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Apr 16, 2015

Enemies Not So Much

"Croatian Kirche", oil by Tim Holmes
For months I've been looking forward to last night's meeting between a "dirty" industry and a bunch of tree- huggers. I'm amazed at what happened. As chair of this meeting of our little Clean Energy Citizen's Council with Northwestern Energy, the power company for most of our state, I wanted to avoid the kind of pointless chest-beating that most politics has become. What transpired was remarkably different.

It started months ago when I wrote a complaining letter to the editor about NWE and got a call from the CEO. I was sure he was going to take me to the dungeon for a private session, but much to my amazement, he instead came to my studio and spent two whole hours talking to me about power issues. Almost all of what he said sailed over my head, but I found a man who listened, and who said he was willing to meet with my little group. (I must point out I'm a nobody- just an interested citizen and new solar producer.) It took two months to arrange the meeting (while they slaughtered all our clean energy bills in the legislature), and the CEO couldn't make the meeting, but he sent two other officials (and called me from the road just prior!)

The interaction was a clear and friendly exchange of ideas and concerns. Though there were some definite feelings, we all learned from each other and found some common ground to move into. What became clear to me is that we all operate in the tiny circles of our own world-view and rarely move out to view a greater perspective. But history only moves in one direction and if humans survive it will not be because because we won the PR wars or got the best press or amassed the biggest weapons, but that we figured out how to live together in the world that is actually coming. There is only one and we HAVE to agree to arrive there together.
That is what we worked on. It will not be easy and we all want different things along the way, but immediately there are things I see we can do to help each other by addressing solutions rather than the conflict and by avoiding whining. (Cue the Montana Logging and Ballet Co.'s Whine Song:)

We've got problems, but that's just fine,
We don't want solutions, we just want to whine!

I now have solar panels on my studio and create more power than I use, just like a tree! Every day for the rest of my life I'll be giving power away to somebody. And next time an ice-storm cuts the power for a few days there will be hundreds eager to come visit me! I not only don't want to risk being named as a villain in some future classic dramatic tale of this era, but this is the kind of entity I wanna be in this world; open, willing, honest, generous.


We've been drilling for the wrong "black gold". While oil helped us get here, it's clear we need to get off it right away. There's an even greater reserve meanwhile that we can tap into right now that will produce endless benefits. We can only tap it where we're willing to make the leap to a new imaginative model. That reserve consists of a number of assets:
  • Savings on energy costs
  • Environmental benefits
  • virtually endless supply
  • a huge constituency of those who will work for a better world
  • increasing benefits of tech innovation, the energy internet, miniaturization, etc.
  • the growing sharing economy
We will begin to tap into this reserve- it's the only way we'll survive. The question is how soon and who will help. Right now it's up in the air whether the utilities will be able to change their vision to adapt or will simply founder, dragging as much of the economy as it can with it. In the near future power will be shared like info across the internet between thousands of distributed generation points. Excess energy generated during the day will be used to pump water uphill, serving as water batteries that generate power as its needed. Energy will be traded directly between producers and users. Whether the utilities are fast enough to insert themselves into such networks remain to be seen.

(I put together a short video here of a vision that came to me of the imaginative leap that must be made).



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Tim Holmes Studio

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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.