporate duty to make the project as expensive as they can get away with without loosing their client. When they felt pushback from the town, they recommended we hire an Owner's Project Manager - "expensive yes, but worth every penny because he'll work on behalf of your town, doing what's best for your town." Yeah sure! He, too, is obviously part of The Company.

Well, it's only human nature, right? True - but it's not the part of human nature that we admire or want to encourage. In fact, it's a repulsive and evil aspect of human nature, and it needs to be rejected by people who understand that such actions are wrong. It's we, the People who end up getting screwed.

But, it is, of course, completely our own fault - it's a totally self-inflicted wound, inflicted on our own children, and theirs - we are now, and will remain caught on the hook of this Government/Corporate Conglomorate that is sucking immense amounts of money out of our communities.

So, just a small minority dared to vote against the proposal, and none of them had been willing to get together as a group to stand strong against this corporate takeover. As a group we could have so easily have made it obvious to everyone in town, that we could instead have a much better school at half the cost and ready in half the time. But this option was never even allowed to be considered by anyone in town. Now we all have to pay the heavy cost of such irresponsible ignorance and inertia.

Sorry, dear Friends, if my words offend ye - I just feel so strongly that we no longer have the time to remain deaf, dumb and numb about our local politics. The status quo is killing us, our economy, health, environment. We have to wake up to the fact that what the State forces us to do is total destructive B.S. - just look at Title 5 septic systems! (see the various post about wastewater.)

It's high time for at least a critical mass of us to grow up and stand up. Stand up for our rights to do what we feel is best for our own community.

Several venerable old oaks that were planted when the gym was completed, in 1929, have now been cut down - and that beautiful old brick gym which was so lovingly designed and built by the people of the town, and could have so easily been expanded, is now gone. And in it's place is rising an industrial building with full-length plastic glazing high up along the whole north wall - I don't think there's a square foot of the school that has not been torn apart.

This was a rock solid school building that just needed to be expanded, repaired and updated, and of course, solar-greened. But, gutting the whole building is of course infinitely more profitable for the Corporate Conglomerate, and the town fell for it. Shame.

OK, 'nough of that, for now. I feel like I am haranguing you, like Greta (well, I, too, am Swedish).

So instead, I'll get back into my usual solution-mode.

Now, please imagine a school that requires no fossil fuels, causes no CO2 or nitrogen pollution, and produces no garbage - a school with enough PV panels and batteries to power everything even through extended cloudy spells, and absorbs the solar heat without overheating. This would all save so much money.

And imagine all-electric school buses that run on batteries charged by the sun shining on PV panels. Together, these school buses form an immense back-up battery pack for the whole school.

And now imagine indoor gardens that filter the sunlight, purify the air, and produce salad greens, herbs and flowers for school lunches - and outdoor gardens to produce vegetables - and a predator-proof greenhouse/chicken coop to produce salad greens all through the winter, and sprouted seeds and wheatgrass and clean air for the chickens, and produce eggs and compost. They are also fed weeds and garden trimmings, and leftovers and scraps from the kitchen. Their eggs provide delicious quiches and omelets for school lunches.

These food production systems would be run by two full-time gardeners, assisted by a rotating staff of scheduled volunteers, and the children would participate and learn all the steps along the way, fully coordinated within the school curriculum.

Note: neither teachers and nor parents will bear any responsibilty for the gardens or the animals!

The children would learn how all the systems work because they would be involved in all functions as part of their education:

- From the maintainance staff they would learn hands-on about solar energy, photovoltaics, batteries, solar heating systems, minisplits, and air purification.

- From the gardening staff, they would learn hands-on about growing and harvesting salad greens, flowers and herbs, and how to collect the eggs, and care for the chickens and the compost - and let's add some sheep too, and even pigs. They are all easy to keep happy and healthy.

- From the kitchen staff they would learn cooking, canning, baking, yogurt making, nutrition and sanitation.

All these classes would enhance their reading, writing, math, and science skills, because they would all be integrated for writing reports, doing research, and keeping records.

Eggs, salad greens, and vegetable starts would also be valuable assets for fundraising, which would provide opportunities to learn about business, marketing, and accounting.

It seems to me that the best way to ensure that our kids are well prepared for whatever comes their way is to provide the education and resources that will ensure that they are prepared.

This is why I have long dreamed of schools that would be able to continue functioning indefinitely, even through a prolonged total electric grid failure (which might take years to repair because nothing, nothing will be functioning, anywhere, for a very long time).

Public schools are financed by local taxes, and are therefore the most logical places to apply innovative designs and technologies that offer better methods for heating, cooling and air purification, for sewage and solid waste management, and for food production.

Not only does this offer communities a chance to save money and resources and prevent pollution, but it also offers opportunities for students, teachers, parents, and the community at large to learn these important skills for good living.

The time has come to add a few more “R’s” to the curriculum: Recycling, Reuse, Resource Recovery and Restoration, Retrofitting, and perhaps most important, Responsibility, Respect and Reverence for Earth, life and coming generations.

The following problems and solution must be taught from early on,

as an essential part of our children's education,

in schools that embody none of the problems and all of the solution.

School children were exhilarated by visiting Solviva

Of course, they all loved the Animals!

They also loved the plants, the fragrances, the tastings, the beauty of it all.

And they really loved looking through the 3x and 10x magnifying lenses,

and seeing the faces of the tiny insects up close.

Imagine a school designed, engineered and built by our own local skilled Experts.

Every Saturday is a supervised Work Party Day, when everyone is welcome for a day of good work, music and feasting. You can see that even little kids can have the chance to be and feel useful as they pick up and sort nails, screws, and small wood scraps from the ground. Imagine this!!

And here it is, all done - 100% solar energy self-sufficient, with a large swimming pool, available to the public every day at times when school is not in session. Also a mini farm. And a SuperPower Playground! (what's that?)

Yes, a Super-Power Playground!

Everything that is movable produces electricity!

Everything that can be pushed, pulled, swung, spun, pedalled, rowed, run, bounced, rocked, glided, slided, jogged, climbed or hopped upon - everything is connected to generators that produce electricity. And so do the PV panels on the fence, the office, and over the whole parking lot.

Totalling roughly 200,000 kWh annually (this is a rough calculation using the average production of electricity from PV panels in this location (Martha's Vineyard), with 50% of possible sunshine, plus the guestimated electricity generated by all the equipment. Please feel free to make your own calculations, and let me know what you get.

You can probably spot the huge improvement that can be made to this design: See that tiny PV cupola in the middle - imagine instead PV canopees above the entire climbing tower and extending a bit beyond, say 40x40' = 1600 sq.ft. This would produce an additional 30,000 kWh annually, and it would also provide protection from UV radiation and rain.

A Proposal for a School in Vermont

This school, with its facing-south wall, is perfect for a solar-green retrofit like this.

It would be capable of providing most or all of the heating and hot water for the school.

If you've seen the amount of salad greens herbs and edible flowers the Solviva greenhouse was capable of producing in the middle of the winter, you can imagine how much can be produced in these 2 different greenhouses.

Connected with the top of the greenhouse is a Solviva solar roof with PV panels for electricity laid over thermal panels for heating air and water. In the warm season, the solar roof opens up along the top ridge and sucks out the heat from the greenhouse, to prevent overheating.

A school in Manhattan, transformed with a Solviva solar-green retrofit

Please come along with me as I imagine a school that is energy-selfsufficient and does not cause any pollution, and offers the kind of education that will be needed when the lights go out.

Based on my 45 years of experience in this field, as described on this website, I know that what I proposed to the Town of Tisbury in 2018-2022 would have provided an energy-selfsufficient , non-polluting school, offering the learning opportunities that will be essential in the coming years.

In this school, all heating, cooling and electricity is powered by the sun, with enough batteries to last through cloudy periods.

And there's a clean-burning exterior wood-burning furnaces for back-up heating, if ever needed.

There is a large food garden next to the school, with an energy-selfsufficient greenhouse, for year-round production of organic vegetables, greens, herbs, and flowers. There is also a chicken coop for layer hens, with an attached greenhouse for growing trays of grass and herbs to feed the chickens. They also get weeds and garden trimmings, and leftovers and scraps from the kitchen.

Their eggs provide delicious omelets for school lunches.

This is the old Tisbury School And this shows the Solviva solar-green retrofit design

To the left is a rough sketch of cross section of that retrofit. It shows how the sun light is filtered through the garden, thus reducing glare. And how the air is purified by the plants.

And it shows how the solar warmth and cleaned air is circulated throughout the school.

Below shows a proposal for a new addition, totally solar-green, energy-selfsufficient, with separate greenhouse and screened porch.

To be continued ...


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