Sunday, January 18, 2009




Did you ever sit yourself down in the middle of a day and take the time to think about the day after tomorrow? I don’t mean the day after tomorrow when you have to be as busy as you were two days ago or the day after tomorrow when you plan on leaving the office for a day off, I mean just taking the time to think about the day after tomorrow.

I do this every once in awhile. I just take the time to ponder not what has to be done the day after tomorrow but the potential the day after tomorrow can actually bring. It’s not time necessarily spent envisioning the future. It’s not necessarily time plotting a strategy for that future, it’s simply time spent thinking about the day after tomorrow.

In my thoughts about the day after tomorrow, I often reflect upon the past. In this time of reflection, I find myself looking over the terrain of the world I have managed to create for myself up until today. I look at my drawing board. I look at my computer screen. I look at the portraits of my two daughters. I look at the leather boots I’ve worn on jobsites, the aged brown leather jacket I have worn countless times on my journeys to job sites, meetings and along country trails with my daughters and I just think in quiet retrospect about the day after tomorrow.

When I do, the past that I think about is usually embraced with dreams not of my future but the future of my daughters. I just wonder what the world will bring to these remarkable young ladies. If their world was devoid of the complications my world has been filled with, would their lives turn out different than my own?

The reason I’m bringing this up is that in our nation today, the day after tomorrow seems to precariously hinge upon what we did two days ago as opposed to what we and our sons and daughters have the potential for doing the day after tomorrow. The question I have about this practice is simple; why when we take the time to think about the day after tomorrow do our thoughts automatically go back to what we did or did not do two days ago or two decades ago?

The Wilderhill Clean Energy Index is a collection of 51 green energy companies. These companies supposedly make up some sort of collective essay on what we have the potential of doing or accomplishing the day after tomorrow. Comprised of technologies that would clearly reshape our entire industrial footprint, this index is of course a benchmark for such accomplishment. Unfortunately for all of us, our perspective on the growth of these benchmark industries is based upon the model of ancient industrial anchors that are as useless to our vision for the day after tomorrow as the ancient industrial ships tethered to these anchors. Destined to be controlled by ancient harbor pilots in charge of ancient principles of commerce and shipping, the potential growth of these industries rest in quite an unsettling manner inside the rusting hulls of economic vessels that are going virtually nowhere.

Having said this and today sitting at my desk thinking about the day after tomorrow, I find myself coming to the conclusion that thinking about the day after tomorrow has become a useless as going to work for any reason has become today. With our entire economy sitting idle in ancient harbors, what is the point of dwelling on the day after tomorrow when of course we all know it will never come?

I imagine all of this rambling sounds fairly ridiculous if not down right depressing to anyone who may be trying to sort out my rationale, but, let’s face it, the Wilderhill Index is impotent because we as a nation are as well. So in stating that tomorrow may never come, I’m just putting into words what everyone else is already thinking. We are going nowhere with new technologies today due solely to the fact that we haven’t gone anywhere with old technologies for almost thirty years. But then again, maybe things are about to change.

As one of the reasons why I occasionally give myself the luxury of freely thinking about the day after tomorrow is due to the fact that I am a dreamer, the buildings that I have built over the course of the last thirty years qualify the fact that not only am I a dreamer but an accomplished visionary builder as well. Having been involved throughout my career in the development of alternative energy homes, I of course am also an outlaw and a villain. How could one have built a home in the 1970s that was powered by the sun when people throughout America at the time were driving Chevy’s, Fords and Dodges powered by big block motors fueled by big block oil, industrial and economic theory? Building such houses was back then clearly an indication that in my environmental approach to energy efficient housing, I was not only a dreamer but equally un-American in my insanely radical approach to dreaming.

Not only was I un-American in my approach to building alternative energy housing, I was un-American in my approach to hiring people who helped me build such housing. As traditional construction tradesmen were at the time all as unionized as the industries that made the steel, the cars and the aftermarket products that comprised the socio-economic mentality of the 1970s, it was virtually impossible to work with labor unions as their masses were too stupid and entirely unable to think beyond the industrial big box economic mentality that altogether shunned forward thinking alternative energy housing consciousness.

Today, some thirty years after refusing to initially embrace forward thinking alternative energy initiatives virtually all of our global stock indexes have declined significantly over the course of the last twelve months thus reflecting once again that ancient refusal to embrace change. In turn the price of virtually all global commodities, including oil have been reduced to nothing. Yet instead of viewing the WilderHill Clean Energy Index as a collection of industries that could solve our global economic crisis and in turn diversify the industrial portrait of all other stock indexes they are instead and once again characterized as being either the victim or the cause of the crisis.

If all other industries were doing well and the price of oil would only remain at $6.00 per gallon, solar panels would become as affordable as alternative energy vehicles and all would be just fine. The problem with this innate logic is that it is innate logic. The larger problem is that we view solar energy as a competitor in a field of energy commodities instead of viewing all energy commodities as a collective outcome of our evolved industrial brilliance. At issue in our America today is not and has never been an argument over what energy source is the most cost effective or the most renewable but how our dependence on energy creates American industries that thrive as a result of that dependence. To suggest that the WilderHill Index won’t thrive until other indexes do the same is therefore counterproductive to the larger realization that until the WilderHill Clean Energy Index does thrive, no other indexes will.

All WilderHill represents or virtually everything WilderHill represents to the future of our American economy is the advancement of a remarkably wide array of new technologies that create an equally wide array of compelling new job descriptions and an equally wide array of broad spectrum public and private sector educational initiatives that will do one thing and one thing only, create a sustainable American economy devoid ancient harbor pilots who hold fears of modern sailing vessels deep inside their unimaginative navigational minds. Green companies are not the demise of non green companies, they are but an extension of the naturally evolving brilliance of folks who like myself were laughed at and considered villains when all along we were simply trying to state through our mutual understanding of America’s capacity to embrace brilliance that without such an embrace, the industrial sky over our America would fall and indeed fall fast at some point in time.

Now that it has fallen and fallen so abruptly and as we collectively sit at empty desks devoid of our life’s work, one might think that this affect has been caused by clich├ęd assessments of hopelessly polite and inherently boring, politically correct narratives on issues such as a global warming. As a dreamer who on more than one occasion has sat alone in the middle of an afternoon to contemplate the day after tomorrow, I would suggest instead that this affect is caused by a globally redundant lack of American appreciation for American inventiveness. The kind of redundancy that virtually assures the perpetual hiring of stupid American tradesmen is then the redundancy of thought that states we are incapable of letting go of the past. Stupid American industrialist still asserting that we can continue to put off even further what we could have accomplished in the 1970s with the argument that all will be fine by the 2070s isn’t thinking about the day after tomorrow, it is instead a selfish insistence that if we keep our daughters portraits hanging above our drawing boards long enough, at some point in time they will in the process of becoming our whimsical impotent puppets, find someway to feel sorry once again for us and our perpetually failed attempts at actualizing dreams that actually include all generations.

If a solar panel is a solar panel and an American house is an American house and American houses do not en masse have solar panels on them, wouldn’t it appear somewhat logical that solar panels should be placed on American houses? Would it not appear as equally logical that if in the process of putting solar panels on American houses, we would also be growing an American economy?

Perhaps the only reason why we as a nation cannot put together a logical blueprint that should for all practical purposes be growing our American economy today is that putting solar panels on American houses would require of us all to become new age American carpenters who in the process of plying our trades, occasionally get bloody knuckles. Perhaps the big fuss over the future of our nation’s economy is that instead of thinking of ourselves as prophetic Rhodes scholar visionaries with overly manicured cuticles and ideals, we must accept the fact that bloody knuckles derived from actually doing manual labor can and most likely should supplant our tendency to think of ourselves as great for no tangible reason whatsoever. When in fact it is clearly time in our America to once again become artisans unafraid of doing the manual labor that builds in practice what absolutely cannot be built upon theory and theory alone, I am certain that the WilderHill Clean Energy Index will not in any manner become a viable or sustainable economic growth index until we do.

The Woodworker

M. Patrick Dahlke

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The Duh Factor vs. The Do Factor


Unfortunately, in the America all of us live in today, decentralization of thought has entirely overshadowed any sense of unified and collective momentum. For every one of us who has a good idea, there are ten thousand more that have the same but infinitely better idea. Even though ten thousand and one people have the same idea, the fact that one person voiced the idea first only gives ten thousand others the license to be resentful. As a result, taking the first step towards the actualization of that idea leaves us all in the perpetual state of creatively redundant industrial, economic and social spite. In such an atmosphere, the “duh factor” constantly prevails leaving the “do factor” beyond our collective reach.

As a seasoned builder admittedly afflicted with the disease of visionary dreaming, I have to say that I have very little patience with “duh people”. Having in one manner or another always found a way to build with my two hands the ideas that bounce freely between the two sides of my brain, artistic expression of industrial inventiveness has always served as the practical anchor from which that inventiveness turns to accomplishment. In other words, getting something accomplished has in my mind always been the goal of creative thinking where as getting nothing accomplished whatsoever has always been the curse of non creative thinking.

Having said this, why is it that two people can come up with the same idea of putting a solar panel on a building today? Why is it that one of those people chooses to build and install that panel while the other one chooses to argue whether or not solar energy has any future or whether the existence of the solar panel will in one way or another destroy that future?

In the thirty some years that I have been pondering this particular question I have also been building forward thinking, alternative energy homes. While one might construe that with all of this experience, I should by know be considered somewhat of an expert on the subject, in reality, the only expertise I have been applauded for has more or less come in the form of social ridicule. While I have asked myself a million questions as to why social ridicule has become more valued than advanced industrial accomplishment, the singular answer to all of these questions has remained quite simple. It’s the “duh factor”. It’s the perpetual inner war between our intellectual inner south and north. It’s the lack of alignment between our collective brain hemispheres. It’s the lack of cohesiveness between our creative longitudes and our pragmatic latitudes. It is cold Detroit, Michigan industrialist out of sync with the warm Venice, California dreamer. It is the industrialist living in the imaginative vacuum controlled by the left side of his brain just as it is the wandering beachcomber whose head floats perpetually in the abyss of right sided brain non logic. It is the practical disconnected from the imaginative. It is the seriously constricted waistline of our national inventive hourglass. It is a collective stubbornness refusing to let go of the last grains of ancient industrial sand. It is our collective unwillingness to turn the hourglass over and earnestly embrace a new industrial time zone that defines not only the nature and substance of the sand in the hourglass but the manner in which must both play and work with that sand to define the next passage of time.

While within the 20th century duh factor there exists the mysteriously seductive solar panel and within “solar panel consciousness” our centralized dream - our collective, environmentally advanced national potential to actually realize the 21st century do factor and enter that new time zone is obviously at hand, but after all of these decades, what on earth is still going wrong? Why do we still not have as many solar panels as we have cars?

Clearly within the dynamics of our nation’s current duh factor lies the distinct possibility that the Detroit industrialist might be locked forever into the left sided functions of his duh brain. Given the amount of control we have historically allowed the Detroit industrialist to have over our entire economy, it is in so many ways the insistence of keeping that control that has fostered the non creative mindset that is preventing the do factor of solar panel consciousness from emerging nationwide. Yet within the mind of every Detroit industrialist does indeed exist the insight of his right sided do brain. In the same breath, the California dreamer does indeed possess a balance between the two sides of her brain. Both the industrialist and the dreamer are therefore, actually existing on the same plane.

Within that plane, the dream of living on a warm Venice beach is as valid as manufacturing the car that will get us there. The problem we are facing today however is not making a car that can get us to a warm and cozy beach it is instead manufacturing a car that we can use when we are on that warm and cozy beach. The other problem is the definition of the beach we have in our heads. Within that definition, traveling to an exotic west or east coach beach from anywhere within America’s industrial heartland is considered to be a celebration of the fact that we have earned the right to do so. Working within our traditional industrial mindset and manufacturing cars that can take us anywhere we want to go, it has become an expectation that when we vacation from that job we can go to where we want to go while on that vacation. As an awful lot of people seek out beach destinations to enjoy that vacation, this fact suggests that while we work from the left side of our brain to earn a living for most of the year, when we vacation, we seek out places that allow us to explore the creative functions that exist on the right side of our brain.

Getting back to the duh factor and the do factor for a moment, why is it that that most Americans function primarily from the left side of their brain most of the time only to arrive at the enjoyment found by functioning on the right side of the brain only a infinitely small portion of the time? The larger question, right now today. Is this dysfunctional creative imbalance the root cause our nations serious economic decline?
The answer of course is yes. The duh factor is our national disease. “I would rather work in Detroit manufacturing a car sold to some one in Venice knowing that in the process I can go to Venice and enjoy the beach occasionally, come home and impress my Detroit friends with the fact that I went to Venice on vacation in the first place and proceed to reiterate to them that Venice will be the place I retire to while standing in line for an unemployment check a week after returning from Venice”.

Of course the individual who lives in Venice year round has an equally dynamic dream. As she can afford to live on the beach in Venice due to the fact that she works in Silicon Valley manufacturing the computer chips that get the Detroit car to Venice, her vacation dream is to escape the onslaught of left thinking Detroit industrialists that cover her beach with over weight used American auto parts. To escape she goes to Vail or Aspen where she is surrounded by an over abundance of highly creative right sided brain skiers, texting one another as they careen down ski slopes with GPS devices strapped to their waistbands. When she gets back to Venice, she arrives thinking not of what she will tell her friends about her trip or her retirement plans but to her house that with the help of mother nature’s firestorms and mudslides moved the chard remains of her overpriced beach bungalow that much closer to the Pacific Ocean.

As I have stated earlier, I am a builder with a penchant for dreaming. The nature of my dreaming has always been focused on the construction of alternative energy homes. Unfortunately, within the duh factor that has driven our U.S. economy to the brink of collapse, my only claim to fame is that in all of the years I have spent building these homes, the ridicule placed upon my shoulders by those who race like idiots down ski slopes or across interstate highways to get to ski slopes or beaches has placed the silicon chip onto the dashboards of cars rather than into the memory boards of computer monitors that control the high tech functions of a truly sustainable home. If there is any truth to the saying that those who laugh last laugh the hardest, let me suggest that until that silicon chip is removed from the dashboard of the mechanical chassis that role directionless down our highways on for rubber tires clearly going flat, and placed instead into the hands of those that power the solar collectors that produce heat and electricity from the sun, laughter will be found by no one.

When one truly considers that vast technological advancements we have collectively made in our nation over the course of the last thirty some years, one has to wonder just exactly when we will realize that the mobile land of Oz we have falsely assumed to be the driving force of our U.S. economy has in fact driven us all into collective bankruptcy. The automobile is not auto. It is mobile. If one can put their head around this concept then one can also come to understand that mobility drives an economy. Falsely assuming that a having a car enables us to thrive in an economy and without a car we simply cannot belies the fact that what we need is economic mobility, not vehicular mobility. In as much as we need a means to get us from point A to point B, much more so we need to establish a definition of the physical structure of point A and B.

Why do I need to drive all the way to Venice, California to experience a beach when technologies that are in existence in our country today can re create that beach environment in my home or school or place of business in Detroit? Having said this, the type of vehicle we need to get from point A to point B becomes secondary to the architectural structures we build for ourselves at point A and point B. In as much as the automobile has enabled us the freedom to leave Kansas and somehow justify our plight to achieve enlightenment in the land of Oz, all enlightenment must ultimately come down to the point of realizing that there is no place like home. Why our nation is finding itself in the economic mess it is currently in has nothing at all to do with the fact that we have yet to design a vehicle that gets 65 miles to the gallon. Instead, our current economic crisis is benchmarked in the realization that we have yet to sell a vehicle that takes us 65 miles down the local roads that lead to the technologically advanced, environmentally and economically sustainable architectural points of A and B. While we have invented, engineered and manufactured such vehicles, we have not overcome the cultural duh factor, the meaningless allure of the empty open highway that prevents us from driving in something measured not by horsepower but horse sense.

If one were to really think about this for a moment, what would happen if as a nation we were to collectively take a fifteen year vacation from taking vacations? What would happen if instead of using silicon based wax to polish the high tech finishes of our unaffordable automobiles we were instead polishing the high tech finishes of the walls that cover the insides and outsides of the buildings we live and work in? In my view, doing just that would expand our economy tenfold, expand our larger solar consciousness twenty fold and expand our capacity to connect the left and right hemispheres of our collectively creative genius infinitely.

Of course this suggestion comes from the mind of dreamer, yet within the mind of this particular dreamer comes the ability to swing a hammer, engineer and build a greenhouse, sit on the front porch surrounded by a perennial garden and play an acoustic guitar. Within the mind of this particular dreamer are sensors that connect my fingers to the ivory keys of a grand piano, the garden implements that till the soil around that porch and the mental where withal to create a 21st century stock portfolio of companies that build houses, not highways.

The Woodworker

M. Patrick Dahlke