SARDINIA CHARTING FOR
Sardinia, since 1978 with an installation at Caltech called ‘Earth Net: An Economic System,” has been treated as a stopover for migratory
birds and insects between sub-Sahara Africa and the Arctic. Vast numbers of such birds, and all the fish, insects, bugs or rodents they feed on, are the sine qua non.
Dividing up islands into their slopes to saltwater bays began, as systematic practice, under a contract with Icelandic citizen Inga Svala Thorsdottir. The division lines coincided with Icelandic tradition: each fjord or bay would have its own management. The now-husband of Thorsdottir, Wu Shenzuan, asked for an opinion on the decision to be made then, in 1993-4, about a massive dam project in China, at Three Gorges. Wu was a member of the Chinese Communist Party, and he had to cast a vote. Months of research led to an exhibition of scenarios for the Yangtze River, and also the Nile,
Dividing up islands into their slopes to saltwater bays began, as systematic practice, under a contract with Icelandic citizen Inga Svala Thorsdottir. The division lines coincided with Icelandic tradition: each fjord or bay would have its own management. The now-husband of Thorsdottir, Wu Shenzuan, asked for an opinion on the decision to be made then, in 1993-4, about a massive dam project in China, at Three Gorges. Wu was a member of the Chinese Communist Party, and he had to cast a vote. Months of research led to an exhibition of scenarios for the Yangtze River, and also the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates and Aegean-Sea basin, in London (1994). Suspicion built up on why the numbers and size of fish were declining, especially in a plainly unpolluted area like Iceland, centered on the large numbers of hydroelectric diversions and dams, all destroying the usual movements of fish and other water organisms from land to sea. Dams, not overfishing or pollution, were seen as a No 1 reason for fisheries decline. Coastal wetland removal or drying up were also seen as reason, but much of that could be attributed to changes in water-quality caused by dams upstream.
In 2000, following travels down much of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California, and noticing a parallel with the Tigris-Euphrates in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, rivers began to be divided up into dam catchments. Every dam, in blocking the movement of soil and life-forms, was reducing the river to a lifeless flow of H20. In the two decades since, any island or peninsula, such as Italy, Sicily or Sardinia, would of course be divided up into their bay catchments. This confirmed with an Irish law of 1959, learned about in a residency in Ireland in 2003, which calls for each bay, from outermost point to outermost point, to be treated as a “hydrometric area.” The law is similar to traditional border rules in Iceland and other Viking lands, and—due to a Shinto religion centered on water—in Japan. Since 2009, all of Italy, Greece, Finland, Japan, China, Korea and elsewhere have been divided up into bay basins, including all the land sloping into the bays. Government officials have often said that including the land sloping into a bay, or a regional sea, or a single stretch of ocean current, can be impermissibly “political.” But it’s a scientific and physical fact, unrelated to politics.
An invitation for a one-person show in Sardinia, at the Museo Nivola deep in the countryside, led first of all to dividing up Sardinia into its bay catchments as could be defined by the Irish hydrometric-area law of 1959. Much more was discovered while on the island. There were many dams, with reservoirs among the biggest in Europe. And the scientific literature about the dams, which curators Lennart Wolff and Elisa Linn tracked down, showed that they were gravely harming wildlife populations, including fish and birds. Much was also written about how the dams, by greatly reducing nutrient runoff to the Sea, were reducing the coastal wetlands, and therefore both fish and bird populations. With the Museo Nivola Show, running from late October 2019 to February 2020, began a systematic separating of each dam catchmentn on any river in any bay basin. The hydrographic map of Sardinia was being splintered further into many still-smaller soil/water units. A poetic term for each unit could be Dennis Oppenheim’s term, also about trapped waters, called “Shape Collectors”.
The first show in response to CCP-member Wu Shenzuan, showing earthworks alternatives to dams and canal diversions, was attempted a second time at the Smart Museum of The University of Chicago, with one month allowed for research at the University. The research yielded this discovery: a 1905 conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers, deciding on whether to endorse an efficient waterwheel designed by Jean-Victoire Poncelet of France, or an even-more energy-yielding, but river damaging, technology of high dams with turbines, led to this outcome: high dams with turbines, and not waterwheels. The result has been a global disaster. Country after country went on a dam-building binge. Sun Yat Sen, then Lenin and Stalin; FDR; Hitler; Franco; France ater the world wars; Italy; all adopted the 1905 decision of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and we now have in the world 500,000 high dams with turbines for conversion at 95% efficiency of falling-water power to electricity. China built on its Three Gorges Dam decision to become the world’s biggest builder of dams, always with disastrous consequences for the life in rivers, and then the coastal wetlands, then the Ocean. The waterwheel alternatives, or maybe screws, or other micro-hydro technologies, are not high tech, not big, not comforting for technocratic egos. For a while we settled for the usual large-size wheels, of 3 meter diameter. Then an idea came from Marcel Duchamp: use bicycle-fork mounted waterwheels, and produce such waterwheels in the multi-billion volume that normal bicycle wheels have. Scenarios for massive arrays of waterwheels were conceived and drawn up for low-rise dams and water falls in the Lake District, UK and on a homeland river of my paternal grandparents, near Augsburg, Bavaria: the Lech. This low-tech solution, with nonetheless sophisticated Poncelet-curve blade array on the rim, has been contracted inside Italy, for marketing from Italy worldwide, with the type of company that would sell such Duchammp-Poncelet waterwheels: Sardinia Cycling, headed by Giovanni Lamieri. All these arrangements were made for the exhibition at Museo Nivola, Sardinia,and they were continued for display and development in the Manifesta, as part of an answer on why the river waters arriving in the saltwater lagoon next to Marseille, the Etang de Berre, is so devoid of salts, nutrients or life forms. A global industrial campaign had begun.
Only COVID got in the way. Many further plans, including work with Finmeccanica for mass production of the Poncelet curve blades, collapsed in the face of near-complete economic shutdown. Now, delayed by a year and a half, we resume. The task includes translating the mathematics (let alone the French) in a 130 page report by Jean-Victoire Poncelet, who was distinguished in the 19th century as an early head of France’s MIT, the Ecole Polytechnique.
We intend to continue in our own corporate integrity. We do not bury the three decades of discovery and, let’s say, ideational gestation, that we, very uniquely, have experienced. Sardinia as we have mapped it, and now mapped it in its dam catchments, each set subordinated to a bay basin, is handled by us as a business corporation over 40 years old.
If the rivers of Sardinia can come back to life, functioning like blood-streams into the larger field of life, the Sea, then we can restore what should be a sizable fisheries and biomass industry off the shores of Sardinia. A starting point for proof of concept could be, according to our curators Lennart Wolff and Elisa Linn: Alghero. The town is named after what has long been prolific there, but now no more: macroalgae, with fish.
Over the long-term, our clients, the ones who benefit from our work, will not be Sardinia only, or Italy onlly, or any country or territory only. It will be the migrating birds and circulating fish upon which our existence on the planet depends. Sardinia, or anywhere else, should be a paradise for migrating birds, insects and fish. Not what they have become: a place of starvation and death.
We can all remember that a pandemic exists continuously and ever worse, on the Earth: the human race with present-day technologies of land use. We seek a massive change in those technologies, despite the power-hungry behavior of most governments.