The view from Venus
Jacque Fresco designed a society without politics, poverty and war. Will it ever leave the drawing board?
Published: October 13, 2011
It is in his home that the majority of guests hear Fresco’s disjointed autobiography, the timeline of which tapers off around 1980, when he moved to Venus. In financial documents filed with the IRS, the mission of the Venus Project is described as: “The redesign of culture. Proposal of a social system in which automation and technology would be intelligently integrated into an overall social design where the primary function would be to maximize the quality of life rather than profits.”
Fresco chose the rural Venus as his headquarters for several reasons – he could not afford one of the Exuma Islands in the Caribbean, and in Venus, the local zoning authorities were already friendly to dome structures, which Fresco regards as superior to conventional designs. There was also seclusion: Today, downtown Venus is simply a church located next to a metal-working shop, and the densest population of humans is in a weed-eaten graveyard behind the church. There are two geodesic dome houses within walking distance of the graveyard, but according to Norman Gagnier, a construction worker who occupies one of them, this has nothing to do with Fresco, but rather, the practical utility of a dome. “Once you’re inside,” he says, “you can’t tell there’s a hurricane going on outside.” Gagnier has never actually seen the Venus Project’s “research and development center,” despite having lived only a three-minute drive away for the past three years. “They’re kind of stand-offish,” he says of Fresco and Meadows.
The 62-year-old Meadows is effectively the opposite of Fresco – concise, direct and serious. Her ideology is essentially a copy of her partner’s – she recalls being captivated by heady lectures at Fresco’s home in Coral Gables in the 1970s. (At that time, the price to hear Fresco speak was only $3.) “It was the most viable thing I’ve heard about why we behave the way we do,” Meadows says. “[There was an] understanding why there’s poverty and war – because things are kept scarce.”
Aside from Meadows and Fresco, there are two male volunteers who live on the premises – neither are paid, but neither pay rent. One is Joel Holt, a man in his 40s who came to Venus after his real estate career in Hawaii was devastated by the recession. “I went from one year being the owner of several properties to the next year being almost on food stamps,” he says. “I was in a ripe state of mind to accept that the system didn’t work well.” Today, Holt helps manage some of the project’s thousands of hours of video footage, much of which is of Fresco’s lectures. The other volunteer is a young groundskeeper who occupies the domed guest house located near a flat patch of grass which, in earlier years, was used as a helipad. Meadows won’t disclose who arrived at their property by air.
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