Does ISIS have anything to do with architecture?

People always tend to say that money is what drives things in life.

“Money makes the world go round” .

However, this cynical statement happens to be only partly true. What really moves the world is energy, and money is only one of its many disguises.

Much has been discussed about ISIS finances and it is still not clear where exactly the funds are coming from. However, two major sources have been repeatedly mentioned: oil and private donations from gulf nations, who also have developed their financial status thanks to oil extraction.

ISIS finances. New York Times

ISIS finances. New York Times

ISIS’s reserve of an estimated $ 2 billion makes it the world’s most well-financed terrorist organization. Airstrikes have impacted ISIS’s oil trade, but there’s one form of funding we can put an immediate stop to: donations from citizens, purported nonprofit groups, and governements or private sources in Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. A report from the world’s foremost international body on terrorist financing, the Financial Action Task Force, concludes that ISIS is using grassroots donations through the Internet and that foreign donor support will become more critical as other funding streams are stunted.

Rand Paul: Punish Those Who Fund ISIS ,TIME Nov. 17, 2015

The Financial Times

The Financial Times

Deciding who is funding Isis – and who should take the heat for its survival – depends upon the degree to which the world believes that the “Islamic State” is self-financing. Western governments have detailed the production of oil wells in Isis territory and the vast amounts of cash supposedly stolen from Mosul banks after Isis took over, but smuggling fuel and ransacking vaults can hardly sustain an Islamist “nation” which controls an area larger than the UK.

Millions of dollars must be arriving in Isis hands from outside Iraq and Syria, and the question must be asked: if it doesn’t come from within Saudi Arabia – or Qatar – who on earth is providing the wherewithal? Iceland? Peru?

War with Isis: If Saudis aren’t fuelling the militant inferno, who is? , Robert Fisk, Independent

Les finances del Terror. El Punt Avui

Les finances del Terror. El Punt Avui

On the other hand, many articles have been written about the importance of attacking ISIS economy to win the war against terror. Francesc Cabana states that an economic war would be much more desirable than a physical one, due to its lack of victims but, how is an economic war going to work while France, the country which is still in everybody’s mind for being the victim of terrorism, is gladly making deals with the same people that economically support ISIS? Ideology is suddenly lost when enormous gains appear in the horizon, and those gains would not be possible if it was not for the oil these countries hold, oil as a form of energy.

Energy has always been intimately related with power, both manpower and physics power. Analysing the issue from the physics point of view, to do labour, force that does work is needed and to achieve power as energy per unit time (W), energy is essential. To dispose of energy means to have the ability to change what surrounds us, to light and heat our rooms, to move, to build… and to be able to do all those things is to have power.

The first type of energy that humanity exploited was human energy (blood force). At that time, one of the principal objectives of wars was to capture enemies and, in this way, acquire their driving force: slaves. The Egyptian civilisation is based on the manpower needed to sustain the civilisation and its building fervour. The book Exodus, from the bible, can be considered as a clear documentation of this phenomenon. On the other hand, manpower was also basic to achieve transport, by land and by sea. Ships and sea wars would not rely only on the wind and sailing possibilities but also on the manoeuvring force given by the rowing of the slaves under the deck.

Jean François Millet

Jean François Millet

The next step on the energy scale is achieved by the domestication of animals. Their brute force is generally much superior to humans, giving to the people owning animals a higher lever of energy and, therefore, more power than the rest. In the war between Egyptians and Hittites, the seconds had the advantage of owning better and faster horses and this point was decisive for their winning. The conquest of the Far West was also based on the control above horses and cattle.

bueyes barcas 1920

The domestication of animals does not only give advantage on the military field. Agriculture gave a very big step forward with the use of the ox, increasing its productivity. Therefore, in that time, an animal tended to be more valuable than a human being, and the health of an ox or a mule could determine the fate of a whole family.

Sorolla

Sorolla

A clear relation between animal force and the current uses of energy can be seen in the initial physical language with the use of horsepower to measure the power of the first machines.

For centuries, the order of magnitude in the energy field is kept, with the conversion between human and animals force being very close. However, the Industrial Revolution changed the energy scene forever with a brutal qualitative leap, much higher that between human and animal. The steam engine had made its appearance.

Rain Steam and Speed the Great Western Railway. Turner

Rain Steam and Speed the Great Western Railway. Turner

In this way, the Industrial Revolution modifies the energy parameters from then on and places the strategic importance on a new resource: coal. Charcoal is made by chopping down trees on the woods, a resource that had already been used to achieve heat and work iron parts, and accelerating the natural process of coal creation. However, natural coal proves to have a higher energy quality and the efforts start to focus on its extraction. The areas more industrialized start developing dependence firstly on the mines and consequently on transport, as to move the fuel from its extraction point to the consumption becomes crucial. However, coal is a resource quite regularly found on earth and, even if some places gain strategic importance due to their mines, the high quantity of extraction points around the globe does not provoke a political shift as abrupt as the one that still was to come.

Oil well. Giant (1956)

Oil well. Giant (1956)

The next big step in the energy process is the discovery of the applications for oil, which changes radically the power’s centres of gravity around the world. This shift is clearly exemplified in the film Giant (1956), where the industry of cattle in Texas is roughly cut down with the appearance of oil extraction.

Giant (1956)

Giant (1956)

The Industrial Revolution has created the need for higher quality energy and made a resource that had always existed suddenly valuable. In this case, the resource is not as regularly distributed as coal, creating three main new power centres: United States, South America and the Arabian world. This third one, which had been outside of the scope of political interest for long, suddenly becomes central in global strategy.

rickshaw. The Times

Coach

Steam train

jaguar car

On the other hand, other types of high quality energy fuels are researched, with the aim of obtaining larger power and less dependence from the oil extraction sites. This is the case of natural gas, which gives strategic importance to the North of Algeria and Russia, and nuclear fission, that turns the eyes of the world to Africa for the collection of Uranium, which, on the other hand, can be found in many places at lower concentrations.

However, in any case, the control above the new energy generation is centralized, either by the extraction and distribution systems or the transformation centrals. Centralized energy generation is perfect to give power to some privileged ones and, therefore, to create the desire of controlling this power, which becomes more crucial with the progressive reduction of the resources.

If an analysis is made about the natural process that creates oil, a linear transformation can be observed as follows: From solar energy, vegetables are able to create new matter which, with time, will be transformed in coal or will become oil. With even more time, geological processes and crystallization, it might be transformed in diamonds, another source of global conflicts in the world. Every time a step is made, the quality of energy embodied in the matter increases but the quantity of the resource in the world decreases. Therefore, the quantity of oil in earth is much smaller than coal, which is also much more difficult to find than vegetables whose extension cannot be compared to the energy of incident sunlight.

It is easy to observe that the basic factor in the process is time, which would deserve a much more extended article to expose its importance, even greater than energy itself. However, we will concentrate now on going back to the source of the process: solar energy.

Mont Cenis Academy, Alemania HHS Planer + Architekten AG in partnership with Jourda & Perraudin Architectes, France, Lyon

Mont Cenis Academy, Alemania HHS Planer + Architekten AG in partnership with Jourda & Perraudin Architectes, France, Lyon

With the oil crises of 73 and 79 new alternatives to oil were researched and solar energy became a clear path to consider. However, it carried with it a very important problem: the difficulty to control it politically. Its decentralized nature, enough sunlight to produce energy can be found nearly everywhere around the world, which made it more arduous for some people to gain benefits from its control and distribution.The consequent strategies were the creation of solar fields and solar centrals, re-centralizing the energy caption and transformation. Contemporarily, the same companies that ruled the oil and electric systems bought the patents of the first solar panels, in an attempt to either control its production or to sink the whole new industry. In this way, the seemingly most democratic energy gaining system, the solar, is transformed into a hierarchical organisation again.

Nevertheless, in parallel with the energy race and its control, a main strategy is applied to users, closely related to consumerism: the creation of a need for more energy. To be able to control population and to keep the benefits raising it is important that the need of energy rises at the same speed.

It would seem that this article is taking the direction of solar energy’s promotion and the new “sustainable” fever. However, as many probably have already thought, a similar strategy to the solar panels has been applied to the firstly well intended intention of creating a more sustainable world.

This strategy is related with the perversion of the comparison efficacy versus efficiency. Efficacy is oriented to the achievement of the objectives while efficiency searches for an optimum use of the resources for anything. It is generally told to people that more efficient systems should be used to reach a higher grade in sustainability; however, nobody questions the objectives for which this efficiency is used.

To give an example, if someone has to go to work inside a city he can use different transport forms. Even if he buys a very efficient large hummer-like vehicle because he is told that it will be more sustainable, it will clearly consume more energy than if he uses a small FIAT500-like car, or maybe public transport, or a bike. To exaggerate the example a little bit more, he could decide to use a truck to go to work but, even if it was the most efficient trailer in the whole world, it would still consume more energy than other more sensible options.

hummer-02

Hummer

Fiat-500

Fiat-500

Truck

Truck

In this way, a need for energy is created and, to keep people’s minds out of remorse, new very efficient systems are built. This is how the sustainable architecture has been perverted and led architects to build a greenhouse in Rio de Janeiro and after cover it with solar panels. In this way, the expenses are greatly increased but, as renewable energies are used, everybody feels good about it.

First page result of google search: sustainable building

First page result of google search: sustainable building

Does it mean, then, that the correct path to follow is to constrain ourselves? Does it mean we should not have any comfort because we don’t strictly need it? It might seem as doing steps backwards in the path of human evolution. However, this is not what wants to be implied. As an example, countries of the “first world” currently throw away tones of fresh food every year and reducing the amount of discarded food would not make people starve.

As a conclusion, the priority, then, is to acquire a knowledge that makes possible to achieve a sensible management of the resources. To know the exact amount of energy that is necessary to fulfil some objective and, therefore, to design a building that uses exactly the energy needed is certainly more important than filling its roof with solar panels.

On the other hand, the main problem related with energy is not its quantity but its availability at the right time. Therefore, it is very important to focus on the storage, the regulation and the network of distribution, keys to the correct management of energy on a global scale.

A trader looks at share prices on an electronic display at the Doha Stock Exchange in Doha, Qatar June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

A trader looks at share prices on an electronic display at the Doha Stock Exchange in Doha, Qatar June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

As a final observation, the title wanted to be more a method to attract the attention of the potential reader and induce him to read the whole article than a real indication of the central subject that was developed. However, a relation does exist between these two seemingly unconnected subjects.

The reduction of the dependence on The Middle East oil market is central to decrease the social and military problems developed in that area. There is a tendency of thinking that some global problems can only be solved by intervening with the same global main forces that seem to create them. There is also the thinking that to be able to “help in the world” it is only possible by joining a humanitarian organisation.

However, each of us can participate on the going of things by trying to do our job more honestly and holding some principles. We can obviously build something in Dubai and earn a huge amount of money which we can invest in humanitarian objectives. However, we would probably be creating a building against all principles of energy saving, based on the climate of the area and the type of buildings that have been built lately, and for the same people that is currently funding Islamic State. Can we consider us less guilty than those who earn money with arms trafficking and after give donations to humanitarian organisations?

As Alain Couet states: On ne pourra pas continuer éternellement dans une politique schizophrène. On a fermé les yeux sur l’idéologie prônée par ces pays parce que rien ne se passait chez nous. On n’en voyait pas les effets. Eh bien maintenant on les voit.”

 

Author: Glòria Serra Coch