Bamboozling Obama in Boulder, CO: Follow-up Letter to the President

By on December 21, 2012

The following is a copy of a letter recently sent to the current President of the United States of America:

“I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior, and carbon emissions and as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

– Barack Obama

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Greetings President Obama,

It is a huge relief that you have not only been reelected, but are also courageously acknowledging the hazards of climate change and it’s harmful impact on this planet that we all call “Home”.

It’s your last term, time to go for it.  Might as well reinstall the solar panels on top of the White House that Reagan removed when Carter left office.

Republican party pundits of global warming are merely puppets of the fossil fuel industry that are major producers of “green house” gas inducing CO2 emissions.  These corporations rake in billions each year while also polluting our land and seas. It’s sad that greed overrides sanity when addressing our current environmental issues.  Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme in our society that will be stopped soon.  Our survival depends on it.

Current construction methods, which rely heavily on concrete, wood, brick and steel, are producing 30-50% of annual CO2 emissions. New directions in sustainable, affordable and job creating strategies are necessary as human populations exponentially soar, especially in the developing world.  How are we going to house an extra 3-5 billion without destroying ourselves? The current trajectory looks bleak. A new, breakthrough, sustainable, affordable and seismic resistant “engineered lumber” is in dire need to create these future dwellings.  Bamboo to the rescue!

This past April 24, 2012 we had a chance encounter in Boulder, CO. You and your entourage unexpectedly crashed an eco-business happy hour network event called “Green Drinks”, which was being hosted that month at a restaurant called The Sink near the CU Campus. For some reason, a decision was made to get a pizza before your speech about college debt issues facing students at the Coors Event Center.

Unfortunately, these kids also face an out of control climate.  It appears, based on the wild weather patterns of the last few years, that Nature is on a warpath. Place your bets now on the next E. coast city that will get it’s ass kicked by a marauding hurricane…Miami, Boston, maybe even DC?

I was attending the Boulder branch of Green Drinks to  investigate collaborative opportunities to further the development of my oddly overlooked approach to bamboo architecture that eliminates the cracking and hollow cavity connection challenges related to building with solid bamboo poles.

My process also creates an engineered lumber without any petroleum based resins or the necessary specialized machinery and energy associated with glue-lam based bamboo laminate building materials.  This approach, merely reconfiguring the equation of an all ready banded plant, will also transform the smaller diameter species growing along the coastal regions of the USA into environmentally responsible and earthquake resistant homes.

Over the last 8 years I have been exploring deceptively simple strategies based on various ways of banding bamboo strips into beams, aka “Bamilams”.  Pneumatic staples also work surprisingly well as a glue-less laminate binder.  We’re looking at least a dozen different tactics to create this desperately needed, especially in post disaster rebuild situations, cheap, fast, “eco” building material.

This new architectural framing system, which integrates with current wood and steel construction methods and fasteners, can be quickly configured to virtually any size to meet necessary structural requirements of a simple home or a massive skyscraper.  It’s now less about the dimensional quality of bamboo, but quantity.

In order to meet the emerging needs of expanding populations we’ll plant more and more bamboo, which then sequesters increasing amounts of CO2.  Restoring balance is our goal.

Global computer modeling and satellite data can direct us as to exactly where and how much bamboo needs to sprout.  In conjunction with wind and/or solar powered dehumidifier units erected on Bamilam framed towers we can pioneer bamboo plantations in regions currently considered too arid like the high desert plains of E. Kansas and Colorado.

This tactic would also address drought issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s no longer a need to drill wells as all the water we need is floating in the air.  Its time to star “moisture farms” just like Skywalker did on Tattooine, but here on Earth.  According to Bill Mckibben, there’s more moisture in the air then ever before that is causing torrential floods around the world.  Gracefully collecting this water out of the atmosphere to then grow vegetation would address 2 major concerns at once.

The included Chi’bagoda Perma Yurt design is just a simplistic expression that exploits the unique flex properties of bamboo strips.  It’s design was inspired by a nocturnal dream I had back in 1998 that foreshadows the creation of an eco-village/environmental education center just south of Boulder nestled up against soaring sandstone crags and along the South Boulder Creek.  The dwellings on this Teton Science School inspired campus were to be based on round straw bale insulated structures, but at the time of the dream I had no idea how these buildings would be framed.  Now, it’s all quite clear and merely a matter of time.

In addition to addressing our environmental issues through new sustainable habitats we also need to promote cures for the exploding epidemic of “Nature Deficit Disorder” that is effecting our youth.  It’s time to turn off the TV and weave our society back into the web of this beautiful world.  We can consult the experts at the Yosemite Institute and Teton Science School for help. “If we build it…”

“Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man.” -JFK

 

Since 2004, Bambitat research has spanned both coasts with initial trips to Oregon and Tennessee. R+D efforts have also unfolded with two trips to Jamaica and the CO2 Bambu facility in Nicaragua.  Last December the first all “bamilam” full-scale prototype house frame was successfully erected in the Philippines outside of Manila with the generous support of HOP-E (Helping Over Come Poverty Through Education).  The bamboo and galvanized wire used for construction only cost us about $15.  As you realize, going “green” will only catch on if it’s economically viable.  Bamboo poles harvested in the developing world are surprisingly affordable.  Ours were quite a deal at $.04.

It appears the next round of more refined prototyping will be executed with Malaysian and Vietnamese allies were we will apply bamboo lashing and connection methods to replace the metal banding element to make this process even more cost effective.  This next stage truly represents the creation of an “organic steel” building material. A major paradigm shift in green building has begun.

Financial support would expedite our efforts which will be “open sourced” to the world via Web based instructional guides and future outreach Bambitat projects.  This project is clearly worthy of a United Nations driven endeavor or dedicated Peace Corp crews.  Our teams will go wherever there’s bamboo, which currently grows on all continents except Antarctica.

I am especially eager to return to Jamaica where a massive valley, and others like it, full of a burly clumping bamboo species awaits.  Haiti is only 90 miles away by tanker ship with major shipping ports at both ends. These boats could be loaded with mountains of bamboo, pre-soaked in a simple, non-toxic borax and water solution to negate termite attack.

According to you, “We must energize our efforts to put other developing nations – especially the poorest and most vulnerable – on a path to sustainable growth.”  Bamboo will play a critical role in achieving this goal.  Thankfully, most of the 3rd World all ready has bamboo growing regions which can be readily expanded through simple cloning methods.

Your unforeseen arrival at The Sink seemed like an excellent opportunity to make a potentially pivotal connection. With business card ready, I waited for my turn to shake your hand and then launched into a 30 second improvised “elevator pitch”.  The fact that I was on my second beer likely eased my anxiety.  It appears, based on photos taken by my friend Andrew Wyatt, that your security team also got a bit nervous.

In upcoming weeks you are apparently planning “a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbon emissions.” I am neither of these, just an Industrial Designer, RISD ’95, that turned into a nomadic construction worker for a few years which allowed the pieces of this bamboo puzzle to click into place. My mission finally crystalized while rebuilding decks on condos in Jackson Hole after construction stints in Colorado, California and Hawaii.

In my opinion, these specialists you wish to brainstorm with often lack the common sense of a carpenter.  Their egos often get in the way of rational thinking. However, down to earth, tool belt wearing builders always get excited by my Bamilam system.  They can feel the steel-like strength in their hands, no complicated calculus required, when they hold a demo test beam while their eye’s light up.  Then they ask me for a job.  I would love to be able to put these guys to work.  An initial project might be to rebuild the boardwalks of NY and NJ that were recently ravaged by hurricane Sandy.

My hope, Mr. President, is that you might carve 20 minutes out of your hectic schedule to discuss these world-changing visions in more detail.  However, based on past presentations for the Bolder Life Foundation and an international MBA graduate program at CU Boulder an hour would be preferred.

There’s been lots of “talk” about climate change, and mountains of frightening data have been collected, but little in the “walk” department.  I see the path to a sustainable and abundant future lined with bamboo.

It’s time to sharpen up the machetes and get busy.

Some mind boggling facts to consider regarding bamboo:

An acre of bamboo sequesters 30% more CO2 the comparable acreage of trees.

30% of this acre can be harvested annually and quickly transformed into the structural framing for homes, bridges, libraries, health clinics, etc. using basic hand tools.  No electricity is required.

Bamboo is strong as steel in compression and surprisingly stronger in tensile forces.

Each bamboo culm produces approximately 15 km in its lifetime.

Bamboo is technically a grass, high in silica, which is readily cloned and grows in 3-5 year cycles.

Clear-cut, formerly forested regions of the world, including the rain soaked regions of  Washington and Oregon could become profitable bamboo plantations in just a few years.  These farms could be funded through the emerging carbon credit market.  This is all ready happening in Central America and now China.

Entrepreneurs in the “Black Belt” region of Alabama are also seeking to pioneer a new bamboo industry by transplanting an industrial grade “moso” bamboo species where cattle now graze and cotton once grew.  A new eco-economic engine is warming up!

“We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common.”

Buckminster Fuller

It’s as if bamboo has been patiently been waiting for its true potential to be unlocked or in this case, cracked open. It’s tendency of splitting upon drying, although usually just once to release internal tension of this mysterious wood-like tube, is what originally triggered The Chi’bagoda Project: Bambitat for Humanity back in 2004.

Engineers and architects have somehow mysteriously skipped over this deceptively simple process of banding bamboo strips into a hybrid wood and steel-like building material.  Bamboo strips are actually being used as rebar in concrete sidewalks in Colombia.  It’s time to recalibrate our understanding of bamboo and unleash it’s limitless possibilities.

“Just as apartheid was the moral issue of a quarter century ago climate change is the moral issue of our time. All over the world, people are suffering an enormous amount for a problem they didn’t do anything to cause.”Bill McKibben

Eco crusader Albert Bates and his non-profit, Global Village: Institute for Appropriate Technology saw the potential of this project a few years ago and has supported my venture with non-profit fiscal sponsorship.  When my shoulders are once again fully operational after upcoming surgeries we’ll prototype full scale test Bamilam structures at The Farm outside of Summertown, Tennessee using a 1-2” diameter bamboo currently considered to be useless due to it’s small size and tendency of cracking longitudinally along the grain.

Other Bambitat test sites are lining up on Long Island, NY and outside of Charlottesville, VA with other opportunities emerging in Asheville, NC, Northern Georgia, Greensboro, Alabama and Avery Island, Louisiana. The Hawaiian Islands also have lots of potential especially the Big Island.

This amazing yet poorly understood plant is often considered an invasive pest or the “poor person’s building material”, but that perception is about to change forever.  Our salvation as a species quite likely depends largely upon bamboo (as well as industrial hemp), but not without systematic, globally orchestrated collaborations. Care to connect some dots?

Primary applications should be focused on effectively rebuilding Haiti and Pakistan, as bamboo is all ready growing in those regions. How much longer must those people live in leaky tents? Major bamboo reforestation efforts are also currently underway on Haiti as 98% of the original forests have been decimated.  Based on my investigations, it sounds like there’s a lot of bamboo just over the border in the Dominican Republic that could be utilized.  If not harvested, it just falls over and rots creating a tangled mess.

Waterproof fabric skinned emergency shelter and refugee village systems framed with Bamilams also need to be designed and built.  Pre-packed bundled structures, inspired by teepees and yurts, could literally be rolled out the back of a low flying C-130 transport plane.  Airstrips are no longer necessary thanks to the flex properties of bamboo.

The architectural possibilities are staggering.  Wouldn’t it be exciting to be an architecture or engineering student and be able to help develop this new sustainable “architectnology”?  We would love more creative synergy with this project.  With your influence, this could happen with just a few phone calls.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.  Hope to hear from you soon as realistically these ideas should have been executed at least 50 years ago.  We’re severely behind schedule.

It’s time we “bamboozle” this world for the better!  Ready when you are.

Sincerely,

Joshua Doolittle

Bambitat.com

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This project has met some delays due to unforeseen shoulder and hip socket issues which spit me out of Jackson Hole back in 2007.  I’ve since been based in Boulder, CO since 2008 with my 4th surgery on deck  soon. The Planet JH Weekly, back in 2005 when it was still Planet Jackson Hole wrote a story about my new bamboo architecture visions that can be read here if interested:

Local Inventor Bends Bamboo for Revolution


About Joshua Doolittle

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