10,000 Year Clock

Hi Folks:

Every once in a while we come across something that we just have to share.  Our very-talented friend Robert McDonald is the head of the Okanagan Institute in Kelowna, BC.  Among other things they put out a weekly online newsletter called ‘Freshsheet‘.  It’s always worth reading, and this week’s issue includes the following:

The Clock in the Mountain

There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before.The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years. Most times the Clock rings when a visitor has wound it, but the Clock hoards energy from a different source and occasionally it will ring itself when no one is around to hear it. It’s anyone’s guess how many beautiful songs will never be heard over the Clock’s 10 millennial lifespan.The Clock is real. It is now being built inside a mountain. This Clock is the first of many millennial Clocks the designers hope will be built around the world and throughout time. There is a second site for another Clock, a site surrounded by a very large grove of 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. Appropriately, bristlecone pines are among the longest-lived organisms on the planet. The designers of the Clock expect its chimes will keep ringing twice as long as the oldest 5 millennia-old bristlecone pine. Ten thousand years is about the age of civilization, so a 10K-year Clock would measure out a future of civilization equal to its past. That assumes we are in the middle of whatever journey we are on – an implicit statement of optimism.

Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years? Part of the answer: just so people will ask this question, and having asked it, prompt themselves to conjure with notions of generations and millennia. If you have a

Freshsheet Clock ticking for 10,000 years what kinds of generational-scale questions and projects will it suggest? If a Clock can keep going for ten millennia, shouldn’t we make sure our civilization does as well? If the Clock keeps going after we are personally long dead, why not attempt other projects that require future generations to finish? The larger question is, as virologist Jonas Salk once asked, “Are we being good ancestors?”The Clock’s inventor, Danny Hillis, is a polymath inventor, computer engineer, and designer, inventor and prime genius of the Clock. He and Stewart Brand, a cultural pioneer and trained biologist, launched a non-profit foundation to build at least the first Clock. Fellow traveler and rock musician Brian Eno named the organization The Long Now Foundation to indicate the expanded sense of time the Clock provokes – not the short now of next quarter, next week, or the next five minutes, but the “long now” of centuries.

The biggest problem for the beating Clock will be the effects of its human visitors. Over the span of centuries, valuable stuff of any type tends to be stolen, kids climb everywhere, and hackers naturally try to see how things work or break. But it is humans that keep the Clock’s bells wound up, and humans who ask it the time. The Clock needs us. It will be an out of the way, long journey to get inside the Clock ringing inside a mountain. But as long as the Clock ticks, it keeps asking us, in whispers of buried bells, “Are we being good ancestors?”

Now that’s something to consider… Thanks, Robert!

Hugs,
M&M

P.S. Be sure to check out The Long Now Foundation!!

Photo of the Month – Cover Stories

Hi Folks:

Normally for my ‘Photo of the Month’ posts I highlight my favourite image made in the past month.  However, since Marcia’s new book, “A Year in the Life of a Bus-Traveling Poet” was opened for sale on May 21, I thought I’d profile the two images I’ve made (so far) that grace book covers, and the books on which you can find them.  I’ll start with Marcia’s…

The original image is of a blue flag iris.  I made this image many years ago (on Kodachrome 25, my favourite film of all time) at Petroglyphs Provincial Park in southern Ontario. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Good News?!?!?!

Hi Folks:  Well, Friday has come around once again and that means it’s ‘green day’ here for us.  Without question the biggest news in the world this week is the aftermath following the earthquake in Haiti.  If you’re interested you can find links to disaster relief sites here.  It’s events like this that bring the words ‘climate change’ into real focus.  It’s wonderful that so many millions of dollars and thousands of hours of effort have been offered in assisting the people of Haiti deal with what’s happened on their island; as Marcia said to me though, where were the funds to help them upgrade their infrastructure BEFORE this happened?

Ah well.  The title of this blog post is ‘Good News’ and all evidence to the contrary, there is good news to be found.  Last week’s post focused on what I see as the somewhat bewildering plethora of green building standards and certifications, but even that is good news in a way.  It wasn’t that many years ago that none of this existed.  One article I came across this week is titled ‘A Very Brief History of Sustainability‘.  These ideas continue to spread beyond building construction as well.  On the Sustainable Sites Initiative website you can find information on “The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009” (.pdf), which includes “all stages of the site development process from site selection to landscape maintenance”.  There’s also a companion guide called “The Case for Sustainable Landscapes” (.pdf)  It brings a different slant to the idea of being ‘green’.  Another site I came across talks about greening up building operations and maintenance.  In the US these guidelines fall under the USGBC LEED for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance Guide.  The article I read is titled, “LEED Cleaning – Why Not?”  Consider for a moment the wide range of chemicals used in traditional cleaning products and their effects on both the people using them and everyone else occupying the building after their use.  I certainly applaud less toxic alternatives!  Continue Reading →