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The Gupta Option

This article is an early stage draft. Please email me suggestions!


Things to Read or Do

State In A Box Overview which briefly outlines a radically new approach to SSTR based in distributed infrastructure and Jeffersonian ideals.

Winning the Long Peace - about extending the concept of the nation state to reflect the realities of current American policy.

STAR-TIDES and Starfish Networks: Supporting Stressed Populations with Distributed Talent - National Defense University, Defense Horizons 70, co-author

Soft Development Paths - Is there any way that everybody in the world can live reasonably well? Yes, but we need to work on the basics...

The Future of Poverty - how computers and networks give us new ways of knowing which may end poverty forever

STAR-TIDES briefing at National Defense University - one hour video plus supporting documents of the presentation I did about distributed infrastructure and the Hexayurt Project for NDU.

Severe Panflu Response Strategies - a really serious look at losing 25% of the human race in a single year, and what we can do about it.

STAR-TIDES - notes and boards from our demonstration at the Pentagon. Six ages of good stuff on infrastructure and resilience half way through. See the STAR-TIDES home page for context.

Hexayurt Project - my main activity, a free/open source disaster relief and emergency shelter system.

Networked Domestic Disaster Response - presents a well-reviewed plan for evacuating millions to tens of millions of American citizens in catastrophic emergencies.

Facilitating International Development through Free / Open Source - about changing the direction of international development by giving away free designs for great and useful technologies, like autorickshaws and water purifiers!

State In A Box - Identity Services Architecture - about re-engineering the nation state based on modern technology, starting with identity management. Includes extensive material on biometrics, OpenID, PKI and is fully buzzword compliant. It's the start on a book.

Our Future With Islam - about Islam as a religion, culture and political system, and long term prospects for peaceful co-existence without falling back on Mutually Assured Destruction.

Saving the World on the Cheap - about charities, governments, and the need for a new way to fund lifesaving engineering projects.

Resilience and Opportunity in 4GW - on decentralized infrastructure and microfinance as was of moderating 4GW conflicts.

Discuss at The Sietch Forums

My blog

Soft Development Paths

A tangible solution to global poverty and environmental degradation

Sustainable development means different things to different people. This is a plan for making sustainable development completely tangible and real for the poorest half of the human race by creating a "soft development path" akin to the "soft energy path" presented by Amory Lovins et al. in the 1970s.

The soft development path starts by facing real, tangible limits to growth. The environmental footprint of an American is said to be around 30 times the footprint of a Bangladeshi. If the world follows the American, or even the European development model, even with significant new environmentally benign technologies, there is little hope for striking an equitable balance between rich and poor, or humans and nature.

Our goal is simple - to remake the "lifestyle niche" of the smallholder organic farmers who comprise half of the human population into something which is healthy, prosperous, stable, environmentally benign, and includes health care and health maintenance, access to energy and education, and many other improvements. The bedrock of this transformation is appropriate technology deployed as whole systems, not as the stand-alone stepwise improvements of the past which have had such mixed success.

History is on our side. The development of new technologies like ever-more-affordable solar panels and ICT (information and communication technologies) extends our reach every single day. Our goal, then, is to work with these underlying trends to maximize progress in the regions where it is needed most: to go to where the poverty is deepest, and stabilize and improve life there.

It is our hope and belief that by improving life for the smallholders and in the villages using applied basic science and appropriate technology that the destructive and unsustainable flight to the cities can be slowed, and the destructive transformation of agriculture which clears farming households off their land can be arrested. To make smallholders economically productive enough to retain their land during agricultural transformation requires use of relatively modern organic farming know-how, like green manures and integrated pest management, but there are pockets of expertise in these techniques all over the world. The challenge is spreading the knowledge to make the smallholder's fields abundant. This is the bedrock and anchor of revolutionizing the lives of the poor, and stabilizing half of the population of the planet in their existing sustainable lifestyles.

Then there is technology. Stoves which are five times as efficient as current stoves, adding as much as 15% to household income through reduced fuel spending. Simple electrical lights based on cheap LED lighting elements. Water purifiers which can end illness and death from water borne disease. Malaria nets and microfinance. The Hexayurt itself is a simple building designed for refugees, IDPs, and the very poor from any country who are unable to afford more traditional home. These systems together constitute a redefinition of the basic way of life of the very poorest in the same way that running water and sanitary toilets transformed the way of life of Europeans and Americans over the past 200 years, but in a manner which does not require the poor to vastly increase their income or ecological footprint.

The poor cannot follow the development path that the current rich have taken without destroying the planet. It is not even clear that the rich can become sustainable, although new technology will help. The soft development path is an alternative approach to spreading results like those of the Kerala Miracle, in which an Indian region with an average income of $300 per year has attained quality of life as measured by lifespans, literacy and infant mortality very close to those of rich nations. Although not every area may enjoy Kerala's unique social advantages, Kerala proves that it is possible to live well on very little money or ecological impact. Kerala proves it can be done, and appropriate technology will lower the barriers to this kind of success in other regions.

Bubbling under the surface of debates about Kyoto, about biofuels, about farm policy, about fair or free trade, is a basic truth: nobody knows what to offer the poor. Nobody can imagine a world where everybody is "wealthy" in the conventional western sense because the ecological and economic numbers have never added up.

I believe that we have located a genuinely balanced and stable solution which is socially responsible, environmentally benign, and sustainable for generations. It is unrealistic to expect the smallholders of the world to immediately change the lifestyles which have sustained them for thousands of years. However, by offering them an integrated spectrum of small improvements which add up to a much better life, we can genuinely help.

The Hexayurt Project is dedicated to the development, under open intellectual property licenses, of the necessary technical and social solutions to the long term development needs of these smallholders and their urban cousins. To date we have developed an award-winning emergency shelter system and infrastructure package, and we are working with a variety of agencies from the US Department of Defense to the Netherlands Red Cross, as well as with private enterprise to develop and deploy a fielded solution for refugees. The next step is to move beyond disaster relief and into development aid.

We need your help to make that step real.

Go to The Hexayurt Project to learn more.