Occupy supporters inspired by Buckminster Fuller

By Gus Bode

Nearly 90 years ago, Buckminster Fuller had already begun to lay out most of Occupy Wall Street’s core principles.

Occupy Wall Street supporters have said they vow to end corruption of democracy and will no longer tolerate greed of the 1 percent of Americans who continue to become wealthy while the other 99 percent becomes poorer, according to Occupy Wall Street’s website.


Occupy Chicago protesters march Saturday chanting slogans such as “We are the 99 percent” and “This is what democracy looks like.” The protesters marched from the Financial District to Grant Park, where they held their general assembly. More than 300 protesters have been arrested in the last two weeks for staying in Grant park after the 11 p.m. curfew. Lynnette Oostmeyer | Daily Egyptian

“There’s a real understanding (between those in the Occupy movement) that Buckminster Fuller offered a comprehensive solution framework years ago … solutions to create peace,” said Brent Ritzel, president of the Fuller Dome organization.

Fuller, who came to SIU in 1959 as a professor in the School of Art and Design, designed inventions and artifacts such as the famous geodesic “Bucky” dome. The dome represents much more than simply being an artifact, which is part of the reason why Occupy Carbondale supporters set up camp near it when they began to protest Oct. 15, Ritzel said.

Occupy Carbondale supporters sat beneath the Bucky dome Friday and discussed the similarities between Fuller’s philosophies and those of the Occupy movement.

“They express that Bucky represented and actually created the comprehensive solution framework for so many of the issues that we’re talking about now,” he said. “It was out of a desire, from my understanding, to embrace that legacy.”

Fuller designed his inventions and artifacts with the term ‘weaponry vs. livingry’ in mind, Ritzel said.

“It’s almost a technological approach to dealing with the issue of peace. Let’s think about what we actually do fight about, as humanity, and what we go to war for. So much of it is politics but what we really mean is economics,” he said. “He was creating solutions, hoping to shift the world not for the top 1 percent but literally to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity.”


In Fuller’s 1984 book “Grunch of Giants,” he discusses the dangers of corporations that control the world’s finances along with humanity’s most pressing problems and ways to solve them, said David McConville, president of the Buckminster Fuller Institute in New York City.

On the institute’s website, McConville said Fuller refers to the corrupt system as the Gross Universal Cash Heist (GRUNCH), a system incapable of recognizing that maximizing monetary gains hinders the long-term requirements for human survival.

Although many criticize Occupy Wall Street — which has evolved into a worldwide movement since it began Sept. 17 in New York City — for its ambiguity, McConville said movement supporters are not willing to validate the current political and economic systems by making a short list of specific demands. Years earlier, Fuller said in order to bring about change, humanity cannot fight the existing reality but build a new model.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said many people are disgusted by the political system but he believes the way to create change is to become more involved.

“The Occupy movement is part of a great American tradition of protest,” he said. “But after a protest calls media attention to a problem, any movement has to move on to other tactics to affect change.”

Anti-Vietnam war activists made their mark through political activism and Martin Luther King Jr. mobilized much of his movement for political change, Yepsen said.

“If people want to do something about Wall Street and corporate greed, political activism is one way to elect people who might do something about it,” he said. “Shareholder protests and activism are another. I don’t think walking away from political activism is a way to cure what is fundamentally a political issue.”

McConville said he believes politics and the processes used to organize public opinion are necessary, but Fuller argued humanity must design the environment in such a way that works for everyone.

“We can scream at each other politically all we can, but it’s too abstract,” McConville said. “There are approaches made about conquering and dominating the planet for certain resources, and it’s all based on these ideas of scarcity; that there’s not enough to go around for everybody and that we have to fight to the death, if necessary, to get those resources.”

McConville said Wall Street is one of the greatest examples of this economic philosophy, also known as Malthusian economics coined by Thomas Robert Malthus. Malthus said the world will run out of resources at the current rate of population increase.

Fuller argued while this may be true, it doesn’t have to be.

McConville said the current system was designed based on the assumption that humanity cannot possibly sustain itself. However, Fuller believed humanity has the capacity to increase quality of life and living conditions for everybody.

“(Fuller) spent decades gathering databases, running the numbers and determining that there actually is enough to go around if we were to design our societies in such a way that would regenerate and work with the natural systems,” he said. “Fuller was advocating for this many decades before it was on people’s radar.”

McConville said Fuller believed there needed to be a shift in priorities and principles in the way corporations manufacture products.

“We have incredible manufacturing and design capacities. We have amazing software and engineers and all these materials,” he said. “Imagine weapon manufactures being shifted to turn into companies that are generating products that actually help people get clean water and enough electricity.”

Ritzel said he believes the Occupy movement is gaining momentum worldwide because many people have been working toward this for quite some time.

“There have been millions of people waiting for this,” he said. “I think it’s almost like it’s long overdue.”

Fuller’s book, “Grunch of Giants,” also describes how nature has various gestation lags between the conception of an idea and its birth, McConville said. Fuller predicted many of his ideas would take time for people to realize.

“We’re fortunate in that the ideas are there,” he said. “Now it’s our opportunity and our responsibility to understand where he arrived at in the course of his life and actually evolve even further.”