Reasons for Sustainable Living

   Within our rapidly changing politics and natural phenomenon there are certain things we will always need for physical existence. The worries and desperate grasping for such things often deprive life of all other meaning.
   This work is an effort to untangle the paths to the basics, and to reroute them around territories over which we have no control. These technologies are designed to address shortages, pollution, global uncertainties, and to add flexibility to our lives.
   The most direct applications would involve enhancements to one's own lifestyle, and developing a hands-on experience. Some of these ideas could go on to become products for cottage industries, or commercial development.
   In the long run, visualize a fabric of sustainable communities that do not depend upon materials from far away places, the good graces of distant governments, or heavy industries. Picture a world of sophisticated technologies subtly configured to optimize quality of life yet delicately balanced with the local ecologies.
   Between here and that ideal, are many who would be interested in these technologies for their respective reasons -- consider:

1. Those on or in need of welfare:

2. Environmentalists:

3. Underemployed:

4. Pacifist:

5. Libertarian or patriot

6. Concerned about the future:

The Case for Doing it Yourself
   Knowledgeable men of the early fifties were able to predict that energy shortages would begin to be felt by the early seventies.
   Along-side their admirably accurate technical predictions were beautiful and reasonable-sounding predictions that people would see the coming problems and do something about them. History and utility bills have proven these hopes false, and we are stuck with a problem that increases our dread of every approaching winter.
   If we are to find solutions to these problems in time to do us any good, we must take a lesson from the technical prophets of the fifties and minimize our dependence upon institutions and businesses to solve our problems at their own convenience and benefit.
Utility companies are obviously not interested in seeing you reduce your need for their services, unless they can force you to pay more money for less service. The government has been advised of these problems for decades, but what does your utility bill have to say for all the money, politics and promises that they have invested? Solar heating is now of age in private industry, and though it is within reach of some people, it is still too expensive to be realistic for most of us. The option that remains is to do it yourself, or have it done yourself.
   Now don't slam the door in my face as if I'd just made an impossible suggestion. You'd be surprised at how much you can accomplish with the right information and enough guts to try something you've never done before. Recognize the fact that there is a problem, and that problems don't get solved by clinging to the attitudes and conditions that allowed them to develop in the first place.
   Another reason for doing it yourself (besides the fact that nobody is going to do it for you) is that in order to make a profit, the retail price of a manufactured item is typically four to five times the cost of the materials used. This means that even if you have to pay twice as much for the materials that the manufacturer does, you are still paying only half the price for the finished product -- if you can supply the labor.
   A manufacturer is liable for what he sells and therefore must idiot-proof everything or face potential lawsuits. This country has some very expensive idiots. Although you would certainly want quality in a product you build yourself, you are not threatened by litigation if you fail to build it perfectly.
   In building something yourself, you are free to tailor a product to meet your needs and preferences exactly. Manufacturers must try to guess which size and configuration is most likely to please the most people. The result is that you are likely to pay for more than you really want or need.
   Finally, when you build something yourself, you learn things that all the books in the world cannot teach you. You begin to develop a sense of self-reliance that only experience can bring. This confidence makes you a little less helpless in facing the daily uncertainties of life.

   Rationality begins with an un-retouched acceptance of reality. Concepts and preferences must yield to a clear view of unedited data – such as:
• Some day there will be no more oil.
• All other non-renewable natural resources (metals, etc.) will likewise disappear.
• While these things are happening prices will go up and availability will go down.

   There is therefore no escaping the fact that renewable resources and materials that are widely distributed – such as dirt – are the only options for the long-term.
   We need to further recognize that historically, governments increase in centralization, power, and in the control of money and lives -- until they break.
   Only the populous will truly have their own interests at heart. The greater control people can maintain over the essentials of life, the less they can be controlled by people who abuse power.

   Corporations are machines that do not care if people live or die. They only concern themselves with environmental issues when another machine (called a “government”) requires them to. A corporation would love to have a mining operation in your own back yard if you happen to have anything worth taking, and they don’t care what it will look like.
   People dependent upon the resources from within a few miles of their homes will be intimately aware of the condition of their world, and will take good care of it.

  The stock market has good days and bad days. I remember awhile back when there was a perturbation in the economy of Hong Kong, and the global economy stumbled. If the federal reserve and the politicians they own cannot affect your lifestyle, they cease to be a problem.

Cultural – Take another look at wisdom

   As I was driving through town I observed a man adjusting a fence of natural sticks such as I have often seen in Mexico. Beyond the fence was a small, beautiful garden of flowers, and I felt a sense of the man's pride as I passed. I found myself envious of a man with the peace and contentment to cherish a small fragment of time and creation.
   Not having found such wisdom in myself, my cultural preference would be a more tumultuous environment of exploration and technical development. But this man gave me a window into a realm I might otherwise have missed. I will file this image, and perhaps be able to cash it in, should I ever attain to his level of understanding. As a broad genetic pool increases the adaptive options among species, a broad cultural pool enriches our ability to appreciate and flourish in God's creation.
   If the variety of cultures we enjoy in America had not been imported, I am confident that the rich diversity of genetic abilities and temperaments would have created them; yet such differences often cause misunderstandings and conflicts.
   Ultimately, if intra-cultural conflicts are to be reduced, the options are genocide for all dissident individuals and cultures, or developing a social fabric within which variations could flourish with minimal conflict. Hopefully, a society that spends millions to protect subtle nuances among subspecies of plants and animals would be concerned about the protection of cultural variations as well.
   So am I advocating ghettos? I enjoy foreign travel, but it is always a relief to get home to familiar surroundings. Within America I am more comfortable with some people than others. This implies neither disrespect nor a desire for isolation. People should have the freedom to mingle or not. If this is ghetto-thinking, then I am indeed guilty.

   Key founders of this nation were driven to these shores by religious intolerance. Our schools and governments are becoming increasingly hostile to the expression of almost anything besides the religions of humanism, new age, and atheism.
   Some of us walk to a different drummer, and would like a little distance from such narrow mindedness. Locally sustainable communities formed around such special interests provide a haven for people of nonconformist views.

   We call it the “rat-race.” We have been enticed to “need” things we cannot afford, and to borrow money to acquire them. Experienced salesmen understand that people are more motivated by fear of loss than hope of gain. Once bound by credit, many are doomed to spend their lives in jobs they dislike, working for people they don’t like or trust, while earning money they cannot keep.
   Most will have nothing saved by the time they retire. If they slow down however, they lose everything. So like it or not, they spend their lives productively delivering interest to masters who produce nothing of value in return. Their masters are the banks that supply their credit cards and loans. The banks are in turn slaves of the Federal Reserve that lends them money. The Federal Reserve system in turn is not owned by our government, but by foreign interests.
   Local sustainability does not mean a cessation of work, but freedom from supporting the monetary tyrants of this world.
   Meanwhile as an exhausted world is running out of the natural resources essential to such opulence, the environment is increasingly constipated by pollution from generations of greed.

   As various political activities unfold, it becomes clear that in America's diversity no comprehensive body of legislation is going to be healthy for everyone. Indeed, many of our legislative experiments have created monsters for some groups. It is inherent in the democratic process that on every issue and candidate, the majority will impose some level of distress on all others. Obviously some centralized coordination is required for a society to exist at all, but democracy needs to selectively deal with only community resources, and carefully avoid intruding into private lives.

   My acquaintances range form left-wing extremists to some fringe patriot types. It has been my observation that -- with a very few volatile exceptions -- both extremes want 90+% of the same things.
   I have found appropriate or "sustainable" technologies to be of great interest to all factions which are genuinely concerned about the future. I know this could bring together some highly improbable bedfellows, but be polite enough not to scream when you wake up.
   The principle of this approach is to phase into infrastructures that are regionally or locally sustainable. This modularization would permit widely divergent lifestyles and cultures to coexist with a minimum of conflict. Among other benefits, I would expect this to:

   We’re looking at a possible default here. People struggling for meaning in life often commit to bazaar cults and fanatical behavior. If you consider yourself neither bazaar nor fanatical, and are still not decided what you are or what you want to become, involve yourself in activities that will give you time to decide, and will increase your options when you finally do.
   Good luck with your search.

No Nuke
   Mankind does not know what to do with nuclear waste, so they store it in hopes that a future generation will figure out how to deal with their mess. Congratulations kids; thanks to my thoughtless greed I have crapped all over your future.
   Nuclear waste, like nonrenewable resources can do nothing but get worse as time goes on. How much worse will it get? That depends only on how much time we have. The longer we use nuclear power, the dimmer the future gets.
   I doubt if a locally sustainable technology that uses uranium will ever be conceived.

   I remember food riots in India over a small percentage increase in the cost of food. Since the government controlled the food, they chose to increase the cost in order to raise money for industrialization. Who do you want controlling your food – or anything else you require to survive for that matter?
   Wars are fought because somebody wants something that somebody else has. So what are they going to do? Steal your vegetable garden?
   On a more serious note, this is one benefit of a tight-knit community. You have a group of people who communicate and work together to solve mutual problems, and take care of each other. In this situation a group of looting thugs may well wind up “donating” their very clothing to the community thrift store.

   An ideal geopolitical condition would empower people to control their own food, water, shelter and energy, and yet have access to global economy, technology, and protection. This would be realized if society were structured primarily as a fabric of locally sustainable infrastructures. Such communities could still have:

Self Determination
  1. A very basic source of political conflict is the struggle of those competing for control of the populace, versus the populous struggling for control of their own lives.
  2. Local sustainability favors protection of the self-determination of the people.
  3. Religion provides meaning through association with a greater purpose or cause. This can be good or bad, depending upon what the dogmas demand. Beneficial threads running through many doctrines are the love and care of fellow man, and levels of honesty and ethic. Religions that promote violence upon other groups of people however, serve gods too small to defend themselves. Examples such as the Third Reich and state-mandated Communism attracted many believers, but were clearly flawed as social or economic orders. Militant sects of Islam have proven to be social and economic curses to those enslaved -- Taliban control of Afghanistan for instance.
  4. The moral character and integrity of our leaders is important.
  5. Quite often, the most aggressive, controlling, and least ethical dominate the top positions (although there are beautiful exceptions) The "I'd-rather-be-god" syndrome drives many to control as much of the world as possible. Many officials pass laws to increase their control, rather than to benefit the people. Some accept bribes to pervert justice and to pass laws that are devastating to their constituency.

Reality Check
   Building a society that is more than individuals and gangs competing for dominance, requires planning and the allocation of resources that might otherwise be squandered. Can planning and resources achieve the objectives proposed above?
   This has, can, and will work for some, and I have personally proven and applied a number of alternative technologies. There is however, a threshold of vision and motivation that must be individually crossed before one will take steps in this direction. I'll leave it to political, social, and economic winds to provide the motivation; for my part, I'd like to help with the vision.
   This is a path, not a package. The accumulation of knowledge is only a map. The path itself begins with actions that manifest in physical forms and patterns of living. The future is of course uncertain, but we have a window of opportunity to choose between driving the future and being driven by it.
   So now our challenge is to create an infrastructure that doesn't need bauxite from Canada, nitrates from Chili, and oil from the Mid-East. This is a little daunting, but pioneering is not for the weak. The path to a good design begins with the question "What do I want", instead of crippling thoughts of impossibility, cost, practicality, and time constraints.