by Ronald Frederick Greek
Introduction Sustainability Challenges
Our predominant industry, political, and personal paradigms developed in an era of cheap abundant energy, expanding population, and what seemed to be unlimited resources. We have gone forth and multiplied (well beyond sustainable numbers) and subdued (perhaps fatally) the Earth. Our ability to operate our infrastructure is ending. Belief in or dedication to a particular ideology may alter individual perceptions, but not physical facts. We need to re-think our civilization from the grass roots up, not bumble blindly on.
We need to set aside the rigid mindset that separates and sees our infrastructure as distinct aspects of biological, structures and other engineering, and information and intellect. It all needs to work together.
There are many treatises with theories on how many people could live on the Earth based on some minimum life support per person. I propose though we ask also, what is the minimum for new healthy generations, maintaining community, and the benefits of an educated technical and developing civilization, with an eye toward providing the best living conditions per person and opportunities for continued advancement of civilization, while reducing our impact on such as remains of nature.
As we enter a new millennium, human civilization faces numerous challenges. Much of our present infrastructure and processes are not sustainable. Much of what we do threatens not only us, but all life on the planet.
Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine you are traveling on a multi-generation spacecraft, powered by energy radiated from a fusion reactor.
You have only the biological diversity and resources put on board by the builders. Awhile back people found accumulations of long-stored complex molecular feedstock that work as convenient fuel, and can help certain crops grow more abundant. The burning strains the air recycling system, but people love the extra food, products and services it allows.
The dramatic but obviously temporarily increase in the growth of food is met by expanded numbers until even these sources are strained, and continue to increase the population even in the face of facts that the food surplus cannot last the natural lifespan of the present population.
Its where we are today.
For the moment, our farms still grow sufficient food to feed everyone. But each new belly to fill, and each less gallon of fertilizer and pesticide, moves us closer to peak food. From that point on, the food infrastructure becomes less and less productive. Without reliable food, such veneer of civilization as holds back the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" could easily crumble.
The world may appear large, but it is finite. We can calculate the available land, water, and other resources, even incoming solar energy. We know the minimum calorie and nutrition required per person, and can calculate the area to grow food based on plant selection and growing conditions.
We can calculate the area required to grow industrial materials and fuel, and the tradeoff in food area. We have calculated that we are already diverting to human use one-half of the productive life of the Earth. When you have estimated some basic footprint area per person, multiplying by 6 billion provides a sobering comparison to the available renewable resources of the Earth.
The concept of determining the "footprint", or area of naturally recycled resources required to provide for the uses of a person, city, nation, or the global population shows that in almost every defined area whether political or physical, we are beyond a sustainable population . Eliminate all human resource use that is not "life-support" for a fixed population, and you still find sustainability is at best questionable. The present infrastructure is producing food beyond that which is calculable for the sustainable input. In general, it would take several additional planets to provide for humanities present resource use rate.
How is this possible? How are we providing for 6+ billion people? Our infrastructure is dependent on non-renewable input. The timeframe when the first non-renewable yet essential input fails to meet demand is the lifespan of our present civilized infrastructure.
Since the fossil fuel era really began, the global human population has increased six fold, now standing at more than six billion. We have a deadline and the clock is ticking. Business as usual is suicide. But those who see the problem and speak of it are maligned. Nevertheless those who can be awoken must be. To make the best decisions and implement the best courses of action we need the best minds at work. It will take time and significant effort to implement change.
U.S. ECONOMIC ILLUSION
The admitted U.S. government debt is (2006) around $8.6 trillion. This number represents recognized debt, such as Treasury Bills, Savings Bonds, etc. Every year the amount is growing. But this huge number is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2004 the trustees of Social Security and Medicare projected the current costs of promised payments to be around $74 trillion. Every year, the promises continue to grow, as does the "on the books" debt. Starting in 2008, the beginnings of the post WWII "baby boom" become eligible for their early Social Security payments. If/when these people, (who are among the highest tax paying workers) retire, federal tax income slumps, even as the promised payments balloon. The federal government does not have the money to make existing promised payments, and politicians have no problem adding to the lies with further promised of money and benefits.
The government CANNOT provide guaranteed financial security. The government does not operate any for-profit business; it operates only by taking money from those who actually create profits, or by appearing to create "money" by inflating the currency, essentially stealing from anyone who holds the currency of the nation.
Remember, there is nothing material "supporting" the U.S. dollar. The dollar only has value for so long as people believe  it has.
The economy, ANY economy, goes thru natural cycles of expansion and contraction, depending on the demographics of the population, resource changes, technological development, etc.
Even if there was unlimited and free fossil fuel to provide the energy to operate the economy, there is no apparent way that the U.S. could actually pay this debt in real value. The only apparent "out" for the government is inflation. This creation of money out of thin air DESTROYS the value of existing money.
The annual U.S. deficit is approaching $1 trillion PER YEAR. To put this in perspective. There are nations that actually spend less then tax revenues. Of all the nations on the planet, the U.S. is THE WORST in deficit spending. We annually go into debt more than every other nation on the face of the planet combined.
Denying the situation, and actively making it worse, seems insane, unless you realize our politicians, and our news media, are fully aware of the situation, and the fact there is no sane way out. Stop the overspending, and the economy crashes now. Announce the promises won't be paid, and there is political fallout, and the economy crashes now. Keep churning out the promises, and MAYBE your term will end quietly, and someone else will have to account for the disaster.
It's the same with the "peak oil" situation. Those who run government and businesses appear determined to run full speed for as long as possible. They have been advised repeatedly of the problems we face. The rational conclusion is they do not see any solution from the top down.
SUSTAINABILITY AS A CONCEPT
A Sustainable Civilization is one where the needs of the present can be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is one where there are feedback loops, physical and mental, personal, family, and societal which keep in check population growth and resource use.
Sustainable civilization is not about integrating humanity into natural ecosystems. What we need to do regarding such of the natural world as remains, is to leave it alone.
The word sustainable implies the ability to continue for an indefinite period. We should be considering the period in which we hope humans will inhabit the Earth, at least several thousand years or until we develop interstellar travel and can truly go elsewhere.
To put sustainable into an easier to comprehend timeframe consider, as did earlier occupants of this country, seven generations.
If we consider the range of child bearing years to be between the ages of 16 to 40, seven generations is somewhere between 96 and 280 years.
How much of infrastructure of present-day civilization has been in place for 200 or more years, can be powered or provide for, or otherwise be useful 200 years or more from now?
Fossils as old as half a million years show essentially physically present day human remains. Will humans, and human civilization, still be here in another half million years?
Despite stories of places such as Atlantis, the archeological record appears to show that as of the end of the last ice age human civilization was still at the hunter-gatherer level, with perhaps a total population of 37 million people. We have destroyed a great deal of the wilderness, and if we lose civilization and fall again to such a level, we can expect the sustainable population of humans to be significantly less than this.
In his work Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond shows that it was their physical environment, in particular crops and animals readily domesticated, rather than a biological difference in peoples which lead to the significant differences in development.
For a brief period, oil has permitted humans to live in places, numbers, and manners that are otherwise not possible. We now face the real potential for collapse of civilization on a global scale, with much of the natural ecology already gone, and the remaining already overtaxed.
We must not lose civilization. But we must understand the meaning and consequences of our demand, and use, of the resources of the world. What we can, and cannot do.
RESOURCE USE CONSIDERED
For all practical purposes, resources can be considered as renewable, or finite. Our resource use can also been seen as destructive or reusable.
Renewable resources (i.e. air, water, food) cannot sustainably be used at a rate greater than renewal. Renewable resources can arguably be used to some extent in a "destructive" manner, such as boiling away water, or burning wood, where natural processes, or human technology such as a steam condenser can bring the resource back to a useful form.
Finite resources such as oil can "renewably" be used in non-destructive manners, such as feedstock for plastics or lubricants. But when these are destructively (i.e. burned) used for all practical purposes the resource is gone.
Groundwater is a prime renewable resource example. Groundwater is in essence a big, leaky rainbarrel. When it is pumped out faster than it is being refilled, the water table drops. Some groundwater is fossil water, in place since the last, or previous ice-age melt. Once used, it is gone forever, for all practical human purposes.
We burn fossil fuels to propel our vehicles, and turn our generators. At some point, potentially much sooner than we like, any need for these trips, and our electrical power, will have to be met by another means:
No aspect of civilization that must be sustained indefinitely could rationally be based on the destructive use of a non-renewable resource. (Our whole civilization suffers this insanity.)
HIDDEN RESOURCE DEPENDENCE FOSSIL ENERGY EMBEDDED IN FOOD
In peak oil discussions it is frequently presented that food production using hybrid / green revolution crops requires 10 calories  of input (in the form of pesticides and fertilizers) for every calorie of food produced. The Columbia University "Vertical Farm" project raises this estimate to 20:1. (Transportation or cooking of the food NOT included in this estimate.) What does this translate to in real world terms?
In general, a human needs 2000 calories of energy per day. Although they are normally spelled the same, a food calorie is in fact 1,000 "heat" calories. Posit therefore that a gallon of gasoline contains 144,000 BTU, which equals around 36,000 food calories. If the peak oil commentators are right then to produce 2,000 calories of food requires the use of 20,000 calories of oil. (55% of a gallon)
As an example, if you eat commercially produced food, you daily meals represent a dependency  on oil equal to a 30 mpg vehicle driving 16 miles.
Absent this un-sustainable input, the food production miracle of the green revolution crops, in use worldwide, and upon which the majority of the 6+ billion population depends, ends.
FRAMING THE PICTURE
The focus here is not intended to be on fossil fuel use, but we must acknowledge our present infrastructure is essentially dependent on consuming cheap, abundant oil. When humanity started its 100+ year oil party most of the 1 billion or so individuals lived primarily in small, essentially self-sufficient communities.
We have destroyed most of the incredible resource oil represented not in building for the long term, but on devices, uses, and life support for an expanding population, which demands ever-faster destruction of this finite resource.
Nations such as the United States, with a per person energy and resource use that is probably greater than that of any other definable group on the planet, rightfully deserve the "blame" of their increased throughput. But there is more to the story.
To those who consider the concept of long term sustainability, the challenges of the coming "peak oil", and the realization of how dependent we are on the destruction of non-renewable resources
You have the choice offered by Morpheus, in "The Matrix":
Take the blue pill, wake up and believe whatever you like, or:
Take the red pill, but " you may not like how deep the rabbit hole goes "
To achieve sustainability is going to present large challenges, and you may not like what is necessary. But first and foremost, think.
"Sustainability" must become part of every decision. It's not that driving a gas-guzzling vehicle is "wrong". It's a waste of a finite resource, yes, but it's the personal decision of the driver.
The "problem" comes when the same destruction of a finite resource is the basis of what needs to be a long-term RENEWABLE resource. The fossil energy embedded in food shows that the peak in oil availability is a concern not only for those who drive a huge SUV, but everyone dependent on green-revolution crops. This scientific miracle, feeding an expanding population, has been a spiraling short-sighted mistake. We do not need to reach the point where we are out of oil, for significant problems to arise.
Whether you are picking garden plants, planning for your healthcare, deciding on your vote for Propositions or politicians, LOOK TO THE LONG TERM, or if not acknowledge you don't care about your children's future.
Essentially the entire global socio-economic-industrial system, all of the jobs, and the government tax revenue dependent on such, evolved and developed under a paradigm of continued growth in population, expanding food supply, and in particular expanding energy supplies. As fossil fuels are depleted, this all stops.
All of the fossil fuel powered machines, stop.
All of the crops dependent on fossil fuel derived pesticides and fertilizers, stop.
The businesses, and tax revenues, stop.
The government programs, stop.
The federal government will have difficulty keeping national defense in operation, let alone having any useful funding for anything else. Yes, the federal government can pay out any amount it likes:
It can print money.
It can go into debt:
For money that it eventually, somehow, repays (not likely), or;
It can go into debt for money it never intends to repay.
Expanding "money" in these manners  is a source of inflation.
Expanding demand though, whether per person, or in the number of people, is a source of "actual" price increases.
Do NOT believe that any federally funded program is "sustainable".
The situation with the government of a state is worse. The state cannot print money, it can only hold a gun to the head of the state residents. It is the same the rest of the way down the government chain.
We are entering a new paradigm, which requires essentially a steady-state population.
Life support, clean air, safe water, and nutritious food, must again be local.
The economy, must be local.
If the excesses in production end, so do the excessive tax revenue that funds growing programs. Are we going to have a society of free individuals working together voluntarily, or a complete take over by governments controlling every aspect of life? Virtually anything in-between is an inherent conflict.
If you believe that business as usual can continue, whether for individuals, private sector businesses, or the government, ask youself, how?
"Peak Oil", which is the point where the wells simply cannot be pumped as fast as demand, may soon be reached. Some say it already has. Sometime before exhaustion, as wells dry up, oil will no longer be cheap, or abundant, and the present infrastructure will have to be progressively shut down.
And the information on remaining supplies is not necessarily reliable. In early 2006, Kuwait announced it had mis-represented its remaining supply of oil to be twice the true amount.
In late 2006 Mexico announced that its giant Cantrell oil field which at its peak produced around 730 million barrels per year has fallen to 650 million with progressive decline expected. This one field represents 2% of the world capacity.
CO2 & GLOBAL WARMING
Whether you believe the global temperature is rising, or that human activity is a cause, the CO2 level in the atmosphere is increasing. Glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting.
For relevant background, one gallon of gasoline weighs about 6.25 pounds. When burned the hydrocarbons combine with oxygen from the air. The result per gallon is exhaust with a CO2 aspect of 19.3 pounds and around 8 pounds (1 gallon in liquid form) of water vapor, both greenhouse gases which would not naturally have been in the atmosphere. You also get carbon monoxide and other nasty stuff.
Every gallon of gasoline burned releases CO2 equal to nine people breathing a full day. (Est. at 2.2 pounds of CO2 per person per day.) To use plants to remove the CO2, for each gallon of gasoline burned you would need to use organic methods to grow around 1/2 acre of lush vegetation, gather it all, and seal it away "forever" such that it is never eaten or rotted.
If the peak oil and fossil fuel depletion folks are anywhere near right, within a decade rising demand (i.e. China at around 14% per year) and falling supply (i.e. the losses in the Cantrell field in Mexico) WILL, absent a scientific miracle, prompt a return to "King Coal" and the associated greater pollution, and the short term benefit (long term danger) of fission reactors. This allows a short-term continuation of the status quo, followed by collapse if we've not used the time and resources to shift to a sustainable infrastructure and balanced population.
If the global warming sentinels such as Vice President Gore are correct, if we continue fossil fuel use, our "best case" scenario could be the global warming in his movie "An Inconvenient Truth", with the same need for a sustainable infrastructure and balanced population, but with an ecosphere more polluted and with lessened life-support capability.
Whether voluntarily now, or from exhaustion a few more polluted decades from now, the central theme is the end of the fossil fuel era, and all of infrastructure and aspects of civilization that are dependent on such.
ARE YOU PREPARED?
Minor conservation efforts such as driving a hybrid (I drive a Prius) may reduce your personal costs and allow you to divert the savings for greater personal changes, but they have virtually NO significance in the overall picture.
The oil I don't burn is bought and used by someone else, perhaps as farm chemicals. Virtually nothing we do today has any meaning if your goal is our children living as adults in a world still powered by oil.
In a manner of speaking, we are living in a theme park, what we experience as our life support infrastructure is no more real for the long-term than the experiences of an amusement park visit. No fossil fuel use is sustainable. No function based on such is sustainable. No economy based on fossil fuels is sustainable. No government program based on the economy of a fossil fueled society is sustainable.
Conservation does not remove the conundrum of embedded fossil fuels in our food, without which the industrial food infrastructure that feeds the present population fails.
In the big picture, we need to end all dependence on non-sustainable factors, STARTING with fossil fuels. As an example, if this country gets cut-off from foreign oil, in a matter of weeks virtually everything we see and experience as modern society will shut down. Is your personal "life support" and "security" arrangements ready for this?
No conservation measure for oil is going to make anything "better" unless it is linked to a program to end our addiction in the time the conservation programs allows. Absent such a link, conservation that merely provides "more of the same" prompts a larger and more dependent population, and portends a greater "hangover" to our oil party.
Unless you are, as Heinberg comments, "Waiting for the magic elixir", your children need to understand the scope of the situation and know how to obtain the essentials of life in a sustainable manner, and how to avoid the worst of the collapse that he and other peak oil advocates present.
Even if global population was in decline, draconian conservation methods may not allow for remaining fossil fuel use to continue long enough for global population to lower to sustainable levels. The transition period to a post-oil paradigm promises to be an unpleasant, dangerous time, during which individual survival may be difficult, and with a significant risk that civilization itself may be lost.
Fossil fuels represent an essentially nonrenewable resource of untold millions of years accumulation of energy, which our use destroys in a comparative blink of the eye.. In the manner we use much of it, we destroy other aspects of the environment. Burning it for energy is silly, but at least when we are forced to stop, the impact is not directly life threatening. Perhaps our greatest insanity is our use of fossil fuels as fertilizer, pesticides, and powering machines to greatly expand food production, and the population that has grown far beyond levels that can be sustained in an environmentally favorable manner on renewable resources.
POPULATION STABILITY CENTRAL SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE
The problem with peak oil is not gas guzzling SUVs, diesels or two stroke engines spewing fumes, or the energy embedded in our food.
It's what we can do, what we have, and what can be sustained absent non-renewable resources. To those newly arrived to the concept of peak oil, and the realization of how dependent we are on the destruction of non-renewable resources
You have taken the red pill offered by Morpheus, and " you may not like how deep the rabbit hole goes "
There are  roughly as many humans alive now as existed cumulatively throughout all of recorded history prior to the industrial revolution. That means that a large proportion of all the geniuses - and monsters - who have ever lived are alive today. Most of the modern infrastructure has been constructed in a single lifetime.
In the big picture, the world is NOT going to sustain 6+ billion people absent the green revolution crops (dependent on fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides), the engines and machines that pump the groundwater (beyond renewal rate), plow the fields, process the food, etc.
No matter how bad we may think things could become, we must keep our heads, and teach our children to do the same. Hopefully, we will not reach a point where our government intrudes on family decisions. But short of affirmative limits being imposed, we can at least "lobby" for elimination of misguided incentive to expansion.
But if you have done the right thing and turned your community into a permaculture paradise, there is still the question of how to you prevent your community from being overrun?
SCOPE OF THE OIL SITUATION UNITED STATES EXAMPLED
For the moment the U.S. is the largest single nation oil consumer, with the highest average per person oil use. Let's look at the basic oil facts for the United States to try and start to put the situation in perspective.
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that in 2004 the continental U.S. remaining traditional oil supply was somewhat less than 22 billion barrels (BBL). The widely debated (whether to drill or not) Alaskan wilderness fields represent probably another 10 BBL. DOE also estimates that U.S. 2004 use was 7.5 BBL (elsewhere estimated at 10 BBL/Year).
The remaining domestic supply represents less than 3 years of present demand, but of course the remaining wells CANNOT be pumped fast enough to meet that demand. U.S. defense use is (2005) was estimated at around 123 million barrels per year (1% to 2% of total U.S. use), with 72% of such being in the form of jet fuel. The 2006 Annual Energy Management Report indicated the Pentagon used 116,800,000 barrels of petroleum, which is 1.1% of U.S. annual use.
If we just had to keep our military machines in operation, our (2006) remaining internal supplies could meet current military fuel needs for well over 100 years, but the supplies CANNOT operate any significant portion of the economy, including weapons construction, or even current food.
DOE indicates the U.S. only pumps 8% of our own use. Emergency measures might increase the pumping rate significantly, but it is doubtful it could even reach 50% of present use.
U.S. TIMELINE WORST CASE
Posit that there is a 10 day supply of oil and fuels "in the pipeline" at any given time. Oil production (pumping rate) in the U.S. passed peak production in the early 1970s, and has been in decline since then. If the U.S. gets cut off from foreign fuel supplies, in 10 days the commercial supply drops to about 8% of expected demand. With a slow decline we might have something like that for perhaps 20 years final exhaustion.
Food alone may represent 20%+ of the U.S. annual use. In a United States cut off from foreign oil, using present industrial farming, we might be able to feed 40% of the current population, which would preclude any internal use of oil to expand domestic production, or rework infrastructure for a solar economy. The U.S. is reported to have 4% of the remaining global supply. This puts the global supply at around 800 BBL.
We need to act to eliminate this dependency before an emergency is upon us.
Recent (2004) global oil use approached 30 billion barrels (BBL) per year. 800/30 = 26 years (2030). Using more optimistic estimates of remaining useable supply, at recent consumption rates global oil supplies still may be exhausted before 2040. Even if you completely eliminated the U.S., the time for global depletion is only delayed by around 30%.
But of course, demand is not stable. In fact it rises every year. Perhaps the most significant factor is the expanding use in China. In 2004 China burned around 2.4 BBL, or about 8% of the annual global use. This was a 14% increase from 2003.
If every other nation on the Earth held their use to 2004 levels, and China increased yearly at their recent rates, depletion would occur around 2024. But long before depletion, we encounter the challenge of demand exceeding pumping rate.
FOSSIL FUEL VALUE IN PERSPECTIVE
When demand exceeds possible supply, expect prices to rise. A price / work comparison of oil in terms of human labor, perhaps pointless, but nevertheless presented: A human can work at around 75 watt per hour (256 BTU). In the U.S., minimum wage is something like $5.25 per hour. A gallon of fuel may be able to do 144,000 BTU of work, or around 562 hours of human labor.
At the U.S. minimum wage each gallon is doing the "work" of over $3,000 worth of human labor. Oil has annually provided in recent years energy to power civilization that is roughly equal to the dedicated labor of more than 50 billion slaves, who do not have to be feed, provided clothing, shelter, medical care, days off, etc.
There may be up to 1,200 billion barrels of oil left that can be usefully obtained. 1,200 billion barrels of oil is difficult to envision, but at this time it is what the infrastructure of present day civilization is dependent upon. To put this "best case" quantify of oil in perspective, how much would it be if it were already pumped out, and divided equally among everyone on the planet?
BIG PICTURE BEST CASE TIMELINE
The known available & remaining "fossil" alternatives, if energy is not used at any rate greater than 2005, put humanity in a timeframe that is essentially:
It can be argued that a sustainable global population can not exceed 1.2 billion, essentially what it was before the oil party started. Population demographics  are such that if a one child per couple guideline was rigorously followed, we might expect natural attrition to lower the population to 1.2 billion by 2087.
The real-world situation of course is that overall the population continues to grow. Despite the "bad press" absent immigration and pro-population growth government programs, the population in the United States would be stable or maybe in a slow decline, EXACTLY WHAT IS REQUIRED.
In contract China requires a new city the size of Philadelphia EVERY 30 DAYS.
Whether to avoid global warming, or due to effective depletion of fossil fuels, we will be forced to stop burning such. Look at what DOES NOT work without fossil fuels, or the ongoing input of fossil fuel derived molecules (such as pesticides and fertilizers), and start your own steps toward sustainability. The present global civilization evolved in a paradigm of continued growth in population and energy use, neither of which is logically sustainable. We need to look at what is needed for a sustainable civilization, starting our picture from the grass roots up.
The more people who are aware and prepared in any emergency situation, the better the opportunity to reduce the overall impact and panic. Startled and frightened and/or angered and vengeful individuals will not be thinking clearly and acting rationally.
Each of us must shortly choose a new path, or we will be forced into one. Do you want to survive? Do you know what it takes to sustain yourself in a limited resource environment? A little knowledge, and a lot of enthusiasm, can go a long way.
Photosynthesizers are the basic energy source for any ecosystem, which is a complex web of living and non-living factors. These webs are not fixed, like parts of a machine, but the do eventually develop relative stable ranges of numbers of each member of the system. Despite our relative isolation in homes, and cities, humans must nevertheless be seen as PART of an ecosystem.
We need to recycle biomaterials, grow a diverse mix of crops in a multitude of micro environments, with hand cultivation to minimize soil disruption, with an aim to establishing a stable ecosystem.
Where are YOU going?
We can ignore depletion, and continue as we are, have good times until the fossil fuel era ends, and face whatever disaster is presented.
We can personally conserve, but if we do not build for the post oil paradigm, we miss out on the good times until the fossil fuel era ends, and face whatever disaster is presented.
We can personally conserve, and use "excess" resources to take advantage of the remaining time, cheap energy and materials, to step past the collapse, into the post-oil paradigm. For the present, it is still possible to "click", or make a phone call, and have services or supplies delivered. After the crash becomes widely apparent, it will probably be too late for individuals to afford significant preparations.
When do you need to act? Back in January 2004, Professor Kenneth S. Deffeyes, of Princeton University, jokingly predicted we would reach the half-way point for the remaining oil supply on November 24, 2005 (Thanksgiving Day). Using best available data, after the fact he has corrected himself. He calculates that we passed the half-way point on December 16, 2005.
We need to effectively and efficiently network and focus our distributed capabilities and resources to maximize all of our transition to a sustainable paradigm.
In the collapse of previous complex societies, when they were geographically isolated, individuals survived by dispersing into the wilderness, and foraging. There was however, always "civilization" elsewhere on the Earth. The collapse we face will essentially occur simultaneously worldwide.
There is not sufficient "wilderness" left between complex centers in which the present population could disperse. Clive Ponting, in "A Green History of the World" writes that a human population of around four million, achieved about 10,000 years ago, may be the maximum supportable by a hunter gatherer society, and that in the abundant wild of the time.
By around 1800, the limits of local, self-sufficient agriculture and fertile land were essentially reached, with a global population of less than 1 billion. Since that time, we have used, and abandoned many marginal farming areas, and in our chemical applications and one-way nutrient flow denigrated what might have otherwise been fertile fields.
In that a hunter-forager lifestyle, or even a return to animal powered and manured agriculture requires a GREATER area per person, they appears to be a guaranteed method to a large population dieoff, and perhaps a death-knell for the remaining wilderness.
EPIPHANY-SURVIVALISM IS DEAD END THINKING
My initial reaction nearly a decade ago to awakening to more detail of our oil dependency was survivalist, with plans for a remote retreat. We purchased a little over 40 acres of remote desert land, and started putting in the necessary support for a remote homestead, essentially a survivalist retreat. It had been part of a cattle ranch, and came with and old windmill, water tanks, fencing, etc. as part of the old operation.
The area received more than 12" of rainfall per year, and had plenty of underground water not very deep. It also had plenty of mesquite trees, cactus, jackrabbits, coyote and snakes. From our highest hill, I could see the three plus miles to the nearest paved surface.
On a summer afternoon I was there alone investigating the property. Climbing one of our hills, at the top, my chest hurt. I reached for the cell phone to call for help, and had my epiphany.
Even if I dialed 911, and an ambulance was dispatched immediately, the coyotes could be munching on my remains long before an ambulance could travel the nearly 30 miles of paved road, then 6 miles of winding dirt to my location.
Our "Plan A" became an effort to locate, or create somehow if necessary, an appropriate community. Unless it is some well hidden "Galt's Gulch" wealthy retreat, there is no such community. Nor did I find a guide for what is essential from the grass roots approach, so I started writing and further research.
For those who MUST have some survivalist data, shield materials for gamma rays are expressed in terms of the thickness necessary to reduce the radiation intensity by one half the initial value. For a rule of thumb, 10 halving thicknesses should be planned for.
But survivalist bunkers, or disbursing the population precludes the interaction among people essential to maintain specialized technical skills and knowledge. In effect, I has hoping that I could run and hide, others "did something" to take care of the problem. Hiding may still be the best survival move, but in the bigger picture, it's a dead end.
PRESERVE A STABLE FOUNDATION
If you start immediately, while resources are still abundant, you may be able to create security for self, family, and community during the crash. Hopefully you can initiate or associate with a community structured to function in the new paradigm. It will be upon those who survive, with knowledge, skills, and abilities intact, who are well fed, with excess resources, to create a positive future for humanity, if there is to be one.
THE NEAR FUTURE
Heinberg presents in his book Powerdown essentially four positions regarding peak oil. Last man standing, waiting for the magic elixir, powerdown, and building lifeboats.
There are those who are confident that new technological developments will make oil irrelevant, indeed, that oil companies have suppressed such developments. The conspiracy theorists may be right. We may indeed leapfrog the currently touted "hydrogen economy" into "STAR TREK" technology. While I do not expect this leap in our immediate future, I acknowledge there is potentially much science for us yet to learn, IF we can maintain functioning civilization, and act intelligently. A joke, which I've seen attributed to Iassic Asimov, is that perhaps supernova stars are not natural events after all, but rather alien civilizations who have an "industrial accident" with a zero point energy device.
Even if there is no explosive potential, each such device is a new source of surface heat. Imagine the effect of billions or trillions of them in operation. But until these devices are clearly demonstrated, we must act within available known technology, products and knowledge.
We can voluntarily reduce our resource demands, both in per person demand, and working toward a smaller population, or we can individually look to the battles of last man standing.
Beyond reducing resource demands, we can individually, and in expanding groups, re-work our own lives to eliminate our dependency on non-renewable resources.
COPING WITH AWAKENING
We sincerely appear to be approaching a crossroad, where we will have to choose between business as usual, leading to a collapse of civilization, and voluntarily changing our infrastructure and lifestyle to one that provides for continued and sustainable development.
Perhaps we should apply Dr. Kubler-Ross' 5 stages of grief, to humanities present global situation.
The first stage is denial. "There's plenty of oil" or food or water or room on the planet
Next comes anger or resentment. "Who did this!" or "We've been set up!".
The third stage is bargaining. "If I can just make it to retirement", or " get the kids thru college", or "If we impose taxes or rationing we can " delay the obvious outcome, and sooth ourselves by not having to think about it now.
The fourth stage is depression. A population sustainable absent non-renewable input and the present infrastructure is MUCH smaller than alive today, no visible program of conservation allows supplies to be stretched to match any "natural" population reduction, and extensive conservation would cause economic collapse of the infrastructure. There is no apparent "safe" landing for most of the planet.
Finally comes acceptance. You can't save the world. You may not be able to save yourself and your family. Any effort may be futile, but do you elect to do nothing, or calmly analyze what is needed for the future after the crash?
Envisioning a high tech, complex civilization from the top down is an incredible challenge. So don't try to.
WHAT TO DO UNTIL THE LAST DROP
While our challenges are global in scope, there is no readily apparent big-picture or top-down solution. Everything from our pollution of the air & water, unsustainable food systems, dependence on mining of even fossil water, emphasizes that the solutions need to be implemented starting at the most basic levels in order for the bigger picture to be one of comprehensive, effective, and lasting solutions, such as are appropriate to the local conditions.
You can complain about the situation, and demand someone act, or you can take personal initiative and responsibility, get your own house in order, and serve as an example and guide to others. You can seed a grass-roots effort to redevelop and rebuild your community.
The post-Katrina events in New Orleans included expected riots, theft, and assaults. The complex and expensive infrastructure and controls of the city, and larger governmental entities, failed. There were also though instances of people banding together for protection and mutual support. You must get beyond coping, and act.
CIVILIZATION AS A CONCEPT
Civilization implies a greater range of knowledge, opportunities, and types of challenges then is applicable to a family or village scale association. There is physical security. There is the opportunity to specialize. There is greater opportunity to express creativity. There is the opportunity to preserve the knowledge and creations of the past, and build upon them. Civilization relies not only on the physical presence of essentials, but on the circular argument of confidence in civilization.
Civilizations tend to develop around a centralizing philosophy, agreed upon law and discipline, with a sense of stability and permanence, with physical construction well integrated and meant to last. But civilization can be fragile, fractured by irrational fear, loss of hope and vision for the future, or even by boredom.
Civilization tends to bring with it though seeds  of its own destruction, such as layers of government and organized religion, self proclaimed elite, and it tends to decay into mob rule, or rule by physical force. We see forced labor or taxation to fund projects or programs that aggrandize the leadership, but provide no practical improvement. Can we achieve the benefits of a complex civilization, attained by mutual respect and voluntary agreement? What about resisting those who initiate force?
The skill and will to fight, as well as the tools to do so are essential for preservation of civilization. Peaceful, non-technical civilizations tend to be over-run by those who see it as their right or duty to initiate force, and by those with the technology to overcome such resistance that can be presented. Realistically also, at the individual level those who abdicate personal responsibility, whether for the basics of life, responsibility for their actions, etc., are taking steps toward empowering an oppressive hierarchy.
In his hierarchy of needs theory Maslow more eloquently states the logic that gasping, dehydrated, starving humans are not focused on esoteric aspects of civilization. Underlying needs must be met first.
1. Do you have under your control or ownership the means to meet:
2. Safety concerns come to the forefront once physical needs are met. These include:
3. Love/Belonging needs. After physical and safety needs are fulfilled, the social level involves human emotions and the need to be accepted and to belong, generally at a level beyond that of the immediate family.
4. Esteem needs. Humans have a need to be respected, to self-respect and to respect others. People need to engage themselves in order to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution and self-value.
5. Self-actualization is the need of a person to make the most of their unique abilities and to strive to be the best they can be. Imagine the potential of a city of a million self-actualized individuals who:
No one person, or small group, is going to have all of the skills, knowledge, and opinions we need to get to a sustainable community, or even a definitive place to start. It all starts with an exchange of ideas, success and failure stores, and resources. Energy and resource surety at the community level is essential, but at the present is lacking.
Our government and private sector institutions were created and developed in an era of cheap energy and continued expansion. This either has, or will shortly end. These institutions, and those individuals working for, or benefiting from such, can be expected to balk at the functioning end of their empire.
In Biomimicry, Janie M. Benyus presents 10 "Lessons" humans need to learn, not only as individuals but as a civilization. Nature evolves complex systems, with every niche filled with life, that are "run" by multiple and overlapping feedback loops.
Consider a blade of grass. A single seed can, even if surrounded by a hostile environment; self assemble from the bottom up. The blade of grass serves as a pioneer and life support system for other plants and creatures, each of which contributes to the development of a micro environment, each with natural feedback loops to monitor and check growth.
If non-thinking creatures can act in relative symbiosis to weave a multi layer, multi purpose, season adaptable physical environment, with little energy or resources lost, resistant to outside disturbance, can we learn to:
The late 1990's awoke many to potential infrastructure vulnerabilities related to Y2K computer problems. We are now in the early states of weaknesses showing in the energy infrastructure, upon which all other core infrastructures are dependent.
Y2K became for the most part a "non-incident" due to the pro-active cures put in place prior to the date-certain "catastrophic" event. While an energy crash is not date certain, its existence is certain.
The objective reality is that the community must become self-reliant at least in all of the essentials of life for the relevant local population.
Our sustainability challenge may also have high technology, and social components, but if physical essential are not met we won't get to these.
GET A CUP OF COFFEE
Feedback to earlier versions of this treatise included that it does not provide clear guidance on how to build a particular type of home, organize a neighborhood, etc. So, to clarify to new readers in advance, this is not a blueprint, nor is it a step-by-step set of instructions as to how to put together a homestead, or organize a community.
There are many self-help books, and free materials on the web (for now) such that any detailed area you might need to investigate for self improvement or self reliance is readily available. Most of these materials though are on survivalist, or isolated primitive homesteads, not addressing the larger picture of avoiding, or minimizing the collapse of civilization. This treatise is intended to present a different picture than survivalism, or a back to the land approach. The author hopes to spark not only self reliance in the essentials for personal and family safety, but also to inspire networks where warranted, and contemplation of a philosophy of enlightened self interest.
I have been asked if/when I might publish a guide such as this. The ten chapters of this treatise, and the various appendices, are all available free on the web. If you cannot find them, email the author and I will send you the latest versions.
This is intended to get people to think, and for those new to facing the sobering reality of how far from sustainability we are, to present some information so you do not have to re-invent the wheel. This is intended to prompt YOU to take your first steps, and wake up others.
A thought experiment: The evening before your next day off, BEFORE the sun sets, make a steaming thermos of your favorite hot beverage, and set the thermos outside. Arrange it so you will wake up with the sunrise. Turn off your utility provided power, water, gas, phone, cable, etc.
Envision the flow of, and benefits derived from fossil fuels have ended, as they sometime must. Are you safe for the night? Can you provide a meal for your family for the following day? For a week? What about your sewage?
We need to have appropriate steps taken, and changes made, at every level. The human infrastructure IS our "natural" ecosystem, most of us just don't realize it. The problems we face are global in scope. The important life support solutions are however local in nature.
If you will indulge a personal peeve, while you've got your television "disconnected" from the babble of broadcast or cable, leave it disconnected. Break the addition to the useless drawl. Talk with your family and friends. Read and research. Sit and think.
This writing is an accumulation of notes and thoughts by someone for whom the challenges of long-term sustainability have been a long term concern. Check the facts presented, and my math, and make your own conclusions, and plans. With hard work, and some luck, we may avoid the worst.
Chapter I Your Homestead And Essential Life Support
Most of what is found in a modern home, and the way we live, developed in an era of cheap abundant energy what seemed to be unlimited resources. All of this is ending.
What are the minimums you need to have a secure means to put water in your glass, food on your table, and shelter for your family which are not dependent on having someone else provide it for you?
It is often indicated that many families live "paycheck to paycheck", meaning any financial disruption could spell disaster.
While a quote from a British science fiction - comedy is hardly a definitive argument, if you think about it, it does ring true. After only one full day of missed meals, most people are quite different than if safe and well-fed.
For your household, does a loss of income mean foregone luxuries, or does it mean you don't eat?
Can you obtain from your home, or within waling distance the essential "Life Support" for you and your family? For how long, a day? A week? A month? A year? How dependent are you on what may be a failing infrastructure?
If you must obtain essential life support from non-owned resources, how do you plan to compensate those you barter with? Are those outside sources realistically large enough to provide the same level of subsistence to everyone else who is within walking distance?
THINK LONG TERM
On realization of the scope of our overextended situation, often-repeated early reactions are to stock up and hide, or run to the wilderness and live off the land until things return to normal.
Civilization such as we perceive as normal cannot continue. If you run for the hills, intending to be a hunter/gatherer, you will need a greater area than if you have a home garden providing your needs, and you will probably only have such possessions as you can carry.
You must not only be able to survive the crash, but continue afterward. The future needs capable, educated, experienced people who survive the crash healthy, well nourished, with resources intact. Starving people do not build, or rework infrastructure and civilization. Starving people are not in a position to show others a better way.
Absent the energy and infrastructure which has allowed large scale movement (numbers and distance), we can expect families to once again remain in the same area, probably multi generations living on the same homestead. Depending on ages, moving on marriage, childbearing age, etc. a stable multi-generation family homestead may be expected to house about 8 or 10 residents.
The purpose this homestead" discussion is at the level of the individual/family to provide what is needed for basic life support needs without the necessity to constantly receive input from what may be a civilization in chaos. Whether you head for the hills, or remain in town, you life support needs are essentially the same.
For now there is much that can be done at relatively low cost to not only prepare for an economic crash, but to leapfrog past it to a post-oil paradigm. Once a crisis begins, it may be too late.
That said, there is also the warning about what you own, or intend to buy or install: Can you repair or replace it on your own? I offer myself as an example, although this book is written on a computer, if the computer malfunctions, I must seek qualified assistance, because I admit I do not understand the electronics or the programming.
There is a scientific minimum for the growing area for your food, depending on your climate and crops.
An earth-sheltered home (thermal battery/mass heat storage & moderation of temperature extremes) can protect your family from the extremes of climate without external utility connections. A "green roof" avoids wasting the sunlight over your living space.
Add water collection / storage / recycling, a bio- intensive garden, and appropriate technology, and you've set up an appropriate micro-environment, which should be able to continue indefinitely.
Whether you intend to head for the hills, or re-engineer a home in the city, what do you need to consider in your planning?
PHYSICAL PRIORITY I AIR
|A example from the web of a homegrown food storage to provide around 730,000 calories per person is:|
|325 lb. Grain||(i.e. whole wheat, pasta, oats, rice, barley, several years)|
|80 lb. Legumes||(various beans, peas, lentils, seeds, etc., 5 to 10 years)|
|50 lb. Milk/dairy/eggs||(dried, 5 years)|
|20 lb. Meats||(dried, 18 months)|
|10 to 30 lb. Fruit/vegetables||(dried, 2 to 3 years)|
|60 lb. Sweeteners||(sugar, honey, syrups, etc., indefinite)|
|40 lb. Fats/oils||(butter, nut butters, natural cooking oils, etc., 2 to 3 years)
Note: Hydrogenated processed oils are Not nutritive
|20 lb. Sprout seeds||(alfalfa, all whole grains, beans, lentils, cabbage, radish,|
|broccoli, etc.||(2 to 3 years)|
|1 lb. Leavenings||(yeast, culture samples can be kept reproducing indefinitely)|
|5 lb. Salt||(despite its OVERUSE in present society, it becomes critical in the absence of processed foods, indefinite)|
If you are considering the MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) option, they come in boxes of 12 meals, (H,W,D) 9 1/4" x 11 x 16 1/2. For a year for each person you're looking at 92 boxes, a stack 16" deep, 5 foot high, 16 foot wide. If you put your stack against an outer wall, it will provide additional insulation, which, if you will permit an opinion from someone who has eaten MRE's, (and not cared for them) insulation may be their best use. To store enough for a multi generation family home, you need a room 14' x 16'.
If you prefer working up a food storage program around food your family normally eats, look up in nutrition (diet) guides the calories per pound, and volume per pound for your selected food items, and run you own calculations on how much you need to store. Some examples of calories of "common" food items are in the "FACTOID" appendix.
Most foods can be safely and adequately stored using sun powered drying. If you have air-tight containers (even clay) an additional layer of protection is afforded by vacuum packaging.
Throughout history there are stories of storing food in covered pits, that remained fresh for months, if not years. When without all else, dig a hole, line it with dry grass, twigs, leaves, etc., and stack you food inside such that air can circulate around it. Then seal the top.
"Old time" food storage was in root cellars. When your power fails, you may have in the form of your old fridge or freezer a pre-made container to bury, cover with insulation material, and instant "root cellar".
If you are doing fermentation, such as for alcohol, consider bubbling the CO2 into the food storage container.
Set up a large container, such as a clay pot, or other porous material, with a small water tight container inside, and the space between filled with sand or perlite, kept moist. The evaporative cooling keeps the inner container well below the ambient temperature.
I include this under "food storage" because I consider it just as temporary and unsustainable of a measure as storing from the abundance of chemically grown food.
Readily available and cheap (at the moment) are the typical plastic "kitchen" garbage bags, I think they're something like 14 gallon bags. I suggest 2,000 bags and enough fertilizer for 2,000 plants for one season. "Miracle Grow" (tradename) and other chemical fertilizers are also cheap for the moment.
Put bluntly, dig a hole, line it with the trash bag, backfill with local soil, bio waste, etc., and fertilize per instructions on the container. You're NOT creating a sustainable food bed, but you will grow an emergency crop. (Add your daily humanure if you're inclined and have determined the safety.)
This natural process decreases the carbohydrate content, and greatly increases the vitamin and protein content, as well as increasing the volume and mass of many food seed, i.e. the bag of dried beans in your storage program. (Tomato or potato sprouts are poisonous, as all seeds treated with fungicides, etc.)
The human diet needs 53 to 58 grams of protein per day (.47 gram per kilogram, or .213 gram per lb., of body weight) consisting of 22 essential amino acids. 8 of these cannot be manufactured by the human body, and must be present in the right  proportions.
A diet incomplete in protein leads to various physical infirmities (think of the photos of third world children, skin and bone, but with gas bloated abdomens). Regardless of a surplus of any given amino, the ability of the body to utilize the proteins is limited by the absence of any of the 8 that is not present in sufficient quantity. The excess are utilized by the body as mere carbohydrates.
Eggs are essentially complete. Most meats are complete. While present feedlot production "wastes" higher quality foods that are used as animal feed, chickens, cows, goats, etc. can feed on forage, turning unused/compost material into essential protein. (Ruminants, such as cows, don't need the protein and grains in their diets that they are fed in feedlots. They do however need nitrogen materials, which they convert to protein.)
Appropriate combinations of plant materials can result in a meal that has a complete protein matrix.
|Mung||1 cup dry||49 gram||718||130|
|Soybean||1 cup dry||68 gram||774||56|
|Peanut raw||1 cup dry||38 gram||828||24|
|Sunflower||1 cup dry||33 gram||821||27|
Soybean and Mung, and some peanuts approximate meat in completeness. (Please note the other nutritional factors for these)
Sunflower seeds contain greater growth promotion nutrition than does meat.
Rice is missing Isoleucine & Lysine, but if served in combination with cheese, or most beans, becomes a complete protein.
Earth sheltering provides a more stable climate for human habitation and for your garden. You may even go as far as an underground greenhouse, which provides you greatly enhanced ability to control the growing conditions.
Relatively recent developments in natural lighting provide an opportunity to bring natural light into spaces not practical before. Examine "Solartubes" (mentioned later also), which can route sunlight thru a relatively small opening. Some versions have flexible tubing for the light, lending it to bends / curves for routing thru even thick shielding materials. It should be possible, for example, to route the tubes from the roof of a single story home, down to the basement.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens in north Fresno, CA is a complex of underground rooms and garden courts that was the home of Baldasare Forestiere. The sections are inter-connected by underground passageways and promenades. These passageways contain planters and a wide variety of plants.
Working alone he carved out columns, arches and domes from the local hardpan sedimentary stone. Some ceilings have skylights, normally open for easily covered with glass.
He had a wide variety of trees, some growing as deep as 22 feet below ground level. There is a fish pond in the garden court off the kitchen and bedrooms.
His work of nearly forty years, without blueprints or plans, stands as a monument to what one determined person can achieve.
The Zhaoxian bridge in China spans a 115 foot arch over a river. This bridge is built of formed and interlinked stone and has been standing an in essentially constant use since the year 610.
|21,000 BC||||boomerang use case painting in Poland|
|18,000 BC||||flint arrowheads, Spain|
|15,000 BC||||drawing of bridled horse|
|8,000 BC||||domesticated peas/lentils|
|7,000 BC||||domesticated sheep/goats|
|4,000 BC||||irrigation canals, S. Russia|
|2,500 BC||||300' wide x 37' high dam|
|700 BC||||banking with mortgages|
|600 BC||||silver plated copper coin|
|100 AD||||hand powered double acting fire pump|
The Dervaes family has, instead of waiting for politicians, or big-business to present a solution, have made the decision, and put forth the effort to make their urban home in Pasadena, California a micro homestead. (Who says you have to head for the hills). They present their story as the Path to Freedom, with ongoing updates at their website .
Short of a high-tech greenhouse buried in the basement, a simple pit, covered with an appropriate clear or translucent material, can serve to provide area for growing food well into freezing weather.
Glass, plastic, mirrors, etc. can be selective surfaces, passing only the frequency and intensity of light needed for optimum growth. There are some indications that small cells of "dead air", even without an air tight membrane, can serve as a greenhouse to increase temperatures for plant growth. Think of shiny shade cloth.
If you have time and resources to have specialty structures constructed, great. If not, improvise SOMETHING. Use the glass from picture frames from the wall over individual holes
Perennial crops offer no-till (do you like digging?) growth of food. Do your research now as to "native" or other crops appropriate for your climate for edible landscaping, and for your garden, containers, greenhouse, or more, depending on your resources.
Despite farming's focus on a limited number of crops, there are thousands of edible plants. See www.echonet.org as a good resource for plant listings. See also The Land Institute, http://www.landinstitute.org/, which is doing significant work on perennial food crops, eliminating tilling.
A naked exposed human is a physically ill-equipped animal. We need the technological achievements our minds have provided.
Your personal portable shelter from the environment. Forget fashion, which is an affectation of the consumer economy.
What raw material is readily available in your area, or can you readily grow?
What is the most durable material available (that you're willing to use)? I keep reading that hemp makes the most durable cloth available, but I have no experience with it. The hemp products I've seen in stores did not appear to have any special properties, and new hemp hats were coming apart on the shelves.
What is practical and effective for your local climate?
What can be made and maintained with appropriate technology?
The temperature of the earth at a depth of approximately 20 feet is essentially stable at the annual average surface temperature. A home at that depth would probably not need any mechanical HVAC, as it only needs to remove the body heat of the human occupants and that generated by the activities, but it would not have much of a view. It can though be well lighted.
The technical aspects of correct earth sheltering are explained well by John Hait in his book "Passive Annual Heat Storage". The techniques will improve the feel of even a traditional home, but works best in homes specifically built to take maximum advantage of the buffering.
The greatest source of energy on earth is the sun, which appears to travel a fixed pattern in the sky that is readily estimated. To maximize the benefits of shade, or of solar collection, the suns pattern of movement must be taken into account.
If your roof is exposed, consider from R 70 to R 100 in your ceiling.
To artificially "lower" your home, insulate the ground for 20 feet out around your home with three layers, separated by heavy plastic sheets for waterproofing, of "Dow Blue Styrofoam", white styrofoam board, or other appropriate insulation, then carefully cover the insulation with dirt, sand, gravel, etc to protect it from weathering.
Low-tech/natural insulation layers, such as grass, leaves, etc., with some waterproofing means or even layered with a high clay soil will help, but eventually need to be replaced. Berming earth up the sides of the home provides additional protection from the large temperature changes of open air. Even the roof can if you chose have a layer of earth on top of the insulation. The soil need only be thick enough for the plants grown there.
An obvious heat storage medium is water, which pound for pound will hold more than dirt or concrete. Jars, tanks, in or above ground pools, etc. Whether you simply carry the jars in/out each day/night, or have moveable covers on your pool, or a pipe and pump system, it's just a matter of setting up a means where the water is heated by the sun, or exposed to the night sky for cooling by radiation.
A low energy method (after they are buried) to tap the stable ground temperature for a surface home are buried pipes. The typical approach is horizontal trenching, with pipes of a size to allow reasonable air flow.
Consider though a pipe leading straight down into the ground (as in a shallow, perhaps driven well) 20 to 30 feet. This avoids the need to disturb large surface areas, and the dig & backfill of horizontal trenches. Any appropriate method of routing water down and back up in a sealed system (i.e. a small pipe inside a larger pipe) can allow a transfer of temperature to/from the depth.
Each pipe can be expected to heat/cool the ground in a 3 to 4 foot diameter circle, therefore space the "wells" 3 feet apart. When the surface is significantly cooler than the bottom, a natural thermosyphon should occur. With appropriate manifolds and valves, warmed or chilled water can be pumped from/to collectors/radiators or circulated in a hydronic system of pipe embedded in a concrete floor/wall.
Equator-facing windows, vertical or angled to be 90 degrees to the noon sun in the winter, or skylights can provide significant passive solar heating in the winter while minimizing glass exposed to summer sun. (In the summer, the sun rises and sets NORTH of the East/West glass alignment, and the glass can be shaded on the outside.) Summer solar gain can further be avoided by almost any approach that provides a well-ventilated shade area about a foot from the main structure.
Conventional skylights admit too much heat in the summer, and require a large opening in the structure of your home, that siphons your winter heat. More diffused and useful light is admitted, with less heat, by "lighttubes", essentially mirrored pipe with a lens cover on each end. Venting can be separately done with insulated pipe with removable caps.
The combined opening in the structure is much smaller, the risk of weather damage is less, and maintenance is less. A firm in Europe is producing panels to channel light in via fiber optic cables, allowing greatly enhanced flexibility in placement of the "collector" and the inside light emitter. Solar tubes, fiber optics, etc. also offer a means for nighttime interior lighting of separate/private rooms by one central light source.
The are other options which have potential for development not only as lighting, but heating, cooling, and power, and crops in a controlled environment. An appropriately designed light scoop, facing the equator, should admit light in the winter, yet block the summer heat.
An interior fireplace must have an external air source. Since the fireplace is probably only used when it is cool outside, arrange the air source such that it draws from the pantry, which would then be vented to the outside, cooling the pantry. Consider a fireplace in a "sunken" family room. Water filled pipes around the fireplace, and in the higher floor of the rest of the house could provide auxiliary heat by thermosyphon.
Note, a fireplace assumes you've got a sustainable source of something to burn. How large of a forest do you own? Is a fireplace sustainably practical? Wood has on an average around 5,000 BTU per pound.
Note, every square yard perpendicular to the sun receives every hour 3,412 BTU. Therefore one pound of wood equates to a pane of glass 44 inches on a side exposed to the sun for one hour. Assume an average wood with a specific density of .5, or a weight of about 32 pounds per cubic foot.
A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet (4' x 4' x 8'). The above averages therefore puts the weight of a cord at around 4,096 pounds, containing 20,480,000 BTU.
A cord of wood is potentially a sustainable harvest from 1/2 to 1 acre, grown over a period of a year.
At the best yield of 2 cord per acre per year, it's 40,960,000 BTU per acre per year.
If we assume an average of 6 hours per day, 360 days per year, the BTU stored by the best cord wood yield from an acre of trees represents the daily sunlight heat potential of around 5 1/2 square yards, or a square area of glass just over 7 foot on a side.
Assume use of flat panel collectors to raise water temperature from 70 degrees F to 100 degrees F. Each BTU represents a one degree temperature increase in one pound (1 pint) of water. The above collection area receives 112,596 BTU during the day, and would need an insulated tank of at least 470 gallons. This is a volume of say 060 cubic feet - Think of a cube 4 foot on a side.
Direct solar collection, if you have a system to use and store it, is arguably over 800 times as "efficient" a method of collecting and storing solar heat as growing firewood.
Grow wood for building material. Grow wood as a fuel to use in creating a long-term useful item, such as glass. If essential, grow wood as an emergency fuel, but PLEASE, don't plan on wood heat as your primary home heat source.
Along a similar line of thought to putting the fireplace in a pit, consider wells or pits facing the south winter sun. Glass covered, reflector lined, essentially Winston cones. At the bottom, a solar collector, a coil of pipe, or a large tank. We now have, during the day, on the bottom, an intensely hot tank of water. Pipes run "up" to the floor of the house, in a thermo siphon, capable of keeping the floor warm, without a powered pump. A simple valve would be the only required moving mechanical part, to shut the system down when desired.
Roof / external mounted tube collectors, flat or with reflector concentrators, can heat water during the day, or cool water during the night. Cooling can be enhanced by misting or water evaporation. Used for cooling, the circulating water might "thermo siphon". The same principle that helps make the elsewhere mentioned atmospheric condensers work, cooling by sky radiation, also provides a means of cooling a large mass, to store coolness for warm weather daytime use.
Even during the day, when the sky is clear, the right combination of shading from direct sun, insulation from side heat sources, and in particular orientation of the radiator to the coolest area of the sky, can lower temperatures of such radiator to below the ambient air temperature. Experiments report the ability to radiate 100 to 200 BTU per hour per square foot. The radiation frequency is 8 to 13 um, so you're looking for a glazing material transparent in that range. (Try polyethylene)
In the end, ANY system that provides you a waterproof living space that is heavily insulated, has extensive thermal mass or other thermal storage, and a practical means to get heat into and out of the storage can provide a comfortable home.
Frankly, to survive as more than a "dirt farming peasant", you need a power source beyond human or animal muscle, that does NOT rely on fuel, or power delivered from some unseen and uncertain source. See Appropriate Technology in the appendices. Unless we suddenly leap to "STAR TREK" technology, the future energy picture will be one of greatly reduced personal energy use. Run wiring capable of handling separate a/c and d/c loads. What do you REALLY need to operate?
Long distance communications, computers, other electronics, etc. NEED electricity. While humanity USES electricity for many other purposes, many uses could be handled by other means. Why would anyone NEED to generate electricity, to spin and heat an electric dryer, when hanging wet clothes in a sunlit space would also dry the clothes, and perhaps the drips water the plants?
Even refrigeration CAN be driven directly from a windmill or waterwheel. Ice can be made using a solar concentrator or by applying a hand-pumped vacuum to a container of water. Low levels of locally produced electricity CAN provide the power to maintain a technological, learning and developing society. A "typical" American household has access to 22 kilowatt (110 v with 200 amp service) 24/7.
Check your own bill, and see what your real time use has been. Can you reliably generate that much power? Then you must be prepared to buy the power (hoping someone else manages to generate it), or reduce your power usage to what you can generate.
The prime energy source on earth is the sun. It powers the photosynthesis process in plants, creating the energy supply for all animal life. It is readily concentrated into a limited area with simple mirrors or other reflective/convective surfaces. With technology we understand, and can produce today, we can produce electricity from the sun by:
Turning generators with moving wind, caused by the sun (natural, and artificially induced wind up what is essentially a smokestack) Power is intermittent.
Turning generators with moving water, caused by the sun (natural, and artificially induced means to move water to a higher location, or from a pressurized container.) Power can be constant and regulated. Most naturally occurring cases of water in a high gravity location have already been exploited.
Where tanks can be positioned at significant differences in altitude (i.e. 100'+) water pumped to the higher tank can serve as a battery, turning a generator when dropped again thru a turbine. Think outside the box Can you modify a turbocharger from a car to serve as the driving turbine in a micro-hydro generator?
1kw = 1.3 hp
Water flow in cubic feet/second x height difference in feet divided by 8.8 = hp
1 cubic foot = 7.48 gallon
Assume a two 10,000 gallon tank, one 100' higher than the other. To generate 1kw of power
1kw = 1.3hp = flow/second x 100 / 8.8
1.3 x 8.8 = flow x 100
11.44 = flow x 100
11.44 / 100 = flow
.1144 cubic feet = flow
.1144 cubic feet = .856 gallon/second
10,000 gallon tank / .856 = 11,682 seconds / 60 / 60 = 3.24 hours of operation for this "battery".
Given the above, consider a well where the water level is more than 100 feet below the surface. A surface tank could be the size of a modest above ground swimming pool. A small windmill could easily during the day fill the pool, providing the evenings power for light and electronics.
Turning generators with "steam" engines (water and other medium, open and closed cycle) Power can be relatively constant and regulated by using the sun to heat a storage medium, such as water in an insulated tank, which then provides power at night.
In example, since closed cycle heat engines are driven by a difference in temperature, as the outdoors cools at night, and the contents of an insulated tank remain warm, the power available may actually increase. Light concentration can DRAMATICALLY increase available power. The "steam" can also be heated by growing, collecting, and burning bio-fuels.
Open cycle. The working fluid, which is heated to the boiling point, is channeled to expand and push a contained piston or turbine, then vented to the atmosphere. The typical working fluid is water, which may in some locations be too scarce a resource to "waste" as steam. This engine design also "wastes" the energy used to heat the water up to the steam point.
Closed cycle. The working fluid, which is heated to the boiling point, is channeled to expand and push a contained piston or turbine, then routed to a condenser for cooling below the boiling point, and then pumped back into the heating chamber. In theory (Carnot) the efficiency of a heat engine is limited to nc = T1(hot gas temp)-T2(cool gas temp) / T1.
Historically, low temperature solar engines are operated using freon or butane, in with temperatures of 80 C. In a low technology situation though, it may be necessary to use only "natural" mediums. (Perhaps water in a closed system that operates partially in a vacuum, so that water boils at a lower temperature.)
Food for thought. As shown by the closed cycle engine, the useable work is done by the change of state from liquid to gas, not the rise in temperature to the boiling state. Open cycle engines (think of the old steam engines) lose ALL of this initial heating energy. Closed cycle engines retain a significant portion, but must still clearly cool the medium before re-injection to the vaporization chamber. Rather than directly using steam to turn a generator, I've wondered about using steam to pressurize a tank of water (insulated from the water some way?) then using the water to spin a micro-hydro system.
Solar photo-voltaic. Direct conversion of light to electricity. The present silicon crystal panels remain a "high tech" item to produce, are fragile, and essentially impossible to repair in a low-tech environment. Power is ONLY supplied when light shines directly on the panel. Light concentration is likely to overheat the panel, and cause it to "burn out". Estimating a 1/4 acre homestead of around 10,000 sq. ft., at around 1 kw per sq. yd, while in full sun the entire lot receives just over 1,000 kw of power. If covered with 10% efficient solar panels, you'd have 100 kw available during sun hours. (But, no space to grow plants.) Set aside 8,000 sq. ft. for your garden, and using 2,000 sq. ft. for power, with the 10% panels you have available the same 22 kw you do now, but only during sunny days.
Remember the sun's changing path, combined with the panel putting out the greatest power when perpendicular to the sunlight, means you will probably want a "tracking" mount.
Solar collecter spacing. An east / west swing from sunrise to sunset of only 120 degrees appears to require side to side spacing between each device, at each extreme of arm swing, of at least the width of the collector surface. To track, the device pivot has got to compensate for the latitude of the site, then the tracker must be adjustable on the pivot to compensate for the slow change of the seasons
If each device was just fixed re seasons, say at 30 degrees, there is still a minimum of 1/2 of the collector panel width between each device on the north/south axis to avoid shading. So to be able to optimize panel exposure, each 1 square yard panel needs a ground footprint of 9' x 9' or 81 square feet. For your homestead, the good news would be that your plants can grow around the tracking mount.
Keep in mind though the cost of 222 panels, at 100 watt each, necessary to generate this much daytime power. At this writing, p/v panels cost in general $5.00 for each watt generated. Therefore, you're looking at a cost of somewhat over $100,000.00 Do you think you might settle for say 2 kilowatt of electricity, at a little over $10,000.00?
Bio-fuels can be burned in internal combustion engines, for propulsion or generation. This is not however an efficient means of providing a conversion from sunlight to motion or electricity. Bio fuels can also be burned to produce heat. But remember that to produce around 60 gallons of biodiesel, you need to shift an acre of cropland from producing food to fuel.
Biodigester. Animal excreta, food and crop scraps, etc. are placed in a sealed tank (can be as simple as one drum upside down inside another slightly larger drum) for controlled environment rotting. Most of the gas produced, primarily methane accumulates in the upper upside down drum, where it can be lead off in hoses for use as a fuel. Using human excreta only the "minimum" for a practical useable produce would be input from 15 people. For a practical "village built" system the upper limit appears to be 300 people.
Should you find yourself with large quantities of refined metals, guidance for creating large expedient batteries is found in "How to Recycle Scrap Metal into Electricity", by John Hait.
There are ongoing experiments on theories whereby at least heat, if not electrical energy itself, can be obtained from "sub atomic" activity, that may or may not be "radioactive" in nature. There are numerous "conspiracy theories" floating around that there are already successful devices in operation. A particular example is retired Colonel Beardon, who has been issued a patent for an electrical generator, that has no outside input, or internal moving parts. Lacking evidence, or the ability to buy a device, or "guaranteed" construction plans, this remains entertaining reading, but not a proposal on which to bet your life.
While human powered generators are a poor choice for other than short term use, human muscle, the legs in particular, can meet many needs. The book, Pedal Power in Work and Leisure, James C. McCullagh, relates many human powered devices, including a pedal powered winch used to pull a plow. A reasonably healthy person should be able to pedal and generate 75 watt for an extended period, perhaps 200 watt for a short period, and 750 watt for a few seconds.
Fossil fuels are merely stored ancient solar power. We can manufacture fuels (biofuels) that would allow modern engines to operate, but not at a rate anywhere near the present annual usage.
Per the CIA factbook, the world has in land: 148.94 million sq km, or which humans have planted in permanent crops: 4.71%, or 7,015,074 million sq. km. This is an area 2,648 km on a side, or 1,645 miles on a side, or 2,707,299 sq. mile.
Expect best biofuel yield per year to be 50 gallon per acre. Expect each person needs 1/4 acre for food. Expect each person needs 10 acre for wood and other long-term durable materials.
Recent U.S. use of just oil was 10 billion barrels per year (420 billion gallons), divided by say a population of 270 million, we get 1,555 gallons per year per person. In biofuels this requires 31 acre per person. Add the rest in, and each person in a U.S. lifestyle needs 45 acres.
A square mile is 640 acres, divided by 45 = 14 people provided resources per square mile.
If there is currently 2,707,299 sq. mile planted in crops, to NOT further dig up nature, a current U.S. lifestyle using biofuels could allow a GLOBAL population of 37,902,186.
6,600,000,000 - 37,902,186 = 6.5 billion or so must die in the time remaining for fossil fuels, AND in the same time we must re-work a global infrastructure into one that can be operated with less than 40 million people.
As of 2007, a large portion of the global population is 20 or younger. At current consumption globally of 30 billion barrels per year, and the largest daydream of 1,200 billion barrels of oil, we have 40 years until depletion MUCH LESS until demand permanently exceeds possible supply, and anyone not self-sufficient crashes.
It's not that biofuels do not have a place, it's that they cannot power an infrastructure like the "first world" of today.
Present technology to electrolyze hydrogen from water "loses" more than half of the electricity. The INEFFICIENCY of hydrogen as a battery was borne out in the 2005 Department of Energy "Solar Decathlon" competition, where the New York Institute of Technology found their hydrogen fuel cell power storage approach didn't reach the 25% efficiency they hoped, vs 80% for lead-acid batteries.
There are however experiments with high temperature catalysts (see Fuel from Water, Michael A. Peavey) which may prove concentrated sunlight for heat can replace a significant portion of the electrical current. As I show later in this treatise though, no known technology can provide a hydrogen economy using fuel at our recent rates.
Certain natural and man-made materials have the
property of absorbing light and releasing it in the
form of a moderate, essentially heat-free glow visible in darkened conditions. (Try the trade-name "Alien Skin") At the present, none commercially available provide what would be considered as sufficient work-light, but a large panel can light a room sufficiently as to permit occupancy, moving about, and work on tasks which do not require visual details. My theory (untested) is that a glowing panel at the large end of a Winston cone should produce a small area of work/reading light at the apex of the cone.
Any appropriate means to produce sufficiently strong walls and roof could be considered a success. In many places, the construction material can be the earth itself. Even if you are not yet building on site, you may want a secure, concealed on site location. Consider a "septic tank", or "fresh water tank" as your first construction. Neither should raise suspicion, and either can provide water tight, underground storage space. It will probably cost more to have a tank installed, than to buy either in a heavy gauge plastic.
Soil doesn't stack well, a significant consideration when mounding or berming you structure, and ESPECIALLY if you're digging. For safety, set your slopes such that the slope retreats horizontally at least 1 1/2 foot for every 1 foot of vertical rise. I will try to use a 2 foot per 1 foot rise in the appendices to this treatise where such concerns are applicable in calculations.
Engineer in four dimensions, height, width, depth, and time. Plan so that dividers, furnishings, utilities, etc. can be adjusted to change the primary use of a space. Your actual structure depends on your personal resources and design preferences.
It can be a hut. It can be a detached house, or an apartment building. It can be a mansion. It can be one room, or provide separate space for everyone. It can be underground, or super insulated with an active thermal exchange. It does not matter.What matters is your ability to provide for the ongoing (present and future) life-support needs of your family.
Assume a multi generational, stable population family homestead of 8 people. If your food production is at the "best" biointensive level, than 8,000 sq. ft. (approximately 1/4 acre) would be the minimum area for a homsestead, based on the food limit. If you home is underground, or has a roof garden, the only loss for the structure is skylights.
Per the Tucson MEC - Thermal Mass. Designs utilizing thermal mass should have suggested heat capacity between 18 to 30 Btu/cu.ft. Walls without external insulation need 12 inches minimum thickness or 8 hours time lag. External insulation can be used (R-9 to R-11) to reduce thickness of thermal mass to no less than 4". Surface area of uncovered thermal mass (in the direct sun zone) should be minimum 9 times the area of south glass, with 1ft2 of additional south glass for every 40 ft2 of mass located outside the direct sun zone (a simplified method of calculating thermal mass and south glass areas).
Summer Ventilation. Thermal-mass buildings shall be provided with a means of venting to the outside at night during the months of May through October to avoid overheating. Operable windows totaling at least 20 percent of the total glazing area, located for effective cross-ventilation or ceiling fans or a whole-house fan sized to provide 10 air changes per hour may be used.
Glazing. All glazing facing between 20 - 165 degrees or 195 - 340 degrees shall have a minimum summer shading coefficient of 0.39. All glazing facing between 165-195 degrees shall have a minimum summer shading coefficient of 0.5 or less. This may be accomplished by the use of overhangs, covered porches, tinted glazing, or other approved methods.
One approach is well presented in the "Earthship" series of books by Michael Reynolds, ranging from single room pods to luxury homes. It's not that earth is a good insulator, rather the advantage comes from that fact that earth is NOT a good insulator, and it takes a lot of heat, or cold, to make a large mass of earth change temperature.
While Mr. Reynolds emphasizes use of tires, cans, etc. in his structures, the functional aspects are relevant regardless of the construction material. In his third earthship book, Mr. Reynolds has valuable suggestions on a "retrofit" for a typical suburban home. See John Hait's book "Passive Annual Heat Storage" for scientific details of the thermal buffering system.
Surface coated stacked concrete block is advocated by architect Bruce Beer at his website www.thenaturalhome.com. Blocks are stacked without mortar, then filled and coated with cement.
Mike Oehler, in "The $50 & Up Underground House Book" presents his PSP system (post/shoring/Polyethylene), basically an underground pole building. Regarding wood in contact with the soil, in most soils, the area of decay is just below ground level, where soil microbiological activity is greatest. Often a post can be almost completely rotted out at this level, while the wood several feet deeper in the ground is still solid. So it's possible that a post, buried two feet or more into the ground, in an excavation already as much as six feet or more in the ground, will last a very long time. In addition, Oehler points out the old-time observation that charred wood doesn't rot. He chars the bottom two feet or so, by roasting them over a campfire, propane torch, etc. For additional insurance, wrap the post bottom in several plastic garbage bags secured with duct tape.
Conventional thinking involves digging a hole into a hillside and plopping a structure there with a bank of windows facing downhill. This makes the uphill side a solid blank wall, with the roof probably pitched back into the hill, so drainage from the roof runs into drainage from the hillside. Leaks are almost inevitable. Mike suggests an uphill patio, basically a terraced garden area, with its bottom at any desired height from the floor of the house, and its top blending into the adjacent ground level. It not only solves problems of drainage and lateral thrust (the pressure of the earth on buried walls), but it can function as an emergency exit or a second entrance. It can also serve as a built-in greenhouse. Naturally, it admits light and air, even from the uphill side of the house which would otherwise be a dark blank wall.
The Monolithic Concrete Dome is a single large dome, presented as energy efficient due to the reduced outside surface area relative to the inside volume. But it is difficult to build, and bury if you're incorporating earth berming. An extremely thin dome gets its strength from the curve shape. The larger the dome, the closer any given area of the dome approaches flat, losing strength.
A dome on the scale of a room is a much less daunting project than a home sized or larger monolithic dome. A home can be built one room at a time, as labor, materials, and need are presented. Greater curvature per area gives greater strength. I lean toward a clustering of room sized domes, or a torus (donut) shape. In late 2005 I noted the Monolithic Dome commercial web page had torus designs. There is POTENTIAL that multiple thin shells, with soil sealed between have a greater strength to thickness that a single shell of the same total concrete thickness. In addition, concrete "beams" in a catenary curve can be produced by suspending a chain from appropriately selected points such that it attains the desired curve. Progressively coat the chain with concrete and allow to cure. If properly done and turned over, you have a load-bearing curved beam constructed of concrete.
Soil can though be formed into bricks, and baked (even in the sun). It can also be "rammed" into wall molds to form monolithic walls. Neither is waterproof though absent a stabilization materials, such as added concrete.
Clay can be "fired" to make it waterproof. Clays vary considerably in chemistry but most require about 1800 - 2000 F to develop a glassy ceramic bond. The glassy bond is developed by melting the silica in the clay and allowing the resulting glass to freeze the remaining grains in place. 2000F can be achieved using natural gas, coal, charcoal etc. and air pressure. Too much heat and the glass becomes too fluid and the shape becomes brittle. Once heated the ceramics must be slow cooled because they will crack if cooled too quickly.
Assets, time, and limited labor may not at least initially permit large new structures, but small does not have to mean primitive and uncomfortable. Consider motor homes and boats, where individuals and families live comfortably in facilities the size of the living room in a typical American home. I suggest you tour travel trailers, motor homes, power or sail boats, etc., for ideas. Aspects to plan for in your home include:
Glass block along the top of all walls that are exposed to the outside air provides daylighting, as do other higher tech approaches (solartube, and fiber optics). Beyond daylighting, similar physical methods would permit one light source in a home to provide controllable nightlight for the entire structure. (Note, external reaching systems such as the solartubes easily provide light to maneuver inside to approximately the same extent you could outside (i.e. in a full moon, you can move about easily).
Where there is sufficient growth, stacked bales, stucco covered, make viable, high insulation walls (with the added benefit of stopping most pistol, and low power rifle bullets), or additional insulation to an existing structure.
Your home can be surrounded by artificial mounds, to provide visual and audio separation, while not excessively impeding airflow, foot traffic (all species ) as well as defining and controlling where private property rainfall flows.
Do you have the time and assets to custom build? Most will have to retrofit. If you're intent is to join or remain in an existing community, it's probably your only option. It may even be the best option.
For example, I'd love to take on a project such as turning a parking building into a city homestead. Who wants to park on the roof anyway? Cover it with your solar panels and garden. Your homestead needs to have sufficient solar exposure for your power, heat, skylights, and garden. What are you going to put under yours?
If you find an appropriate location, but the residents are not yet ready to accept and act on peak oil & long term sustainability, start anyway.
Years ago, as the mine shut down, and the primary source of income disappeared, the town of Bisbee was dying. As the story goes, essentially "hippies" moved in for the low cost, and put out art for sale hoping for some income. Word got around, the the location has become a tourist destination and art centered community.
Get involved. Contact community leaders in all areas. Contact the media. Join groups that may have part of the picture (i.e. global warming, biking, gardening, solar power) and starting from appropriate common ground guide others to the greater awareness you see.
How many rooms, and their extent and outfitting, is based on your needs and resources. How many people live at the home? Absent easy energy to move and travel, expect to see a return to most families remaining in the same place generation after generation. After all, where are you going to go? Once you realize we are living on a "spacestation", with no "away" to move to, a stable population is essential.
At the individual homestead level, this means each adult can only parent their personal eventual replacement, whether their biological child, or adoptive. Given the bisexual nature of the human species, at the family level this means on the average no more than 2 children per couple as the biological replacement for the parents. While the same individual (male or female) can parent 2 children with 2 different individuals of the opposing sex, it shows in later discussions on genetic matches in a minimum population, multiple parent-partners creates half-related children, complicating the genetic mix in following generations.
For an animal, once physical prowess has passed, with no mind or knowledge to remain of value to the community, or a community that recalls and rewards earlier contributions, the creature is typically left on it's own to die. Something similar is frequently seen in nomadic human societies or human society where the population is beyond sustainability, as the old are pushed-out when they can no longer physically contribute to the community.
A stable stationary society allows the development and ongoing possession of tools and knowledge, passed on and used generation to generation, with knowledge and experience transforming a weak toothless grandma/grandpa into a venerable sage. Make your life count, and pass it on.
Depending on the average age of childbirth, and lifespan, we could then see families of 3 to perhaps 5 generations, for a population at each homestead of 6 to 10 people.
Some arrangements may need to be made to adjust financial equity for marriages, where one of the two siblings moves to the homestead of the new spouse, vs bringing the new spouse to home.
Remember, in a situation where we have already reached the maximum sustainable population, whether it is the number of homes in a remote secure valley, within city limits, or the world, there is no new space to build a new home and expand out.
A "root cellar" room inside the home along the north wall. Ice / freezing capabilities increases the food storage options greatly. Solar powered absorbent / refrigerant (no compressor) was accomplished in the 1800's, and once made, can operate for decades. Proven combinations are:
Lithium bromide / water (LiBr/H2O)
Water / Ammonia (H2O/NH3)
Sodium thicyanate/ammonia (NaSCN/NH3)
Lithium nitrate/ammonia (LiNO3/NH3)
Calcium chloride/ammonia (CaCl2/NH3)
Strontium chloride/ammonia (SrCl2/NH3)
Evaporative cooling (where water is a readily available resource) can make a large difference. A simple approach, perhaps to hold food, is a covered fired clay pot, recessed in sand filling a much larger, unfired clay pot, keeping the sand moist, and the device shaded. For a higher tech consider and air tight container, and a vacuum pump. Fill the container part way with water, and pull a vacuum. As the pressure lowers, the water boils at lower temperatures. While some of the water boils off, some will freeze.
As potentially your greatest need for solar heat, the kitchen needs to have the most unrestricted solar access. Consider keeping the heat, humidity and smells of the kitchen totally isolated from the air of the rest of the home.
Winston non-imaging concentrators could provide a constant hotspot for an oven.
Mirror or lens concentration on coils of circulating oil could provide a means to route concentrated heat to a "burner" coil arrangement for a stove cooking surface.
Once you have something hot, use insulation. An example, bring a pot of stew, cooking meat, etc. up to a rapid boil, and put the covered pot in an insulated box.
If you're using compost toilets, perhaps you want the bath well vented, separate from the primary home system. Provided you are not using soaps or putting chemicals down the drain toxic to plants, your bath and wash water is a valuable gray water resource.
Sanitation. Human urine and manure contains valuable nutrients needed by the soil. Prior to re-use, the pathogens present must be eliminated.
Compost toilet. Low or no water systems where the human discharges are retained at temperatures and with airflow for bacteria to process the discharges into safe fertilizer. Urine must either be diverted and processed separately, or most of it is lost to evaporation.
Expedient: Collect human feces and urine in a container (e.g, a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it) and after each use, cover the wastes with an organic cover material such as sawdust (or peat moss, dried leaves, or even dirt if it is dry enough to be absorbent). When the container is full, transfer of the contents to a compost bin. The cover material serves a dual function of suppressing odors and providing the carbon needed by decomposer organisms to balance the nitrogen present in urine. Each time the waste/sawdust mixture is transferred to the compost bin, it is covered with a sufficient amount of coarse organic material such as straw, hay, leaves or weeds. Kitchen garbage and yard waste may be put in the same compost bin. Once the last addition is made, the contents of the bin are allowed to compost for a year.
Establish a compost pile of about a meter cube. Effective composting requires:
Sufficient moisture (50-75%)
Dry browns - dry leaves and grass, which are high in carbon
Wet greens - green grass and leaves which are high in nitrogen
Air throughout the pile
It is desirable to have a ratio of 25-30 carbon to 1 nitrogen or much more of the dry browns to the wet greens. The exact ratio is not too critical, but if your pile is not working very well try to get closer to the ratio and/or add some rich soil. If nitrogen is low some urine can be added. The pile needs to be turned so that all materials reach the desired temperature at some time during the process.
Daily additions of peelings, stems and stalks from vegetables and fruits keep the pile loose and temperature up. Piles which are tight have lower temperatures, possibly due to lack of air which, in turn, prevents the various organisms from working. Piles receiving very moist air will remain moist and tight due to lack of evaporation of moisture produced by composting and that being deposited on the pile by the users. The composting process will be slowed or inhibited by excess moisture concentrations.
Heat pasteurization. 30 minutes in a solar oven at 250+ degrees should kill all pathogens. However, a significant portion of the carbon & nitrogen is lost. Lower temperatures must be 150F (65C) for an hour, 120F (50C) for 24 hours or 115F (46C) for a week.
Solarization. Place a 7.5 centimeter (3 in) layer of compost from the toilet on the ground and cover it with a clear plastic sheet (1 or 4 mil thickness) when the outdoor temperature is over 27C (80F). The compost needs to be quite smooth and free of any plants or lumps so that the plastic film will have intimate contact with the soil and compost. The edges should be sealed so that moisture is not lost. The temperature should reach at least 55 to 60C (131 to 140F) for about two weeks. The compost should be very moist (50-75%) but not soggy, such that water can be squeezed out of it. If you need, and can generate the temperatures, quick pathogen treatment can be done, allowing less "careful" disposal.
Pathogens, such as the Hepatitis A virus, which is the most heat resistant intestinal pathogen, are rendered inert by a temperature of 70 C (158 F) in ten minutes, 75C (167 F) in one minute, and 80 C (176 F) in five seconds (2)(Harp, 1996 Effect of Pasteurization, Environmental Biology). These temperatures are easily obtained by simple solar collectors.
Direct soil distribution. The book, "Future Fertility, Transforming Human Waste into Human Wealth", John Beeby describes a rotation system using perennial crops.
Human refuse can have viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and worms (helminths). There are a number of each type that are possible. In urine, bacteria can cause typhoid or paratyphoid fever and worms can cause schistosomiasis. In feces, viruses can cause diarrhea, infectious hepatitis and poliomyelitis; bacteria can cause typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, food poisoning, dysentery, cholera, and diarrhea; protozoa can cause diarrhea dysentery, colonic ulceration, and liver abscess. Some of the worm parasites that can be present are hookworm, various flukes, pinworm, various tapeworms, roundworm, and threadworm. These pathogens are of concern in human refuse.
If human refuse is applied directly to crops, the length of time that the pathogens survive depends upon soil moisture, pH, type of soil, temperature, sunlight, and organic matter. Bacteria and viruses cannot penetrate undamaged vegetable skins, but they can survive on the surfaces of vegetables, especially root vegetables. Sunshine and dry air can help kill the pathogens. If there is any concern about pathogens, compost should be applied to long-season crops at the time of planting so that sufficient time passes for the pathogens to die.
To have greater confidence in your compost for your garden, you can permit just your family to use your compost toilet . Then you know what has been deposited in it. Another option is to just spread the compost from the toilet only on tree and bush crops. In addition, the more air that can be trapped in the pile, the better the pile will heat up and inactivate the pathogens that might be present.
Average pounds produced per person per year.
Source: Future Fertility 
Range required per 100 ft. sq. of garden
Range one human's effluent can fertilize each year in ft. sq.
Expect each person to produce around 1 gallon of manure per month, which should be applied to no less than 50 ft. sq. monthly, otherwise you're adding too much nitrogen to the growing medium. Layer manure, then 2" soil, seeds, and sprinkle soil. Move on to next 50 ft. sq., cycle back annually for 3 years, then shift to another set of beds.
Urine must be diluted with water from 5 to 10 to 1.
Mishandled sewage creates one of the developing world's worst underlying problems. It leads to death and disease, contamination of land and water, and chronically unsanitary conditions for millions.
However, there an unsophisticated sewage treatment approach may fit the needs of the Third World, and a First World in crisis. This simple and inexpensive approach employs various aquatic plants grown in artificial wetlands . Wastewaters merely trickle through man-made watery gardens in which living plants clarify the waste stream to the point where it is safe for people, animals, and the environment at large. In principle, this low-tech process should be ideal for the world's poor countries. Plants grow extremely well in the heat of tropics. In fact, because there are no winter seasons, the wetland systems should work better there than here. Yet it is unknown.
A variation of wetland and direct distribution is the Aerobic Pumice Wick presented by TOM WATSON. All liquid wastes drain into a filter tank to hold solids for aerobic composting, allowing the liquid to drain to a bed/tank. Set up an 18" bed of pumice in a waterproof base, with a cover of around 6" of soil. Plant roots access the bed use the nutrients and transpire the water. In the case of too much liquid, the wick acts as a filter and filtered water drains out of the exit pipe. Please ensure liquid does not rise to the compost level.
Workshop, machines, batteries, inverters, chemical storage, etc., keeping these clearly separated from the living space. Aim for no air exchange with the living space.
If capable of being completely separated from the living space, yet circulate air if desired, plants can be kept warm even if there is no need for the heat in the home. Consider some plant mass in every room though, i.e. growing under the skylight.
What do you expect will be the makeup of your household? Think of the future. Plan a home to last hundreds of years. How many generations may need to live in the same place? Do you expect multiple occupancy of bedrooms, are bedrooms to be a private "home", or is it merely a private secure, quiet place to rest. I've seen very "tiny" cabins (rooms) on yachts that were luxurious.
A small space takes much less energy to heat or cool. Canopy beds were not merely for appearances. In cold times, draped insulation allowed body heat to warm the sleeping space. In warm periods open mesh allowed cooling breezes while minimizing the bugs. Envision how small of an a/c unit would suffice to chill for the evening just the inside of a canopy bed.
How about modest personal rooms, with the possibility of linking them for space for couples, those who need to monitor infants, etc., or the ability to easily move walls? Say you've got a five generation homestead, two children per generation, where one sibling each generation left to reside in a similar multi-generation home of their spouse. There are probably 10 people at the homestead. Set the bedroom wing at 1,000 square feet. The effect of an "extra" child in a generation, children to younger couples, increase in lifespan become immediately apparent to the family as they shift the bedroom walls.
Walled and screened (bugs do seem to be everywhere) outside spaces can provide seasonal, (depending on your climate) if not year round extra living / storage / working space.
Dead cars will be valuable sources of un-natural resources, auto windows, conveniently made of shatter resistant glass, not to mention sheet steel, wire, tubing, generators, pumps, and electronic parts. The same goes for "useless" appliances. Where early mankind had to mine and refine metals and minerals, for some time, we're likely to find them merely lying about.
Do not fall into the trap of survivalists or emergency preparedness where you believe you can store sufficient supplies to "tide you thru" a period of crises, and wait for things to return to normal. If you survive better than others because of your preparations, YOU may be the one who needs to provide a rescue, or rebuild civilization.
Have you shared this scenario: You encounter under the sofa, behind the desk, etc., some possession or item of figurative scrap, which you've not seen in a long time. Realizing you are "never" going to need it again, you donate it, or throw it away Then the next week you desperately need it.
Contrary to those who advocate eliminating "clutter", or personal possessions in general, your homestead needs some significant secure storage area. If I recall correctly, the same "high chair" that endured my baby drool, was not only previously occupied by my older sister, but by our mother, uncle, older cousins, etc.
There are many products and services that are readily, and cheaply available today, which may quickly become expensive or unavailable. Beyond merely equipping yourself for the projected work, a storage program may provide valuable trade goods (for that vital widget you forgot about), or the means for a new start.
Fertilizers, not only phosphorus, potassium & nitrogen, but also micronutrients. Should you find yourself forced to relocate away from your developed planting beds (or ignored making them) you've got a fallback position from which to start.
Empty plastic soda bottles
Canning Jars & Lids with extra inserts
items for meat smoking,
55 gallon barrels
5 gallon buckets
During a widespread period of socio-economic disturbances (the crash), or war, the scenarios are probably NOT limited by your imagination. Wherever you are, or will be, become familiar with the applicable laws. In particular for U.S. residents, examine the state statutes, county and municipal codes for the emergency powers of your officials. Before you buy, build, plan, plant, etc., know what is prohibited, and allowed ways to achieve your goals.
Be cautious of what you advertise. Whether "legitimate" or not, the "democratic" process (aka mob rule, there's more of us than of you, and we want what you got) may endanger your careful preparations.
If you're planning a survivalist, isolated home-site, you're looking for an area that IS NOT one that will be on the first choice list for those who suddenly decide to head for the hills, as providing your own security may become a 24/7 job, precluding all else. You also would not want to be the likely route of a passing casual (hungry, angry) observer who is headed for greener pastures. Ensure your home is not readily discernable from the surroundings, or does not appear lucrative, then even if inadvertently encountered, it may be ignored.
Rolling terrain, hills, etc. interfere with long distance viewing and provide multiple concealment locations. An underground, or even earth bermed home may remain unobserved until someone is almost "on top" of it.
If you select isolation, consider just how sustainable or ecological you can actually be. How much damage does your new remote homestead do to remaining wilderness?
Kids in a pup tent in the back yard naively look at it as a "roughing it" adventure. How much different is an attempt to create an ecological & sustainable human environment by destroying yet more of nature?
There are those who can't (financial, medical, technical, etc.) initiate a new self-reliant homestead in the wilderness, or couldn't remain at such even if handed to them free. I will argue that any further such impact on remaining wilderness is contrary to any contemplation of ecological sustainability. We need to use our knowledge, intelligence and skills to repair what we've destroyed, and retrofit for long term sustainability, with reduced demands for new resources and recycle rather than discard. This includes homes, neighborhoods, and entire cities.
If the surrounding territory is without food, power, and fuel, cooking odors, blaring music and lights, and smoke will not aid your concealment. The nutrients of your vegetables are better when fresh than cooked anyway. If you MUST hear your favorite tunes at ear-shattering levels, use headsets. For non-critical night light, take a cue from the navy, and use red lights, shielded so that direct light from the bulb does not escape the immediate area. You can see to work and move about, but there's no "beacon" in the sky or in the distance. For night reading or detailed work, be prepared to blackout a room. Smoke at night may provide a nosey human a clue someone else is around, but unless they're close, have a dog, or have gotten really good at it, they probably won't be able to easily trace the smell back to you.
Your aquaculture tanks, neat orderly biointensive beds, greenhouse, solar panels, etc. will probably provide indications to travelers that there may be food available. When you simply must have a lot of square feet exposed to the sun, concealment is not simple.
Rolling, uninviting terrain may be among the best defenses for those who select isolation. If you have the right climate, a lot of space, and the ability, dispersing your food crops can lessen the odds of discovery, but it makes your gardening more difficult. Plant along the south slope, near the bottom of the slope, imitating the natural distribution of plants. Knowledge of "wild" foods, or dispersed planting of crops that are not generally recognized as food provides additional protection. Beyond mere concealment, perhaps look for ways to deliberately mislead potential visitors around your home, such as establishing what appears to be a well-used, easy to travel path that misses your home, while making the actual approach path at least in appearance far more difficult.
For urban camouflage the goal is the same, avoiding attracting attention of undesirables. Install barriers that block sight and access, and that don't look out of place. Consider photovoltaic panels that are integrated into roof tiles, rather than the "sore thumb" versions advertising their presence. Enclose your garden space (which is touched on in the MESS appendix).
Whether wilderness or urban, your perimeter needs to be as secure as your resources and sense of security allow/demand. In a minimal homestead, where you have virtually a year-round growing season, and secure access to water, you need to maintain security of an area at least 100' by 100'. You need 400' of appropriate fence, or secure wall.
Unfortunately, as touched on later in property tax and eminent domain discussions, it may be necessary to stay "under the radar" of corrupt government officials. In this perspective, perhaps "Secret Societies" of the past are not the villains such are often portrayed, they may have just wanted to live and be left alone.
In a crash scenario, where laws and courtrooms have failed, interplantings of selected inedible crops may provide protection from human predators, much as there are plants to protect crops from insects and animals. (Be cautious though of what you, and your household touch, and eat!) Approaches to your site can be planted with discouragement plants, such as those with thorns, "poison ivy", etc. Think "Halloween" and brainstorm for ideas that will tend to send intruders in a different direction. As there are ultrasonics that frighten animals and bugs, are there ultrasonic or subsonic frequencies that effect humans?
What you don't know about, can sneak up and kill you.
If you can maintain modern powered sensors and alarms, a modest investment should provide warning of approaching "company". Complete systems, or individual components are available from various suppliers, such as at http://www.iautomate.com/glossary.htm. The "X-10" modules provide a means to select just the aspects that meet your needs. Also helpful might be microphones distributed at your perimeter, and "night vision".
You can also turn to a mobile, voice activated, self-propelled, auto refueling and self replicating detection system, often referred to as a dog. I'm not a pet type of person, but a couple of dogs could easily be worth their food.
Expedient low tech. Things that make noise when disturbed, or make the intruder make noise, or deter an intruder from a particular path, some of which may be frowned upon by pre-crash local authorities.
Landscaping. Thorns are a ready deterrent for an unprepared human. Rocks can make approaches much more difficult to transverse quickly and quietly than smooth soil.
Non-electric sensors. Bells or other noisemakers. Pull strings, rods, or hydraulics (sealed containers with a hose between them) that ring a bell.
Parabolic dish "microphones" are available, which use a stethoscope type headset. Large lens, low power binoculars can assist your low-light vision.
Maintaining a full time human lookout for a single family homestead would be my last choice, due to fatigue and the waste of labor. Consider, the military generally sets security watch-standing in four hour shifts.
The person on duty need not be capable of defending the home, but rather just an alert set of eyes and ears, to sound the alarm in the event of an intruder. (80 year old grandma can push an alarm button.) Even so, your multi-generation homestead may have, at best, 6 people capable of standing watch.
Limit official watch-standing to the 16 or so hours when the homestead is not busy with chores being done, and everyone is required to stand a 4 hour guard watch at some point virtually every night.
Although it is arguable that some 20th century humans have become communications "junkies", access to news, and the exchange of information with others is a vital aspect for security and continued development.
Long-range communications without a ground infrastructure seems to be limited to ham-radio . *I would appreciate input on a "sustainable" approach to radio.
If your child, spouse, best friend, etc. is attacked, would you ignore the situation, or help them?
If any member of my household is assaulted, or an intruder detected, I would hope that everyone would respond in some appropriate manner based on their skills, physical capability, and the situation presented.
When you are attacked, you have to deck your opponent.
- Hillary Clinton
Pre-crash, selection of weapons is of course subject to locally applicable law, which may have strict, or unusual requirements.
Self-defense law varies by jurisdiction, and in the United States can be quite different state to state. Many jurisdictions require that you, the victim of a violent crime, retreat, or attempt to run-away, and that you must be trapped before you are allowed to defend yourself. This is not (2006) the case in Arizona.
In Arizona, USA, private ownership of even fully automatic weapons is not prohibited, and obtaining a "concealed carry" weapons permit is relatively simple. But for some reason, the only weapon PROHIBITED in Arizona is nun chucks.
Firearms. Many people mistakenly claim weapons are the source of crime rather than a reaction to it. This is rather like blaming your flat tire on the spare you carry in the trunk.
Selection of appropriate modern weapons often spurs strongly opinioned debate, which I leave to you and your friends. While I do not encourage anyone to adopt any particular weapon, I simply report that my preferred sidearm is a .45 ACP pistol, and a 45-70 lever action rifle. Whatever your selection, examine it from a sustainability position, if we do indeed experience a deep crash, and a "dark age" period, can you maintain the operability of the weapon, and provide a continuing supply of ammunition?
I point out though that starting as we are from the bottom up, and considering the great leverage in security provided by availability of modern firearms, should make clear the utter folly of the anti-firearm extremists. A firearm is a tool. It can be a work of creative art. It can be the means by which a diminutive, frail individual can refuse and prevent injury or worse from others far stronger, and numerous. It is, as Samuel Colt commented, a great equalizer.
Examine the motives of those who oppose firearm possession by other than those whom they would anoint with special power and privilege, and ask why.
Sustainable. The first weapon that comes to mind as "sustainable" is bow and arrow, which literally grows on trees. Other tree based weapons would include include the spear and it's atlatls throwing holder which significantly increases the range and power of a spear throw. With an investment of more time and effort a sling arm, trebuchet, or catapult can toss crushing projectiles long distances.
The online encyclopedia "Wikipedia" indicates the pneumatic reservoir (pump up a storage tank of air) guns have been in use since around the 1500's, and may be considered rugged and sustainable in low technology conditions.
In light of articles on potato or tennis ball "guns", powered by an exploding mixture of alcohol, gasoline, butane, etc., I continue to wonder if a functional rifle could be made powered by an exploding alcohol/air mixture.
"Clouds" of fine flammable dust can explode, as has been demonstrated by explosions in grain silos.
Also, a powered centrifuge might be able to serve as a repeating high-velocity "sling". Might sounds over a PA system distract attackers? (Pre-positioned speakers behind places where attackers might hide, or sounds of animals or gunfire, or I've heard there are "sounds" below audible frequencies that create nervousness in many people.)
Real or imagined animals, ghosts, etc. may unnerve those who are already disoriented, having seen their entire "world" collapse.
When you decide to light up the area, consider that you WANT the light "in the eyes" of intruders, but NOT in your eyes. Once a light is activated, it's location is obvious to all nearby. If you want your light to remain, despite "hostile" approaches, consider what a slingshot, air rifle, or well thrown rock will do to most lightbulbs.
If practical, place the bulb in a protected area, and put the light where you want it with reflectors. Even aluminum foil will reflect a significant portion of the light, yet projectiles thrown at the light will just pass thru the foil.
What type of hostile "enemy" is expected? In the 1950's and 1960's, talk of atomic war prompted some to prepare fallout shelters. At the time, and perhaps in retrospect, some saw the shelter building activity as foolish. Your self-reliant home may be similarly cause you to be the object of criticism by those who will not see the problems we face. But if done well, those shelter spaces continued to be an asset, and may once again, in the coming crash, prove their value as fallout shelters. Similarly, your self reliant home, even if there is an energy breakthru, has reduced your living costs, while providing peace of mind and a form of "insurance".
Organized Army. As shown in the operations of formal Armies, against less well equipped and trained adversaries, "strongholds", even those constructed by the oil rich Iraq regime, are no match for computer guided bombs. Probably the best defense against a formal Army is to simply avoid a conflict in the first place. Don't be obvious as a desired asset. Don't be an enemy.
Mob. A stronghold has value against a mere mob, but I would still propose every home has it's own reinforced safe-room, rather than one group location. Interconnect these safe-rooms with communications wiring, pipe, etc. as technology and resources permit.
Individuals. If not hostile, do you feed them? Even if you send them on their way, if you've fed them, will they return? Will they return with others, or send others your way, as an easy "mark" for a free meal? Do you let them camp on the property, or ignore their camp just off the property? How to guide them to establishing their own sustainable village?
Friends / family. Perhaps the hardest question of all. If you've got a year of food storage, and gardens sufficient for your family, and not much more, what will you do?
What is your response to a "government" that decides your stored food is now illegal "hoarding"?
If you can, keep a gas mask near by, and complete body cover. Check out the firms that sell hazardous material handling clothing. Short of this, at least get a quality face mask (NOT the cloth/paper ones) designed for use in painting.
If you think you have been exposed to biological agents, get to your physician. In the absence of professional medical care, implement home remedies. Note, guidance on the web indicates that, should you have antibiotics available, DO NOT start their use until you are certain of the infection. Antibiotic use may adversely effect your "normal" resident bacteria, giving the "bad guys" an advantage.
Stop eating your normal, cooked food diet, opt instead for a very light diet (almost light fasting) of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Drink lots of pure water, and take:
1000 mg every two hours of Natural Vitamin C with bioflavanoids. If infections symptoms such as aches or fever begin, take hourly. Raw garlic, one small clove crushed several times per day. Colloidal silver solution, one dropper several times per day (see generation instructions elsewhere in this treatise.) Echinacea several times per day Goldenseal several times per day Olive leaf extract several times per day Grape seed extract (or other high-potency anti-oxidant) several every few hours.
Potential dangers still include events not necessarily "aimed" at your, such as hazardous releases, extreme weather, earthquakes, eruptions, flood, etc. Examine FEMA, which has materials describing building a room in/near your home for tornado safety, and NBC warfare protection.
At the beginning of 2007, the U.S. government asserts if an individual earns $10,210 or less per year, or a family of four $20,650 or less per year, then under federal guidelines they are living in "poverty". If you must pay rent, buy food, water, power, etc., pay to own and operate a vehicle to GET to work, you probably are impoverished. (And GREATLY at risk in the coming financial collapse.)
But if your homestead is fully paid for, and capable of meeting your minimum "life support" needs, you need not panic in economic disruptions.
How secure is your job, business, or other income? What investments other than a secure home have you selected? Inflation MIGHT raise income and/or the cash exchange value of other assets, allowing payoff of a mortgage with inflated dollars. Or income might disappear and paper assets fall to zero value, putting your possession of your home in jeopardy.
You need to understand  the financial markets and products, and realize the risks you may be taking by going along with the crowd.
Say you own your home free of any mortgage, and you have no personal commercial debt. Your home is fireproof, and you're quite content you can take care of yourself. You collect all the water you need from rainfall, and grow your own food in your biodynamic garden. Solar cells provide all the electricity you want, therefore you don't have any need for cash, or to work.
You have forgotten about your property taxes. The government will decide how much they believe your home is worth, and how much you owe for the mere privilege of having your home setting in the community.
If you improve your home, your tax will go up.
If your neighbors inprove their homes, your tax will go up.
If big picture inflation raises prices, your tax will go up.
While outside the domain of the local community, the illogic is similar with vehicle registration - a fuel sipping low air pollution new hybrid is taxed far higher than an ancient gas guzzling, leaking polluter. These taxes are contrary to logic.
You may have expended all of your liquid resources obtaining and outfitting your homestead, and be out of a job. The taxman wont care.
Warlords, (mafia boses), etc. demand protection payments from the serfs, funding the warlords enforcers and hangers-on. Is the property tax so different? Somehow, you must come up with the arbitrary protection fee, or the county will impose a lien against the title of your property. That lien can then be sold, and if you fail to pay off the back taxes and interest for three years, your title can be foreclosed in court, and someone else will own your home.
For perspective, what if the county announced that each year it was going to take an intangible property tax 1% of every bank or other financial account in, or owned by someone in the county?
This economic cannibalism by government edict is the anti-thesis of security, and the anti-thesis of the operation of eminent domain, where the government takes your property and pays you. It functions to discourage permanent improvements.
In short you are forced to sell goods or labor - forced to work. Your earnings will of course be subject to federal and state income tax, social security tax, medicare tax, etc., all before you receive any funds to use to pay the property tax.
If you improve your home or business, the county government will raise your tax, regardless of your cash flow. And it can get worse.
Coming the other direction, up from the grassroots of your self-sufficient homestead, the better job you do in changing your lifestyle, and setting up your home to eliminate dependence on the grid, or fuel flow, or the commercial food system, the less you are, for now, a source of revenue And later, the greater you are a source of supplies if the local government decides to quit pretending, and admit how far we've come in the government being a group of mobsters, demanding protection payments.
If you minimize the taxable aspect of your home, and live simply, you may face being forced off of your property under Eminent Domain proceedings. In earlier years, this was only used when the government needed your property for a public purpose. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 however upheld:
that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project's success is not guaranteed.
Some state governments implemented protections. Some, such as Arizona in the 2006 election, had protections implemented by a referendum coming not from the elected officials, but from the people.
Those who have or desire power over you must have a means to reward those they desire, and punish those who fail to obey. Direct theft in the form of taxes or taking of property under eminent domain is obvious. Less clear but perhaps more direct in establishing control is exampled by "environmental" regulations over the water in a prairie pothole, and the quality and quantity of pothole water sources. (Yes, there are members of Congress who author and submit such proposals.) As repeatedly submitted, the law would allow federal control of your rainwater collection. When you have achieved local self reliance in life support, you see less need to work for cash. As others follow your lead, and real income and tax revenues decline, you must be vigilant for those who will seek to ensure your obedience by creating a monopoly on some essential aspect, such as water.
Are you planning on some continuing stipend, such as a pension from a private sector employer, or the government, a stipend from Social Security, or investment payouts? Do you really believe they can be depended on?
Are you entitled to a pension? Where does the money come from? Where does that entity (government or private sector) get the money, when the economy is not functioning? The news in 2006 included growing mention of private sector firms being unable to pay promised pensions. General Motors at least offered employees a cash departure option, in lieu of a pension and benefits. Which would you take, a promise of a payment in the future, or cash now that you could invest?
As of 2005, the news is finally mentioning Social Security, and the disaster that the system is. When the "baby boomer" generation, which includes some of the highest earning (and tax paying) citizens retires, stops paying taxes, and becomes eligible for some of the highest Social Security payments promised, a fiscal disaster awaits. The U.S. federal government can't make the promised payments without taxing and taking not only 100% of the annual gross earnings of the nation, but it could require taking everyone's property and selling it to someone outside the nation.
The most likely course is to make SS "means tested", so that if you have a retirement income, you won't receive SS. The most likely means for the government to make Social Security payments, is to simply print the money, inflating the currency to a disaster.
Do you believe you will be able to sell your stocks/bonds? Will you still receive interest income? Could you find yourself HOPING to sit back and relax, but with no money actually coming in? The boomers are highly invested in securities. As they retire, they will want cash for their spending. If SS payments are limited, stock sales will come faster. The oil crash may make some stocks worthless, requiring further sales.
Investment - Readily apparent and enduring value, producing income.
Speculation - Fluctuating value depending on public opinion.
Gambling - More likely than not to lose value.
As with pensions, anyone receiving or counting on unemployment or government welfare benefits must plan on a future WITHOUT any such benefits. It's simple, the economy crashes, tax revenue disappears, therefore welfare disappears.
Inflation, although appearing as a general increase in prices, is in other terms a decrease in the value of currency. Inflation is often exampled by Germany in the 20's, when they printed a billion Mark note on only one side, to save ink, and a classic story of a man who took a wheelbarrow of money to the store to buy bread. When he couldn't get the wheelbarrow thru the door, he left it outside, certain no one would steal the worthless money.
He was right, someone dumped the money and stole the wheelbarrow. But inflation dates back to the earliest currencies, Rome inflated it's currency, even though based on precious metal coins, by mixing other metals, clipping the coins, or making them smaller or thinner. "Modern" inflation, like the German situation, does not require physical alteration of the currency, to shrink it's value.
In an inflating economy, in general, depositing money in fixed percentage income investments (bank accounts, bonds, etc.) can be a guaranteed LOSS for you, if the rate of return after all applicable taxes does not clearly exceed the rate of inflation. This guaranteed loss also applies to anyone who is living on a fixed income, whether from employment, or a pension.
In a continually inflating economy, in general those who borrow at fixed rates, and use the money in carefully selected investments, will be able to pay off their loans with cheap dollars, and build fortunes thru leverage. This plan of course requires appropriate selection of investments, and a continuing economy that actually pays out the inflated dollars.
Money is simply an agreed unit of exchange, so that there is no need for a complex barter system. The money specified by a government taxing authority, is the money in which they want to be paid. You must somehow generate the required currency.
Independent of the government, expect to need a completely separate means of valuing local transactions. The "Gold Standard" is touted as a means to avoid currency devaluation (inflation).
It is probably true that the same $20 gold coin which in the 1800's would buy a new gun, or a quality suit, will due to the value of the gold in our devalued dollars be exchangeable for the same goods.
Remember, there is no such thing as inherent value in any particular medium of exchange. It is the willingness of someone else to trade that matters. In a disaster, if I barely have enough food for my family, do you think I'll let one of them go hungry in exchange for your gold?
On this basis, almost anyone can create money. Consider a local barter note system where a plumber fixes the pipes in the home of the dentist, in exchange for an "IOU" note good for a root canal. The plumber trades the note for pipes and parts from a demolished building. The note can continue to circulate for so long as people are willing to trade for it, perhaps even past the retirement of the dentist. The challenge is not in creating a currency, but in creating one where the units are standard, relatively stable, and the system is generally accepted. In this example, our barter dentist might become quite "wealthy" by issuing LOTS of notes and accumulating other more physical wealth.
Real estate is often presented as an appropriate inflation protection investment. But in any deal, there needs to be a willing buyer and seller. There are real estate markets where for example speculators, who have bought for the purpose of re-selling at a higher price, have flooded the market such that the price of homes clearly exceeds the ability to pay of the "typical" family that would ordinarily be expected to purchase the home. In such a market, expect that prices can only rise further, or indeed remain at such levels, so long as speculative investors retain interest in the area.
While a lot of your homestead can be "sweat equity", unless you inherit it (or stand to inherit) somehow you are going to have to pay for such "outside" goods or services you need to create a long-term homestead.
Please pardon the bluntness, but IF you have to pay for such, WHY? Our parents, grandparents, etc., had to have lived somewhere, why is it that we seem to take it for granted that each generation is going to have to "make it on it's own", to go out and mortgage their life, forced to work for wages, to pay the finance company?
Why don't we all inherit a stable functioning homestead? Some things wear out, or become obsolete, but a well done home can last generation after generation. Too many of the decisions of our ancestors, and ourselves, have been short-sighted.
If your home is financed, beware of foreclosure by your finance company if you miss payments. If there is any significant "equity" in your property, in an economic downturn you become a likely target. Even if property values have for some reason declined, YOUR property with equity has become a more viable foreclosure target. Remember that in a foreclosure sale, the bank gets paid first, then the banks lawyers, and IF there is anything left, it might go to you.
In most cases, the home is the largest investment for a family. In the U.S., those with funds in an IRA, 401k, etc. potentially have another asset approaching the value of the home. To tie these together, your IRA money CAN be invested in real estate. While you cannot live on the property owned by YOUR IRA, you can live on the property owned by your NEIGHBOR's, or even you siblings IRA, and they on yours. If you need to live and work somewhere other than your retirement / retreat location, put you IRA money in the "second home".
A valuable point to consider is using a ROTH IRA as a savings account. Your interest grows tax-free. The ROTH is not subject to garnishment / seizure under the typical lawsuit, yet it has the advantage to you that if you need cash, you can withdraw your original deposit amouts WITHOUT TAX OR PENALTY.
Getting in place a homestead that can meet your life support needs should be a first priority. Consider though, can you grow all of your own food, make your clothes, build your home, engineer a car, appliances, etc?
To the extent that you own your own shelter, garden space, make clothes, etc., you are capitalist, owning the means of producing your necessities. (Note, I would argue that corporations are not "capitalist" in nature.) In continuous ownership by the same family, the usefulness and value of capital improvements accumulate to the benefits of coming generations. To the extent that your own assets provide for your life support needs, you eliminate the need for outside income and purchases, making you an autarky.
Does it make sense for every individual / family to do everything for themselves? Will your spouse do open heart surgery if you need it? If you think there should, or must be specialties, you've created economics. Some level of grouping can get by with a complex barter system, where ditch digging is exchanged for chickens, which are exchanged for dental work
A long term sustainable economy will be
different. Start, with the elimination of "housing starts" as being seen as a positive economic indicator. In ecological reality, new housing construction means either some previous structure was or had to be destroyed, or some new area of nature had to be destroyed. "Gross Domestic Product" (GDP) figures include the money spent in the un-sustainable industrial food system. If significant quantities of people once again grew their own gardens, the personal improvement in food quality, safety, and security, would be presented as bad news, an economic "downturn" as spending at food merchants reduced.
That which is available, affordable, and sustainable in the most likely situations. This has been essentially ignored in our century+ long oil party. Hopefully you will be inspired to personal research and planning.
Numerous articles on creating your own "home grown" technology are available online at http://www.vita.org and at http://www.itdg.org. When the functional lifespan of your purchases ends, will you still have a need for the product or service? If so, can you repair or replace it with what you have remaining? The greatest source of energy on Earth, is the sun. It evaporates water for rain, powers worldwide thermal currents in the air and water, and thru photosynthesis provides all of the food consumed.
On your own property, with you own property, with your own creativity, what can you accomplish?
If solar panels have a useful life of 20 to 30 years, and I anticipate a continuing need for electrical power, I have that long to find an alternative. Silicon cells are a high-tech process. Low tech p/v cells can however be made from blackened copper, and thermocouples also offer direct sunlight (heat) to electrical power conversion.
Regardless of what you buy or install now, can you maintain it, or replace it? Understand it?
With a modest collection of quality hand tools, even a neophyte can make modest repairs, disassemble obsolete equipment, or fashion vital devices. Imagine trying to "double dig" you garden without a shovel, or loosen a bolt without a wrench.
Obsolete devices are a potential "goldmine" of parts and raw materials.
Solar/steam micro hydro for power. Consider a large tank of water capable of withstanding modest pressure, not necessarily much about typical city water pressure. Could solar concentration then be used to generate steam in an insulated bladder, to push water thru a micro hydro generator into another water tank?
Vertical axis windmill. Even numbers of opposed arms, each holding flexible material sails. On the power side, the wide billows the sail open, pulling a cable to help hold the opposing sail closed as it moves to windward during rotation.
Clay/ceramics. What could be more appropriate, dig clay, add water, form, bake in a solar oven for high temperature parts.
Other solar devices. Israeli research has developed a relatively simple means which uses a parabolic mirror to concentrate sunlight onto a fiber optic cable, which then leads to a light scalpel, useable as a laser scalpel. Sunlight can be used to directly pump up a laser to firing power. It can heat dangerous compounds past the temperature where they separate into harmless atoms or compounds. Light can readily be manipulated by lenses or mirrors. Given a crashing infrastructure, my feeling is that shiny material is going to be easier to obtain than precision formulated and ground lenses. Take the simple fact that light reflects off a flat mirror at the same angle it strikes the mirror. Now envision many tiny mirrors rather than one large one. If the angle of adjacent mirrors are adjusted right, the light can all be reflected onto a single spot, or spread to provide diffuse illumination from a single bright beam.
In sixth grade, once my daughter got the concept, she was able to use cardboard and mylar gift wrap to make an 8 wide parabolic curve.
She used this to concentrate on black plastic _ irrigation hose. It melted the hose, but not before it proved that in minutes it raised the temperature of water flowing in the hose to past 114 degrees F. Her design, shown above, is a two story courtyard home, intended to be earth sheltered for half of the lower floor. This combination active / passive model took first place in a statewide solar home competition.
What does a human know by instinct?
We have no instincts for even food. A human must think about what is food, how to find it, grow it, hunt it, preserve it. We have no instinct for making fire, writing, reading, or even speaking. We must each learn from the preceding generation.
The Virtue of Selfishness, Any Rand
Web and computer files are the fastest means of finding and gathering information, but rely on continued computer technology. Unfortunately for surviving humanity, the web may be an early victim of the collapse. Download to local storage any file you file valuable, and print all of those you find essential.
Microfiche is a means of storing a great deal of information in a small package, that can be read with a child's toy microscope.
Books probably remain the most practical means of gathering, storing, and passing on knowledge. Your local library should be able to order for you on "interlibrary loan" virtually any book. Read, please! A potential sustainability library (with a lean toward a desert environment) is in the Bibliography. Used bookstores, several of which have online search functions, can yield may priceless "gems".
Plan as though your library is the only one that survives the crash, if your luck is bad, it might be.
Organic Farming / Pest Control
Food conversion technologies? (soybeans to tofu, sugar beets to sugar)
Slaughtering / Meat Preserving
Husbandry (horses, cows, pigs, chickens, etc.)
How things work
Elementary Math (Teaching)
Geometry / Trigonometry
Spanish (simple translation)
French (simple translation)
German (simple translation)
Chinese (simple translation)
Russian (simple translation)
Art / music
100 greatest books of 20th century
100 greatest classics
Planning for a library points out an obvious factor, which is language. You and your family must understand each other. It does you no good to have books you cannot read and comprehend. You should understand and be capable of using the language which has been used to preserve the information you need.
How are you as a teacher? Can you serve as a teacher for your children, for even the basics of K - 12, let alone some technical specialty? If you must, or choose, to undertake this challenge, good news for you is that standardized testing has shown that home-schooled children can learn as well, if not better, than those who attend a more traditional class. If your homestead is remote and isolated, you have little choice in whether you will home-school, only in the curriculum you will prepare.
It seems obvious, that if you have access to "experts" in any particular field, they should teach that field. If you have neighbors, do you know their background and abilities?
Earth is a sphere, around 8,000 miles in diameter, orbiting the Sun in a path of a slight ellipse at a distance of around 92 million miles in 365 days. We rotate on our N/S axis once every 24 hours. Our axis is tilted about 23.5 degrees relative to the plane of our solar orbit. This tilt means that every day the apparent path of the sun across the sky is a little different. That said, the path can be calculated, and accounted for in positioning of solar interfaces (p/v, heat collection, plants, etc.
Referring to the above diagram, set the angle between the ground and the north pole of the sky at the same number as your latitude. The daily path the sun takes will be 90 degress to the sky pole. Assume a line from the center of the ground position that is 90 degress from the sky pole line. To locate the path relative to the sky pole, the highest summer sun will be 23.5 degrees to sky-north of a right angle, and the winter sun will be 23.5 degrees to sky-south of a right angle. The circles scribed are the locations where you see the sun from the center observation point.
The Earth constantly presents an 8,000 mile diameter disk to the sun. Due to factors such as reflection, refraction, and the angle of the surface in relation to the sun, probably only around a 5,000 mile diameter disk receives useful sunlight. This area when not shaded receives energy at the rate of around 1kwh (3412 BTU or 859,845 heat calories) per sq. yard of direct solar exposure. In planning your solar harvesting, remember that in general in your summer the sun will rise polar of east and set polar of west. In the winter, it will rise equator of east and set equator of west.
Absent an energy breakthrough, the primary biofuels cannot possibly be generated to meet present demand. Much of the population will have to walk, or perhaps ride a bike.
Pedal power, referred to as bicycles, but more properly human powered vehicles, can meet a great deal of local transportation needs. Per power used, a bicycle is the most efficient vehicle available, with a typical adult on an upright bicycle able to maintain a speed of 10 to 12 mph. The same person on the recently rediscovered recumbent should achieve a higher sustained speed due to lower air resistance and the ability to provide a more efficient braced "push" on the pedals without also straining back, neck, arm, etc. muscles as is required on an upright bicycle.
A recumbent bicycle enclosed in a streamlined fairing has been pedaled at sustained speeds of over 65 mph - try THAT on your mountain bike.
Personal powered vehicles. The cost and complexity of batteries, fuel cells, etc. may keep personal vehicles from returning to anything approaching the widespread ownership and use of today's industrial nations, or at least from resembling a 20th century automobile.
In 2006 federal law classified bicycles with a electric motor of 750 watt or less, and not capable of traveling under power more than 20 mph, as NOT a motor vehicle. State may not require them to be registered, or a drivers license to operate them. It takes 3 minutes (at 20 mph) to travel a mile, so the electric bike uses 1/20 times 750 watt = 37.5 watt/hours to go a mile. Grid electricity costs 8 cents per 1,000 watt/hour. In running a mile, the electric bike needs 3.75% of a kilowatt hour, or about 3/10 of one cent of electricity.
Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) essentially presents in his online book "Winning the Oil Endgame" that advances in materials (light and strong) and in fuel cells will so revolutionize transportation that we will somehow be able to continue to drive where and when we want, with no problem of fuel availability or price, but he presents no consideration for expanding population, or the initial energy source for generating hydrogen fuels.
Consider for a moment alcohol as a fuel. Corn is a potential alcohol crop, but I remain convinced that it will be more valuable as food, then
"drinking" alcohol, before sale of it as fuel
All biofuels have the same "problem", the efficiency rate of converting sunlight to a useful fuel is horrible. Corn for example manages to convert at best 2/10 % (two tenths of one percent) of sunlight to food matter, then, at a wild guess, 80% or more of that is "lost" as solids in the brewing process You end up with say 4/100% (four one hundredths of one percent) conversion of light to fuel
The most promising biofuel engines are diesels. A diesel burning "clean" fuel releases 15% to 20% less CO2 per mile than a gasoline engine, and gets 40% better miles per gallon. A diesel can for example be run on pure plant oils (peanut, olive, etc), or diesel can be made from organic waste. It can never be a gallon per gallon replacement, but it is a viable fuel for essential mobile power.
Vs P/V panels at 15% conversion to electricity, then 50% efficiency splitting water to get hydrogen as fuel You end up with 7.5% (seven and one half percent) conversion of light to fuel
Despite the much "better" numbers, solar p/v - hydrogen is a "loser" in any thought of keeping the present fuel gulping infrastructure going
In my daughter's 6th grade, she was part of a group of kids who engineered a single seat, solar powered three wheeled vehicle. With a 200 watt motor, it could operate at something over a walking pace solely on solar power from the panels it carried. But it was hardly what is seen today as transportation.
In 2006 MIT battery advances in lithium-ion technology, labeled A123 Systems, by use of nanoscale particles to coat the battery electrodes doubles power density, with peak energy of up to five-fold, and great drops in recharging times. They are on the market as M1 batteries in Black & Decker portable power tools.
To attain increases in speed, great increases in power are required, or efficient streamlining. A standard, upright and open bicycle would require:
Compare to the earlier faired recumbent, pedaled by a .20 hp human at 65 mph+.
Biofuel trains. Great increases in the efficiency of burners, and steam engines show potential for continued long distance land travel by efficient trains on well graded and maintained track. This is however not a consideration until a sustainable community is well beyond the level of a single family, or small gathering.
Animals do not necessarily compete with humans for plant foods. Before the inedible portion of plants or food scraps can again be available to plant roots, it must be broken down again by compost bacteria and insects, or a meat animal.
They also provide a source of leather and other materials, as well as service as beasts of burden.
Burros. The small donkey of the dry lands of the world is supremely adapted to living off the browse and meager feed often available, and for its size is surprisingly strong and a magnificent beast of burden. Not to be laughed at, the burro can easily be adapted to useful roles on the farm, including basic transportation and pulling carts.
Chicken. Hybrids will not properly nest. 5-10 chickens, 1 rooster. Feed daily handful of grain & food scraps. Japanese jungle fowl (Biosphere II)
Fish. Tilapia, catfish, or local varieties. 10" min, 48" max deep, 12-15' dia. Dip in the pool (as if a teabag) a bag of horse manure, as food for algae. Scrap meat and bugs as food for fish. (Grow flies on trays of manure & water, and drop larvae into the pool)
Goats. Goats may be produced for about the same purposes as cattle, and their smaller size makes them suitable for many situations. They are often grazed on open range in arid regions. They are browsers (nibble at a variety of plants), and sometimes are better adapted to production of useful meat than cattle, especially in heavy scrubland. While goats may be raised for milk, the really fine milk varieties are not well adapted in the tropics. Sensitive to rain and cold. Nigerian dwarf (Biosphere II)
Ostriches have been around for perhaps 150 million years, and have some traits of dinosaurs, such as wing claws. The meat is red with less fat, less calories and less cholesterol than skinless chicken or turkey. The Ostrich egg is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs, averaging about 60 eggs per year. An Ostrich may have 12 square feet of find quality leather. They have a unique immune system, and oil rendered from their fat has medical benefits. Adult males are eight to ten feet high and weigh 350-400 pounds, with the female slightly smaller. The Ostrich can run at speeds of up to 40 MPH for sustained periods (can they pull a cart?) An Ostrich will live to be 50 - 75 years old.
Pig. Ossabaw Feral Swine (Biosphere II)
Pigeon. Nest in groups, mate for life, live 7 years, become attached to their home nest, lay every 6 weeks. Take young birds at 1 lb. just before new eggs are expected.
Rabbit. 3 doe, 1 buck, in hutches out of the rain. Feed greens along with some oats or bran.
Sheep. In addition to the wool-bearing sheep of the temperate zone, there exist hair sheep which are much better adapted to the tropics. In addition to their value in producing meat, such sheep are often used to control weeds in orchards, and thus constitute a profit-producing biological control.
Appropriately layered, putting all of the above together, we could all be living in a home which provides our daily needs, air, water, food, shelter, for our multi-generation family.
Solar utilization. In theory, a 1/4 acre area that receives at least moderate sunlight in reasonable weather conditions can meet the food and home energy needs of a multi generation family.
Food. 8000 to 10000 sq. ft. of crop area exposed to the sun (1/4 acre). In the summer, depending on latitude and weather conditions, experiments have shown some crops actually do better with reduced sunlight, perhaps as low as 1/3. As opposed to shading, can you engineer a means to divert part of the sunlight to another level? This could double, or almost triple (losses in the system) your effective solar growing area.
Consider a two floor greenhouse. Facing the sky is a "shade layer" consisting of a matrix of diffusion grids, and light collectors with light tubes. The overhead diffusion grids scatter the light to the top floor of crops. The light tubes route light to a lower floor, with more diffusion grids to scatter the light to the lower floor crops. In the summer, you may be able to grow two crops in the same square footage of one.
Solar utilization for power. With clear skies, every square meter of direct solar exposure receives around 1 kw of power. Low efficiency panels (10%) requires 10 sq. meters (12 ft. per side, 144 ft. sq.) exposed to the sun for an hour for every kwh of electricity you need. Remember, that if the sun is not directly overhead, the panels need to be tilted, and therefore shade more ground space than they have exposed to the sun.
Daylighting and solar heat collection. One solar tube type device per room, and heat panels exposed to the sun.
Multi level. With your family living under your food source, your structure if spread under the entire growing area could be 10,000 sq. ft. per level, plenty of room for a multi-generation homestead. Does your family have a business to operate? How about a business on ground level, home above, and garden/solar collection on the roof?
As reported in Mother Earth Issue # 42 - November/December 1976, the Farallones Institute of Berkeley, California project The Integral Urban House, was a 100-year-old Victorian house, adapted into one of the then country's most innovative and successful "urban homesteads".
The project was on a 1/8-acre city lot. While the solar exposure area of the lot is insufficient to provide complete subsistence for a family, the innovations in the structure are great "food for thought" regarding optimizing a micro-environment for human habitation, and that such an environment is NOT "natural" by any stretch of the imagination.
Regardless of your location, what you need is a mini-ecosystem that is tailored to your family needs. Surely, nearly 25 years later, we can do better.
Do you believe anyone has the right to enter your home against your will, take your water, food, money or other property, unless you are the one who refused to perform your side of a trade, or deliberately or carelessly caused harm to someone else?
Do you base your relationships with others on religion, national origin, race, etc., or the positive and pleasant nature of your interaction with them?
While many will not admit it, elected leaders (at all levels) and heads of major industries are aware of the problems. What they do not have a grasp of is a solution they can impose the preserves their position and power. The U.S. Department of Energy is experimenting with probably every energy device imagined.
If you are one of the (relatively) few who see the problem in advance, and prepare, do you want government, big, or local, to steal from you your home, storage of supplies, food, seeds, etc.? Or do you see the government's job as PROTECTING you from such theft by others?
We need to educate public and elected officials on how their actions affect individual abilities and local businesses.
A homestead should be planned to provide, in the long term, for the relevant family. In general, this starts with a voluntary partnership of a husband / wife, and such extended family members as voluntary live together. With no elsewhere for generations to move to, it will fluctuate at around 4 generations.
At the homestead / family level, it may seen ridiculous to comment on a formal organization structure, but the thought is relevant to later discussions.
A family may have some aspects of "voting", or members in some manner providing input, but in the end a family is probably "run" by the member(s) most capable of doing so. I believe you will find extended families for the most part to be meritocracies - leadership based on talent or ability, with significant influence from the owner of the major assets, or the wisdom of the elders.
In planning / executing your plan, have you taken into account the ecological aspects of your actions? Are you planning on buying a plot of trees, and clear-cutting them down to build your structures, sell for income, and burn for your heat? Do you intend to pump-down a groundwater supply, divert a large portion of a surface supply, etc? What are the net effects of your plans?
It is a common event, that we ignore our health, even for the sake of fun, or for the sake of our family. We certainly work in jobs where our health is impaired.
Your health however should be a priority, not an afterthought. Do you know what is "good" for you, and what is not?
The transition period to a post-oil paradigm may be a distinctly unpleasant period. Given the extent of dependence on oil, the scenarios are probably NOT limited by your imagination. A defeatist attitude often expressed about nuclear war is that the living will envy the dead.
Can you physically, and/or emotionally cope with essentially what may be a life-long emergency? The concept of limited resources? Can you physically respond to squatters, or raiders, or worse?
Disrupted industries, food delivery, contaminated air, water and food, and just plain hard work may prove to be more than many can physically handle. Are you ready to live on in tough times?
Immunizations. There are numerous nasty germs out there that are kept at bay by the technology and services of our modern civilization. Absent protections, and with increased breeding grounds, "old" diseases may gain new footings. These diseases remain "typical" in third world countries. Consult your physician for what additional immunizations you should have if you were planning an extended trip thru a variety of impoverished third world nations.
Exercise. If you're not in shape, work with your physician now and establish an exercise program. In selecting your exercises, consider the type of physical labor you are likely to be doing. My personal focus is on bicycling and shoveling.
Nutrition. Not only for weight loss and conditioning, but to build your immune system.
Unless a member of your household is a physician, nurse, paramedic, etc., your "home remedies" are probably going to be limited. A broader discussion of home remedies is in the appendices to this treatise.
There is good news though, even in primitive conditions. Although we like to think that our medical science should be credited with overall better health and the decline in mortality, in reality medicine probably accounts for only a small percentage of the improvements. A better and more varied diet, and basic sanitation are far more deserving of credit.
Complex medicine is more useful in treatment of injuries, and those diseases which have become more noticeable as people susceptible to such survive, where in earlier centuries conditions would have meant their early demise. Unfortunately, we have to a large extent moved past the benefits of improvements in food availability, to agricultural practices, processing, and diets that while of sufficient calories, are deficient in other essential nutrients, and contain additives, which may be damaging us.
That said, if you need the care of a physician, and such is available, how do you pay for it? Do you expect your doctor to work for free, or for barter? Do you believe any insurance program you may have will continue to function?
General Motors (2006) has $64 billion in outstanding UNFUNDED healthcare obligations, which is $50 billion more than its market capitalization. Do you want to be dependent on this? In a scenario of hyper-inflated currency, do you believe any government program would be viable? If Congress just "drags it's feet" about passing an annual budget, the programs shut down.
In a localized economy, friends, family, and physical assets will probably be required. Consider health insurance as an agreement among a group of people to pool funds such that if one member needs an expensive procedure, the group has/will agree what portion of the accumulated funds can be so exhausted. The typical member is NOT though "on the hook" beyond money already deposited, and is free to drop out, or move on to a different pool at will.
The income tax code has made it difficult for employees to move on, as the range of insurance pool options are often selected by the employer.
When the government runs the "health insurance" program, the average citizen  typically DOES NOT have any other option in selection of treatment, even if they want to pay independently. The government decides who gets what, and who pays what.
Whether thru an employer, private contract, or mandated by a government, big picture investment or tax insurance accounts can easily become mere numbers on paper. Financial investment values can fall to zero. The value of currency can fall to zero.
Your "natural" insurance pool (health or otherwise) consists of your friends and family, those who come to your aid (we would hope) without need of monetary payment, or a government compelling them to do so.
There are those who believe they are rugged individualists, who can head off into the wilderness and go it alone. How well can you provide for yourself and your family absent the present infrastructure?
You can do on your own property and with your own assets anything you have the capability to achieve that is not legally prohibited. BUT: Assume you, and/or your family completely equipped a homestead with everything from this chapter, planning on isolation. Do you have the technology and technique to repair or replace a broken plate or cup? How about a p/v panel? Or even a light bulb?
Preparedness, even modest efforts, can make a huge difference in how well you survive a crisis situation. But survival preparations alone do little for a long term outlook for your heirs, and humanities future.
First do no harm. Have at most two children, and given our overpopulated state, preferably one. Take responsibility for your own household and life support. Share the knowledge, and work with at least two other households to awaken and guide them toward sustainability. In your security, and the security of your family, friends, and neighbors, you gain the strength and resources to look to greater development.
Location. Where do you want to place your family homestead? In the wilderness? Do you have everything you need? Do you have neighbors for help if you need it? ABSENT the crash, what about a simple medical emergency, or even a visit to a grocery store?
The present infrastructure and idealogies of civilization developed in an era of cheap abundant energy, expanding population and what seemed to be unlimited resources. All of this is ending. Given present knowledge and science, humans are faced with physical limits. We need to recognize what these limits are, and re-think our civilization from the grass roots up, not bumble blindly on.
In this past 100 years, the incredible development of our global society and population expansion was made possible primarily by oil, which provided a store of cheap, concentrated, mobile energy, as well as plastics, medicines, clothing, pesticides, paint, and thousands of other products.
God blessed the United States with an original supply of about 260 billion barrels; only Saudi Arabia had more. From 1859 to 1939 the U.S. produced two-thirds of the world's oil. Part of the motivation for Japan and Germany in WWII was their lack of resources to cope with the combination of expanding population and increased per person demand, with a particular shortage of energy in the form of oil. It could easily be argued that American oil, and the industrial output it nourished, was a major factor in World War II, as was our hydroelectric power which allowed for production of great quantities of aluminum for aircraft. For oil, taking California as an example, this one state had more than all Axis territory combined. As recently as 1950 the U.S. was producing half the world's oil.
Today, we now don't produce half our own oil, and absent a scientific energy breakthru, we should preserve it for national defense use at the end of the oil era. Starting immediately, we must make every effort to use our power, technology, knowledge and resources to transform our oil-dependent society into one that is sustainable, above the level of mere subsistence. That said, much of the remains of our inheritance must be used to play world-policeman and prevent war on a global scale. We will, probably, continue misguided programs that sustain a growing underclass of individuals who return nothing to society.
With the food production and shipping made possible by oil, as well as energy to transform the landscape, and overcome the environment, humans have overpopulated like a plague over the planet. For the present, humans can live in places, and in concentrations that are impossible to sustain without oil.
Our strategic reserves, established as a "buffer" against OPEC economic actions, and for security use, represent less than 30 days supply at our normal use. And, these reserves can not be pumped faster than a flow which would be around 17% of our normal daily use. So, the governmental reserves, if NOT used for the military, could keep 17 percent of the economy going for a few months. Our total domestic supply could only operate the nation's present infrastructure for a relatively brief period. Until we have an alternative, we're stuck keeping the foreign oil flowing.
In 1859 when oil was struck in Pennsylvania, Americans traveled on horseback; in 1969 they drove Mustangs and flew to the Moon. In 2069, those who survive will probably walk. Will your heirs, if they live, live in a comfortable self-reliant modern city, or hide in caves?
A century or so ago, humanity switched, in large part, FROM coal TO oil as the primary fuel. The U.S. has perhaps the largest remaining coal supply, estimated to be around 270 Billion Tons. Every barrel of oil has around 6,048,000 BTU, and every ton of coal around 20,000,000 BTU (equal to 3.3 barrels of oil).
If coal were as readily accessable, easy to process and use, the U.S. coal supply is equal in BTU's to around 890 billion barrels of oil. I've seen on the web conversion efficiency rates of 40%, for a final product of 356 billion barrels. But of course, BTU's are not the only issue. There is the dangerous work of mining, the environmental damage left behind at the mine, the pollution from coal use, and it is of course NOT able to directly power most of the present machines.
In June 2006 the reports are that a coal to liquid fuel facility would cost $7.5 billion for a plant that could produce 150,000 barrels per day (around 54 million per year). It would take 182 of these facilities to replace the U.S. annual use of 10 billion barrels, costing about $1.4 trillion to build.
Amortize the plants over the production in their useful life and without interest or profit for anyone the plants cost $4.00 per barrel.
In 2005 the price of coal used at synfuel plants was $42.78 per ton. Taking efficiencies into account and amortization of the construction costs, with no inflation, and no demand increase, the production cost of coal-oil is around $36.50 per barrel.
For perspective, the per barrel well-head cost of oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1950's was 7 cents. In the early 1990's it was little over 50 cents. The estimated  cost in 2005 is $2.80, while a barrel is selling for over $60.00. (21 times cost) At that ratio, coal to oil would retail at $782.13 per barrel, with a gallon of gasoline at around $18.62 per gallon. (Your calculations may vary.)
The coal-oil investment would represent a 35 year timeframe to come up with something else. Will we re-throne King Coal? It is at the top of the President's 2006 Advanced Energy Initiative.
Without some level of greenhouse gases (i.e. CO2, water vapor, & methane) most of the Earth would freeze. For perspective however, the present (400 ppm) level of CO2 is reported to be higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years. The level of these gases are effected by factors such as the number of animals (including humans), plant cover, in particular forests which can store a great deal of carbon, and the release of "new" carbon from the human activity of use of fossil fuels.
We seem to be clearly approaching a level of greenhouse gases where there is potential for dramatic global warming, telling us of the need to cease fossil fuel burning. At the same time we are warned of impending peak oil, where oil cannot be pumped fast enough to meet demand. The clear consequence of peak oil, to be followed by decline, probably quickly in pumping rate, is the dramatic increase in the price of all oil derived products and services, and the end of many of such.
The Kyoto treaty is often presented as an essential example of international cooperation to reduce carbon emissions. However the treaty is clearly flawed, in that it fails to require that quite a number of countries actually comply, even if they join in the treaty.
China, with an estimated population of 1.3 billion (and still growing) has become essentially THE worldwide source of a large variety and volume of consumer products, and which in its burning rate is (2006) the #2 volume polluter in the world, rapidly catching-up with the U.S., is for treaty purposes EXCLUDED from compliance.
As of 2006, China is constructing the equivalent of one large coal-fueled power station EACH WEEK. Over their roughly 60 life span, these facilities could collectively put into the atmosphere the amount of CO2 that has heretofore been released by ALL OF THE COAL BURNED SINCE THE DAWN OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.
Sulphur dioxide emissions in China rose 15% in 2005. There are areas of China that are black from coal soot and slag heaps.
The rising demand in China for all resources puts it a #2 for fossil fuels, and #1 for virtually everything else. Cement, uranium, aluminum, corn, soybeans, zinc, and in particular copper.
Despite extensive expansion, there remain even significant cities where electricity is not yet available in private homes, and only intermittently for businesses. China has underway nuclear plants expected to average one new plant each year for the next 20 years. To transmit and use this electrical capacity, China will need a lot of copper. So much that estimates are that if every ounce of remaining copper in the world were mined and sold in China, the demand could not be met.
The Canadian tar sands project in Calgary, and the pipeline to carry the oil to market is China funded: from Canadian tundra to Beijing taxi, 17 days.
Pollution, is pollution. CO2, is CO2, the atmosphere does not care where the CO2 was generated, it still effects the temperature the same.
"Colorado , Utah, and Wyoming harbor a store equivalent to 2 trillion ballers of oil--more than all the crude that has been produced worldwide since the petroleum age began. Even if only 800 billion barrels is recoverable, as a Rand study estimated recently, that would be more than triple the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia and could fuel 25 percent of current U.S. demand for oil for another 400 years
As with oil sands, enormous amounts of energy would be needed for both the heating and freezing processes. Rand estimates that a single 100,000-barrel-a-day operation would require a dedicated 1.2-gigawatt electricity generating station--a size that would be comparable to one of the nation's largest power plants, like the New Hampshire nuclear giant, Seabrook, which serves 900,000 custormers."
To generate that power using the oil recovered from the project would probably require burning at each site 14,256 barrels per day. This leaves a net for each site of 85,744 barrels per day. To fuel the U.S. would require 319 of these. To fuel the world would require 958.
Commentary: This supply is distributed underground over a 16,000 square mile area. Liquid oil can flow to the pumping site. The proposal for shale oil is to drill and heat the rock while in the ground, then pump the oil as it separates from the rock. This only works of course in a limited around around the drill site, which must be moved (Redrilled).
If shale oil had to meet 2005 U.S. annual use, with no increase in demand, the above best recovery estimate would fuel this country for 68 years. It could substitute for world (2005) use for 22 years.
Canada has in it's tar-sands an estimated 175 billion barrels of oil, spread out in locations the size of the State of Florida. If this was all immediately available, and able to be 100% processed, at 2005 global consumption rates it represents 5 years and 10 months of use.
These oilsands look and feel like molasses, and are found in bands 6 to 10 meters thick. Two tons of oilsands yield about 1.25 barrels of tar and a barrel of crude oil. However, if all planned development is put into operation, the expected peak flow rate is around 1.095 billion barrels per year. This rate would meet a grand total of 3.65% of world demand, for a period of 158 years. It would keep some governments in military vehicles, and the ultra rich in some toys, but if somehow processed fast enough to be humanities sole-source it would fuel "civilization" for about 5 years.
Despite difficulties in processing, under construction in 2005 was a 1,160 km pipelinle to carry the oil to the Canadian Pacific coast.
While manmade bio-fuels meet or exceed fossil fuels in quality, they are impossible to produce in the quantity necessary to sustain the present infrastructure.
In full page color ads (2006) Chevron tells us, "With current technology, one acre of soybeans yields 60 gallons of clean-burning biodiesel fuel". Yes, but with 2006 global use of fuel at 1.260 Trillion gallons, it would take 21 billion acres of soybeans to replace our fuel use. The world has 4.898 billion  acres available. If all of the cropland was planted in soybeans, we might replace 23% of our annual fuel use, but no one would eat.
An early 2006 article in Mother Earth News on biodiesel presents an apparently optimistic view of biodiesel production. The article indicates that the United States has 6 million acres of cropland that are fallow, asserting that if all of this acreage was planted in rapeseed, it could conceivably annually provide 6 billion gallons of diesel fuel.
Setting aside considerations of putting our last fallow cropland into use, let's put this amount of fuel into perspective. In barrels, this is 142 million barrels. Approximately 2 BILLION barrels per year are used in the U.S. in the food production industry.
Therefore, the loss of every "spare" acre of farmland could replace perhaps 7% of the fuel used in farming and food processing.
There are, absent fossil fuels, means to sustainably obtain clean water, nutritional food, appropriate clothing and shelter, but not in sufficient quantities to sustain the present population, let alone provide any excess.
There are theories that oil is constantly being produced deep in the earth by reactions in the temperatures and pressures there, as opposed to being buried biological matter that grew in ancient sunlight. It may be true, but even if it is, the rate of production can't keep up with our annual use. If oil was being produced deep in the earth at the rate of 30 billion barrels per year, long ago the entire planet would have been oil.
A nuclear fission reaction  releases around 10 million times more energy than chemical processes. Current (2005) world uranium use is around 65,000 tonnes per year. with production of around 40,000 tonnes per year, the difference made up from drawn-down of stocks and the use of material from the Nuclear Weapons.
For the past decade (2006) prices have been low due to use of "old" material, which is expected to be exhausted by the middle of the next decade. The price of uranium was $23 per kg in early 2003, and $110 per kg in 2006.
Uranium is not particularly rare. There is an estimated 40 trillion tonnes of Uranium in the Earth's crust. To date we have mined less than one ten-millionth of this. The relevant information though is what can be recovered using known technology.
Estimates as of 2005:
Readily recoverable at around $130/kg is 4.7 million tones. If each 1 GW light water Nuclear Power Plant consumes 30 tonnes of fuel per year this "easy" to get uranium represents 157,000 reactor/years. Say we already have 441 (1006) in operation, so it's enough to keep them operating for 355 years.
If these reactors represent a continued output of 1 billion watt/hour through the year, then for example at 100% efficient conversion of oil to electricity that it would take around 5,280 of these reactors to replace our 2005 oil use. Then the "easy" uranium extends our present global energy use levels by 30 years.
There is potential for an additional recoverable uranium of 35 million tones, for a total land based estimated available and useful supply of 39.7 million tons. If known supplies are all mined it could provide power for 1,300,000 GW/reactor years (each equal to burning 9000 tonnes of coal per day). In 2005 oil equivalent it represents energy for nearly 250 years.
Good news. A nuclear plant may produce 93 times more energy than it consumes. Or put another way, the non-nuclear energy investment required to generate electricity for 40 years is repaid in 5 months.
The oceans may represent a repository of a further 100 million tons, for another 600 or so years, IGNORING of course the energy & method to ensure every single ounce of the ocean passes thru the collection device, and the energy of isolating a microscopic quantity per ounce.
In total, if uranium fission is used to meet energy demands equal to those at the turn of the millenium, it MIGHT provide power for 620 years. This timeframe of course must assume no increase in population, and no per person demand increase by anyone in the world.
For an eventual future global population, if stabilized at 6.6 billion, and eventually all living at something like the U.S. level, the total uranium would last:
|Years of Power|
Some CO2 emissions arise from the construction of the plant, the mining of the Uranium, the enrichment of the Uranium, its conversion into Nuclear Fuel, its final disposal and the final plant decommissioning. The total estimated CO2 emitted per KW-Hr is less than one hundredth the CO2 of Fossil-Fuel based generation.
The Chinese Nuclear Power Industry has contracts to build new plants of their design at capital cost reported to be $1500 per KW and $1300 per KW at sites in South-East and North-East China. The greatest growth (2006) in nuclear power is in China.
There is of course the concern over spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF), which is highly radioactive. The TransUranic component of SNF must be isolated from the environment for 100,000 years or more. The fission products typically reach background levels after 500 years.
There is research into "burning" the TransUranic's in either advanced reactors or accelerator driven subcritical assemblies, but this technology has not yet been developed to work on a large scale.
The bad news. There is of course the small problem storing 39.7 MILLION TONS of highly radioactive waste for 100,000 years. The time "storage cost" of this waste we impose on our children is immense, for 200 or so years of power, a horribly short-term view.
Our readily available source of sustainable energy is solar. There is logically a maximum amount of solar energy that would be available to an Earthbound human society. Imagine we covered the entire surface of the Earth with solar panels (think Trantor in Asimov's stories, or Courasant (spelling) in Star Wars).
Every square yard of the surface of the Earth exposed perpendicular to full sun receives around 1kw of energy. A square mile contains roughly 3 million square yards. Using 10% efficient panels is represents AT BEST 300 megawatt of generation.
The Earth presents an 8,000 mile diameter disk to the sun. But remember, the world is not flat, is tilted relative to its orbit, and rotates. The further you are from the equator, the less sunlight per square meter of surface, therefore covering polar regions with solar panels would be impractical. To provide continued collection in the non-polar regions, the entire earth would need to be belted with panels. At any given moment though, probably a circle of 5,000 mile diameter or less would face the sun adequately for solar collection. Area = Pi x radius squared. With present solar panels (say 10% efficient), how much power could we intercept?
It's an area of 19,634,954 square miles exposed to the sun. It is 60,821,233,704,000 square yards, each intercepting, when not shaded by clouds, an average of something under 1 kilowatt. (For design/building purposes, remember the curve of the Earth. To expose a 5,000 wide area probably requires 7,500 mile wide be covered on the surface of the Earth.)
Assume half are shaded by clouds at any given time, so it's intercepting something under 30,410,616,852,000 kw. Readily available p/v panels are around 10% efficient, so we could expect to have 30,410,616,852 kw.
Let's compare the energy to our oil use.
Recent annual oil use was 30 billion barrels, or 126 billion gallons.
A gallon of fuel has 144,000 BTU, equal to around 36.7 kwh.
If we use the array and the electrolysis process to obtain hydrogen from water, the best efficiency rate discussed is 50%, or that we must put in twice as much power as we gain back when we use the fuel.
Every hour the array operates is could produce hydrogen fuel equal in BTU's to around 414,313,581 gallons.
Operating 24 hours a day, say for 360 days a year on the average, it could produce 3,579,669,339,840 gallons.
The good news is that such a global solar array could provide electrical energy and convert it to hydrogen fuel roughly equal to 28 times our recent annual oil use.
Remember though, the bad news is that the surface of the planet is covered with solar panels, with essentially no open exposure to the sky, on land or on the sea. And of course, there's all the silicon for the panels, wire, metal, etc., exponentially beyond any supply of such materials we dream may be available to us.
To replace "just" our recent 30 billion barrels per year is an array constantly in the sun of 701,248 square miles. To have a five thousand mile wide swatch of constant sun at the equator equal this area, we would need a solid band of photovoltaic cells around the earth at least 140 miles wide, across oceans, mountains, etc.
The "real world" power per facility footprint is of course NOT as good as the above. In 2005 Stirling Energy Systems started planning on a solar thermal generating facility for the desert in southern California. The facility, to generate 500 megawatt, will have a footprint of 6.25 square miles. (Roughly 19 million square yards.) This planned facility tops-out at 80 megawatt per square mile, vs the 300 of theoretical top using 10% panels. In a quick estimate, to expand this real-world facility to be large enough to replace our annual oil use would require a continuous band built around the equator of the Earth around 540 miles wide.
Geothermal appears to present an opportunity for a lot of energy, almost anyplace on Earth. It does. There is of course a limit, if you "cool" a large area under your generator, you may lost your heat. In the extreme you may change the physical characteristics under you site such that you generate earthquakes. Carried to extremes worldwide the cooling rock, cracking and contracting, could provide openings for water and air to seep downward.
The nuclear option. Present fission reactor fuel and technology provides a window of opportunity to provide concentrated, high electrical generation, for a limited period of time. At a cost. Reactors tend to have a lifespan of 50 years, after which the reactor must be taken apart and stored long term, as must the depleted fuel. As of 2006, no country on the Earth has put into place a permanent storage program. The U.S. has been debating about it's "Yucca Mountain" site for twenty years. If nuclear power expanded to one million megawatts, the waste produced would fill this discussed, but as of yet non-existent facility, every three years or so.
Scientific American suggests thinking along the lines of what they call the "2,000 watt society", where they posit having available 2 kilowatt of power per person. They conclude that 2kw per person is technically feasible for an ongoing industrial society.
Consider the U.S. 2006 energy picture:
|BBL/Equal||25 BBL Total||28.00%||22.00%||11.00%||39.00%|
Pre-agricultural man lived "off the land," consuming only the bounty of nature, which could sustain a global population of about 2-20 million human beings. (3/10 % of the present population)
There are estimates that humans may already be diverting 40% to 50% of the productive life of the planet to essentially exclusive human use, this in a time when energy and technology permit food growth on marginal land, and processing for storage and long distance shipping. Absent improvements in for example food productivity per acre, we are therefore within one population doubling of ecological disaster.
But we are not poised for such productivity improvements. We are more likely facing the loss of significant areas of existing farmland, estimates range from 20% to 50%, which has been "overworked" and no longer viable. We are also facing reduction in the level of crops from remaining farmland, perhaps to production that is only 25% of the present, absent chemical fertilizers.
To calculate the maximum possible supply of food for an Earthbound solar civilization, let's use the same 5,000 mile disk as with solar power above (food is, after all, a chemical store of solar energy.)
If the same swath as with solar power was instead turned into an 7,500 mile wide biointensive garden, completely surrounding the Earth, 50% clouds, it would intercept in BTUs:
Converted to calories, it's:
Shaded 50% by clouds, 2000 calorie per person per day, 365 days per year, given overall photosynthesis efficiency of 1/10% as observed in food crops today, it could provide food for 115,912,090,505 (115 billion) people. No other animals. No open place to walk. No fuel. No solar electricity. No ocean waves Just feeding people.
Absent such sci-fi technology, the reality is we are already diverting around 50% of the productive life-force of the Earth for human purposes, and that with the additional input of fertilizers, pesticides, and green revolution crops.
Agricultural man could produce about 10 calories of energy with the expenditure of about one calorie of energy. This meant that a single man could produce enough food for his immediate family, and still have a surplus to sell, or be "taxed" to support nonagricultural urban civilization and a total global population of 200-300 million.
Remember though, early agriculture was set up on farmland selected from the best produced by God's natural processes. Compare the "Fertile Crescent" of 5,000 to 10,000 years ago to the conditions in the area today. Farming techniques may have contributed significantly to the effective death of the environment in that area.
Industrial man probably uses over ten calories of energy to produce a single calorie of food, which is completely unsustainable. Most of what you see in the industrial world is a transitory illusion made possible by a one-time windfall supply of energy from fossil fuels that were accumulated over millions of years. When the fossil fuel reserves deplete in 50 years OR LESS, the modern food system will simply disappear along with them.
Unfortunately, in the U. S. and many other nations farming is dependent on several key unsustainable factors:
Oil, for machines and fertilizers
Hybrid plants, specially bred, consuming artificial fertilizers
Ground water, massive pumping, exceeding "recharge" rates that will take tens of thousands of years, or more to refill once we cease pumping.
Without oil 2% of Americans working in our present industrial farming CAN NOT feed the remaining 98%, let alone any type of surplus to help the rest of the world. And there are many nations who are, or will, be far worse off then the U. S. Absent input of oil based fertilizers, it could take up to three times as much land to produce the same amount of food. If the irrigation cannot be indefinitely sustained, then don't count on the food produced from use of the water.
The population surge of the industrial age has passed 6 BILLION, and has not yet leveled off, but it will, very soon, whether by voluntary action, war, or starvation.
The only practical source of sustainable food is that grown close to the consumers, recycling natural wastes into fertilizers. The most practical source of fertilizer for the crops is recycling in as small and closed a loop, as meets with health and safety, the humanure and urine. Returning to manual labor is not practical for huge farms that are isolated from the human population they feed, and the labor necessary to tend the farm.
During the last 40 years, perhaps 30 percent of total world arable land was abandoned because it was no longer productive. Potentially, half of the current arable land now in cultivation will be unsuitable for food production by the middle of the twenty-first century, further lowering sustainable population.
When crops produced are consumed elsewhere, (i.e. farm goods are shipped to the city, or overseas) non-chemical agricultural practices can not completely make up for the massive withdrawal of nutrients from the soil. While artificial fertilizers can, as in hydroponics, literally allow plants to grow on lifeless rock, the plant cannot contain what is not in its fertilizer. And the fertilizers used do not contain the full spectrum of minerals that the plants, and humans, need.
The U.S., with the heavy application of fertilizers, has around 2% of the population working in farming, and uses just over 1 acre per person to maintain our present diet. (It was just in 1998 that the U.S. food demand first exceeded its production capacity, with a net importation of food) China manages to keep its starvation level population alive with just .2 acre (8736) per person. But these production levels are based on fossil fuel dependent fertilizers.
What happens when, as oil supplies dwindle, and prices rise, that farmers cannot afford them? It is projected that absent the chemicals if the same farm fields are continued to be worked (say by extensive manual labor) that production would probably be 1/3 of the present yield. Without the ability to pump deep groundwater sources (which will themselves be depleted shortly anyway) up to 1/2 of the present farmland may simply be unworkable. There is the possibility that the food factor may limit us to only 1/6 of the present population, or a total global population of 1 billion. This does not however mean every nation will necessarily experience a loss of a little over 80% of its population. There are locations which are at this time at what appears to be at a sustainable population for food.
All truth passes through three stages:
First, it is ridiculed;
Second, it is violently opposed; and
Third, it is accepted as self-evident.
- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
There are locations which are at far more than six times the sustainable population. While an initial reaction to population density is to correct it by redistributing from the crowded to the less crowded, this punishes those who have been limiting their own numbers, and rewards those who have been careless.
Absent a store of fossil fuels, if we want to continue to operate any type of combustion engine (including for these purposes fuel cells) we may need to divert food production land to fuel production
This would further reduce the practical standing population.
Exploring a population of 1 billion for a few moments (the size which can at least be fed)
Assume an average lifespan of 80 years. If the ages of the 1 billion residents are spread across 80 years, there would be 12,500,000 of each age. We should expect about that many births each year, and that many deaths, keeping the population overall in balance. We have however 6+ billion.
Numerous estimates put the oil crash on or about 2020. Meaning, on or before 2020 we need to get the population down to no more than a billion or so. First, births must be no greater than the future sustainable level (12.5 million), preferably less until stability is clearly established. 5+ billion will, quite probably, die of untimely and unpleasant means by 2020.
If the crash started significantly now (2005), and progressed evenly and slowly over 15 years, we would be looking at 346.5 MILLION deaths per year (334 million population reduction + 12.5 million of birth balance), well beyond the present 75 million or so averaged deaths each year.
It is not a pleasant topic, and one ignored by many. The deaths will not be randomly distributed, from any one cause, or all at once. Expect them to come in waves.
In our efforts to create more productive plants, and profits in the agricultural industry, we have bred and widely use hybrid plants. While in themselves producing more food material than their natural "cousins", the hybrids have little genetic diversity, and are subject to widespread crop failure when disease strikes.
In addition, the children of the plants, their seeds, may be sterile "mules", incapable of reproducing themselves, or at best multiple throwbacks vastly different from the sought crop. This makes it impossible to store up seed from your own crops, and forces farmers to return to the seed "manufacturers" every year for more seed. Not only does this entail unnecessary costs, but also failure of the hybrid production could lead to a sustained scarcity of crop seeds, and huge food production shortages.
I've read that NO hybrid corn will pick up cobalt, a necessary micronutrient for vitamin B12 formation. Don't you wonder what we're doing to ourselves?
Beyond hybrids problems, agribusiness has also begun to specifically add a "TERMINATOR" gene (their own wording) to crops, to guarantee no seeds produced can grow. They cannot however guarantee what will happen when pollen from these "TERMINATOR" crops is spread to natural plants.
A greater yet opportunity/threat is inter species genetic transfer. Until genetic splicing entered the scene, "new" plants or animals were limited to products of those entities which could breed with each other. The new technology allows splicing animal and insect genes into plants; i.e. fish genes for production of oil have been spliced into tomatoes to help protect them from cold. These products are not mere unique breedings, but virtually a new life form.
Of the 10's of thousands of species man lives with, only cattle, sheep, pigs and goats are globally employed as livestock, and only the chicken is a true global contributor among the birds. And of the 20,000 food plants, hardly more than 100 have been properly domesticated, with a mere dozen or so bearing the bulk of the burden of feeding humanity. Perhaps we should work with this resource on a natural level and keep the genetic transfers to the lab.
Most of the civilized world has for decades been conducting a widespread program which has dramatically increased the numbers of those least capable of contributing to society, (whether from actual or pretended disabilities), and DEGRADES the overall quality of humans as breeding stock for future generations.
The only naturally sustainable source of fresh water is that which is naturally replenished by precipitation. A large part of America's cropland is watered by pumping from deep underground ancient stores, which are being pumped dry. When the underground water runs out, the crops stop. For example, there is little doubt that when the Ogallala Aquifer is depleted, the 12 million acres it irrigates, (perhaps 1/3 of the U. S. cropland) will be out of service. The Ogallala overdraft as far back as 1975 was 14 million acre/feet per year, the flow of the Colorado River, and about 1/2 of the total U.S. groundwater overdraft. The situation is similar in other nations. This not only affects the food supply, as discussed above, but the greater priority of clean drinking water.
Desalinization of ocean water is possible, but known technology does not make it a viable source for enough freshwater to feed, and quench the thirst of the present population.
Mankind's hazardous wastes cannot be handled by the natural ecosystem, where energy is obtained from the sun each day, and continuously converted by living creatures into waste that is completely consumed by other living creatures. Mankind however produces waste that cannot be consumed by living creatures.
For industrial society to be sustainable, ALL waste of industrial activity must be recycled. This increases the amount of energy that must be used for any given process, further reducing the sustainable population. Despite progress in the past few decades, accurate information is not yet available to determine the energy needs for such recycling. It is in the best interest of all to simply avoid, or minimize those processes that produce hazardous wastes.
Diseases have found our towns and cities where human populations are dense to make great incubators. Our remedies for epidemics of diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, smallpox, flu, cholera, and polio, are being undermined by new strains of diseases that are resistant.
Mismanaged concentrations and mixes of human and animal wastes, and mutigenic substances are ideal for the propagation and mutation of pathogens.
If the overall health of humanity is eroded by decreased living conditions, disease will run rampant. Swift, worldwide transportation of people and goods is quite an achievement. But diseases also benefit from our transportation systems. Viruses that were once isolated in a small pocket of the world can now travel anywhere, and spread before they can be noticed. Even our miracle drugs, which once seemed on the verge of wiping out diseases, are now themselves responsible for new mutations.
We've introduced "air tightness" in buildings (in the name of energy efficiency) and air conditioning (and, incidentally, the reduced rate of airflow in the cabins of modern jet airliners, also in the name of energy efficiency). Keeping people breathing the same re-circulated air makes the transmission of airborne pathogens all the easier. It also leads to new environments to concentrate and multiply deadly bacterium that otherwise were kept in check by natural means, i.e. the occupant of air-conditioning systems: Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of often-fatal Legionnaire's disease, is in it's natural state a minor soil component kept in check by the micro ecosystem of healthy soil.
Warfare is the historical response to the pressure of local needs, or greed, or the perceived unfairness of better off neighbors, or those who refuse to strip their own resources and join the death of a failed society. Leaders will need to shift the responsibility and blame for failure elsewhere. America, with the highest standard of living on Earth, the greatest purchaser of oil, and producer of food, is the most visible, most likely target of this redirected anger. The accumulation of atomic, biological, and chemical weapons has spread dramatically, and they are now in the hands of many small nations, who have long histories of conflicts with neighboring nations, and short tempers.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The U.N. and those behind the scenes control the world, with agendas probably contrary to your personal freedom and achievement.
If we cant sustain the present population, what are you suggestions for avoiding such conflicts and their spread? How do we avoid further destruction of the natural ecosystem, the human life support ecosystem, and the artifacts and knowledge of civilization and manage the least painful and damaging way out from our self imposed crisis? (Reminder: Excess food, viable currency, and industrial products are not available in the emergency.)
Please forgive the flippant analogy, but we are in a horror show game of Musical Chairs. Whenever the music (essential aspect) stops, anyone who does not have a safe chair, dies.
People will fight to get into chairs, and pull other off, killing each other and others around them. Chairs will be destroyed in the process, making each round worse.
We cannot be dependent on a one-way thru put of any finite resource. Expect present garbage dumps to be future small-scale "mining" sites to seek pre-processed materials such as metals, glass, and plastics.
Is humanity as a whole, and the citizens as individuals, better off in a world with some maximum population existing at a starvation level, unable to maintain a sane organized civilization with teaching, medicine, etc., or with much lower numbers, well fed and healthy, with reserves of food, the ability to produce biofuels, etc.? With the globe covered by human sprawl & refuge, or with distinct human enclaves isolated from a protected greater volume of natural environment? With a long-lived educated and experienced population, or short-lived neophytes who must reinvent the wheel each generation? The future will be what we make it by the accumulation of our individual decisions and actions.
Starving people do not care about sustainability. If sustainability is to be achieved, people who are not starving must supply the necessary leadership and resources. There must therefore be someone who retains a viable society, when all else fall into chaos.
"In the end," says the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky's parable, "in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, make us your slaves, but feed us."
Human societies as far apart in space and time as Rome, Mayans, and Easter Islanders came to ruin by expanding beyond the capacity of their environments to sustain them. They depleted their local habitats, and had to disburse. Humanity as a whole survived, however, because there were always places elsewhere on Earth capable of supporting people.
Today, of course, humankind has become a global culture, one increasingly driven by a philosophy of competitive expansionism, one that is subduing and consuming the Earth. The problem is that once demolished, there is place to go while our present environment tries to heal itself.
Do not harbor a belief that the end of cheap fuel will end war. Long before modern weapons or equipment wars went on for decades, with each side stripping the countryside bare for miles. No fortress, means of concealment, ability to offer bribes, is as effective a defense as the ability and the will if required to crush an attacker.
In many ways, the next hundred years may be the inverse of the last hundred. As fossil fuels dwindle, supply lines collapse, and societies disintegrate, muscle will gradually replace machinery. "Home grown" will replace "imported". Cities as we know them may be impossible to sustain.
Activists from both the Left and Right -- armed with selected facts and ideologies -- but devoid of logic -- will form political agendas, select the best liars for leaders, and take to the streets demanding that government take us back to "the good old days". The worse our problems become, the more they will act instead of think. The less they think, the worse our problems will become. Social order will disintegrate, and Roadside Warriors will go mad, killing, raping, torturing, and burning
There are various locations, ranging from islands, remote valleys, selected cities, and nations, that may still have enough arable land per person, economic and natural capital per citizen to actually make a rapid and functional transition to a sustainable yet technological society, even in a post-peak scenarios with declining supplies, IF we focus our efforts, and our resources, on that goal. We must immediately cease wasting our resources, time, and money, and cease subsidizing unproductive consumption.
The future development of agriculture must be directed toward closed loop ecological yet economically viable solutions. It may be highly mechanized, or it may be hands-on. But we must recognize it requires a greatly reduced population. It is important to keep the productivity of farmers' labor high enough to avoid a heavy burden on the economy in the form of government subsidies and unstable agriculture. For a society to continue to develop each farmer must be capable of feeding a significant serviced population.
The practicality of achieving self-sufficiency in food production requires a stable population. The American public must understand the issues of immigration and population growth and their implications for future food security in their country now while there is still time to make adjustments. Self-sufficiency in food production and other basic resources should be viewed as a strategy to guarantee a continued high standard of living and national security to U.S. citizens in the face of turbulence that can be expected around the world in the next decades. There is no time for delay, choosing not to change the current pattern of high immigration and population growth is a suicidal trap.
The bulk of the population of the world does not live at the American standard of living, nor can they.
There is not enough energy.
There is not enough water.
There is not enough food.
The world is finite, the boundaries and resources of every nation are finite. We must all, as individuals and nations, live within our resources.
We have fragmented families in neighborhoods where no one is related or even knows anyone within walking distance. Much of this can be attributed to quick & cheap transportation, making work commutes and a friend across town as "easy" to reach as a neighbor.
Multiple living locations, communication and commute costs, and no readily available family support has been great for the businesses and government agencies who fill the gap, all loved by the tax man. Absent an energy miracle this is ending. We need to re-think what really matters to us, where and how we live to provide a solid foundation for our civilization.
An individual or family, with an earth sheltered home, a large enough water collection area, and a "biointensive" garden, (best case 1,000 ft. sq. per person) could potentially live quietly in isolation for the lifetime of the youngest member of the family. But the technology could easily outlast the residents.
A single-family isolation approach is a "dead end" for the family, and if replicated, potentially for civilization. If effect, youre hoping that your children will be able to leave the isolation, and amidst the ruins find others who have also been waiting in isolation. Youre hoping that someone else preserves civilizations while you hide. What type of survivors and civilization do you think youre likely to find?
If located in relative isolation, such as a survival gathering, there is some minimum starting and stability population size for a community with ongoing successive generations, without the need for "immigration", or exchange of husbands/wives from outside.
Whether a multi-family isolated neighborhood, or the global population, the total number of humans MUST NOT grow beyond the reliable renewable resources. In general, when averaged,
it means no one should parent a child beyond their own replacement and the replacement of their mate.
Given nutritional food and reasonable sanitation, improved living conditions and health care, prolific child production is not necessary to ensure that a sufficient next generation survives. In simple fact, any number in the next generation which exceeds the present generation is the SOURCE of our problems. We must use our intelligence to overcome our biological tendencies.
Birth rate. No couple should have more than their personal replacement children. (Every birth or other new-arrival that exceeds replacement levels, assuming that steady-state policies are thereafter followed, means an eventual permanent standing increase of the population of from 4 to 6 people.
Childbirth Age. The average age at which a family has children, divided into the average lifespan provides the average number of standing generations. An increase in the age at which conception occurs reduces the overall standing population and demand on resources, while a decrease in the age of conception increases the standing population and resource demand.
Lifespan. The average lifespan divided by the average age at which children are conceived provides the average number of standing generations. To maintain a stable number of standing generations, a long term increase in lifespan must also in the long-term be balanced by an increase in the average age at which conception occurs, or an appropriate one-time adjustment in the birth rate to reduce the number of new mating couples. Genetically the better choice is children born to older parents. As we passed the end of the 1800s, improved nutrition and sanitation can be credited with an increase in the average lifespan, yet we not only did neither adjustment, we made increases in the other factors also.
In reference to the above population stability factors, I'll use "standard" families, with extended households (i.e. one set of grandparents resides in the family home), two children per couple, childbearing at age 20, lifespan of 80. The average extended family home could have 4 to 6 generations living there. (8 to 12 people)
Immigrants. An isolated "Neighborhood", being sustained at the minimum reliable level of renewable resources, should make the concept of immigration restriction clear.
Assuming average lifespan of 80, children born to parents in their 20's, there are more or less five generations alive at any given time. Assume each new person (immigrant or child beyond parental replacement) after arrival then follows a parental replacement only child bearing guideline, the population can be expected to settle out at a permanent increase of 5 people for each new potential breeder.
If you don't have extra water and food, how can you afford to increase your population? Can the scope of your facilities be expanded without violating your principles? Has there been an untimely death in your group?
Is someone willing to "forgo" a child (their biological replacement) and "adopt" the outsider as someone to be sustained on their family resources?
I have been unable to locate a definitive study, however, provided the genetic makeup of the starting population has no inherent problems, consider in an isolated population starting with "unrelated" couples, who each have one boy and one girl. Current law in many U. S. states is that first cousins may not marry. Just working it out "on paper":
A deliberately selected group, all of essentially the same age. WARNING: A narrow genetic base implies a risk of inbreeding. In a population of few childbearing individuals the risk of inbreeding is high. The genetic history of parents is particularly important in small population, isolated communities.
One couple, all children are siblings, dead end.
Two couples, the generation 2 four children can marry, but most of the third generation are first cousins, dead end.
Three couples, the generation 2 six children can marry, but most in the third generation are first cousins, dead end.
Four couples, the generation 2 eight children can marry, and the following generations being 1/2 first cousins CAN avoid first cousin marriages, but each has only one person available as a spouse. In addition, there is a cycle where both brother and sister of one family must marry the sister and brother of another family. While this does not technically violate the first cousin rule, it is a repeated pattern of genetic concentration.
Five couples, the following generations can marry and avoid first cousin marriages, and avoid the four couple forced cycle of brother & sister family "A" marrying sister & brother of family "B". But in avoiding the brother / sister cycle, it appears each person alternates between only one mate potential and a choice of two.
Six couples, the following generations generally each have a choice of three mates that avoids first cousin marriages. This is probably the smallest practical genetic gathering to wait out a long-term dangerous situation.
At this point, I ask your indulgence as I comment on support for monogamous human mating. The six couples just commented on are of course twelve people (six males & six females), who have twelve children as their replacements. I use an extreme example to demonstrate the "defect" of multiple mating partners. Envision eleven females, and one male, who parent the same twelve children. All of the children are half brothers or sisters, and given present genetic knowledge, should not mate and produce children.
Six extended families does not however provide a wide safety margin (i.e. for sicknesses or accidents) or the ability to maintain and pass on specialized knowledge and skills, or maintain and develop much technology.
If we assume the initial Homestead association group begins with members of random age, the likelihood of practical mate matches in a gathering of just six families is reduced. Tossing around some random numbers. Children born to couples at some point between are 18 and 36. We could easily find an 18-year or more age gap between potential mates. Increasing the number of families by a factor of 3 (to 18 families) in theory reduces the likely mate average age gap to 6 years. (See discussion later of 20 homestead "units" for Homestead associations.)
Children constitute unique genetic compositions, resulting from mixing parental genetic material. The result is genetic variation of the offspring, which in turn may enhance, or diminish capabilities.
The genetic quality of offspring will affect a group, and humanity for years ahead, or forever. Since the cost of rearing a healthy child is essentially the same regardless of genetic history, overall for humanity the investment will pay better when applied to good quality genetic stock. The cost of caring for a chronically ill or physically defective child may easily exceed the capabilities of a typical family, in particular in a post-oil low energy era, when it is not possible to force public assistance.
In the past when most of mankind lived generation after generation in villages, you had access to the detailed family history of potential mates. In our highly mobile society this family memory has been removed as a source of information, and many protest its reasonable replacement with readily available scientific genetic information. In the coming decades absent an energy and resource miracle, we are quite likely to see a very large drop in the total number of living humans. Humanity needs those who survive to be the fittest for the applicable circumstances.
The collection of homesteads is the lowest level, probably the BEST level, to consider what in human terms, survival of the fittest means for long-term civilization. It is perhaps NOT what you would first think. Early tools, stones and knives required physical strength, and hand to hand combat ability was essential to survival. The bow, a more refined tool, allowed for lesser strength but a distinct skill to provide distant neutralization of a much larger adversary or animal. Our continued progression has made mind and precision more important than strength, in a feedback loop. The drive to overpopulate was early on another survival trait, as many died as children, or before they had their own children. Like other early "cave" aspects, given the now global coverage of humanity, the drive to expand population is obsolete.
The "gene" for prolific procreation is now a threat to the entire race. The gene to initiate force, to impose your will on others, is obsolete. The gene to waste, pollute, overproduce, overrun nature, etc., is obsolete. In the wild, these arguably obsolete genes would quickly and easily out-produce (in the form of children) and out-number those who have gone beyond the mindlessness and greed of our primitive animalistic origins. The mutation toward long-term thinking keeps occurring, but in the past was readily overrun.
The up side is that at least for the present, resources such as the internet provide a means for the isolated occurrences of those who are awake to reach out to each other, organize, and come together.
A significant question is how those who are awake to sustainable population requirements react and interact with those who think they have the god-given right to drop as many children as they want, force others to not only pay the costs of childbirth and raising THEIR children, but that others need to get out of the way so THEIR children can further procreate.
On a modest 1/4 acre lot if the family home and structures are underground or earth covered (see PAHS) the entire surface of the homestead is available for food production, say around 10,000 ft. sq. At the best biointensive yield, the lot itself could feed the family.
Consider now a 100% safety food production factor. But instead of making it integral to the family homestead, make it part of a mutual investment area with the homesteads all surrounding a large field.
The first point where the number of homesteads surrounds an adequate core plot is 20. In a deliberately planned neighborhood association units of 20 families (160 people) seems reasonable. This number meets or exceeds the minimum genetic in both deliberate and random, as described above.
Arranged in a square it is around 600 ft. per side, consisting of 100 ft. per side homesteads, surrounding a core 400 ft. per side "safe" area. (3.66 acre). This area fits in a typical city layout of 8 blocks per mile.
Tree food crops. Even using a single dwarf variety, trees tend to produce yield greater than that which can be used by one family, and many trees require a pollinator mate. A potential use of this central protected field would be as an orchard.
Merely as an example, on a grid of 15 foot spacing, there is potential for 625 trees. If evenly planted in the crop spread of Apple, Apricot, Almond, Cherry, Fig, Pear, Peach, Persimmon, Plum, Pomegranite, Quince, and Walnut, there could be 52 of each type, for a potential annual yield of:
|Crop||Ttl. Yield||Per Person|
|Apple||208 Bushel||1.30 Bushel|
|Apricot||104 Bushel||.65 Bushel|
|Almond||2080 Pound||13.00 Pound|
|Cherry||3900 Quart||24.37 Quart|
|Fig||1300 Pound||8.00 Pound|
|Pear||26 Bushel||.16 Bushel|
|Peach||208 Bushel||1.30 Bushel|
|Persimmon||104 Bushel||.65 Bushel|
|Plum||104 Bushel||.65 Bushel|
|Pomegranite||104 Bushel||.65 Bushel|
|Quince||52 Bushel||.32 Bushel|
|Walnut||2600 Pound||16.25 Pound|
The above and below scenes are of a roughly circular grass courtyard in one area of an outlet shopping center.
The area shown is somewhat smaller than the area encompassed by the 20 homes would be, but it provides a flavor for what the area could be.
Tree energy crops. At the best yield of 2 cord per acre per year it's around 150,000,000 BTU per the field per year.
Power Generation. Set up in photovoltaic panels of a square yard, with a two foot walkway around each, it readily holds 6,400 collector units. At 10% efficiency panels, it generates 640 KW per hour of full sun, or 32 KW per homestead per hour, averaging something like 5760 KWH per homestead per month. How does that compare to your electric bill now? The p/v power option has two significant challenges, initial purchase cost, and maintenance. (Unlike trees, that can be self-replicating.)
Obviously, the entire field does not have to be dedicated to a single purpose. The mix could include some of the above, animal grazing space, and facilities common to cooperative housing facilities, a commons building, perhaps a pool. A goal should be developing a facility where the residents enjoy spending such time off as they have, reinforcing community bonds.
If your family homestead is in isolation, the height of your trees, towers, buildings, etc., is not a real concern. Once you elect to build and live in close to other solar dependent families, you must take into account everyone's effective solar window.
Envision a flat field, with just ground cover type crops, and all human structures underground. Everyone would essentially have 100% of the prospective solar window within their property borders.
Something similar is achieved if everyone agrees to not build or grow anything higher than a selected limit, say for example 20 feet. For a mental exercise, envision a 20' high wall around each property border. Some areas inside your domain may not receive direct sun at various times of the year, but this can be compensated by making the inside of the fence reflective, or in a more extreme choice placing a reflective grid over selected areas, or the entire property.
If you have not been life-long friends and neighbors, there is probably much you DONT know about each other. There will be those reluctant to say anything about themselves. Why? Your academic record, job record, court matters, etc., are all public records.
Somewhere there are probably people who remember your first steps, your first words, and when you became potty-trained. Somewhere short of this, there is vital information that your neighbors should know about you. What you chose to put in your bio can say more about you then the words themselves.
The smaller that a community is, the greater the importance that each member be trained and experienced in a variety of complimentary emergency and functional areas, and that everyone be readily capable of interacting with each other as necessary.
(1) Common language
(2) CPR - First Aid.
(3) Self-Defense / Weapons Skill
(4) A grasp of basic sustainability concepts.
Specialists to consider. In selection of specific individuals (if you can select) you not only want someone compatible with your group and our philosophy, but someone who can teach their "specialty" to others well enough that others can assist the specialist, or take over as the specialist if need be.
Its obvious you are not going to have a dedicated specialist for everything. But people may be quite knowledgeable in something vital that is their hobby. Are your "specialists" open to learning other skills so they can continue to be fully integrated functioning members of the village absent an immediate need for their personal unique training. (i.e. If no one has a tooth problem, what does your dentist do?)
Modern Technologies (i.e.: existing skills, educated skills
Older Technologies (i.e.: possibly existing as "hobby skills")
Weather predicting skill
Lost or Little Used Technologies (i.e.: probably rarely practiced skills)
Hand yarn and fabric making
Slaughtering / hog dressing
Home building: Log, Rammed Earth, Straw Bale, Heavy Timber Framing, etc
Hand tool carpentry
Hand wheat preparation (drying, winnowing, grinding, etc)
Windmill design / building
Water mill design / building
Wagon / horse buggy building
Medicinal plant identification and use
An example might be a virtual library, where whether a paper or computer file, all of the members would simply need to provide a list of the books in their possession, that they are willing to loan out to other group members.
Think along the same lines for tools or other durable materials.
A single family or small group can't anticipate everything, and can't gather everything. I guess the "plus" side is that (at least in the USA) it's difficult to find ANYPLACE that is very far from some town.
If you are building a retreat community "from scratch", (NOT recommended by the author) costs and difficulties are reduced while the resources of a functioning community are within reach.
All 20 families can live in a single room, or individual family homesteads, built per the resources of each individual family, or in a multi family condo complex, or in a motel arrangement with everyone having a private room, and common service facilities. It does not matter.
What matters is adequate sustainable life-support and minimum biological levels such that reasonable genetic safety can be maintained. Life support need to be local, and essential life elements recycled locally, if for no other reason than to provide incentive to ensure that that materials put back into the food system are acceptable in the food system to the intended recipients of the food.
Regardless of how the population is housed, the relationship of population size, solar window, water supply, essential nutrients, human scale, unavoidable limits, etc, does not change.
The internal infrastructure of an isolated community will probably of necessity initially be limited. You are, after all, basically working with the assets of at most a dozen or so families (i.e. 20 family minimum unit). Over time, with the labor of multiple generations consistently upgrading the site has potential for significant refinement.
But, if the community is a remote retreat, physical refinement by be outweighed by loss of education and technological abilities. A particular challenge will be education. If a gathering of 20 homestead units has "perfectly" randomly distributed population ages, multi-generation families, etc., it might have 2 kids per class / age, and some approach to "Home Schooling" will probably be required. "Home schooled" children have demonstrated that traditional classrooms may not be mandated, but those programs rely on educational materials developed "elsewhere", published and shipped, and on non "expert" parental teaching. Home schooled does not mean second rate. Education should be emphasized in all aspects of the Homestead association. If there is not an overall crash, the web offers expanding opportunities for education, without "leaving home". Following a crash, the homestead association should as soon as possible document all of the resident knowledge. Note though, homeschooling or any teaching approach with too small of a class is an in-efficient use of the teaching resource.
A single family can be surprised while asleep or distracted. A single family can easily be physically outnumbered. Clustered homes raise the stakes for potential invaders, making it more difficult to determine the exact number and nature of residents and their habits, as well as putting the help of family and friends within the carry of your voice.
Neighborhood watch. Regardless of other factors, an awake and observant person is likely to be an essential factor of a security program.
With a large enough population, a gathering of homesteads can maintain a 24/7 "on duty" watch. There are 168 hours in a week. If security is stood once per week, for a four-hour period, there are 42 watch periods. An isolated family would be quickly worn down providing continuous surveillance. Six families would mean each family would have to provide someone "on duty" once every day. 20 families would mean each family would have to provide someone "on duty" only once in nearly every three days. The person on duty does not need to be a muscular guard. What is called for is someone to watch and listen, and sound the alarm if warranted.
Each home already has its own food production, power generating, etc. area. Whether isolated or gathered, each home needs to be fenced from unwelcome invaders. As an example, putting a secure fence around six independent 1/4 acre homesites requires around 2,400 ft. of fence. If concentrated around the perimeter of clustered homes, it would enclose the entire 20 homestead site. Not to mention a circled gathering of such homes provides significant controlled gardening area with essentially no additional outlay in protective fence.
Every home should have its own safe-room. These can all be interconnected with communications wiring, pipe, etc. as technology and resources permit. Communications among homes can be carried over a wire for thousands of feet by sound powered phones, using only the minute current generated by the impact of voice sound waves on a microphone. The technology is robust, and simple.
Hostile. In isolation or otherwise in the absence of organized law enforcement, self defense is required.
Neutral. I'd suspect that no matter how well hidden, both pre and post crash activity make a Homestead associations have greater chance of attracting attention and visitors. The gathering of homesteads is better off in security though than an isolated family. Residents still face the ethical / moral question of how to deal with outsiders, especially those who do not show obvious hostility. Who decides?
If the group does not somehow have extra common assets, the food or shelter for such guests will be from individual family assets. Yet the guests pose a threat to all. Discuss it in the group.
A modest gathering of homesteads has wide choice in location, as it only requires cooperation between some low number of families. Location is still however a significant consideration.
Pollution. What would be the point of creating a retreat to sustain our families into the future, only to discover it's been located on top of a toxic waste dump. In the USA, I understand the federal EPA, and state equivalents, track all known significant threats. While still available, obtain all relevant information on your location.
Low natural risks. Winds, floods, earthquakes, volcano's These types of disaster are all reduced in impact by advance warnings, and prompt outside assistance. Typical emergency planning for today, is to expect no more than 72 hours before significant help from outside the damaged community is on scene. I suspect that for quite some time, the advance warnings, and help, will be absent. Inherent risks should be minimized by careful site selection.
Security. There probably already are prepared sites out there, which are remaining silent for security. This is certainly a consideration, and if I can manage to prompt a group to come together, once we've reached our initial "critical mass", it is possible that we would also cease public discussion that could lead to excessive temptations in a time of crisis. The location itself can be the first level of security. If your location is uninviting, most people won't even think of looking.
Transport corridors. If you are in isolation, major highways, railways, etc., may be pathways for refugees of a "crash". There with still though be a need for ready access to appropriate paths for appropriate commerce.
Even if transport is reduced to dependence on human power, i.e. bicycles, would you rather undertake a cross town, or cross country trip on foot, carrying your supplies on your back, and walking across raw land, or have your goods strapped on a bike, and pedaling, even on broken roads? The existing roadway grids could probably remain as viable pathways for quite some time, even in the absence of repairs, due to the also missing heavy traffic.
Use of a bicycle as a primary means of transport imposes limits (weight, speed, endurance, and angle of incline) but also offers advantages (aerobic exercise, no artificial gas generation, greatly reduced "road" needs. Typical automobile roads have extreme changes in altitude, bad for a bicycle rider. Enter, old railway beds. Many old, abandoned railway beds, often stripped of the track and ties, continue to exist as stone paths. Per an average of several web bicycle safety sites, project the sustained speed of an average adult on an upright bicycle is around 10 to 12 mph.
If you are considering a remote retreat, or ease of human powered transport between cities, remember that for railroad tracks significant effort went into providing smooth, gentle grades and turns for the trains, therefore these may be nearly ideal locations for bicycle paths. In addition to their city terminals, early railroads required stopovers for taking on more coal, wood, water, etc . These resupply stops, now abandoned, may prove to be appropriate locations for a retreat Homestead association.
Virtual. I'd suggest a significant aspect of a banding together homesteads that are self-reliant and self sufficient in the basics, is the synergy possible in association with other similarly prepared and functioning families. So long as other neighbors around you are not a "threat", and you are within reasonable walking distance of those you are officially cooperating with, I don't see that it is a "show stopper" to make your family preparations, even though you're actually inside a greater, non cooperating (YET) community. When neighbors wake up, you and your associates can serve as guides for the late-risers. Absent physical co-location for security and the advantages of a single large gathering, to some extent a community could be virtual.
Everyone in your neighborhood owns their home free of any mortgage. All are fireproof and grow enough food to feed the family. Someone from each homestead works enough to pay the property taxes, but otherwise each family more or less specializes in some craft, and the crops grown. Since everyone gets along on the barter system, and no money changes hands, you ignore the rest of the taxing authorities.
Your local sales tax authorities may consider all of your barter exchanges a commercial transaction, and demand their tax.
The IRS  is also quite likely to consider your exchanges as commercial transactions, subject to income tax, self employment (Social Security) tax, etc.
And it can get worse. Say the neighbor kid double-digs your garden, and you barter some of your canned goods in exchange. If the tax authorities deem kid your employee, you potentially owe minimum wage, tax withholding, and such other labor law requirements as are imposed in your jurisdiction.
Although no money actually changed hands in any of the above events, if they are deemed taxable you will have to obtain official currency somewhere to pay the tax officials. Most likely, someone from each family will be forced to work at a real job to earn cash.
Government agencies, in particular the tax authorities, have a vested interest in fragmentation of families, friendships, and communities based on such. If you are growing your own food, looking after your neighbors, helping each other, taking turns letting the kids gather at homes, and not hiring someone for these "services", the tax authority has not easy basis to establish and siphon off part of the effort. Government agencies have a vested interest in discouraging people from taking care of themselves, or each other, and in CREATING problems, and expanding problems, to expand the scope of the solutions the agencies offer.
Even for a small gathering, if intentionally established in a remote undeveloped area, the potential cost is significant. The land purchase alone poses difficulties. Unless there is extensive group cooperation, pooling of funds and agreement is reached, the purchase may need to be initiated by one or a few wealthy individuals. Within such a gathering there is the likelihood that the standard currency will be used, as will a gift / favor approach to activities.
Internal trade in a small community of family / friends can be barter / loan, with informal accounting. If a goal is the same 2% in farming as the U.S. today, in each association there are 3 people doing the farming.
Posit a gathering of 20 families having agreed to use "MONOPOLY" money as a medium of exchange. Someone finds another game box, and divides up the money. Is anyone richer? Prices rise, but everyone can still afford the same purchases. What happens though if the second game finder slowly filters the excess money into the economy? In the long-term, the same thing, AFTER the sneak personally profits.
There is an entertaining, yet for all practical purposes accurate, audio file floating around of and old lecture, titled "Wheat Receipts". I found a version on it online at:
It explains the federal reserve and other banks, which would include a barter / bank system, in terms of the operators of grain storage facilities. We encounter problems whenever anyone has the opportunity to create new symbols of wealth, without bothering to provide the labor or goods that make the wealth real. As presented in the lecture, farmers store their grain in commercial towers, blended with wheat from others. The farmer is issued a receipt. A grain tower owner realizes that the towers are never completely empty, and he could if he wanted sell the wheat he believes will never be asked for. He elects to issue a receipt to himself for the amount, which representing a claim on wheat in the tower, he can sell for cash.
So long as there are banks that can loan the money you have in on-demand deposit, the same situation could develop regardless of what you call the currency.
Earning external income presents another question for such a gathering that is in a remote site. I suspect though that productive "industrial" activity would be limited to handicrafts, or repair / reworking of existing products. At the present, it appears that external income is required. (Retirement or investment payments, working outside the group, the group providing goods or services to the external community.)
Ecological concerns. Do your plans include paving/over and / or building on that wonderful piece of wilderness you found? How are you going to keep your life support infrastructure separate from the surrounding nature?
Until the rest of society, and politicians, catch-up with the requirements of long term sustainability, your group may need to stay below the radar. There are of course things that need to be presented to your local officials.
Existing zoning and/or business license/taxation requirements may pose sufficient barriers as to prevent some from implementing a "sideline" business that they might otherwise have an interest in operating. The very people who would benefit in the future from such hobby businesses waiting in the wings, will probably balk at changes today that would allow them to start to develop. But it must be done.
What else do you see that needs to be changed, to get the various levels of government OUT OF THE WAY of achieving long-term sustainable civilization?
So long as the external infrastructure continues to function, the gathering should be capable of keeping up to date with the rest of the world (given appropriate funding).
A question: Assume your family, and nineteen other families, have completely equipped homesteads with everything in presentations to this point, and are planning on isolation. Do you have the technology and technique to repair or replace a broken plate or cup? How about a p/v panel? Or even a light bulb?
Once in isolation it appears limited to Handicraft technology for new items, or reworking and replacement of more complicated technology. Within a short period of time in isolation, expect technology to be limited to scavenger activity, then decline. (How do you make a bolt, or an eyeglass lens?) I would expect to see significant reliance on natural biological processes. (Growing plants and animals, fermentation, etc.) I would also expect to see significant reliance on herbal medicine or home remedies
The closest example is the cohousing movement, which in simple terms is privately owned dwellings with their own traditional living facilities, but also with perhaps extensive jointly owned facilities (food preparation & dining, meeting rooms, recreation facilities, library, workshops, children's space, etc.) which are essentially reserved for the use of the owners.
The physical design is usually such as to encourage personal contact and use of the common areas. There is no required sharing of income or other personal assets. There may also be other jointly owned assets, vehicles, tools, machines, etc.
Cohousing facilities, and quite a number of neighborhoods, have restrictive covenants, rules for the neighborhood that one must agree to follow as part of obtaining title to the property. As with an easement on the property, the covenants survive even seizure of the property and a resale. I solicit input for covenants for a long-term sustainable neighborhood.
With private ownership of the means of providing for life support and comfort needs, as well as potential sources of income for the organization, it is by definition a capitalistic autarky.
While such fictional entities are still available under law, the common areas and the overall neighborhood may want to create and operate under a corporation, or a limited liability company.
Please note my "two cents" is that such entities that do not hold owners and operators of a business responsible for what the business does are contrary to a long-term sustainable community as ecology, where "negative" feedback and consequences are required.
Typically each homestead (regardless of the number of people living at that location) has one "vote" in areas of management where the association has discretion. I solicit feedback on further organizational thoughts, association rules, etc.
The person voting for each homestead may, or may not, be the same person who in general is "in charge" at home. In general family homes are essentially meritocratic, lead by the person most qualified. All members may provide input, perhaps the owner of the home (the elders) and the primary wage earner(s) have significant input, or perhaps veto power, but in general someone (in our home, the wife) has the final say.
Depending on local law, it may be in the best interest of the association for all "common" areas to be owned by a corporation, limited liability company, etc., with the goal of minimizing the liability of any individual family / homestead to a third party who may be injured on such common property, and seek to sue the association.
The four acre El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos, New Mexico, with 40 guest suites is not exactly a permanent living environment, but it strives to provide a comprehensive design solution for a high desert environment. It incorporates rainwater collection, minimum energy to provide heating and cooling, re-use of organic wastes in production of food, earth-based building materials, etc. Water is the critical limiting resource in our high desert environment, with the ancient irrigation network near Taos area having once made it the breadbasket of area.
The facility was previously a motel of small adobe casitas, which were restored and incorporated into the new resort infrastructure systems. Compressed earth blocks made with a hydraulic press were used for 8 of the units.
The facility uses a "living machines" approach for wastewater from toilets, showers, etc. with initial collection in tanks to moderate flow. They use ultraviolet disinfection and only the amount of energy around that of a common light bulb. They avoid using chlorine as it is reported to create carcinogenic and estrogenic compounds biologically harmful in minute quantities.
Where do you want to be when the oil-based infrastructure is no longer operationally viable? In your independent home, in a community of similar homes, or competing for scraps from a failing society?
At the present, numerous oil wells are estimated to "dry up" before 2010. Rationally, as more wells empty and production levels will fall, oil will no longer be cheap, or abundant, and all of humanities oil dependent technology will wheeze to a halt.
Admit, as oil ceases to be cheap and abundant, the present infrastructure will fail. I have no crystal ball, and cannot tell you what the reactions of nations, and people in general will be. But my guess, based on what we see with minor interruptions and shortfalls, such as the Bolivia seizure of oil fields, and front page news in the Financial Times of Iranian youth signing up to volunteer for suicide bomer missions, is that it will not be pleasant. The first priority must be surviving the crash.
What response to you intend to tell your grandchildren when they ask, "where were you" when you used the last drop you could afford what were you doing when others were preparing for the tragedies of the "transition" period or when others were preparing for the inevitable, post-oil paradigm? Are your children and grandchildren well fed, in safe surroundings, or in the wilderness?
There will be those tough, resourceful, wealthy, or lucky individuals, and their families, who make it through the transition "without a scratch", and do fine. I'm hoping that I fit some such category, and that my family survives But I've come to believe that everyone who joins in the creation of an appropriate sustainable community will vastly increase their chances of success, and quality of life. If we "close the loop" locally on water, food, utilities, etc., we reduce our "footprint", and reduce the need to conduct economic activity to earn funds to make payments on such.
Consider where we are, our resources, our beliefs and opinions of the future, and act now. Right now, we can not only communicate by phone, over the web, etc., but we can research nearly anything we can imagine, and by a mere "click" cause books, tools, materials, devices, etc., to be shipped directly to us. How long do you think this capability will continue when things start to get "tight"?
If we are going to not only CORRECT the mistakes of the past 100 years, and move on to developing to our greatest capabilities, there must be some groups that avoid the worst of the oil collapse. While "online" discussion can connect like-minded people in their thoughts and planning, it does nothing for any of us regarding physical world preparations.
Te above is intended to spark your own research and thinking on how to provide for human interaction and continued generations in an isolated situation.
You and your neighbors can do on your combined property and with combined assets anything you have the capability to achieve.
BUT: Even a well prepared and high-tech community would, in isolation, find maintaining modern technology difficult. A Homestead association would probably find itself limited to "handicraft" technology using local natural resources. Consider the principles of real long term sustainability.
The principles and guidelines of our present civilization ignore natural limits. Once we recognize these limits exist, we need to shift the focus of our thinking to different paradigms.
"Sustainable" is a word you will more readily see added to the name of programs. Real change though will be difficult to actually implement and maintain given present individual attitudes, institutions and paradigms.
Civilization, operated on sustainable principles, could eliminate starvation, poverty, pollution, etc. But such will not be implemented by a starving population or by those who benefit from the present system. Such will be resisted by the selfish and greedy who contribute nothing while demanding others support them. It will be resisted by those who feel THEY have the right to have as many children as they want, to do what they want, to go where they want, regardless of whomever else upon which the COSTS of such actions are imposed.
Given humanities civilization is now global, for many practical purposes, we've got to recognize we are living in a closed environment. Our resources are finite. Other than energy from the sun, there is virtually no input to our resources. Absent a breakthrough in technology, we are effectively limited to the confines of the Earth for the foreseeable future.
The word sustainable implies the ability to continue for an indefinite period. To put sustainable into an easier to comprehend timeframe, consider seven generations.
"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations"
From the Great Law of the Iroquois Nation
Seven generations is somewhere between 96 and 280 years. A properly maintained and managed neighborhood or cooperative housing association provides a minimum genetic population, and can provide for the life-support needs of residents for seven generations and beyond. But it appears clear that a homeowners association scale community, if isolated, will be unable to sustain much technology, education, or skills.
Humans and all other animal life on earth are dependent on plants to use light to recycle our wastes and mortal remains to create food. We in particular are dependent on our agriculture art and technology. Without it, the natural systems on the Earth could not support the present human population.
Given present science, what comprises a sustainable community?
We must avoid interfering with any unique micro environment, or the environment overall, such that we cause species extinctions, or such that natural evolution is prevented. Therefore a key initial question, what is the upper limit for the portion of the environment to be devoted to human use? 1/10? 1/3? 1/2? More? Less? Please note, humans are already using 50% of the productive life of the world.
Within such dedicated space, or indeed the entire world, simple logic shows the number of humans who can be sustained, and the per person ability to use resources, are inversely related. The smaller the population to be maintained, the greater the resources per person.
Despite the appearances of vast remaining wide open spaces, estimates are that almost 50% of the productive life of the globe is already diverted in some manner to human use.
If you stick your hand into the fire, you need the negative feedback of searing pain letting you know there's not much time to get your hand out.
There are consequences to actions; whether those of an individual, family, neighborhood, city, nation, or humanity as a whole.
Foul your air and you're dead in 3 minutes.
Foul your water and you're dead in 3 days.
Foul your food and you're dead in 3 weeks.
You may be able to temporarily obtain resources from elsewhere, but in a long-term sustainable world where everyone is in balance, there may not be excess to share.
Some maximum population can be fed, but with no resources available for any other purpose. A technological civilization, in particular to continue developing, requires "excess" resources that can be invested for the future, and lost in failed projects.
At the other end of the scale, there is certainly a minimum human population, and distribution program, for safety, maintenance and development of skills, knowledge, scientific discovery, etc.
The smallest human population is that required for genetic safety. (A tribe? Six families? Twenty families?) While this size might be appropriate for a "survival" community, or a well organized and supported project (i.e. an interstellar mission) it is doubtful that technology could be indefinitely maintained, let alone development continue.
We need to allow for some specialization, maintain skills and simple technology.
Somewhere there is a range of population that allows continued human achievements without destruction. It requires however understanding and individual responsibility to achieve the local action which is essential to achieve stability on a global scale - unless you WANT war and pestilence.
Every factor I've examined indicates the population must decline dramatically. Once we have reached sustainable levels, the population can only be permitted to fluctuate within a limited range. Consider the factors of fluctuation, lifespan, child bearing age, and birthrate..
Lifespan. Given other factors being stable (child bearing age and birthrate) an increase, or decrease in the average lifespan of a population will cause a one time increase (lifespan divided by child bearing age) in the number of generations alive at any given time, and therefore the total living population.
Child Birth Age. Given other factors being stable (lifespan and birthrate) an increase, or decrease in the average age of parents when children are born will cause a one time increase (lifespan divided by child bearing age) in the number of generations alive at any given time, and therefore the total living population.
Birthrate. Given other factors being stable (Lifespan and child bearing age) an increase, or decrease in the average number of children born to parents, in simple fact, ANY deviation from a strictly replacement birth rate, will cause a continued, and essentially geometric change in the actual number of people alive at any given time.
Regardless of the size of the population units, it appears practical to blend living, working, entertainment, etc. facilities in as close proximity as practical.
Modern civilization, as we experience it, is a product of the present global socio-economic-industrial infrastructure. Surely, no one believes this present infrastructure is indefinitely sustainable. Flying the face of logic, we have expanded our numbers such that much of the present 6+ billion human population depends on this infrastructure not only for an economic livelihood, but for essentials of life (water, food, shelter, etc.) What does human-scale infrastructure look like?
Background. We cannot indefinitely burn fossil fuels, pump groundwater stored millennia ago, mine, etc. The easy discoveries and recoveries of such are past. Very soon, we must begin to live with the declining supplies.
The Earth, and every definable (political or geographic) area has a maximum population that can be maintained using local resources or sustainable trade.
The present global population is well beyond sustainability even for food, let alone a functional and developing civilization. There are some places and peoples who may have attained a stable population, but none is good example of stable population and sustainable resource utilization.
Most places on the globe are so overpopulated (and still expanding) that they have no chance of attaining higher standards of living, let alone sustainability, absent a massive, premature, and unpleasant death of the bulk of the population.
Those in poor, but expanding population areas, in seeking to emulate higher resource use nations, or emigrate there, are acting contrary to sustainability.
The smaller the sustained population, the greater the resources available per person. But a small population is vulnerable to the "needs" of the majority being imposed unwillingly. If the world is not composed of sustainable units, conflict is the logical outcome.
A small, sustainable community, must be capable of resisting unwelcome and uncooperative "neighbors", and needs appropriate defensive and policing capabilities.
Throughout the globe, humanity needs to " get it's act together ". But there is no indication it will do so in time to prevent a crash.
Use of a finite resource (i.e. fossil fuels, minerals, ancient groundwater) in a manner not readily recycled is foolish. Having the infrastructure of civilization dependent on such use is insane.
Use of a renewable resource beyond the reasonably reliable applicable renewal rate is foolish. If it takes 50 years to grow a tree, our use to growth relation must be balanced. For every tree needed annually, we need to have fifty growing. (Growing in the human resource dedicated areas.)
Technological innovations may for example, possibly eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels (ancient stored solar energy) prior to effective exhaustion of this resource. Absent such leaps in technology, we will, relatively soon, need to again rely on our annual solar energy allotment.
Further, it is not in the present day "best interest" of business or political leadership to prevent the crash, or even take steps to mitigate it.
Air / O2 / CO2. In theory, the area of plant material necessary to balance the breathing of a human is the same as that needed to produce food. The same area is that which can be practically fertilized by the humanure and urine from an adult.
Micronutrients. Whether from humanure, ruined clothing, a damaged wood item, or the body of a human, when the micronutrients that comprise the object, or person, are no longer needed, they need to be recycled to the growing medium.
Physical Limits. Absent scientific breakthroughs, humanity is effectively restricted to the limits of the Earth for the foreseeable future.
First, do no harm. Present businesses make huge profits selling products engineered for short useful life and disposal, with no concern for the damage to the environment. Pre-crash, while cheap fossil fuels are still available, sustainability engineered products might compete, but to a limited public. Consider, no one asks you what the "payback" period is for an investment in a new "Corvette", but put up solar panels, and expect the question.
We already arguably divert 1/2 of the production of the planet to human uses, and we continue in most places to despoil our own communities, and common resources. It must stop, or after an oil shortage, we will face shortages of safe places to live, safe food, water, and air.
Fossil fuel has for around 150 years put into the infrastructure concentrated easy to manipulate energy, with only the minute cost of initiating the digging (coal) or pumping (oil) process, after which diverting only a small portion of the coal or oil sufficed to drive and expand the removal, refining & distribution process. It has been a great self-enhancing feedback loop, soon to end.
Absent a breakthrough, we will not have the "free" energy store such that we can expend 10+ times as much energy to get a can of corn to your home, as there is food value in the corn.
High shipping prices should lead to a concentration on local production and virtually closed recycling loops for necessities.
Centralized design and manufacturing of critical components, with local assembly and craftsmanship of non-critical components, cases, frames, etc.
Proactive maintenance and repair.
Solar energy. Sunlight powers the photosynthesis process, and feeds virtually all life on Earth. It powers the evaporative process, giving us rain and hydroelectric generation. It powers the winds and wind driven waves. But as great as it may seem compared to the size and capabilities of a human, it is still limited. The probable maximum effective solar collection area of the Earth that faces the sun at any given time is a disk of around 5,000 mile diameter.
An economy requires a stable and readily acceptable currency. As touched on earlier with mention of the "Wheat Receipts" lecture, even a fully "backed", gold-based currency remains subject to fraud and inflation by whomever issues the receipts. Far worse than this, virtually every nation today uses "fiat" currency, which only has value because the government directs that it does.
The currency is backed by the "full faith and credit" of the nation, which in reality means the productive capability of the nation. Now remember what happens to the economy with peak oil. What is a real currency that cannot be subject to false receipts, theft and deliberate inflation?
I'd really like to know.
Re political leadership, consider the career of a politician who announces legislation drafted to remove incentives for a growing population. To attack the root cause of humanities problems, overpopulation, would lead to a short career. But is must be done.
Those who feel they have a right to take from others will resist sustainability. It will be resisted by those who benefit from an expanding population, and by those who want to pander to the above.
Given present technology, it is unclear as to how the majority of the present population can be sustained.
We must however voluntarily attain sustainability, or it will be imposed, probably not in a pleasant manner.
Criminal Sanctions. Laws and police action tend to grow in areas where is easy to show "accomplishments", vs real protection, leading to an enlarged force with an emphasis in the wrong areas. That tossed out, there must still be some means of maintaining order in disputes between individuals, to deal with fights, theft, assault, etc. Ignoring crime leads to a free-for-all. Prisons as in place today are gymnasiums and institutes of higher criminal education.
Taxation. Fee for service? At what level do you accept that you no longer get to decide who benefits from the fruits of your labor or investments? With a collapsing economy, tax revenues will fall, regardless of tax rates. Higher rates lead to greater avoidance, until either government is swept away, or becomes openly totalitarian.
Regulation. At what level do you accept that someone, not one whom you voluntarily submit to, is authorized to initiate force to make you change behavior, even though you are not harming anyone else?
- Compassion which gives a drunk the means to increase his drunkenness is counter-productive.
- Compassion which breeds debilitating dependency and weakness is counter-productive.
- Compassion which blunts the desire or necessity to work for a living is counter-productive
- Compassion which smothers the instinct to strive and excel is counter-productive.
Attributable to Benjamin Franklin
Limited intrusion on natural ecosystems. No more than ten percent (10%) of the ecosystem is appropriated solely for human use. (At the present, estimates are that 40% to 50% of the biosphere is diverted to human use.)
Recycling. We must not be dependent on consumption of a finite resource. (Fossil fuels, mining, ancient groundwater, etc.)
Stable population. We must limit our own numbers.
Human enclaves. Living, working, food production, recreation, etc. are consolidated, with open space around and interspaced. Human communities can be "ecologically sound", with natural processes meeting our needs, such as "living machines" processing human sewage. BUT, an ecosystem optimized for human habitation is NOT COMPATIBLE with a natural ecosystem.
Consider: We can grow food in biointensive gardens, live in earth sheltered homes within walking distance of shops or stores But do you want wild rabbits or deer in your garden, bears wandering your sidewalks, or fleas in your bed? Human activity must be kept isolated.
Not everything we see today is practical or sustainable. We must salvage what we can and prepare to move on. We must prepare to survive the fall of the present infrastructure, which is a model of NON-sustainability.
What must be saved?
What should be saved?
What can be saved?
What should not be saved?
What must not be saved?
What cannot be saved?
Into the weeds
What must be saved? Knowledge, skills, and technological capabilities. How much has been wasted in humanities history by the same discovery, invention, or even simple fact, being "rediscovered" multiple times?
Knowledge. I can't tell you off-hand which plants grow well with each other, and which can't stand each other. But I know the information is important to efficient gardening, and that the information is out there in books. I don't know which piece of information, invention, or discovery can or will become critical, so we need the maximum possible under whatever conditions we encounter. Post crash, I'd want to have access to an intact university, or at least city library. My own library is merely a few bookshelves of selected text.
Teachers. What is the minimum level community expected to be capable of sustainably training specialized teachers of K to 12? (Or do we use the apprentice system?)
Medical. Continued practice of medicine requires either people get hurt and sick a lot, or a lot of people occasionally getting hurt or sick. I'd suppose that "apprenticeships" can/will return (for lots of purposes) if there is no formal university.
Technology. Even if it's a museum piece, like a Pentium computer that won't run anymore
A key point of mine is to avoid the folly of reinvention / rediscovery of the same thing, which has occurred OVER AND OVER in our history.
What should be saved? Examples of as many aspects of our present tools, technology, and even household items as can be practically managed, if for nothing else than eventual inclusion in a museum.
What can be saved? If we have the will, we can save most of our present scientific and technological knowledge and technology. (i.e. a limited number of internal combustion engines can be run on biofuels.)
What should not be saved? Programs that foster or enable population expansion.
What must not be saved? Any attitude, program, operation, function, incentive, etc. which requires, promotes, or encourages an expanding population, or the use of a finite resource in a manner which, given present knowledge and technology, irreversibly precludes it's reuse in any other practical manner.
What cannot be saved? Most of the present human population, any part of the infrastructure dependent on cheap, abundant fossil fuels, in particular oil.
Humanity must transition as quickly and thoroughly as possible to a rational sustainable basis for civilization. "Sustainable" clearly implies the ability to continue for an indefinite period. Stepping back from indefinite, to a more readily understandable timeframe, consider just seven generations.
Physical Growth has Limits. A community may have "sustainable growth" in the economy, education, or development of technology or infrastructure, but applied to any material thing, or the population, it is an oxymoron.
Consider "housing starts". Construction of each new home added to the inventory is a drain on resources. In recent years wood construction has been decried as unfriendly to the environment. But wood is a renewable resource, and with reasonable care in construction and maintenance can last far longer then the time it takes to grow replacement trees.
Its not that building ONE house of wood adversely effects the environment, its that building an expanding number of houses to meet expanding population demands is bad. With that realization, new housing starts that would consist of digging a hole are also unsustainable.
With a variety of materials and designs, homes can be built to provide reasonable temperatures without the need for externally powered HVAC. They can be built to last hundreds of years to house generation after generation. But a stable population is a necessity.
Population growth has limits. Every defined area, whether political or geographic, has an upper limit of population and resource consumption that can be sustained by the local resources or by sustainable trade. We must eliminate any incentive toward population growth.
There are families who make the conscious decision to limit to two (and preferably for the immediate future) one child. This needs to be encouraged as a voluntary act, or it will have to be enforced involuntarily, whether by humans, or nature.
We're only borrowing the physical present from future generations. Sustainable development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We must also sustain human progress.
Homes, business and public structures are engineered for long term service. Aspects which require periodic maintenance (pipes, wires, etc.) are accessible without damage to long-term aspects. (Stop digging up streets to access utilities!)
Spectacle test. Is the health and general physical condition of the residents such that the local technology can meet their medical needs? If you need eyeglasses, can you or some make them?
Technological progress test.
Governmental drain test. Programs, policies, and full time government positions are a drain on the productivity of any society, which requires the society to produce more than would otherwise be required, to support the costs. Unfortunately, too many in full time / professional government / political / police military positions see themselves as rulers, rather than public servants, and are engaged in personal empire building.
We must be prepared to wage war. If fighting on the level of war is required, total involvement is required, from the extra food to be grown, it's delivery to the troops, resupply efforts, etc. There are no civilians in war, only those incapable of actively fighting or providing support. But unless were involved in a war, maintaining a professional full time military is a drain on resources.
It is similar for police. They cannot be everywhere that real crime is, and the incentive is to criminalize actions that can readily show progress in dealing with crime by the police. Technically in most of the U.S., every citizen has the authority to make a citizens arrest, but it's discouraged by the professional police. We need to encourage personal initiative with offenders taken to the "on duty" staff.
We cant continue to ignore and downplay self defense. Winning peace, not just at the level of "war", but down to local one-on-one crimes takes eternal vigilance at all levels.
It is the same for protecting the environment, it takes eternal vigilance of concerned citizens. There is no terminal point when we can declare weve saved the environment. It, as with many aspects, appears to require universal involvement of citizens. Absent such personal responsibility for security, there should be no vote, or other citizenship "rights" accorded.
Stable population test. Consider the energy and resources lost in public infrastructure, businesses, food processing, etc. to meet the needs of the spiraling growth of world population, that could instead be invested in progress.
There is an immediate need to develop strategies aimed at eliminating world population growth. The long term consequences of population growth are going to be demonstrated to all nations as the oil crash progresses.
Can you think of any problem, on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way, aided, assisted, or advanced, by having larger populations at the local level, the state level, the national level, or globally?
Communities and civilization can slow their population growth by removing the many visible and hidden public subsidies that support and encourage growth. Welfare as it exists in America today must be eliminated. Its programs provide incentives for the unproductive to reproduce excessively. It is the same with dependency deductions, employer provided health insurance for families regardless of size, free public schooling, etc.
Stopping population growth will require educational, technical, and outreach programs in the areas of social responsibility, family planning, contraception, immigration, and resource use. We must make clear the greater the degree to which the carrying capacity has been exceeded, the more probable it is that coercion will become a factor in these programs. It also requires a review of governmental programs and taxes, which reward population growth, or penalize those who are successful.
The food chain is nature's equilibrium mechanism. It functions to prevent unlimited expansion of populations of flora and fauna. Primitive human societies were often able, if not forced to maintain approximately constant populations and to live within the carrying capacity of their ecosystems. The methods they used to maintain approximately constant populations were often cruel and inhumane. Technology has given many people the feeling that, through our own efforts, we are exempt from the cruel constraints of limited carrying capacities. Be prepared for the consequences WHEN our infrastructure fails.
Ancient civilizations have vanished, in part because they grew too large and their size exceeded the carrying capacity of the ecosystems on which they depended for support.
Education notwithstanding, civilizations today show considerable tendency to repeat the mistakes of earlier civilizations, but on a much larger scale.
Cheap international trade allows the developed countries to draw on the carrying capacity of the entire earth, providing an illusion of sufficient local life support.
Living machines. We need human communities to be fully integrated living ecosystems optimized for human habitation. Science writer Janine Benyus points out that spiders make silk, strong as Kevlar but much tougher, from digested crickets and flies, without needing boiling sulfuric acid and high-temperature extruders. The abalone generates an inner shell twice as tough as our best ceramics, and diatoms make glass, both processes employing seawater with no furnaces. Trees turn sunlight, water, and air into cellulose, a sugar stiffer and stronger than nylon, and bind it into wood, a natural composite with a higher bending strength and stiffness than concrete or steel. We may never grow as skillful as spiders, abalone, diatoms, or trees, but smart designers are apprenticing themselves to nature to learn the benign chemistry of its processes.
Pharmaceutical companies are becoming microbial ranchers managing herds of enzymes. Biological farming manages soil ecosystems in order to increase the amount of biota and life per acre by keen knowledge of food chains, species interactions, and nutrient flows, minimizing crop losses and maximizing yields by fostering diversity. Meta-industrial engineers are creating "zero-emission" industrial parks whose tenants will constitute an industrial ecosystem in which one company will feed upon the nontoxic and useful wastes of another. Architects and builders are creating structures that process their own wastewater, capture light, create energy, and provide habitat for wildlife and wealth for the community, all the while improving worker productivity, morale, and health. High-temperature, centralized power plants are starting to be replaced by smaller-scale, renewable power generation. In chemistry, we can look forward to the end of the witches' brew of dangerous substances invented this century, from DDT, PCB, CFCs, and Thalidomide to Dieldrin and xeno-estrogens. The eighty thousand different chemicals now manufactured end up everywhere, as Donella Meadows remarks, from our "stratosphere to our sperm." They were created to accomplish functions that can now be carried out far more efficiently with biodegradable and naturally occurring compounds.
No processes with toxic waste. In fact, no manufacturing or any other process with "waste". Close the loops, use the waste as a resource in another process, or otherwise recycle it, and recycle products which have passed their useful life.
The complete era of the use of fossil fuels by humans will be a vanishingly short fraction of the span of human existence on the Earth. (Hubbert 1974)
The supplies of all non-renewable resources will effectively expire when the costs ( in cash, in energy, in ecological and societal disruption ) of making available a quantity of the resource exceed the value of the quantity of the resource.
Comprehensive educational, technical, and outreach programs in the areas of efficient use of resources will be needed in order to help achieve sustainability.
Peak world production of petroleum will probably happen before the year 2020. Peak production of coal and oil shale, may occur in the 21st Century. Other fossil fuels probably will not be available in globally significant quantities for more than a few decades into the 21st Century.
The probability is very small that technological breakthroughs will produce new sources of energy not already known at the end of the millennium that will have the potential of supplying a significant fraction of the world's energy needs for any appreciable period of time.
As human groups become larger and more complex, we tend toward establishing and expanding formal government, whether by a religious cast, or secular organization. All tend toward becoming kleptocracies, using the force of government to involuntarily take from those who produce and accumulate, whether to enrich the king and royal caste, or provide for an underclass that keeps the "generous" politician in power . Can human civilization exist without surrendering to the power of thieves?
What is the minimum "necessary" level of government, how to achieve it, and maintain it? Perhaps most significantly, can such be maintained against opposition that is organized in a more authoritative manner?
Business and political leaders advocate trying to attract new industries and populations to their areas, then complain and wonder what to do about the consequent increases in taxes, pollution, congestion, crime, costs, etc.
Political and business leaders use the circular arguments of self-fulfilling predictions regarding population growth, which then CAUSES population growth. Consider the process where projections of the "inevitable" future population growth in the area are made. Plans are then generated to ensure the infrastructure can meet the projected future needs. They then borrow to finance the needed expansion of basic infrastructure, ignoring real improvements for those already living there. Typically, programs are then put in place to attract the new business and residents needed to pay for the loans. When the new businesses and people move in, those who predicted the growth pat themselves on the back, and look to the future
Dumping toxic waste on the land of the poor TEMPORARILY keeps it out of your personal ecosystem, but only temporarily. It must not be generated.
Growth means in the short term more votes and money for leaders, but only in the short term.
It is easy to talk about sustainability, but too often its just talk, with no personal conviction, (i.e. Al Gore and his four children.)
Many nations and their citizens will continue to believe that the environment can be preserved without the need of addressing population growth.
Maslow in his hierarchy of needs theory contends that only after humans meet 'basic needs', do they seek to satisfy successively 'higher needs' that occupy a set hierarchy. If you have a homestead, and neighborhood that can provide your life support needs, YOU may be the one called on to re-build civilization.
The challenge of making the transition to a sustainable society is enormous, in part because of a major global effort to keep people from recognizing the centrality of population growth to the enormous problems of the U.S. and the world. We must have no further net overrun of nature by humans.
A typical present day community is dependent on a constant inflow of energy and goods, and outflow of "waste". Providers of goods and services, even basic schooling, often requires trips beyond walking distance, such as long bus rides for children. What happens when the fuel that allows this to happen stops flowing?
Consider if you will an "ecovillage" to be the primary unit of society. A homestead association may provide for continuing generations for an indefinite period, but it is doubtful that complex technology, specialized or technical knowledge, or even "modern" K - 12 education would be maintained.
The purpose of an ecovillage is to provide an appropriate human ecology that provides for the physical and social minimum needs of a human population, in particular effective and efficient basic education. The population must be large enough (while with a stable population range) to permit greater specialization and the ability to produce and maintain technology beyond the probable handicraft limit of a Homestead association community.
Every location has it's unique advantages and disadvantages. Wherever your decide to reside, or reside by default, you must ensure sustainable access to the above life support factors, air, water, food, shelter, etc. If we are indeed confronted with a worldwide disaster, natural or manmade, humanities future will need numerous far-flung self sufficient seed communities.
Not everyone can live in a "Garden of Eden". Indeed, as the lyrics of the song go, " call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye "
The theory is to reestablish the personal community with friends and family, and no internal conflicts. Physically, we must incorporate permaculture techniques where we arrange plants, animals, insects, etc. in a self-energizing pattern.
I encourage every reader to brainstorm on locations and all aspects of your planning. Location, and the resources of the location, can vary significantly the area needed per person. An "ecological village" will have greater area requirements than a "survival" location.
Air: An ecologically sustainable village concept includes a consideration that the village air usage (i.e. CO2 from breathing) is balanced by plant activity in the area under village control.
Water: The renewable water supply (in the worst year) must exceed the total needs of the population, AND allowances for the natural surroundings.
Park space for flora and fauna: The "common" areas of the village need space for an appropriate "park" ecosystem. I dont want to call it "wild" or "natural", as it's intended for a place for humans, and therefore still excludes any "threat". While it is a "bonus" if the village property is surrounded by BLM or state preserve lands, since those are under the "ownership" of someone else, they really should not be counted in overall village planning. For example, if the village determines that human activity should only predominate on 20% of the area, and that one acre or so should be dedicated per each family, then the village would need to own 5 acres for each family residing therein.
My personal selection for location is "high desert", in Arizona. My current job is in Arizona, so work on a project here is within the realm of practicality. Over the years, I've grown to tolerate, if not appreciate the heat. In a the appendices I further develop a high desert proposal, and am the moderator of a yahoo egroup specifically on point. See Atlanaz@yahoogroups.com (ok, the name is corny).
Wilderness. Do you believe we need to preserve such wilderness as remains? Then do you object to proposals for human habitation which requires any further paving over of, or disruption of a natural ecosystem. We should use our intelligence and capabilities to "rescue" some area already disrupted by some lesser concerned human.
Urban. Just as a wilderness "gathering" of families does not necessarily mean all of the homes are clustered into a single compound, neither is such clustering an absolute requirement for an urban ecovillage. What is required is the contact and cooperation that goes with the village concept. The town / city is not a natural ecology, but it is the ecology of a technological human civilization, and we must find a way to make it work.
The above photo, taken by the author while on a trip along the California coastline, shows the potential for multi level structures, here with retail on the lower level, and living spaces above. Envision the spaces behind a square block of such a structure as being an orchard.
To provide, in a manner which is sustainable for an indefinite number of future generations, a location where all human life support needs are met. To provide a location where following generations have access to at the minimum the same resources as the initiating generation. To provide a location where following generations can be adequately educated such that they can at a minimum maintain the basic knowledge expected of a high-school graduate.
The practical upper limit for an ecovillage is the life support capabilities of the relevant ecosystem, organizational issues, and "human scale". The practical lower limit is that needed to maintain knowledge and relevant appropriate technology.
Education Factor. Assume a healthy population at an essentially stable number, with an average lifespan of around 80. Assume a kindergarten to12 classroom size is 20 students per grade. On the average then the community needs to have 20 citizens of each age, for a minimum population of around 1600. This is a collection of 10 Homestead association units (20 families per unit). This now implies the beginnings of a core services area, if for no other purpose than a modest school, and marketplace. To use education to set an upper limit for an ecovillage, if we want the kids to walk no further than one half mile each way to school, the organized and occupied area of the village is a mile on a side (640 acres). Setting aside the central 40 acres for school, marketplace, and other village common functions, this walking (human) scale max ecovillage has 60 Homestead association units (1200 homes), for an average population of around 9600, with an average of 120 students in each grade, requiring 72 teachers.
Reaching beyond the scope of personal friendships and a gift / lend / borrow economy, and with expanded specialization, a formal currency and organized economic system is probably required.
The currency must be in some unit that all in the community can understand and readily translate the goods and services of the community into the denomination of the local currency. While there will certainly be need for some translation of the local currency into the national currency, the exchange rate must NOT be pegged at some specific value, or the local currency will suffer whatever fate befalls the national currency.
As a defined unit of exchange, consider for a moment the kilowatt hour. Electricity is the premier means of power. It can be generated and utilized or promised for future delivery. It can be expended in investment, or the means to generate can be collected and held as a store of value.
Family homesteads are privately owned. Homestead association / association units have some "common" assets, which are still privately owned by the association. The entire community can be privately owned by a collection of the associations. "Private" ownership of streets and facilities permits the village, under present laws in most areas, to enforce "NO TRESPASSING" aspects.
Artisan technology. If for no other reason than an increase in population, hopefully specialists, and individual interactions, I would hope the group would be capable of higher technology than simple handicrafts, repairs, reworking, etc. With time and practice, a skilled hand could hand-make, if needed, screws, bolts, and more complex parts, as well as unique services inside the community, and for potential surrounding populations.
Farming. 2% of the population is 192 people This size group of farming workers should allow for significant specialization - custom knowledge of custom crops.
Money. This size group seems to clearly seem to be too big for barter. A currency is required for internal use. External currency is needed for outside transactions. Whether internal or external, confidence in the medium of exchange, and stability of it's value are required. Think in terms of the "gold standard". The U.S. economy has experienced great changes in prices (value of currency) since the 1800's, but consider, in the 1800's, a $20 gold coin would buy a quality firearm, or good suit. "Today", $20 can make such a purchase, BUT, a $20 gold coin or such amount of gold can still make similar purchases. How do we get a stable currency without fixing it's value to an arbitrary mineral?
Ecological aspects. Earlier "homestead", and "cooperative homseteads" discussions really deal primarily with survival on a physical level, an individual family, and a large enough group for continued generations. The village represents a great jump in capability, and threat if environmental impact is ignored.
A stable minimum population of 9600, living in multigenerational family homes, is a community of around 1200 such homes. Given this population, which exceeds an expanded family / personal friends scope, this level probably needs formal administration and internal security.
Internal organization. Absent order imposed by an external authority, the group needs an internal charter to define operations. The charter, being agreed upon by the originators, and impliedly agreed to by everyone who later joins, should only be capable of being modified by unanimous agreement of each property ownership. Each property / homestead location to have one vote, either direct or by proxy. The homesteads are gathered into associations of 20 homesteads each. The ecovillage groups together 60 of these associations, therefore direct representation to the village of one person from each association is a village counsel of 60. My recommendation is to have these positions unpaid, to help avoid incentives for "empire building", extended meetings, lavish offices, etc.
Existing authority. While present government remains viable, any unit will have to deal with such external authority. Under present law in the U.S., if the community organizes as a formal government, it becomes subject to a great deal of requirements, at many levels, and loses a great deal of it's ability to deny external access to it's property.
Growth. If the village is the only entity in an area, or the most viable to lead appropriate restructuring, it probably needs to consider eventual growth beyond the village size, and what the maximum community size per the resources would be.
If there is time, finance, and resources, an intentionally constructed, sustainably oriented gathering is probably cheaper, and would function better, than attempting to adapt an existing neighborhood. (Consider building a solar oriented, earth bermed home, vs. modifying an existing home) But in location selection also consider the need to avoid any further destruction of natural ecosystems.
It does not matter whether the village is composed of individual homesteads, or a single arcology, or anywhere in between. What matters is the relationship of population level to resources.
Interior Roads. If the gathering is to create, in a brief period, in physical isolation the physical infrastructure that would have otherwise taken decades, or perhaps indeed centuries to evolve, I expect that heavy vehicle access will be necessary. But that does not necessarily mean that natural surroundings must be destroyed, or paved over. If we are anticipating the end of motor vehicle traffic as we know it, interior "roads" could be two paths of stepping-stones, spaced wheel width apart. Should a road, in the future, need to be manually removed, or relocated, (or used as building blocks) such individual pavers could far more readily be moved than the work involved in breaking up a monolithic concrete or asphalt road. While internal paths may generally only carry foot traffic, bikes, etc., nevertheless on a general grid, for a 1 mile on a side village 18 mile of access pathway/road is needed.
Service and Supply Court, walking scale within.
I suggest thinking of each Homestead association unit in terms of the cooperative housing movement, where jointly owned facilities allow for interaction and economics of scale. (i.e. a central pool vs multiple home pools) If each village has set aside a central core of 40 acres, (a square about 1300 ft per side) there should easily be room for schools, marketplace, some small industry, etc.
These photos are more of the same outside center referenced elsewhere, where autos are kept out of the shopping area.
Although the particular facility shown has a focus on retail sales, the same buildings could obviously function as offices for physicians, dentists, school rooms, etc. It presents a pleasant, stress relieving atmosphere.
Supply sales. Some services, and supplies, are used so infrequently that every resident doing it for themselves, or owning the item, is simply irrational, especially in a post fossil fuel era where high "real" fuel costs impose high real costs on good and services.
For example, there are times now that I need a truck, but I don't need one every day. When I do, I rent one. It should be the same with the village. The entity should own the large, infrequently used resources, and rent them to residents at a rate designed to maintain and eventually repair the item, and provide reasonable income to the entity, to lower the temptation to create taxes.
Fish farming. Serves as a local source of high quality protein, and fertilizer for crops. It can be done on a very small scale for a family, or a community project. In utilitarian tanks, or aesthetic pools.
A fish farm could be incorporated into a much larger facility. The decorative ponds, streams, pools in the above shopping plaza could perhaps if interconnected serve an overall "farm".
Library. If there is spare space and labor available, a physical library as is thought of today in an American town can be operated. In a village though an alternative that works for a library (and other functions) is to establish a simple central information resource showing books owned by individuals, with borrowing being either a private transaction, or processed thru a central resource manager.
Layout of streets and paths. For an isolated community, rolling terrain provides advantages not only in security, but in esthetics. Even with an urban environment, the terrain surrounding buildings need not follow the level streets and sidewalks. The typical U.S. neighborhood development is first bulldozed as flat as possible. Consider instead rolling terrain, with earth bermed homes.
At each home you could have a wall of glass, looking out onto your own small garden, deck, natural terrain, etc., which as you reach the edge of the property rises in a gentle slope, then drops down again on the next property. You see only nature, not your neighbor's wall. Even if there are flat paths or roads cut thru the terrain to connect the homesites, with planning the "road" could pass such that the homes were not really visible.
The slope and mass between the homes absorbs and deflects noise and vibration.
Minimum outside open lighting reduces electrical demand, preserves the beauty of the night sky, and preserves night vision. When the human eye is in the dark then exposed to light, it takes at least several minutes for "night vision" to return. In that time, places appear dark and threatening which, if night vision were preserved, would be relatively clear to see.
At the ecovillage level, at least at the upper size levels, the community may have it's own assets, funded by donations, or taxes. What type of hostile "enemy" is expected? In the 1950's and 1960's, talk of atomic war prompted some to prepare fallout shelters. At the time, and perhaps in retrospect, some saw the shelter building activity as foolish. Your self-reliant home may be similarly cause you to be the object of criticism by those who will not see the problems we face. But if done well, those shelter spaces continued to be an asset, and may once again, in the coming crash, prove their value as fallout shelters. Similarly, your self reliant home, even if there is an energy breakthrough, has reduced your living costs, while providing peace of mind and a form of "insurance".
Organized Army. As shown in the operations of formal Armies, against less well equipped and trained adversaries, "strongholds", even those constructed by the oil rich Iraq regime, are no match for computer guided bombs. Likewise though, standing Armies readily fall victim to hidden insurgents. Probably the best defense against a formal Army is to simply avoid a conflict in the first place. Don't be an enemy.
Mob. A stronghold has value against a mere mob, and while each home has it's own reinforced safe-room, at the ecovillage level the ability to gather the entire community in the courtyard in a secure spot has great advantage in self-defense capabilities.
Individuals. If not hostile, do you feed them? Even if you send them on their way, if you've fed them, will they return? Will they return with others, or send others your way, as an easy "mark" for a free meal? Do you let them camp on the property, or ignore their camp just off the property? How to guide them to establishing their own sustainable village? Perhaps the hardest question of all is the arrival of Friends / family. If you've got a year of food storage, and gardens sufficient for your family, and not much more, what will you do?
Central management. Provided the numbers of incoming "visitors" (and the threat they may pose) does not overwhelm the village, the village may want to set up a formal "visitor center" to serve as the contact point for arrivals, assess skills and assets vs village needs, and perhaps set up an arrangement to add to the village, or work on set up of a new one, leading to development of a city.
It would probably be a significant challenge for a village of 1,200 families to establish a functioning community in secret and isolation. As with an isolated neighborhood, so long as the external infrastructure continues to function, the gathering should be capable of keeping up to date with the rest of the world.
A question: Assume your group has somehow established a square mile, or more, of homesteads, roads, schools, etc. You can achieve anything possible with your own property and own assets, that you have the capability to achieve. BUT: If in isolation, does your village yet have the technology and technique to repair or replace a broken plate or cup? How about a p/v panel? Or even a light bulb?
Producing a silicon p/v panel requires some minimum level of "high tech", and an ongoing demand to require ongoing production to maintain the facility in operation. If each homestead has twenty five 100 volt panels, the collected homesteads of the village have 30,000 panels, with an expected lifespan of 30 years. A replacement schedule could then require production of around 1,000 panels per year. Can you village then produce say 3 or 4 new, or re-worked p/v panels every day?
A village scale community of 1,200 homesteads presents a potential organization / governance situation. Communication is essential, and a common language is invaluable.
Starting at this level, it appears that "government" cannot necessarily be dismissed out of hand. But what is the minimum required "government? Do you grant or acquiesce to having someone else power over how you live, or do you merely want someone to turn to with a grievance whenever someone else "steps on your toes"?
Each unit, homestead, Homestead associations, ecovillage, ecocity, are parts that build toward a sustainable civilization. Do not expect the physical, or mental, transformation to be a quick process.
In the August 2006 issue of Scientific American, an article on developing expertise indicates that it takes approximately a decade of heavy mental labor to master any field. This would imply then that until any individual or group has been intensely involved in thinking and acting "sustainably" for such a period of time, it is still going to be "second nature" to them.
Also, we have a physical infrastructure that has developed around fossil fuel waste, with over 100 years of work that must be re-done.
Sustaining civilization goes well beyond air, water, food, shelter, and new generations. It is also about education, specialization, development of technology, etc. Do you believe that a few friends in an isolated "village" can sustain civilization alone?
Village size organizations can function on a barter system, and may not have much need for formal laws, or a complex economy for internal purposes. Absent a large-scale disaster, they could provide a healthy, nurturing environment for an indefinite number of generations. But villages appear to be limited in the amount of specialization that can take place, and if unable to communicate, and conduct physical exchange of unique products, development is so inhibited that mankind's progress would essentially come to a standstill, and most likely regress.
A stable population is essential. Children may be a joy to the parent, and of value to the eventual future of the community, but typically until adulthood they are a burden. And any children beyond replacement for the parents pose a threat. Yet despite wars, famine, pollution, resource depletion, most of humanity still doesn't get the picture.
In a limited resource (air, water, food, etc.) situation, the lower the overall population, the greater the amount of resource that can be expended per person, with surplus for experimentation, research and development.
In a group of free individuals, there is to some extent always a breeding program ongoing, where the wealthiest, best looking, most successful, etc., mate with peers, or can be more selective in selecting a mate.
We have however in the "developed" nations had an ongoing misguided program of expanding the numbers of the least-fit, those who without assistance would have never "made it" on their own, and from whom society never had any hope of any beneficial contribution.
Conversely, in growing numbers, those with higher education, significant earnings capacity, and better living conditions have opted for less than replacement level children.
The federal government is running $500+ billion annual deficits with trillions in debt on the books. If the baby boomers start to retire in 2008 as they become eligible, government costs in Social Security benefits will soar, even as tax revenues plummet. The debts of Social Security and federal pensions are not on the books, with estimates running from $57.8 trillion up to $74 trillian. Our "fiat" currency is already strained almost to the limits by the tax/spend & borrow/spend politicians.
U.S. consumer debt in 2006 is around $2.2 trillion dollars. Our desire for cheap foreign products sends $600 billion more OUT of the country every year than comes in.
Locations, such as China, that do not have the web of environmental, labor, wage & benefit, etc. laws and regulations in place in the U.S., are obviously at an "advantage" when examined strictly on the question of cost of production in currency.
For so long as products from such locations can be imported without application of a tariff at the U.S. border that brings the currency cost up to equal what internal production would cost, the typical consumer is going to continue to purchase the lowest price tag item. It doesn't matter whether the item is imported and sold by a large chain store, or a mom & pop store, it still has driven out some aspect of local production, and sent a significant percentage of the purchase price out of the community.
It is difficult to envision how the federal government can divert economic disaster, and individuals may not want the government to even try.
Traditional government means to manage the economy are spending, interest rate control, financial liquidity, etc. These tools work to tweak the economy away from inflation or deflation. The problem with rising real energy prices is they are both inflationary and deflationary at the same time. Oil as energy and feedstock is a significant component of much of the world economy. As the real price of oil is driven up, so goes the real price of goods and services. But real price increases force people to limit spending, some things just will not be bought.
Cash, or cash equivalents, fixed dollar payments, etc., could easily become useless. Although currency may become useless, you still need a local means of exchange that bypasses the gloom of the big picture.
Every community has drains on its income, some perhaps not so visible. Perhaps the largest drain on income, and indeed even accumulated wealth, is taxation. Add up how much of earnings is lost to Federal and State income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare, etc., vs the amount that returns to the community in viable benefits from these governments. I'll tie this back to what I allude to re pension or social security payments, where I expect the big picture to cause problems with traditional currency.
Even the most innocent appearing, "mom and pop" store, can be a significant drain on the local economy. A foreign product or service, is a foreign product or service. In a store selling for example items that are virtually all made in China, the only part of the funds spent there that could continue to flow in the private, local community are the after tax profits.
As bad as consumer spending on foreign produced products is, if the spending is financed, yet more money leaves the community. (Where do you send YOUR credit card payments?)
Do you have a company pension plan, 401(k), IRA, whole life insurance, etc.? How much of your money in these products do you think circulates in the local community? As a distinct example, purchase in the marketplace of stock of a local firm sends your money to the sellers account, NOT necessarily (or likely) someone local.
Another drain on local wealth I would conjecture that is often overlooked are those who earn income, live frugally, and send a significant portion of their income to family located elsewhere. It doesn't matter whether the elsewhere is another U.S. city, or a foreign country, it is still money leaving the community.
How secure is your job or business?
What are you invested in?
Are you planning on retirement with a pension from a private sector employer, or the government, or a stipend from Social Security? The federal government can, if it elects, cease Social Security, make it means-tested, or perhaps worse, pay everything promised in useless printing press money. For now, private firms that default on their pension plans might have the deficit covered by the federal government, with the same eventual printing press challenge.
You need to understand  the financial markets and products, and realize the risks you may be taking by going along with the crowd.
To become sustainable  means to integrate our economic and social lives into the environment in ways that maintain and enhance it rather than degrade or destroy it; sustainability is a moral imperative to pass on our natural inheritance not necessarily unchanged, but undiminished in its ability to meet the needs of future generations.
Sustainability also includes the concept of carrying capacity, which means finding the balance point among population, consumption, and waste assimilation. Sustainability is NOT an environmental movement, it is a community movement. At the present, while the benefits of growth accrue to the few, not necessarily even local, the costs of growth tend to be distributed across the community. The cost of growth needs to be borne by those who benefit from such.
Every decision one makes--in life, community, and business--can be gauged against this definition. The simplest way to do so is ask yourself whether your choice supports the local community. As peak oil returns limits to our horizons, you cannot escape the fact that you are an intimate and interconnected member of the web of life where you live.
Disconnect from consumer culture. As with eliminating your dependence on oil, this doesn't mean never again make a consumer purchase. But stop buying what you don't need, or that which has no enduring significance. Try to shop local and organic, but realize that for so long as the present picture global economy remains, local cannot compete on a price basis with the far side of the planet.
Carrying debt for the purpose of consumer spending is a waste. Conversely though, debt for the purpose of controlling an asset that even "holds" value in inflation may be a prudent move. (At least while the current economy continues to function.)
In conflict with an exhortation to stop consumer spending is the fact that money in the bank is, thanks to (primarily) government generated inflation, a guaranteed LOSS in purchase power. As a sad example, as of OCT 2006 you are probably better off holding rolls of pre-1981 pennies, than deposing money in a bank or credit union.
If the peak oil crowd is right (no evidence to the contrary) then to the extent any good or service is a "daily" need, it will either need to be taken care of at home, or somewhere within essentially walking distance. Things taken for granted today are likely to become a "luxury". But until and unless enough people wake-up, and in fact until things get bad enough, many things are not going to change.
A personal example: I am a lawyer, nearing retirement from Army civil service. If the "worst case" scenario comes to pass and we are in "survival" mode, I do not expect that my neighbors will have much need for services of a lawyer. Nor do I have confidence that my pension (or Social Security) will be paid, or that if it is, the money will have any significant meaning or value. Even though I see a coming problem, I CAN'T see resigning.
I am also an Arizona Master Gardener. At the moment, there is no significant money to be earned as such, but it may become a valuable retirement skill, if for no other reason than to feed my family.
In the meantime, I research, experiment, prompt discussions, and write.
If your community is to become truly sustainable, it must adhere to the definition of sustainability. Too many people think sustainability means the continuation of the status quo of the Industrial Growth Society.
In most places the current business environment is hostile to small business and home-based business. We dare not however wait for the Greater Depression before trying to do something about our situation. One of the ways to take back power from the people who have taken over our political and monetary systems is to break their strangle hold on the local economy. Local production not retail is key. The value-added to the community is in production, not reselling something from somewhere else.
An area where people show a willingness to pay a premium price (greater than that for "slave labor") is custom and quality handicraft. This 'small shop' approach fits a coming paradigm of high energy costs for shipping. A level playing field is not going to happen while cheap energy allows slave labor products from 12,000 miles away to enter without the tariffs that compensate for the present safety nets here. We want our safety nets and benefits, without personally paying for them. This cannot continue. If the fuel costs for shipping had to be paid for in purchase of "present day" energy, instead of the underground storehouse of ancient sunlight, even distant slave labor would have difficulty competing.
Given our current situation it will be difficult to get the public to see the need for local, higher cost products. Everyone is encouraged, and to encourage others to start small and think big. There is essentially NO reason for local unemployment. Surely there is something you can do, make, fix, etc., with greater skill than another, and they have a specialty in turn.
As an example, if someone wants to get into the shoe making, or other such business, for now, it must just be their hobby, as we're NOT going to compete with the imports from China.
Support a local currency if you find a means to disconnect such from inflationary trends. .
Pre-crisis though, creating a local currency, and a web of business using such, is potentially going to be "frowned upon" by multiple levels of government who do not want their revenue streams interrupted.
My "Two Cents" is we need an atmosphere and local rules that encourages home enterprise. Existing zoning and/or business license/taxation requirements may pose sufficient barriers as to prevent some from implementing a "sideline" business that they might otherwise have an interest in operating. The very people who would benefit in the future from such hobby businesses waiting in the wings, will probably balk at changes today that would allow them to start to develop. But it must be done.
In a sustainable community, some business operations will be "short term", some ongoing. For example landscaping and building for rainwater harvesting is going to be for the most part a short term business. Although it takes skill initially to get collection in place, once someone sees what needs to be done, the work of the business is easily replicated, and if done well, remains functional for a long period of time without further intervention.
An obvious problem is going to be those with living arrangements that precludes any significant growing of food. They will have to purchase such from savings or earnings, steal it, or leave. Along with growing food goes safe recycling of the human effluents back to the growing medium. A great deal of food can be grown in compact areas if the growing medium is kept fertilized, and it receives the attention required. Intensive gardening requires indefinite attention, and a variety of knowledge, and appears to be a practical ongoing business with this specialist allowing others to pursue their specialty.
How to improve the business environment for local enterprise, and make our communities more sustainable and self-sufficient? Tossed out for consideration:
Identify and plug the (economic) leaks.
Identify products that could be produced locally, but are not currently.
Identify skills that are present in the community and those that need to be developed to produce these goods.
Establish a network to facilitate local business development.
Create a local green business directory.
Bring market share from non-indigenous enterprises.
Improve the self-sufficiency of the Tucson area through economic development with special focus on food production and small scale water supply systems.
Create an increased sense of community by working together to start and support local enterprises.
Establish a local currency to improve the use of capital, facilitate trade, and encourage doing business locally.
Publish a newsletter and website to promote our efforts, encourage participation, provide an objective source for local business news, and alert readers to issues not covered by the mainstream media services.
In a rapidly expanding economy, with what was seen as an unlimited source of energy and vastly enhanced growth of food, "charity" at the point of a government gun was not widely objected to. It became un-acceptable to question this wealth transfer (theft) and the destructive results.
This meddling to breed for the least capable is perhaps the program most dependent on an overproductive, expanding, resource wasting economy. Consider that when the (virtually) free energy subsidy of oil ends, and socio-economic activity relies on current energy flow, there will be greatly increased real prices (in terms of earnings per unit of labor). This greatly reduces the lifestyle of the working and makes every cent of earnings critical.
At the same time living expenses for the working rise, they will rise for the non-contributing. This means that as workers have rising concern about their jobs, and find their useful income dropping, the socialists will be demanding greater and greater percentages of workers income.
How much of this are you going to tolerate?
But to maintain a stable population level, yet improve humanity overall, there will need to be some form of restriction on breeding, whether bringing back "taboo's", economic incentives (or disincentives such as IMPOSING a tax on every child, vs granting tax deductions), or outright enforced controls.
We have governmental incentives to have more children, and other incentive programs which increase the population. While there is such government, THESE MUST STOP. In the end, these transfer the cost of children from the parents to unrelated families. Eliminate tax deductions for children. IMPOSE a tax on the parent of any child beyond replacement.
Formally encourage a market in parenting sales. NO parent has the right to more than their personal replacement child. Yes, "wealthy" could have more children by buying the parent permission of the poor. The poor person(s) then does not have children, and the estate of the wealthy is divided among a larger "pool" of children, diluting how much each gets. Parenting rights cannot be "sold" until a person reaches a proper mature age (30?) A married couple, who decide to have only one child, could sell their remaining parenting right. Parenting rights can also be sold to the government, for example in exchange for old-age care, or left by will.
We must think and act more realistically than present immigration procedures. Immigration refers to arbitrary government regulated movement of individuals. There are those who advocate elimination of any limits on immigration. What if the government was taken out of the picture for setting rules, and deciding who can move where, and is instead limited to protection of individual rights?
If a community has realistically implemented sustainability concepts, it should be clear that an immigrant (adult or child) to a long-term sustainable community would cause a net increase in the relevant population unless they are a replacement for a native born resident.
NOTE: The assumption is that the community is already AT the maximum population that can be sustained on the available water, food, etc. If every other community is also at maximum population, or worse (as we have now) well beyond long term sustainable population, purchase of the needed extra resources is not a viable option. Given these (which I believe may be best-case) parameters, how do you address immigration?
Each multi-generation homestead if already at their safe population has internal incentive to restrict new births, as each new mouth takes a portion away from everyone already there.
Perhaps the immigrant could purchase the parenting right of an existing person, in effect for population purposes becoming their instant "child", subject to the limits of their "adoptive" family. Perhaps such an immigrant should not parent a child until they have been here for some time period, consider (15?) years.
Related to consideration of permanent immigration is the issue those who have no permanent connection to the area lingering about. Do you want continued personal security? Do you want the ability to exclude unwanted intruders from your home and business? At what point do you want to cede control? You operate a restaurant, and someone parks their hot dog cart on the sidewalk outside? How about your neighborhood? Your schools?
Under current law you only have control authority within your privately owned property, you home, perhaps your neighborhood if it's not open to the general public (think a gated neighborhood, with privately maintained streets).
Face it, people will move away from danger, and toward wherever they perceive as a "better place". If your home or neighborhood is, or appears to be better off then others, you become a likely target for thieves (with or without government credentials). Get involved in your community, in particular any aspect which involves the "law" and your private property rights, self-defense rights, etc.
Current U.S. law allows for the most part non-residents to freely walk about public (government owned/controlled) sidewalks, streets, lots, etc. But we are contemplating extreme times. What if you don't want strangers hanging about in your neighborhood in the middle of the night? If your neighborhood sidewalks and streets were once again private property, with mere easements granted to other property owners, only residents would have the right to use such, and only for what the easement authorized. Authorities would then be called on to enforce trespass laws, or where the law allows private citizen detention for the trespass.
What about taking your entire community (city) "private"? If your community remains viable, while others that have failed to prepare are in collapse, what is the legal basis for maintaining your resource to population balance? A new person, is a new person. Must you, will you, wait until you are overrun?
How do you improve the quality of life for the residents already in the city while avoiding the growth that news of the good life would cause? Each family, neighborhood, village, and city should look after itself first. Personal then local welfare, working upward from the grass roots must take priority over daydreams about addressing the problems of those who take no steps to solve their problems themselves, or make them progressively worse.
Water collection and food growing at the home level makes it clear what the life support limits are. I suggest it is similar with sidewalks, roads, and other currently considered "government" property. It needs to return to private ownership.
Government is force. We need a paradigm of voluntary cooperation and partnerships to work together. This means though not only work such as building a new library, but also working together to establish and maintain limits. Public projects and programs paid by taxed theft or slavery discourages involvement by the victims of the theft, and by those who benefit by it thru no effort of their own.
Consider a community with limited water. The city takes all the water, and gives it away. Demand would rise, supply, recycling and conservation development would fall, and the per person supply would diminish. In contrast if each homestead is free to use their own collected water, yet must pay the full costs for other water, efficiencies are encouraged, as are naturally imposed limits to new development and expansion.
We are not likely to see, or desire, sustainability imposed from political authority. But we need to stop rewarding actions contrary to sustainability.
Deaths must essentially match births. Perhaps society should accept voluntary suicide, perhaps of adults over 30, or under 30 when diagnosed by (3?) physicians with a terminal and painful or debilitating condition.
It appears in history that numbers approaching 1 million were the upper limit for cities. A city of a million, if part of a larger civilization may expect say 80% of it's population to be permanent residents of extended families, giving us around 100,000 homesteads, with the other 20% considered transitory, coming to the city on less than a permanent basis for education, to learn or practice a trade or skill, etc. A transitory population will have some needs that differ significantly from permanent residents.
In addition, the limited resource and population base of small villages provides little reserve capabilities to cope with disasters. Even minor disturbances in water or food supplies, or a natural disaster damaging infrastructure, could be a death knell for the village without outside support.
The U.S. patent office estimates 1 patentable invention per year, per every 1,000 people in the population. But don't let statistics mislead you into believing an energetic isolated eco-village should expect 9 new ideas every year.
It takes creative people, educated and with extra time and resources for significant advances. It takes easy access to previous knowledge, tools, expert assistance, etc. An information and goods exchange among a network of eco-villages should be expected to yield far more new inventions each year than the same villages kept isolated. Communication and trade must be maintained, which in a low energy environment probably means being physically nearby.
Not every invention is in the best interest of civilization (think of a device that could destroy every living thing, so simple to make any kid could do it ) Even without posing a physical threat, inventions are not necessarily welcomed with open arms. There are always those who oppose anything new. With innovation the demand for a product or service may wane (buggies and horsewhips after the auto).
Not every site has the same resources. Not every group of people has the same capabilities or interests. Specialization nurtures expertise. Trade nurtures specialization. But it also nurtures the "theft" of inventions, reducing the reward for the inventors efforts.
We need an environment that nurtures positive creativity, avoiding careless waste of resources, contamination of the environment, and unacceptable risks. Thoughts?
Your first step, determine what product or service is being produced or provided in a manner contrary to your ecological belief system, and stop buying it. Convince your family and friends to stop buying it. Get them all to tell the provider why their business has been lost.
"The earth is finite. It cannot provide for continually growing numbers of people. It can't even provide for anywhere near the present population. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair. Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any effort to achieve a sustainable future"
- World Scientists Warning to Humanity, the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Prices must reflect the ecological reality of the situation. As touched on earlier, fossil fuels have been replacing human human labor at an arguable "exchange" rate of a gallon of fuel doing around 562 hours of human labor, which at the U.S. minimum wage each gallon is around $3,000 worth of human labor.
Oil has annually provided in recent years energy to power civilization that is roughly equal to the dedicated labor of more than 50 billion slaves. This is ending. It's not so much as what an eco-economy CAN be, as what it CANNOT be.
"In a sustainable society, durability and recycling will replace planned obsolescence as the economy's organizing principle, and virgin materials will not be seen as a primary source of material but as a supplement to the existing stock"
Lester Brown, Worldwatch Institute
When human numbers were small, and the earth covered with a dense, diverse ecology, a tree cut here, an animal or fish taken there, made little difference to the system as a whole. With our vast numbers now, and technology, we clear-cut entire forests and eliminate entire species. For all practical human purposes, we have done, and continue to do damage that may never be repaired. Limited population is an essential element. The very life processes of each person places that much of an additional demand on the counterbalancing ecology. Any projection of the future is at best, a guess, based on present information. But using present knowledge and technological capabilities, a sustainable, technological society can continue to exist, and develop.
Try looking at the world as a series of sealed bubbles. You are personally responsible for what you do, or allow, at home, your property, your town, country, the world. You can't pollute. In multigenerational family owned homesteads each generation has the incentive to continue to upgrade the homestead.
Air. We've got to stop pollution. Humans have burned fuels for energy for a long time, and we today burn at LOT. If we didn't derive the fuel by concentrating the energy component from the environment (carbon from biofuels, hydrogen from water, etc.) we shouldn't be putting it into the environment. (Biofuels and systems to split hydrogen from water will be major factors for portable power, unless of course Mr. Tesla's broadcast power proposals were accurate, and are implemented.) In theory, if the community is growing its own food, it should be balancing the CO2 output of the residents, perhaps not exactly locally (due to open air and winds) but on the average. The best the community can do for other air pollutants is to avoid producing them, and refuse to deal with anyone who does.
Water. The Ogallala Aquifer WAS a huge store of "fossil water", under around 225,000 square miles in the Great Plains region (the U.S. "breadbasket"), which has long been a major source of water for agricultural, municipal, and industrial development. Use began at the turn of the century, and has now greatly surpassed the aquifer's rate of natural recharge. Some places overlying the aquifer have already exhausted their underground supply as a source of irrigation. Given high power pumps, it may only be decades before vast areas are pumped "dry". Given the loss of high power pumps, the irrigation will cease. Probably 1/3 of the U. S. cropland is irrigated in this unsustainable manner, and will then "disappear".
The Colorado River examples another source, while renewable, allocated beyond its natural flow. Often nothing reaches the ocean of what was once a river that could handle ocean-going shipping. The next cycle of lessened rainfall in the catchment area will have serious repercussions for those dependent on this water for their life. Limited population is an essential element. We do not have the technology to replace the quantities of "fossil water" that have been squandered. If "global warming" fears materialize, heat and reduced rainfall pose a deadly threat. Ocean water can be "de-salted", but not in sufficient quantities to maintain the present population and the necessary crops, nor is enough energy likely to be available to transport the water to distant fields and population centers.
If the air is clean, then rainfall should be clean. We need to then avoid polluting it within the community, including "salts", concentration of which threatens crops, and soil life.
Food. Bio-intensive, perhaps in concert with some aspects of the hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic systems. Most farmland is "mined out" of trace minerals, and does not produce appropriately healthy food, and absent chemical fertilizers, is incapable of producing a quantity of food anywhere near present production. Cropland must have trace minerals restored, and be maintained in such a manner that these minerals are returned to the land and crops, including our bodies when we no longer need them. We can grow terrific crops, and properly nourish a few, or greater quantity of lesser quality crops and feed a greater quantity of less healthy people. What we have today is a version of the LATTER.
Industrialized food production, processing, long distance shipping, etc., obviously subjects this vital life support aspect to far greater "uncertainties" than does growing food locally.
It does not appear probable that long distance shipping of products, in particular overland on roads, or by air, is sustainable absent fossil fuels. While many of the components of high tech devices require such unique processes that they are not likely to be made "locally", in many locations, there is likewise no need for entire devices to be assembled, packaged, and shipped.
In example, the high tech manufacturing "essential" components of a computer are no where near the overall mass and volume of a complete computer. Frames, cases, connectors, etc. can be hand-crafted locally for assembly.
Manufacturing. "Key" components of systems or devices.
pedal power transport and devices (people today could use the exercise anyway)
wind driven devices, motion, moving matter, energy generation / storage
fuel cell, solar cell, thermoelectric
Energy generation / storage. Solar p/v, thermoelectric, thermo heat-engine, biomass production. Providing power not only for the community, but outlying customers.
Selective surfaces are materials that reflect, or absorb, given qualities of energy or matter. A diode only allows electricity to move in one direction. Certain membranes allow thru water, but exclude "contaminants", including dissolved salts.
Thin films can block or reflect selected portions of sunlight. High concentrations of u/v, an ionizing frequency of light, can provide significant "excitation" of water molecules such that the electricity needed to electrolyze water is BELOW that which can be generated when the hydrogen is again burned or used in a fuel cell. This is not an over unity device, since the extra energy is coming from sunlight. If the complete spectrum of light is used at the concentrations necessary the water heats too much, decreasing the electrolysis efficiency and making more complex containment necessary.
Senior Center. Assisted living homes, which in the pre-crash economy, often receive significant income for providing relatively low levels of service to residents. Post crash the facilities have continued potential use for living facilities, for non-family residents.
Campground. Pre-crash as an income source, post crash is may readily be convertible to a Homestead association, or better. Post-crash it is at least cropland, and if pre-plumbed/wired, potential sites for small homes.
Gardening. For those who can't / won't grow their own food, skills in creating and maintaining an effective and low - maintenance garden could be a growing demand.
Recycling. There is no away to throw things to. Components and materials must be taken apart, sorted, stored, and made available again for new projects. If there is no garbage pick up, and no "city dump", would you pay to have things taken away? Would you run a business where you were paid to take "stuff" away, and paid again for the parts after you took them apart?
Sewage management. Forcing someone to manage your feces / urine would be slavery. If you realize you must recycle such to survive, but don't want to, and the city won't let you connect to the sewer, how much would you pay to not have to worry about it? (Ties to gardening)
An ecological economy is by its own terminology NOT based on a once-thru process of disposable goods. The fossil fueled industrial age COULD have given everyone high quality, high durability goods, and permanently lifted worldwide living standards. What we DID was produce at the lowest cost, lowest quality possible, a "disposable" product.
With current economic thinking, advertising, and business practices, an ecological economy appears at first to be an antithesis of a healthy economy. It does NOT seek change for the mere sake of change, deliberate repeat business by planned obsolescence, etc.
Nanotechnology promises a revolution in materials engineering, and product construction.
Quality. A thoughtfully designed and executed product can have lifetime appeal and usefulness, and be a cherished heirloom, passing from generation to generation. A quality item is less likely to be replaced merely because "new and different" is produced.
Durability. Don't you have that favorite shirt, pair of shoes, watch, etc., that you just love to wear? Do you wish they would last longer? Why don't they?
Standardization of components. Imagine trying to play music if every record, tape, or CD required a special player. Along the lines of the shipping discussion above, standardized components and subcomponents, assembled to make various devices, yet designed to be re-arranged at the consumer level, leads to enhanced recycling.
Recycling, of not just materials, but individual components and assemblies. Current electronic devices, while "neat", are in most cases not repairable, requiring the entire device to be discarded when there is a single component malfunction.
Food. Of the highest nutrition, in appropriate proportions. Grain, potatoes, rice, etc. continues to be presented, even by physicians, as the base of the food pyramid. These carbohydrate items are most profitable for farmers, and for the food processing industry, as cheap carbohydrates are processed into "snack foods". Most of these contain little though beyond calories, and certainly do not qualify as a healthy diet. Consider for a moment, have you ever heard the phrase "corn fed", or "grain fed" in reference to fattening up cattle, hogs, etc. for the slaughter?
As discussed earlier, much of the farmland in use today has been depleted of the micro-nutrients we need. Yes, plants can still be forced to grow on the depleted soil, but the food cannot contain the nutrients we need. The growing medium must be fully restored, from "outside" sources if necessary, and the minerals eaten must be returned to the soil. Therefore recycling must include the valuable atoms which comprise our bodies, once we non longer rely on them.
No net loss.
Expanded copyright and patent protections. These protections encourage new ideas, discoveries and devices to be brought to the public, by ensuring that the proper credits and accolades, as well as the financial benefits of the creation accrue to the creator.
Short term patent protection, such as the 17 year United States patent, provide a relatively short period for benefits to accrue to the creator, then the invention becomes "public domain". In some instances, the inventor may not find the financial risk of research to be worth the potential gain of an invention. Compare this to copyright protection, where the song "Happy Birthday" still warrants royalties
We've got lots of sunlight. But so far, getting from sunlight to energy types used in current commerce and technology is not efficient. Low energy input approaches are required. Some perspective. Say we're looking for a kilowatt of electricity. Compare use of a 10% efficient p/v panel, to the area required to grow food for one living horse. Or for producing 1 hp of power from an engine burning wood, or other biofuels?
Take your pick, they are all a leap of faith. There is no ongoing event to evidence that any particular formal religion has a rational factual basis. Most clearly have biases that are clearly contrary to a long-term sustainable civilization.
Humanity is past a sustainable population. In an ideal world, we would use the remaining oil ONLY to create an infrastructure that is sustainable on solar input, and voluntarily focus on reducing the population to sustainable levels.
But what would happen to a politician who proposed measures appropriate to these ends, such as:
Repeal income tax dependency exemptions, child tax credit, and all deductions for child care. Have a one-time only, limited time grant for abortions, then cease public spending for any pregnancy related cost or child care costs, and cease welfare. Eliminate immigration for other than critical national defense abilities. Eliminate government mandated union membership. Eliminate deductions for donations to "charities", providing health insurance, life insurance, or other benefits other than salary.
These have all contributed to a situation where motivation to independent action has been suppressed, to gain the "benefits" of a steady job. Such jobs making taxation easier. Leading then to demands that the government "fix" the disparity between those with, and without such benefits, by the government assuming the insurance business.
Repeal social security, Medicare, etc. These programs reward the non-contributing of society, or impose the expense of the ills, or ill conduct, of the few on to the productive members. Consider the Social Security reform discussions, with means-testing as a favored approach. This means that those who pay the most into a government mandated, gun to your head retirement program, get the least benefit from this program. A completely irrational approach. Charity, should be voluntary, not imposed at the point of a gun.
Eliminate corporate double taxation, where corporations must still pay corporate income tax on amount paid out as dividends to stockowners. (For that matter, eliminate the limited liability aspects of business entities. If investors own the upside of their investments, why do they not own the downside and costs of business liabilities. How is it that some fictional, paper entity can be found guilty of torts, or crimes, and the human owners get off free?)
Eliminate federal deductions for state income tax, property taxes, etc.
Eliminate estate and gift taxes.
How do we avoid corruption? How do we avoid institutionalism?
Democracy, or one person, one vote, majority rule, is self-destructive. It is mob-rule. It is three large hard-core rapists and a pretty woman on a desert island, with a vote of 3 to 1 that the female must sexually service the men, or die. "Democracy is a regular feature of decaying civilizations When a democracy is established, the destitute consume the capital of the wealthy, and the civilization must then decay until invasion destroys it." Sir Flinders Petrie.
Twentieth Century welfare programs in the U. S. example the defect. Greater payments were made to those with more children, encouraging greater births in families who could not afford to care for the children, leading to following generations of welfare recipients that grew greater in numbers, both from excessive births, and expanded scope of the programs. Welfare is one example of the "tragedy of the commons", or "public goods game", which shows cooperative progress is endangered when it becomes clear that it is possible and "profitable" for individuals or groups to "free ride" on the productive efforts of others. In games experiments, a functional "out" from such a "tragedy of the commons" is for the producing, cooperating members to be able to punish welfare free riders, even if it means a cost to those punishing.
The disproportionate weight given to the vote of city dwellers also examples the defect. In an area which should be the center of education, research, manufacturing, etc., attracting the best of humanity, many present cities are gross drains on resources, far beyond any benefit returned. Estimates are that the current city of Los Angeles, California, has a "footprint" of ecological effect that is larger than the entire State of California. Do you believe that the entire population of LA are contributing citizens?
On the U.S. federal level, the Constitution originally contained some protection against such "mob rule", by assigning to each State two senators. Originally, the Representatives were elected by the people, and Senators were sent to represent the State Government. Therefore, Senators owed their allegiance essentially to the governor and legislature of their home state, NOT to the people. The distinction is that they had incentive to avoid proposals that cost the State. When it was changed that Senators were elected by a democratic popular vote, such protection was lost.
Each distinct PROPERTY, or some other fixed unit, regardless of the number of people living on the property, has one vote. It is up to the owner of the property to decide how the speaker for that portion of land is selected.
A vote can only change the primary charter if the vote is unanimous. (Protecting the original intentions of the founders, those who after sought admission to the village under the terms of the charter, born under the charter, etc., from the arbitrary democratic mob rule of any "majority".)
The village or city does not have the power to "tax". It does though have the authority to sell goods and services that are determined excess, with members having first priority to purchase such.
Decisions where the charter does not clearly control must pass by a 2/3 majority of the total possible votes. Likewise earlier such decisions can be overturned by a vote of more than 1/3 to modify or eliminate. This in effect means that for any such action to remain valid, more than a 2/3 majority must want it in place at any given time.
The tragedy of the commons must be avoided. When an asset is held in common, and all have an unlimited access, the typical result is prompt depletion.
Water is life. (The rest of the world is also waking up to this desert realization) Private homesites and garden locations are sized such that the anticipated average rainfall. In a group purchase of a large area, your garden need not be located immediately near your home. Therefore gardens can be sited for best production, and homes kept off and away from being built on the best land for food production.
Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine year lease of a garden and he will convert it into a desert.
Arthur Young English Writer
(Please excuse my drift into a science fiction work) The people in the U.S. military command, control, and maintain some of the most complicated hardware on the planet, in conditions that are often far from pleasant.
Our military are volunteers. Whether they signed up for a job, for the educational and other benefits, or as a career, our military people are just that, people. The military organization is the most "integrated" I am aware of. We see every race, religion, national origin, economic background, etc. in the military, at any level. For the most part, it is promotion by merit, vs popularity.
STARSHIP TROOPERS - Robert Heinlein (ST)
(ST) Rico's teacher, Mr. DuBois, asks "'What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?" "The difference,'" Rico answers, "lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not" (Starship Troopers, page 26). "[C]an you tell us why our system works better than any of out ancestors? ( ) [Because u]nder our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage" (page 182).
The point being that those who voluntarily bear the burden should make the decisions and get the benefits, not "free riders".
I cannot see how that a individual, neighborhood, city, state, or nation, if "prepared" for the crash, will be able to survive without obvious means of defense, and the obvious ability and willingness to use it. We cant continue to ignore and downplay self defense. Winning peace, not just at the level of "war", but down to local one-on-one crimes takes eternal vigilance at all levels.
(ST) "Naked force has resolved more issues throughout history than any other factor. The contrary opinion, that violence never solves anything, is wishful thinking at its worst."
In a home invasion, or if one of your family is assaulted, I advocate all should respond. In my personal capacity, I started teaching our daughter how to shoot when she was 4. At 11 she can handle a .45 ACP pistol and/or carbine reasonably well. Firearms are no toy to her. She's also been taking martial arts training, as well as all of the other crash and post oil era training/education I can think of.
Your local police cannot be everywhere that real crime is. Technically in most of the U.S., every citizen has the authority to make a citizens arrest, but it's discouraged by the professional police. We need to encourage personal initiative with offenders taken to the "on duty" staff.
We must be prepared to wage war. If fighting on the level of war is required, total involvement is required, from the extra food to be grown, it's delivery to the troops, resupply efforts, etc. There are no civilians in war, only those incapable of actively fighting or providing support.
But unless were involved in a war, maintaining a professional full time military, separate from other normal functions of society, is a drain on resources.
(ST) "Once someone asked me if I knew the difference between a citizen and a civilian. I can tell you now. A citizen has the courage to make the safety of the human race their personal responsibility."
What's NOT going to work is a society attempting to maintain industries, programs, and people that drain resources without providing any benefit back to society in general. Perhaps time spent "drafted" into military service will be a means of paying taxes?
I do not see that a military government is necessarily something to be feared. I can't though see the military involuntarily taking over from the civilian government, until / unless that government has already failed such that the population "demands" the change, and I still have a difficult time going from the concept of military control in a disaster period, to a long term military government
We readily see the "organization" advantages of the military in response to civil unrest, or natural disaster. Send in the "National Guard", which is the state army, composed primarily of part-time soldiers, people who have self-selected for the extra "hastle" that guard duty represents, including being sent into disasters, while earning less than in their normal jobs.
Americans readily demonstrate they are not frightened powerless peasants. Even little old neighbor ladies join "neighborhood watch" programs. Rather than demand police or military protection, I suspect they will BE the military civilization.
Perhaps I need to re-read my Heinlein to look for clues as to a practical long term "military" government
(ST) "One of the older cadets took a crack at it. 'Sir, revolution is impossible . . . because revolution --armed uprising -- requires not only dissatisfaction but aggressiveness. If you separate the aggressive ones and make them the sheep dogs, the sheep will never give you trouble" (page 184).
Rather than hold my breath for a military imposed organization, I'd still suggest everyone get their personal affairs re-aligned to survive the crash, and to cope as well as you can in the post oil era.
Create a neighborhood watch and neighborhood clean up program.
Implement your own "planned collapse", but realize the consequences, not only for you, but in the bigger picture.
You go off-grid, grow your own food, and enter into cooperative agreements with neighbors to swap your various handicrafts. You are no longer part of the tax base. As taxpayers "disappear", or per taxpayer revenue falls, government must raise rates, go further into debt, or cut non-essential programs.
Eventually, you are looking at government doing nothing but defense / law enforcement / emergency response All potentially done by volunteers. But, gone are excess revenues that can be expended to provide life-support for non-contributing individuals.
Besides laws and paychecks, coercion can take many forms:
(ST) "Service guarantees citizenship." Perhaps Heinlein will be proven right
Only those formal laws minimally required to provide for defense against outside threats of force, or provide deterrent and redress for inside initiation of inappropriate force. All government activity diverts the fruits of labor at the point of a gun.
Spending for military and police equipment, and the wages of the personnel, is in general a net loss to society, unless of course we experience an invasion, or someone (outside the government) forcefully violates you. The purpose of the military is to prevent a foreign invasion; the purpose of criminal punishment is to prevent another crime, whether from the same individual, or another; the purpose of civil courts is to address fraud or redress of initiated harm. When you get to any legal framework beyond this, you can quickly get into unlimited government intervention.
Consider, Alvin and Bob feel that Dick has a problem, which they want to fix . After a brief session, they decide what they are going to force John to do to help Dick. Dick at the point of a gun is not allowed any input or objection to the decision. The above examples what takes place when governments stray from their function of military and police protection, and courts of law.
While a government using a fiat currency can create currency using the printing press, it does not create value. If a government wants a subsidy payment to anyone to have any value, it must first take value at the point of a gun from someone who produces it.
Politicians pandering for the vote of the poor and/or weak rob those who produce, to divert the fruits of productive effort to their selected serfs, to perpetrate their own political power. But every cent so diverted to the sustenance of those who, in their own turn, do nothing, is a loss of funds that could have been supporting even greater accomplishments. And when such charity comes from politicians who depend on it for their power, you can be assured that money will continue to disappear into such a void.
If we have a limited government, a significant challenge is to keep it limited. The primary "Constitution" cannot be changed without a unanimous vote of the representatives. Consider, you either voluntarily moved to live under this government, or were born under it. If you do not want it changed, why would you grant consent for some less than unanimous group to change the rules?
"Doctors without Borders" appears to advocate medical care regardless of local licensing. Actually, I concur, a government issued license should not be REQUIRED to practice medicine, or any other profession, rather it should be seen as a statement of "quality control". So long as the practitioner you elect to visit is required to tell you of their qualifications, or lack therefore, let it be a free and open market. If you CHOOSE to be attended by a voodoo practitioner, it is your chose, so long as you have not been fraudulently misled.
Economically, every handout to a beggar (by direct voluntary action or government theft) represents additional stress placed on the environment and drain on resources. We have, for a century, enjoyed virtually free energy, available only at the pumping and processing costs, vs any need to divert current production. This is ending. All of the excess production it has allowed is ending. With this, the excess tax revenues, ends.
Communities, indeed individuals, select the services they desire to receive. If you live in a self-reliant multi generation homestead, fireproof, with someone armed always at home, and your neighborhood maintains the adjacent road, what city tax paid services do you need?
Living technologies that have the same capabilities as machines.
We are probably approaching the crash of our present civilization, not due to an alien invasion, or cosmic catastrophe, but due to our collective, blind, ignorant decisions, or lack of decisions, and lack of rational philosophy. Our now, and more importantly, our future, needs intelligent minds, who can understand, conceive and implement new ideas.
Those few, who see problems and take personal responsibility for finding and implementing solutions, also continue to allow themselves to be ruled by those who have no clue. Whether the population in general is aware of it, civilization needs a philosophy that encourages the best from everyone.
There was a time when I looked at the tragic mess theyve made of this earth, and I wanted to cry out, to beg tghem to listen I could teach them to live so much better than they did but there was nobody to hear me, they had nothing to hear with Intelligence? It is such a rare, precarious spark that flashes for a moment somewhere among men, and vanishes. One cannot tell its nature, or its future, or its death.
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
We face danger, in particular the probability that a large portion of the present living population will die early, and unpleasantly. Each will probably have to work, and work hard, to survive. You will have to know what youre doing, or readily accept and follow advice from those who do. But be careful in whom you select to follow. Be awake, aware, and thinking.
As yourself what other human do you accept as your mentor, or on the dark side, your master? When your wages are no longer high, and money and luxury easy, what will be your view of those who refuse to contribute, and demand the government force you to provide for them?
If the rest of them can survive only by destroying us, then why should we wish them to survive?
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
If you do not want to be forced into a particular profession, act, etc., do not expect that you have any right to force others to follow your wishes. Humans must be free to trade as willing participants. Your will to participate may stem from hunger, but it is still your personal decision. Does a slave make a better product that a private skilled craftsman? To what other human do you grant a claim on your life, mind, body, and fruits of your labor that is senior to your own? Charity may satisfy some moral or religious good, but should it be imposed at the point of a gun? Who has the right to initiate physical force, vs the right to respond with physical force?
Everyone has some potential to earn by the use of personal mental and physical capabilities, to provide some item or service that is of sufficient value to someone else that they are willing to trade some value of their own.
Your efforts improve the value of something, in simple example planting seed, tending a crop to maturity and delivery of the harvest to market. Even the simple sedentary act of sitting on a front porch, as the eyes and ears to watch a home, or neighborhood, has value.
It is said that money is the root of all evil, if so then what is money? Money is simply an agreed common intermediary barter item, used to make simple the voluntary exchange of goods and services at an agreed upon value. Money is a unit of mutual trust. Therefore in attempting to tell you that money is evil, they are telling you to see voluntary cooperation is evil. Money is not evil; it is a symbol of trust and voluntary cooperation. Money is the means by which the productive and trustworthy in the world can meld their efforts into even greater accomplishments.
What then is evil? Killing when the one killed is not being punished for the first unjustified death? Forceful enslavement? Theft? Irrational mindless activity at the cost of others? Are these not all evil, whether practiced by an individual, a religious zealot, or the government of a nation?
Money, as it is circulated in the world of the early new millennium, is an illusion. If money is a medium of trade, it should have some type of clear value relative to the two ends of each trade. The currencies issued by national governments has no inherent value, it only has such value relative to the goods and services of the nation and world as the governments of the world support.
Even in short-term, localized emergencies, the value of money, whether barter or government currency, can disappear, even if only for a brief period. But even in a protracted emergency, barter, some means of exchange of clear value for clear value, will relatively quickly return. When confidence to any significant scale in an unsupported paper currency disappears, the currency is doomed.
What corruptions, typically attributed to business, are not in true scope attributable to the actions of government that enforces at the point of a gun monopolies for a business that would otherwise be competed OUT of business, or provides protections from responsibility for the owners and operators of the business? Do not in your mind inseparably mix business with corporations.
Corporations are children of special interest governments, where the government at the point of a gun tells the customers, and victims, of the corporation, what actions taken on behalf of the corporation are subject to the rules of civil society, and what are not. The government tells you whom of the agents and owners of the corporation that are subject to the rules of civil society, and who are not. These corporate protections are not part of some agreement between you and the corporation; they are an agreement between the corporate originators, and the government, which is imposed upon YOU at the point of the guns held by the government.
When you hear stories of drug conglomerates being aware of simple natural cures for scourges of humanity, that are withheld because of a drive to profit, consider how such cures are withheld. An individual, partnership, or current artificial corporate entity has no power to keep a cure off the market, once discovered, even if hidden, it will be found again and again, with increasing frequency.
The current ability to keep cures and treatments off the market resides in the hands of over-powered governments. Even patients and doctors that have full knowledge of risks, and that are willing to take the risks, are prohibited under the law and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from taking such risk, unless the treatment has been approved by the FDA. The FDA test and approval process is time consuming, and expensive. Essentially, only those treatments that offer a significant profit for large scale drug companies can be approved. If YOU found a cure for every cancer in a few simple seeds in your yard, you would be PROHIBITED from offering such, as would physicians, regardless of notice of the risk, unless the FDA approval process had been followed.
Ask yourself, in day to day transactions, when is it that you reached an agreement with someone about value and exchange, and when was it that someone ordered you, ultimately with the threat of a gun, to act?
It is often alleged that inherited money, at least new inherited money, is squandered by the first generation after the one that generated the wealth. The producers knew the value of their efforts, and of investment. The heirs who never had to worry about their needs, or make any personal effort to plan or build for their future, have no idea of the value of what they receive, and squander not only the wealth handed to them, but their lives.
Without the thoughts and effort of those who produce the food, clothing, shelter, etc. of the world, not to mention electronic circuits and computer programs, what happens to those who have not clue of their personal capabilities, or drive to use what they have? We have a world where those who are awake and thinking have allowed themselves to be put under the rule of the insane and incompetent. We have a political system where those incompetent to handle their own lives, even basis subsistence, have become a major voting force, electing pandering and self serving politicians who impose control and taxes on those for whom the politicians could not qualify on merit to work for as household servants.
A return of thought and reason is essential to the overall survival of humanity. An example for charity, whether voluntary, or at the point of a gun. At an isolated bunker location, you have a room, water collection, an garden area sufficient to provide for ONE MORE person. Two show up. What criteria would YOU use to select one of the two? Make them dramatically different, one is a helpless whining idiot, and the other can clearly enhance the long-term chances of your group.
Rights are conditions of existence on earth, it is right for a human to use their mind, it is right to act on individual free judgment, it is right to work for your values and to keep the product of your work. If life on earth is the only visible purpose to our existence, it is right to live as a rational being. Any group, any gang, any nation that seeks to negate rights by force, is wrong, it is evil, and must be resisted, and if it persists, destroyed.
A cancer eats away on the inside of an otherwise healthy appearing, cooperative and productive body. At first it just steals a little of the nutrition that would have otherwise provided nourishment for normal cells, but soon it invades and destroys productive cells, creating a growing mass of a dangerous parasite, that the defensive immune system of the body continues to see as part of its own, and refuses to excise it as the danger it is.
Only a ghost  can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that human rights are superior to property rights simply means that some human being have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of human.
The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud from others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.
Without specialization, without cooperative trade in society, each person only knows, and can only accomplish what is in their own mind, and possible with their own muscles. Anyone capable and willing to initiate force against a weaker opponent can steal the physical productive output of that weaker person (forcing them into slavery). But this drives mental and physical output underground, reducing the overall per person quality of life, for the temporary relative but not necessarily actual qualify of life improvement for the slave master. (How do the living conditions of a Pharaoh compare with the poorest worker of the 20th century United States of America?)
In the middle ages, secret societies, such as we hear of the Masons, developed to protect the skills, and lives, of their members, so expect such may again become necessary, on some scale. For so long as the greedy are in power, live modestly, without pretention, attracting no unnecessary attention. In the past, communication and organization of such minimalist yet developing organizations was hampered by lack of communication, a barrier removed by modern communications (at least for so long as such remains in operation). The more free and unfettered communities develop, the more the truly enlightened can again stand in the open and breathe free.
The minimum functional unit of civilization. An ecosystem consists of living and non-living aspects with multiple and interwoven sources of feedback. The city must be a large and dense enough gathering of people to provide the opportunity for specialization. There must be education, exchange and storage of knowledge, for while each person is a unique individual, that individual is a brief spark, and then gone. There must be ease of interaction, not only in exchange of information, but of goods and services. For non-crash consideration of the infrastructure aspects, examine on the web the publications of the New Urbanism movement.
The combined skills of technologists, economists, and ecologists are needed. A back-to-nature approach will not work - there are too many of us for that.
Eric A. Davidson, You Can't Eat GNP
To provide on a local basis life support and sustainable community, including not merely the ability to repair existing technology and maintain current knowledge and skills, but to continue to advance. As an element of a larger civilization, each city can be seen as potentially the provider of a unique product or service specialty.
"A city's internal transportation system - the layout of its streets and roads, the layout of streetcar systems and subways - determines the character of the city, how its citizens live and work. It has less to do with the direct engines of wealth creation. Build subways and people will live in dense neighborhoods and walk to corner stores; build broad suburban streets and they will live in subdivisions and drive to the Wal-Mart." -Alex Marshall (How Cities Work)
"Above all else, a city is a means of providing a maximum number of social contacts and satisfactions. When the open spaces gape too widely, and the dispersal is too constant, the people lack a stage for their activities and the drama of their daily life lacks sharp focus." -Lewis Mumford (The Highway and the City)
"City-making is an art rather than a product of statistical analysis or social service casework."
"The future will compel us to change our way of life, to give up the fiasco of suburbia and all its revolting accessories and re-condense our living and working places into the traditional human habitats called cities, towns, and neighborhoods." -James Howard Kunstler (The City In Mind)
Preserving civilization on the scale of an "ecovillage" is probably not sufficient to maintain even present knowledge, skills, and technology, let alone make significant advances. Similar to a single family retreat (homestead), or a multi family (6 min 20 suggested) retreat (Homestead associations), an ecovillage can be too small to maintain "civilization", yet it is already too large to be an ad-hoc creation.
Education factor. Just providing on a sustainable basis teachers for K - 12 requires something larger. In Ecovillage discussed earlier we assumed each grade 1 to 12 classroom has 20 students, with each village unit requiring 72 teachers.
If each teacher works an average of 36 years, then for 72 teachers on the average two retire and must be replaced each year. If college for a teacher takes 4 years, with 20 teachers per college class, there are 80 teachers minimum "in the pipeline" at any given time, with 20 minimum graduating each year. An individual ecovillage only needs only 2 though.
To utilize the minimum efficient production of any given teacher specialist requires at least 10 ecovillages or a population of 96,000. If you want for example 8 different "specialists" in teachers, the number of ecovillages needed to provide for teaching the teachers jumps to 80, or a population of 768,000.
Los Angeles, New York, etc., are not likely candidates for conversion to low energy, low population sustainability. Such cities, that combine over dense population with sprawl will not survive a fossil fuel shortage, for example they cannot produce sufficient food within their borders. Cities as we know them have exceed the law of diminishing returns and become a gathering place for the excess and excesses of humanity.
While some cities may be too large, on the other end of the discussion, how do you see a large enough group coming together to start a city-scale eco-community from scratch? There may though be existing communities, with plot division, roads, pipes, wiring, etc. already in place that could be steered into a path to develop along more sustainable lines.
What, to you, is "Human scale"? How far are you willing to walk to visit family or friends, the library or museum? How far to grow or purchase your food? How far to your employment?
Commuting distance. Absent "energy to burn", the upper size is the ability to get people and supplies around.
I would suggest that an "optimum" size is one where homes are within a reasonable bicycle ride of the city center minimizing "need", or demand for motorized intracity personal vehicles. (Per the average of several bicycle safety sites, expect "sustained" speeds of 12 (experienced), 8 (average adult) and 6 (very young or very old) mph for a human on a typical upright bicycle. When younger, I recall almost daily bike rides from downtown Seattle to the mall, a one-way trip of about 12 miles ) A half-hour commute (reasonable?) to the city / industrial core should probably be no more than 4 to 6 miles or so from the most distant housing.
This maximum commuting distance would be a developed area say 11 miles on a side, 121 square miles.
Let's put an arbitrary 9 square miles of city core, as a mile wide cross in the center. For the outer edge to be 6 miles from the far edge of the perpendicular aspect of the cross (75% of the city center) the city overall is 11 mile wide.
This provides 112 square mile "village" areas, at around 9,600 people each, or a city population of a little over 1 million.
Potable water collection. Using earlier numbers developed for the homestead at 12" annual rainfall, to provide for human use, and biointensive gardening on the homesteads , the water collection area is around 230 square miles, a dedicated water collection belt around 3.5 miles wide would provide for filling the city cisterns. The city is now 18 miles on a side.
Thinking in term of this same 230 square mile water collection area completely covered in present technology solar panels. This is around 712 million square yards constantly intercepting 712 million kw of sunlight. With 10% efficient solar panels while exposed to the sun it produces just over 71,000 megawatt of power.
Tossing more numbers, 6 hour/day average, 360 (Ariziona) relatively clear days, 10% intermittent coverage, annually the array produces around 138 million megawatthour of power. Before we get too cheerful on this, note that the present cost for around 712,000,000 one-hundred watt solar panels at $500 each would be around $356 Billion, with each of the 134,400 homesteads in the city being billed abour $2.5 Million.
Farming and food shipment. The city needs food. While each homestead has its own garden, and the field inside each 20 homestead unit, adding the additional safety factor of farmland bordering the city for a population of a million, at 1/4 acre per person, requires say 390 square miles of farmland. As a belt outside the potable water collection, this would be a belt about 4.5 miles thick. The city is now 27 miles on a side. This puts the outer edge of the farming belt about 13.5 miles from the city center, and of course less for the housing areas, and most of the community centers of the villages. Not an unreasonable distance for even pedal-powered food shipment, if that's what is necessary. (If you want to add cropland for production of fuel or materials, raising animals, etc. the farm belt and water belt must be expanded.)
Crop irrigation water collection. Depending on the rainfall of the applicable area, the water collection area outside the farming area will vary. A 12" rainfall could for example require 6 times as much water collection as is planted in traditional farming. The farm water collection belt is 14 miles wide. The city is now 55 miles on a side.
Age Distribution. Assume a healthy population at essentially some stable total population. Assume on the average that the lifespan is around 80 years. Assume that on the average there are the same number of people in each particular age. In a city of a million or so, there are around 12,500 of each age.
The entire city need not be constructed or altered at the same time.
Just as a thought, curved roads, or those with tree planted "traffic circles" at intersections provide a visual limit helping to provide a feeling of place, rather than a straight line running off to the limit of vision.
Consider three dimensional use of the space. Living space does not necessarily have to be at ground level. Say a big department store type building is 75,000 square feet. If built well, six homesites could be located on each such roof, while still leaving skylights to the business area below. What about the "roof" of your home as a greenhouse?
In Biomimicry, Janie M. Benyus presents 10 "Lessons" humans need to learn, not only as individuals but as a civilization. The world is full such that we cannot expect to indefinitely draw resources from somewhere else, and dump our effluent in the home of someone else. Nature evolves complex systems, with every niche filled with life, that are "run" by multiple and overlapping feedback loops. In general the nutrient cycle is closed, but the weblike physical infrastructure and food chain allow high diversity and density. If non-thinking creatures can act in relative symbiosis to weave a multi layer, multi purpose, season adaptable physical environment, with little energy or resources lost, resistant to outside disturbance, can we learn to:
1. Use waste as a resource. Considering the biological matter and water that have and continue to flow into the city, one might expect it to be a lush oasis. Instead for the most part we continue to have a one-way flow where materials enter the city only long enough to become trash, to then be shipped away. What steps will you take to:
2. Diversify and cooperate to fully use the habitat. Animals claim territory, yet do not show aggression to other species who claim the same territory, and cooperate with others of their species.
3. Gather and use energy efficiently
4. Optimize rather than maximize
5. Use materials sparingly
6. Don't foul their nests
7. Don't draw down resources
8. Remain in balance with the biosphere
9. Run on information
10. Shop locally
It seems clear that a human optimized ecology is incompatible with a "natural" ecology. I'm not thrilled about jackrabbits in my garden, rattlers napping on the porch, or stepping on scorpions as I enter a dark room, but they're part of the "natural" ecosystem. And we as humans want to exclude them.
Which would you think is a better house pet, an angora cat, or a captured bobcat kitten? We can, and need, to live in a self-regulating ecosystem, BUT it needs to be "domesticated" flora and fauna. We can reemphasize "biological" means of meeting our life support needs, obtaining materials, etc., but we've already over-run enough of "nature".
Resources. An ecocity needs to provide it's own food resources. Consider, a hunter-gatherer in a good area may need a square mile per person. For a population of 1 million, you're spread over an area 1000 miles on a side. That's not likely to support a high-tech civilization. High population density appears a civilization prerequisite. High density, indeed simple high numbers of humans, requires a deliberately engineered food system. Without an engineered food system, there will be large numbers of untimely and unpleasant deaths.
Preserve Civilization. It appears clear that making changes such that some city scale communities survive the crash is a requirement for maintaining civilization. The further we fall, the more knowledge, skills, and technology we are likely to lose. The further we fall, the harder it will be to regain ground. Fossil fuels have allowed us to make great advancements - let's not lose the achievements and waste the expended fuel, human creativity, and lives.
In a post fossil fuel era, I don't see how large scale long distance surface freight or travel is practical, nor is the extensive personal motor vehicle use of today. A city will encounter limits in sustainable population, most significantly in food and water.
As sprawl and suburbia (as we now know them) become impractical, the scale will need to be more "human" in terms of commute for regular daily activities (work, school, shopping, etc.) It doesn't mean that we have to lose civilization.
The infrastructure of human communities can be a unique ecology tailored not only our physical needs, but to our individual and collective aspirations. Properly developed, the need for external input for "life support", other than the sun, and occasional rain, can be minimized and essentially eliminated.
Noise is unwanted sound - sound pollution, which has actual physical consequences on the human body. We can reduce noise by producing less or, deadening it, or masking it with other "white noise". Earth sheltering, plants, avoiding hard straight surfaces, etc. helps greatly in noise abatement. Eliminating the sound of engines will do are great deal to bring a quiet to a city. Running and falling water, wind thru the trees, etc. generates white noise. Noisy events or processes can be either confined to special areas of the city, but again earth sheltering of homes makes a huge difference.
Animals and insects. They are part of an ecology, and can either BE pests, or used to control pests.
What are your thoughts for appropriate technology in a post fossil fuel era?
With liquid fuels a premium commodity.
With electricity in far more limited supply than today.
Long distance shipping (at least on land) inhibited by limited fuel and electricity.
Pedal Power. Certainly devices that are manually operated. Thinking playfully for a moment, can a computer be operated on the electricity generated by a pedal driver generator? What other pedal driven devices? A rule of thumb goes something like this: a human's peak power is 200W, and can sustain 50W-something for longer durations. Add a "buffer" (lead/acid battery and charge regulator) to smooth out the output, would there be enough to power a small desktop computer (Case + CRT), and even more so, a laptop (energy efficient Case + LCD screen).
Sewage processing in "living machines" to fertilizer
Wood. For all our "scientific progress", we ever managed to replicate this wonderful "chlorophyll" thing, just to make non-renewable, non-self-replicating, chemical imitations (photovoltaics).
Electronics. Components and simple devices, while perhaps not at energy efficient as present circuits, can be hand-made. CPUs (central processing units), the heart of any computer, is probably the most technically difficult thing to develop and build on this planet, together with "rocket science", building and launching rockets ad satellites. A "fab" (short for fabrication facility, the huge white room places that build CPUs) costs billions of dollars to build, not including costs to operate, the research and development, all of this of course null and void once we no longer have enough oil to power tractors and the such, let alone for extravagant energy use like spending millions of barrels to find ways to cram up as many transistors as possible on a surface less than an inch wide. At what level of civilization and what type of technology, can computers be sustained?
Simple Devices. Electronic components can be made by simple technology, but the larger hand-made components use a great deal more power, and waste much of it has heat.
A question: Does such a city have the technology and technique to repair or replace a broken plate or cup? A p/v panel? If each homestead has twenty five 100 volt panels, the collected homesteads of the city have 3,125,000 panels, with an expected lifespan of 30 years. A replacement schedule could then require production of around 100,000 panels per year. If p/v panels are broken, or fail on a regular basis, the city needs to produce or re-work 285 p/v panels every day. The Tucson MEC estimates that 8% of the p/v panels actually in use (2005) need to be replaced each year, which would be a daily replacement rate of around 685 panels.
Is P/V, at least as we know it today, practical long-term? Can a city of a million do better?
Movement of people, and things. At the present, things tend to be moved by a human controlling a heavy powered vehicle. Can we switch to some type of "pipeline" system where only the cargo moves?
Vehicles with solid wheels, running on a relatively smooth and level track, are probably at the top of energy efficiency and effectiveness in moving bulk or heavy cargo on land, long distances, between distance points of origin and destination. If a train car is 10' wide, and 60 long, it' has around 600 ft. sq. of roof surface. Using primitive estimates, 1 KW of sun per sq yard, 20% efficiency panels, the car can generate up to 13 KW in direct sun. I think that's around 17 horsepower. It's an approach which can work to keep some type of between city travel going. Steep grades could get a boost from trackside panels, or how about a trackside connection between trains going up and down the grade The down train uses generators to brake, feeds the slope grid, and it's used to help the up train. Or the power could be stored for later use, with some further losses.
Intracity. Trains / trolleys / electric bus on a fixed route, central power allows a lighter vehicle (no battery weight), regenerative braking to distribute to the grid of vehicles. If these vehicles are to travel at any rate significantly faster than a walking pace, they need to be isolated from the surface pedestrian traffic. The two obvious options are putting them on raised track, or as subways.
A subway tunnel approach offers the opportunity for much heavier cargo, with less ongoing maintenance of the system. The subway does not necessarily need to be a large or luxurious. Think in terms of a large concrete storm drain pipe, with a sit-down only scale subway car. The city has 121 square mile grids, which if limited to one "station" per grid (not necessarily so limited) would put everything in the city within two six minute (brisk) walks, and a few minutes subway ride. In a similar below ground pipe system, heavy cargo could be floated in an enclosed canal, moved by low power pumps moving water to the high side of the system.
Personal transportation. Lightweight, low power, streamlined vehicles can still provide relatively "high speed" personal transport, especially in a compact city. Although pedestrians can cross flow at corners without stoplights, it doesn't work for vehicles. But stop and go wastes energy. Thinking in terms of human powered vehicles, or neighborhood electric vehicles, "roads" would only need to be improved walkways, and could be elevated to be essentially level and permit crossings without the typical city stoplight every 1/8 mile. Pedaling a bicycle / human powered vehicle, the "engine" needs exposure to clean and flowing air, further making this a "fit" with raised tracks.
Emergency response vehicles hybrid / fueled (i.e. alcohol or biodiesel, able to travel unrestricted by power connections or track.
Which existing community, if any, do you believe has the greatest potential for development into a "sustainable" human centered ecological environment, and what steps do you suggest to assist / guide such development?
A whole new city does not normally just happen. Cities typically develop at sites because of a natural resource, trade route intersection, etc. An ecocity starts with one of these existing cities and evolves.
Relative isolation from other large communities
Walking to the city presents too much of a challenge in distance and/or conditions.
Adequate renewable resources within walking distance of the city center, which are or can be under control the city or city citizens. In particular for us here in AZ, fresh water.
A variety of small businesses with potential post oil era viability.
A climate tolerable without mechanical HVAC or burning fuel for heat.
Government / residents willing to accept/allow alternative construction, graywater use, etc.
Access to reliable power. A good stream/river drop for hydro, windmills, solar p/v, solar "steam", SOMETHING. (I don't see any practical substitute for electricity for nighttime lighting, or of course electronics, which seem to be a "floor" for continued progress)
Heirloom, one of enduring value. Design / engineer / build for quality and durability. I.e. I'm still using a glass door bookcase that I inherited from my grandfather, meanwhile numerous "particle board" bookshelves I've purchased have crumbled, snapped, or otherwise quickly passed their useful life (not to mention the fumes from the particle board )
Reduce. Design / engineer / build for zero toxics release. Act as though the city is inside a sealed bubble of it's land footprint.
Reuse. When do you recall the metal structure of a washer or dryer wearing out? We need to engineer so that such durable parts can continue to be used without costly and energy intensive reprocessing. We need to have components that are easily disassembled and if still viable reused. Think of used item stores, or "ebay" where people auction off their "trash to treasure" items.
Recycle. Design / engineer / build for upgrading or recycling. Obviously bio-degradable products can be returned to the soil by microbes and re-grown into something else. Complex, high tech materials or artifacts probably need to be collected, categorized, and stored, or disassembled and stored, for re-use.
Self constructing / Self Replicating. Design / engineer / build to emphasize use of biological systems. Wood for example remains an incredible engineering / construction resource. Alcohol is a practical fuel where free roaming quick refueling power is required.
The challenge is to get the market to tell the ecological truth.
Ernst von Weizsäcker
Sustainability is a broad concept, with a problem for sustainable economics exampled in the "529" college savings plans. In general, there is a choice between investment plans, and pre-paid tuition plans. If we were NOT saddled with an inflating currency, the cost of a college education would be virtually the same now, or 18 years from now, varying essentially based on the quality of the services and demand. In that scenario, the investment approach would seem to make more sense. In an inflating economy though, you are chasing a rising target, and the pre-paid tuition may work out to be a better bet.
The city can be composed of individual family homesteads, of whatever construction each family can manage, or a single large arcology. What matters is the relationship of numbers of people, and reuse of resources.
Night outside illumination for paths, placed below eye level. If electrical consider centralized bulbs with fiber optics for the individual walkway lights. Just enough to light the ground but leave the night sky visible.
Venturi effects of terrain and structures which increase air velocity may be used to improve the harvest of wind energy.
Water collection. All rain should be directed into cisterns or on to a stream system. Wind could be used to pump water to "high ground" for gravity pressurization of the delivery system.
Modification and upgrades. The physical structure of the city, when physically modified, needs to be modified with future upgrade in mind. For example, how many times have the streets in your community been torn up and repaved because a particular pipe or wire was being repaired or added?
Multi-purpose Zoning. Interweaving work, play, learning, socializing, and other activities. So long as the noise, light, and visual interference of a home and a restaurant don't intrude on each other, why can't such be side to side? It is generally undesirable to have isolated areas devoid of "eyes watching". All of those facilities "needed" on a "day to day" basis should be within walking distance of the homes served.
Energy Co-generation. Using waste energy from one process in a different process which needs it.
Present cities rely on the production of widespread markets to supply food. Absent cheap transportation the city MUST have a more direct connection with the food source. It must recycle the human and resident animal effluent safely, efficiently and effectively back in to the food production system. The city be able to feed itself from within the resources under it's control
Open field agriculture is the present standard. This method, at least as practiced, is dependent on fossil fuel to operate farm equipment, process and deliver food to cities, and is also dependent on chemical fertilizers to feed the crops. It is an open ended process which moves from oil to food to cities to the dump or the sea. It is not sustainable.
Attempts have been made to use processed sewage sludge as fertilizer, but these have encountered the problem of contamination. Not everything that ends up in a city sewer has first been eaten and digested by a human. The typical city sewage is contaminated with metals, toxic chemicals, etc. that go down our drains.
Closed loop agriculture. We've go to close the loop on recycling the nutrients from human effluent as close to the source as practical, while also minimizing the opportunity for contamination. The closer that the recycling is to home, the more the residents will take personal responsibility for ensuring the safety of the system.
Urban Landscaping. City landscaping can be a food source. Microclimates created within the city can make for a rich urban ecology and substantial biodiversity.
Farm Staff. Current U. S. farming has I believe 2% of the population working to feed the rest of us. Shooting for the same %, the city needs 20,000 people working in food production.
Assuming 250,000 cultivated acres in a farming belt, it's about 12.5 acre for each person to work. With a shift to greater concentration on trees and other perennial crops in a permaculture approach and with "temporary" help is doesn't sound like an impossible task.
The city has 134,400 homesteads. If the home gardens are instead tended by master gardeners, working a 40 hour week, the gardener would have only around 1/2 hour per property.
Keeping strangers away from one's back door is a significant design consideration.
Internal. An essentially pedestrian city provides a lot of eyes and ears in the public arena, and a mix of zoning minimizes regularly scheduled "abandoned" sites. Start with the concept of neighborhood watch, and expand.
External. The city must be prepared to exercise self-defense. Whether peacetime or war, a question is what about visitors? A city, that is NOT in collapse, in a world that is, will be a primary destination for many. But the city CANNOT accept everyone who approaches. There MUST be some approach, some welcome center where potential new recruits for residency are evaluated and an determination made whether there is excess resources, and whether they should be offered on a temporary / permanent basis to any particular individual, and the terms overall.
The next level up in government.
In theory the misery generated at the earlier discussed levels by an expanding population should make it clear the city also cannot expand. But if your city gains attention as the most advanced in sustainability, and we are in the post-peak oil era, who believes that the city WON'T be challenged by a population influx? How do you stop it?
When the government falls, those to whom violence and force are no stranger will take over. They will not necessarily be the best, brightest, or even the strongest. They may simply be the first to use violence to impose their will. Consider if you will the "turf wars" among gangs, and their escalation if there is no organized police force to oppose them.
At each level, surviving communities will need some form of organized government, and defense. When our complex and oil dependent government system dies, Feudalism may again rise to replace the missing layers of government. I discount "elected" officials, because, at least in our present system, those elected are primarily there due to a popularity contest, based on their promises to tax and spend, rather than an understanding and ability to manage. In those large cities which manage to survive, the police commissioner may be the individual with the greatest power. For smaller communities, the natural leader to arise seems to be the County Sheriff.
During and immediately post-crash, there will be an excess of people, well beyond what can be sustained. I suspect that there will be little tolerance for criminal acts, or thought of scarce and valuable community assets taken to support a prison population. A "kind" sentence will be expulsion. A "standard" sentence will probably be death.
If the city is a governmental entity, while authority remains, it must comply, including with access, allowing protests, etc. If the city entity was a private corporation, it would under present law be able to exclude non members.
However the city is organized, the charter needs to be fixed, unchangable except by unanimous agreement of all votes. How about each village has 1 senator to the city, selected by the representatives of the Homestead associations. NO elected position to be paid.
A city of a million people, covering 121 square miles, with 134,400 homesteads surely presents a situation where some formal organization / governance is required. Doesn't it? What is the minimum required "government?
Radical concept? What if the government declined, or was unable, to register a lien on real property? You could and buy sell real estate, but it would not be available as security for a loan, or as an asset which can be attached in a lawsuit. Thoughts?
Ecological Industry - A potential function of the city core is repair / recycling / manufacturing of complex products, and storage of parts / materials in the area most readily accessible by the bulk of the residents. Many aspects logically need to be centralized. Consider that a high temperature "foundry" can be solar powered, but the mirror set up would be a large device, requiring careful construction and operation, not practical to replicate or operate on a small scale.
The folks at Columbia University, New York City, New York, have worked up a theoretical food system where a city building is used to produce food for a significant number of city residents. Under typical present law, to actually implement such would require the support of city agencies such as building code, health, planning, sanitation, etc. Their model for concentrated commercial urban farming to feed 50,000 people in the City of New York is a 48-story building, either 90,000 ft2 or 250,000 ft2, depending on necessary requirements.
Doing the math, their preliminary statement appears to claim only between 1.8 & 5 square foot per person is needed to produce food, while their wheat discussion indicates a best non-stop production of 292 sq. ft. per person. Whether or not such a building is long-term sustainable given present knowledge and materials, it presents an interesting use for what may become abandoned city buildings. Outside of their food analysis, consider such a modified structure as a recycling, or bio materials resource. (See the book Biomimicry, by Janie M. Benyus) Use of a closed environment, provided the power is available to manage heat, light, and water condensation, presents a tremendous opportunity for the growth of water intensive crops (i.e. cotton) without the waste of the precious resource in open field evaporation. It provides a very controlled environment for plant cross breeding experiments.
If you contemplate it, machines and industries can be formed into food webs and ecologies, just as living creatures. So far, they just can't do it on their own. Within a long term sustainable, ecological city, where there can be no constant external input, and no "garbage" to continuously dispose of, we must arrange our industry so that the effluent from one process is the feedstock of another.
The raw materials on Earth have been here essentially since the planet coalesced. Atoms in your body may have been part of Julius Cesar, or ancient dinosaurs. In the biological arena, everything is designed to be disassembled to some level or another, and re-used. We need to apply the same rationality to our industry and products.
The new "raw material" for industry will be "old" products. The easier used or broken items are to disassemble to a useful level, the greater the ease for creation of a new product. A comparison though:
Aluminum cans are readily recycled, but they require a great deal of energy to melt and re-engineer into a new can. Glass bottles are readily recycled, potentially by just washing and putting on a new cap. Re-use of the unbroken, uncontaminated glass bottle requires MUCH LESS  energy and handling than recycling of the aluminum can.
Technology such as cell phones can avoid processing and laying miles of copper wires, but present cell phones are much more fragile than most hard-wire phones, and dependent on batteries that represent a constant flow of toxics. To get an honest market price for any product containing toxic materials means requiring the industry bear the cost of recycling.
We need approaches to high-tech materials that do not require use of toxic materials and leave dangerous residue. I understand we already know the principles of zero-pollution production, but don't because it's still cheaper, in terms of money, to continue polluting. When dumping costs rise, business looks for alternatives. In the city (or on the Earth as a whole), there IS no "away" to throw things to. Even for substances well below the scale human can directly deal with, select organisms can remove remaining trace pollutants, and concentrate them for re-use.
Education. Higher education, or specialized programs.
A city of a million people, covering 121 square miles, with 125,000 homesteads surely presents a situation where it would seem some formal organization / governance is required. Doesn't it? What is the minimum required "government?
Do you want to live under a government that issues orders to you, or that reacts when someone interferes with your property rights? (Rights to your body, your personal items, and your real estate.)
Austerity will be a fact of life. To use a extreme example for us in the modern, "First World", what is going to happen, even in a city of a million, to an infant born with a lifetime crippling defect? If the family is sufficiently wealthy, perhaps they could manage to provide for appropriate care/assistance, even in their own absence. But, absent the artificially robust economy, profits, and taxes provided by the cheap energy from oil, how could even a city of a million afford a "publicly funded" program to provide for this child, or any other person incapable of providing some service to "earn their keep"? And if a city of a million can't afford to provide a lifetime of care, what happens in smaller communities?
In the 1950's and 1960's, talk of atomic war prompted some to prepare fallout shelters. At the time, and perhaps in retrospect, some saw the shelter building activity as foolish. But if done well, those shelter spaces continued to be an asset, and may once again, in the coming crash, prove their value as fallout shelters. The shelters were, and are, a form of "insurance". So it is I see every aspect and level of "sustainability", from your one tomato plant, to a self-reliant city of a million. It is personal insurance. It is "life insurance" for your family and heirs. It is insurance for civilization.
Population evenly distributed across an age range of 1 to 80. Average births do not exceed replacement with children born to parents who in an age range of 20 to 40.
There is no need for new home construction. Family homesteads, each an area approximately 100' x 100' (about _ acre) house multi-generation families of 8 to 10 people.
Homesteads are arranged into neighborhoods, each a square six homesteads on a side, twenty total. These surround a central courtyard 400' x 400'. Each neighborhood association (about 40 acre) is a gathering averaging 160 to 200 people.
Neighborhoods are arranged into villages, each a square eight neighborhoods on a side (one square mile). The central 40 acres is reserved for shops, schools, etc., putting schools and business within roughly _ mile of every homestead. Each village contains 60 associations and is a gathering of 9600 to 12,000 people, with around 120 to 150 people of each age (grade in school).
Villages are arranged in a grid eleven on a side, with a city core of nine square miles in a central X. The city has 112 villages and averages 1,075,200 people, around 13,400 of each age.
If basic education is considered as age 6 thru 18, there are 80,640 kids in school, requiring 4032 teachers.
Aiming for an educated workforce, and low stress "elder" years, consider the educated workforce to be ages 22 thru 56, this is around 407,400 people. Minus 4032 as teachers and 2% of the total, or 21,504 as gardeners, the employable population is 444,864. The city is large enough to sustain demand for specialists in education, medicine, sciences, etc.
An eco-city of a million can be a tool to preserve education and skills, and continue development. It obviously exceeds the capabilities of a dispersed hunter gatherer society, or any other non-urban approach.
I do not see how a dense, yet ecological community would be able to significantly exceed a population of 1 million, or occupy an area less than that set out above, which if you have limited rainfall, is an area 55 miles on a side (3025 sq. mile). Nor do I see how the same million spread less-dense could maintain the level of interaction necessary.
Yet to house 6+ billion people, it would take SIX THOUSAND such eco-cities, which would cover over 18 million square miles. The total temperate area of the Earth is around 37 million square miles.
What we actually have in place at this time is worse. We have 6+ billion people disbursed over the six continents of the globe, which logically means that our present cumulative human footprint EXCEEDS this area. Yet with our current "system", with all of the additional, non-renewable input, we still cannot provide adequately for the population.
To implement such low-energy eco-cities in sufficient time to provide for the entire present population appears to require magic.
|First Law||Non-renewable resources must not be used in a manner that precludes their future re-use, and the maximum sustainable level of renewable resource use is the minimum reliable level of renewal.|
|Second Law||Achievement of sustainable society globally requires that every definable area, whether natural or political, maintain a population and consumption level sustainable within the applicable borders, using the local resources, or trade in a sustainable manner.|
|Third Law||Personal or societal experimentation and development requires the availability of excess resources.|
|Fourth Law||There is no "away" where we can throw things, or move to.|
|Fifth Law||An economic system becomes fragile when it comes to depend on external exchange over which it has little control. - Ekholm|
|Sixth Law||"If an ethical foundation is lacking, a civilization collapses. Civilization exists in the effort to perfect humanity, and originates when a population is inspired to attain progress and to serve." Albert Schweitzer.|
|Seventh Law||"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations" - From the Great Law of the Iroquois Nation|
|Eighth Law||Isolate Human Activity. An ecology optimized for human habitation and life support is incompatible with a natural state ecosystem.|
|Ninth Law||Protection of personal property rights is essential. People are more readily willing to present their surpluses for trade, if they are assured they are free to negotiate the trade, or not, without fear that the "authorities" will take their property.|
|Tenth Law||Survival of the fittest, but not perhaps what you would first think.|
|Eleventh Law||Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime|
|Twelth Law||There is no quick fix. Deep-seated problems require more than a positive mental attitude and collection of short-term success formulas.|
|Thirteenth Law||Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.|
|Fourteenth Law||Law of the minimum. There are critical factors the limit living and non-living processes, regardless of the quantity of other factors present.|
These laws are presented for consideration as physical principles, and not the arbitrary laws invented by society and governments.
Consider them as laws of the universe that apply to human civilization. They may occasionally be "bent", with consequences, but for the most part cannot be broken without dire effect.
In your own life, you must plan. What are your desired results? What are your personal guidelines? Your resources? To whom are you accountable? Who suffers the consequences of your actions?
Non-renewable resources must not be used in a manner that precludes their future re-use, and the maximum sustainable level of renewable resource use is the minimum reliable level of renewal.
Living and non-living resources can, given existing science, be renewable, or non renewable.
Consider aluminum scrap. It takes technology, and electricity, to produce aluminum. In general though, once we've produced metallic aluminum, it remains available for re-use. Even if discarded in our garbage, it essentially remains in a form that can be salvaged by simple human activity, and with low-level technology re-melted and re-formed into new useful items.
Consider fossil fuels such as oil or coal. If we use this resource as molecular feedstock to create plastics, and many other physical objects, the molecules essentially remain available to be recycled. If however we burn the resource as fuel, we have effectively destroyed it beyond our ability to recycle.
A prime example of renewable resource us is groundwater. If average use does not exceed the recharge rate, a well is a naturally filtering & refilling tank. But if you exceed the recharge rate too long or too deep you may cause permanent loss in capacity, and other problems such as surface subsidence, or cracks in the "filter" layers.
Achievement of sustainable society globally requires that every definable area, whether natural or political, maintain a population and consumption level sustainable within the applicable borders, using the local resources, or trade in a sustainable manner.
Globalization has been a horrible mistake. Cheap (for most purposes, "free") fuels have lead to a global network of supply and distribution that is simply not sustainable when fuels return to being a "currently" paid cost. Global shipment of luxury goods is a non-event. Even the logic of moderate international reliance for durable goods is only moderately questionable. But an early 2006 advertisement by Archer Daniels Midland could easily be considered the "poster child" for peak oil. The ad shows an Asian teen, with the text:
Somewhere west of Shenyang, a teenager is stopping for dinner.
Which is why the soybean harvest west of Peroria is not stopping.
And why a soybean processor west of St. Louis is not stopping.
And why a ship's captain on the west coast is stopping but just for a while.
Somewhere west of Shenyand a teenager is stoping for dinner.
A dinner rich in soy protein.
Consider the implication. This youth, supposedly in China, is apparently depending on a soybean crop in the United States, and a network of fossil-fuel powered processing and shipment industries, for sufficient dietary protein on his plate.
Can you and your multi generation family subsist on food grown on your own property?
Personal or societal experimentation and development requires the availability of excess resources.
At an extreme example, if an upper limit large population is living at a barely subsistence level, any crop failure will result in famine. In that scenario, who can afford to experiment on the hope of a better crop, while risking a failure?
There is no "away" where we can throw things, or move to.
The Earth is a finite area sphere. Absent a scientific miracle, space travel, if we can maintain it, will only be available for a minute portion of the population. It is often tossed out that we should just send all of our radioactive waste to the sun. Sending untold tons of mass, on an ongoing basis, on a trip to the sun greatly exceeds our present capabilities.
We are, for all practical intents and purposes, "stuck" on Earth with whatever is here, arrives here, or that we in our misguided efforts generate.
Earlier, limited geographic scope civilizations, even Rome, still only occupied a limited area of the globe. It was, if essential, possible to physically walk away from a collapsing society. We've created a high energy, intensely interdependent global society. When the collapse reaches some critical point, anyone and anything still dependent on the infrastructure at that time will most likely fall with the rest.
An economic system becomes fragile when it comes to depend on external exchange over which it has little control. - Ekholm
Similar to the above "away" discussion, but limited to the financial aspect. Even if you have a reliable local food system, and can obtain your other essential life support locally, what happens to you if you have a need for a continued flow of funds, customers for your goods or services, who are not local? If you're in debt, and cut off from cash flow, is someone going to foreclose on your homestead?
Even when local food, water, housing, etc. have remained viable, with labor needed to keep life support processes properly going, history has shown that there have at the same time been vast amounts of idle labor. Examples would be when a national currency fails, whether from hyper-inflation, or extreme devaluation, such that it is no longer trusted as a medium of exchange. Those who do not personally know and trust each other, find themselves reluctant to enter into financial arrangements with a cloudy future, and local activity fails for want of a questionable larger scale economy.
Informal local barter programs are a start, but a local stable and accepted means of exchange can be a significant tool in reducing the local effect of a large sector economic downturn.
"If an ethical foundation is lacking, a civilization collapses. Civilization exists in the effort to perfect humanity, and originates when a population is inspired to attain progress and to serve." Albert Schweitzer.
I need to trust you, and you to trust me, if we are going to co-exist without some third party that we both either trust, or that is imposing control, monitoring and ensuring our interactions.
"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations" - From the Great Law of the Iroquois Nation
Isolate Human Activity. An ecology optimized for human habitation and life support is incompatible with a natural state ecosystem. We need nature, nature does not need us.
Protection of personal property rights is essential. People are more readily willing to present their surpluses for trade, if they are assured they are free to negotiate the trade, or not, without fear that the "authorities" will take their property.
If ownership is not protected, envision the lazy who decide they have the right to move in and take from the innovator and builder. Such a threat destroys incentive, and stagnates civilization at the least common denominator. Scientific and other discoveries and breakthroughs in history are, for the most part, individual achievements, with the "assistance" of a stable surrounding and supporting community. Protection of property rights is a primary purpose, if not THE purpose for governments to exist.
Survival of the fittest, but not perhaps what you would first think. Early tools, stones and knives required physical strength, and hand to hand combat ability was essential to survival. The bow, a more refined tool, allowed for lesser strength but a distinct skills to provide distant neutralization of an adversary or animal. Our continued progression has made mind and precision more important than strength, in a feedback loop. The drive to overpopulate was early on another survival trait, as many died as children, or before they had their own children. Like other early "cave" aspects, given the now global coverage of humanity, the drive to populate is obsolete. The "gene" for prolific procreation is now a threat to the entire race.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime In an optimized society, essentially the input of everyone is necessary, with no "waste". Those who sit, and wait for others to provide for them, are a net drain on the resources of any community. Those who are shown how to provide for themselves free the time and resources of others to greater accomplishments.
There is no quick fix. Deep-seated problems require more than a positive mental attitude and collection of short-term success formulas.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Law of the minimum. There are critical factors the limit living and non-living processes, regardless of the quantity of other factors present. As exampled in the earlier protein discussions, the protein balance of an egg is essentially ideal and able to be fully used by a human body. Reduce or eliminate any one of the complimentary proteins, and in the case of eggs the rest of the egg is processed by the body as fuel, rather than tissue building proteins.
An organized economy of free individuals can allow specialization, and allow the best utilization of local skills and resources, improving the overall quality of life, providing for research, education, and exploration. We may yet reach for the stars, but it may take the collective will and efforts of all of humanity.
History, and ancient architecture, show there have been many ancient civilizations, some of which may have explored the globe. They were however in relative isolation to the rest of the world.
When Egypt fell, it meant nothing to society in South America. We face a threat, and an opportunity not seen before, a global collapse, that may leave the Earth permanently scarred, or may leave the survivors with a world full of already processed materials ready to use.
Ancient China had oceangoing vessels, and could have explored (with their "advanced" science, potentially conquering) the world. The leadership decided instead to deter exploration, first outside the nation, then apparently internally, as China lost it's lead.
"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in."
Robert A. Heinlein
We must, eventually, leave this planet, or be capable of dealing with asteroids, and an aging sun. We must continue to develop, mature, and learn.
Our minimum goal must be a civilization capable of continued health and life support on Earth for the projected viable span of the planet, potentially billions of years. A single eco-city may be able to preserve a great deal of the benefits of our present technological society, and continue advancement. But without reasonable distribution and balance globally, one such community would be faced with a myriad of levels of alternative gatherings, who would not necessarily have the global ecology in mind.
The chacteristics of the whole cannot (even in theory) be deduced from the most complete knowledge of the components, taken separately or in partial combinations.
Ernst Mayer, evolutionary biologist
We must preserve biodiversity. At the present, some estimates are that humanity, in one way or another, appropriates for human use 50% of the productive biological life of the planet. We also continue to interfere with, and therefore significantly alter the natural environment globally.
Say the Earth has around 43 million square mile of ice free land area, which probably includes areas too cold for a community that does not have readily available fuel for heating.
In more temperate areas, there is probably around 37 million square mile.
The potential human population, and technical level of civilization, depends in a great extent on the type of agriculture in primary use.
Humans at the extreme of hunter-gatherer level, while relatively low-impact, may have only an average of 1 person subsisted per square mile, for a total human population of 37 million. (5/100 % of the 2006 population.) 99.95% of the present population must die and never be replaced.
At the other extreme, where humans occupy the entire globe to the exclusion of all other species, and do so in the most compact "eco cities", then consider, if each city is 3025 sq. mile, the maximum sustainable human population is around 12 billion, to the extinction of essentially every other animal and non-human food species on the face of the planet.
If we as rational, thinking creatures limit ourselves to 10% of the productive area of the Earth, then the population range is 3.7 million to 1.2 billion, which at the UPPER limit would be 1,200 cities, averaged at 200 cities per continent. But this potential population is all capable of living at a similar advanced level.
Could the present six+ billion population be provided for in organized civilization, given known science? Using for reference earlier discussions on physical needs at the individual, neighborhood, town, and city level, even if we have an energy miracle, such as cold fusion, or IEC fusion, is six+ billion an optimum population, or even practical?
Assume we want to place a mega city to provide for the current population, what does it look like?
The mega city averages 12" annual rainfall which is collected for use and has 1/4 acre of cropland per person. It covers around 18,150,000 square miles. This is about one half of the temperate area of the landmass of the Earth. It is an area 4,260 miles on a side of continuous moderate density city with farm bands and water collection between each gathering of one million. There is no continent on Earth that meets the criteria.
The mega city gets it's fresh water for farming from somewhere other than collecting it within it's own "borders" (example piped in de-salted ocean water) and has 1/4 acre of cropland per person. It covers 3,750,000 square miles or almost 20% of the temperate landmass of the Earth. It is an area 1,936 miles on a side of continuous moderate density city with just farm bands between each gathering of one million. Given significant engineering, we might be able to fit such on the Earth, with modification of overall layout, in the process though killing virtually all natural life on a continent.
The mega city averages 12" annual rainfall which is collected for use and relies on biointensive crop production within each homestead or Homestead association gathering, and therefore does not need the farm beltway or crop water collection. It covers 1,350,000 square miles or around 4% of the temperate landmass of the Earth. It is an area 1,162 miles on a side of continuous moderate density city. This relies on continuous good crop production from a gardening system that requires constant attention, and perhaps, no surprises. Consider the effort to cover a continent with a single such city.
The mega city gets it's fresh water from plentiful rainfall. It relies on biointensive crop production on the roof of structures. The entire city is effectively one structure, multi story. Only 10% of the total roof exposed to the sun is not in biointensive crops at mid-range biointensive. It covers 384,000 square miles or around 1% of the temperate landmass of the Earth. It is an area 620 miles on a side of continuous multi-level built structure. This fits in many places, but is really a high-tech, expensive, engineering intensive approach.
What we actually have is worse.
Some continents could sustain more than 200 cities, some less. Restating, Earth has around 37 million square miles of land with temperate climate.
What percent of this do you believe should be dedicated to exclusive human use? 10%?
Dedicate 3.7 million square miles to human space.
Each city of a million has a footprint of 3,025 square miles.
This would represent a global human population of a little over 1 Billion. But every citizen would have the opportunity to grow adequate food, shelter, have access to the benefits of technology, etc.
But it requires personal responsibility.
It is not uncommon for cities, even on other sides of the Earth, to adopt each other as "sister cities". Our technology, in particular the internet, has allowed global information connections unlike anything ever before possible.
Are nation-states not obsolete? Are there any overriding reasons why the current aribitrary political divisions should continue to be granted validity?
Once you go beyond the day to day human scale interactions of a physical city, what, if any, is the rational limit for a political unit?
Other than scientific aspects of life support and technological principles, is there any physical reason why we cannot have a world of locally autonominous communities?
We are past the paradigm where we can think in terms of any community growing and reaching out to forcefully take under it's control greater assets. We are figuratively, if not quite yet physically, elbowing each other and treading on each other's toes.
There are of course challenges that could not be addressed by any one present day city. To present a hopefully extrement example, consider an approaching asteroid. No single city could financially or physically launch an intercept mission. While communication and cooperation for such larger scale issues is still required, does it necessarily means someone must be constantly "in charge?"
A network is by definition nonhierachical. It is a web of connections among equals. What holds it together is not force, obligation, material incentive, or social contract, but rather shared values and the understanding that some tasks can be accomplished together that could never be acomplished separately.
Beyond the Limits
Professor Seth Lloyd, of MIT, presents in his book Programming the Universe the premise that the entire universe is a quantum computer, that the atoms that comprise the stars, and our bodies, are not so much physical objects as they are bits of interactive information. If we learn how to "hack" the programming, we may be able to create, or do
Traditional science tells us that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. It was astronomy which provided the first clues that light had some limited speed, as planets did not appear to be in the right positions, or moving as expected, based on known "laws" of gravity, physics, etc. When a reasonably accurate speed for light to reach us from such objects is accounted for, the motions come out right. But doesn't that mean that the planets orbits are calculated as though the forces acting on them are instantaneous? In our solar system, everything is in motion relative to something else. Even the sun is in motion. But while the light from the sun may take around 8 minutes to reach the Earth, our orbit around the sun is NOT centered on where the sun was 8 minutes ago. We orbit where the sun IS at the moment the calculation is made.
What's the significance? I've read that any delay in the propagation speed of gravity, in a moving system would cause unstable orbits. Somehow the masses of the Earth and the sun, objects millions of miles apart, are interacting as though there was either no distance, or that gravity effects travel far faster than anything we can measure.
Physics continues to be a contradictory subject. How can electrons "do" what we use them for, if they are what we believe them to be? If atoms and the electrons in "orbit" are as small and fast moving as we are told, how is it that light is reflected or absorbed?
How do mirrors, or other reflections, work? Light is an electromagnetic wave. When the energy strikes an electron, IT DOES NOT REFLECT as we think of such. The energy of the electron is increased, and re-radiated. If the "reflecting" object is rough, the "reflected" light is scattered. If smooth, the light is re-emitted in a particular direction. How?
A wave of visible light is something like 5,000 times as "long", as an atom is "wide", and moving at, well, the speed of light. Why doesn't it "miss" all atoms?
How does a tiny, thin wire antenna pick up a radio signal? There are theories, and factual methods, to electronically (what really IS electronics?) make an antenna appear to incoming signals to be MUCH larger that it physically is.
What about claims from Tesla, Morray, etc, of the ability of their small devices to receive a great deal of power?
Science, including reports of high-tech particle accelerators, tell us that the faster something goes, time slows down, and the object gains mass. Supposedly, at the speed of light, time stops, and an object becomes of infinite mass.
The time slowing has been shown by experiments. As particles go zipping around, it also seems to take more energy to push them faster, or make them change direction, which we are told is because they are heavier. But, since we've already pushed tiny things up to nearly the speed of light, if the theory of gaining mass was right, they should have weighed enough to strain the mountings of the devices. Could it be that the pushing / turning problem is one of time?
If time is moving slower on the fast particle, then when we push hard for "X" seconds, to the particle, it was only pushed for some brief instant, not enough to have any effect. The energy went into changing the particle's time rate even further?
If atomic and smaller particles right next to each other can experience time at a different rate, than what we experience as the passage of time must be an average of the input to our body.
Electrostatic force holds the electrons of atoms "in orbit". "Sharing" of electrons, via this force, allows atoms to gather into molecules, and the arrangement of atoms determines the properties of the molecule. Matter, everything from the stars to the DNA and other materials of our bodies are made up of molecules that use these electrostatic based properties to allow life. The atoms are themselves mostly empty space and moving electric charges, with the electrons and protons themselves perhaps being only electrically charges waves. Iron, element 26, has the maximum electrostatic binding force.
Power Generation - Electrostatic force can drive particles to fusion. In late 2006, Dr. Robert W. Bussard, formerlly of the Atomic Energy Commission, announced online that his modest company had achieved controlled, sustained fusion, by the use of electrostatic fields, in a device that is simple, compared to the fusion experiments using magnetic "bottles".
Dr. Bussard points out that the concept is not only relatively simple, it is not new. He refers to a paper on the topic published in 1924.
- Could the hydrogen nucleus, stripped of electrons, be pressed together tight enough by a conventional explosive to fuse?
He proposes an approach where the fusion process generates NO NEUTRONS or radiation, it does generate electrons and protons, that might be captured and converted in a shell to electricity at potential efficiency of 98%.
Levitation. Like charges repel. There are numerous claims that appropriately configured plates, charged to high enough electrostatic voltage, will lift from the earth and hover.
Atomic hydrogen torch. There are numerous claims that if hydrogen is passed thru a spark gap, then burned, it burns a great deal hotter than hydrogen so treated, well beyond any energy that could have been added by the electricity. Could this be tied to what Dr. Bussard presents, that stripped of their electron, and in the midst of chemically exploding hydrogen, the bare hydrogen nuclei are forced together to the point of fusion?
The formulas of James C Maxwell appear to indicate a relationship of electromagnetic and electrostatic force which seems ignored by current science.
New materials, such as further advances in carbon fiber, might allow us to construct a "space elevator". The ability to put people and materials in orbit, with the expense and waste of current rockets, could permit resource exploration of the solar system.
University of Maryland Professor Igor I. Smolyaninov and his colleagues are reported  to have "altered" light from a three-dimensional wave, to a two-dimensional one that can essentially adhere to the surface of an object. A use for the discovery is the ability to see details that are smaller than the wavelength of the illuminating light. Several other facilities are experimenting with the concept, including Duke University which in October 2006 demonstrated an "invisibility cloak".
The concept is reported as having the potential for an entire new "spectrum" of devices which use light instead of electricity to perform functions, perhaps new ones that have heretofore been "science fiction" (or perhaps Harry Potter's invisibility cloak).
Stem cell research  offers the promise of new treatments for disease, injury, and perhaps even old-age.
In the early trans-Atlantic cable, attempts to push high pulsed power thru the cable resulted in high induced currents, heating, and eventually melting of the insulation. Follow on signal attempts used a thimble of water, a single drop of sulfuric acid, and two different metals as the battery, and successfully sent trans-Atlantic morse signals.
For those who have suffered thru a review of earlier versions of these written babblings, thank you for the feedback. In addition to the generic treatise, I've been working on a specific real world analysis for homestead, neighborhood association, ecovillage, and city, based on a high desert city. Everything remains a "work in progress", and if anyone has an interest in this "Sustainable Civilization" or any of the appendices, just send an email request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The basis of confidence in the U.S. dollar is the global influence of a robust economy of the United States, and the influence of our international policies, including military interventions. Without these, global confidence in the dollar would wane, and it's value could disappear.
At $2.92 per gallon, your food represents $1.61 of gasoline. Use the formula Food Item Calories times ten, divided by 36,000, times price per gallon equals estimate of cost of embedded fuel used to grow the food item (Processing, shipping, sales costs not included).
In what has become traditional inflation, the supply and demand for goods and services remains fairly stable, while the money supply is increased. This leads to overall price and wage increases, but little to no net change in spending decisions.
Jared Diamond in his book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" suggests five major reasons for the collapse of civilizations:
- Environmental damage, such as deforestation and soil erosion
- Climate change
- Dependence upon long-distance trade for needed resources
- Increasing levels of internal and external violence, such as war or invasion
- Societal responses to internal and environmental problems.
The folks at www.leafforlife.org have extensive free information available for download on edible leaf crops, and on processing non-digestible crops such that a high quality protein & nutrients concentrate can be produced.
The Roman empire offered not only "bread and circuses" for masses of idle citizens, but also medical coverage. It was typical for a physician to be paid by the local government, to provide care free of charge to the population in general. This arrangement did not draw the best physicians to public service, in particular when the wealthy and powerful would pay well for resident or visiting doctors.
A significant part of this information is from Martin Sevior, Associate Professor, School of Physics, University of Melbourne, which has further nuclear information in a wiki-based website (http://nuclearinfo.net).
Summary of U.S. Internal Revenue Service regulatory comments on bartering. Bartering occurs when you exchange goods or services without exchanging money. An example of bartering is a plumber doing repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services. The fair market value of goods and services exchanged must be included in the income of both parties. Income from bartering is taxable in the year in which you receive the goods or services.