In order to thrive on one planet, we need to transition toward solutions (to serious problems) that address all of the Big 9 categories below in an integrated way. Industrial solutions are best for simple (e.g., baking a pie) or complicated (e.g., building a rocket, monocrop agriculture) processes, but for complex systems (e.g., relationships or ecosystem interactions), we need to think in a more integrated way and apply more integrated solutions. There are a few folks trying to do just that, including Willie Smits in Borneo and Tamera in Portugal (see this post for more Life Designers). See this excellent video by Geoff Lawton, a permaculture expert and teacher. Permaculture is an ethical design science that focuses on the integration of these solutions.
(1) Shelter/Homes: The Art of Shelter
- Small is beautiful
- We spend 1/3 of our lives in bed. Mattress options? Consider straw.
- Open Building Institute
(2) Water & Food (food is central for civilization)
- Food production should change from mono-culture industrial agricultural systems that produce nutrient-impoverished foods that require huge chemical and fuel inputs while destroying soil to permaculture-like food forest systems that can produce more food and more nutrient-dense food per acre while regenerating and building soil and sequestering atmospheric carbon. Research shows that using these techniques, we can produce the same amount of nutrition on 4-6% of the land area used by industrial agriculture (Geoff Lawton, Q&A: Scientific Research & Permaculture, source).
- Saving the Soil. There are 60 years left of farmable soil remaining if status quo practices continue (source at 1:30). Role of soil health in sequestering greenhouse gasses (video); importance of microbial activity for organic matter (New Hampshire study). Biochar burn technology. The Green Power House in Montana, created by Michael Smith, is a closed-loop (!) system that uses landfill-destined wood waste to produce biochar and a revolutionary algae-based fertilizer that can restore 400 years of naturally-produced soil in about 4-5 months (see the documentary, The Need To Grow). Inputs are biomass, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. Outputs include electricity for 100 homes and dozens of green houses (as a by-product), biofuel, food, and heat. The heat and CO2 is used to grow algae which then produces methane that helps power the system.
- Seeds. Diversity is key. Monsanto-style patents and mono-seed futures are good for a few short-term profits (like many monopolies) but the opposite of what we need.
- Permaculture: designing regenerative, polyculture food forests and integrated animal systems that nurture the soil by increasing organic matter, sequestering carbon, and preventing desertification and erosion. Keyline Design.
- Holistic Management (Allan Savory’s 2013 TED Talk & companion book): grazing animals to reverse and prevent desertification
- Joel Salatin style animal management at Polyface Farm (see his books)
- The importance of fencing: sustainable and inexpensive options include collecting that old brush and forming it into a fence (see this post at permies.com)
- Mushrooms (anything by Paul Stamets at Fungi Perfecti)
- Hunting, Fishing, Tracking, Trapping, Foraging (Wild Edibles)
- Permaculture you-pick orchard by Stefan Sobkowiak (see his great DVD for a packaged system that can be used as a model, a recipe, or an inspiration)
- Chinampa Agricultural systems, an aquaculture system creating floating islands of plants: “The most productive ecosystem humanity has ever put together,” according to Geoff Lawton (source at 58-58:30)
- Forest (and community) Regeneration (Willie Smits). 80% of precipitation can occur as condensation, chiefly water collecting on trees (Geoff Lawton: Permaculture Voices 1 Keynote)
- For the healfh of your body and the planet, mostly plant-based diets are key, a fact emphasized by a 27-year global study on diet published in 2019 (CNN article).
- Food Preservation & Storage
- Weather stations for your land
- Aquifers are drying up. Desertification is occurring. Soil and trees are critical for reversing these trends.
(3) Fuel: Heat, Cooking, Cooling, & Energy/Power
- Are there good technological solutions that will aid in reducing climate change or its negative effects? Various geo-engineering ideas are being considered but with concerns about unintended consequences with interventions in complex systems. See this Scientific American article or this Pew Center on Global Climate Change publication.
- Nuclear fusion could theoretically supply unlimited low-carbon energy (see, for example this BBC article, 2/2022).
- Rocket Stoves & Rocket Mass Heaters (70-90% less wood than wood stoves)
- Wood vs. Natural Gas vs. Rocket Stoves
- Solar: Solar Village at Tamera for sterling engines for water pumping and electricity production and new greenhouse technologies. Paper-thin, printable solar panels ($40 per watt in 1977 to $0.74 per watt in 2013) are now being manufactured.
- Biogas is like natural gas but is generated by using kitchen scraps. Here is a kickstarter for a backyard unit that comes with a stove for about $500 total (another example). Here’s an open source version with video instructions for construction. Biogas can be used for cooking in a modfied camp stove or gas stove (primary modification is to allow burner to work with low pressure gas rather than high pressure gas) or for generating electricity using a trifuel generator (good source for videos on biogas; Solar Cities open source organization)
- Alcohol: A renewable fuel that sequesters carbon. Can it power our lives?
- Trompe. Compressed air can be generated for free through use of a trompe (Mollison’s explanation; Geoff Lawton animation) and can be used to power a variety of tools, including cars selling for $10,000 due for production in the U.S. in 2019 (video from CNN; See this article for pros and cons, one of which is that you can only achieve speeds of 35 mph). Compressed air can create cold as well.
- Refrigerator. Retrofit your existing refrigerator to take advantage of cold outside air in cold climates (example).
- Vegetable Oil
- Wood gasification. Use wood to produce gas that can heat your home, power a generator, and more. Instructions on building your own are available as an ebook here for $40. A set of instructions that includes the book, a video, and parts list can be found here.
- Turn your plastic waste into diesel fuel (4.5 gallons/month for a typical household’s worth of plastic ) using this off the shelf machine.
- Marshall Medoff has made a potentially significant breakthrough (60 minutes episode from 1/6/19) in the ability to break down cellulose into green fuel and other products that could meet 30% of our fuel needs with 70% less impact on climate change. Also, see the Green Power House above under Soil. However, as of 8/2022, the status of his company, Xyleco, is uncertain.
(4) Social Technologies: Solutions require cooperation. Cooperation requires systems (e.g., visions and process but also physical structures) that minimize disagreements/increase compatibility, and attract (and train) people who are willing and able to aspire to disagree skillfully
“The profound change we must all make is internal; everybody needs to realise that there is no group coming to their rescue, that it is only what each of us does that counts; thus, those who cooperate with others, and take on a task relevant to all people, will be valued above those who seek personal survival.” (p. 557, Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison)
“Fitness [as in Darwinian survival of the fittest] actually can be looked at as connectivity, the survival of the most connected which means the ones that fit into diversity. Diversity is the strength of ecosystems. Elements that fit together because they perform more than one function and every function supported by more than one element gives you this strong web of life. We, as humans, are potentially designers of this system…The science of connectivity…the way we fit things together. That is survival…for all species.” – Geoff Lawton, Q&A 1.1 of PDC 2.0 (8/2022)
Permaculture’s 3 ethics are earth care, people care, and fair share (share the surplus with the first 2). In social permaculture the prime directive within “people care” is to get along while having integrity. To get along without integrity is to be a social chameleon, changing your nature to fit what everyone else wants (but doesn’t necessarily need); as such, you can cease to exist as an element in the system, pseudo-fitting everything but truly connecting to nothing.
- Top 6 Lessons Learned Living in a Village: A Psychologist’s Perspective
- Who to Invite to the Village
- Skillful Disagreement Through the Use of Intimacy Strategies
- Consensus or not? No.
- Investing. “Why should we fund our own destruction when the alternative is wide open for profitable, ethical development?” (p. 553, Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison).
- A Village in England Decides to Cut Carbon Emissions on their own (NY Times article, 2016)
- Adverse Childhood Events: By correcting problems early in our communities, we can drastically reduce later problems that include: substance abuse, violence, depression, liver and heart disease (NY Times article, 2016).
- A first-hand account of living in co-housing, a type of cooperative community in the United States and elsewhere.
- Human rights
- See Ben Falk’s book for hand tools and more (including a bike)
- See Open Source Ecology for their Global Village Construction Set which includes plans to design and build 50 important machines needed for civilization
- Packboard, Dick Proenneke style (instructions for making your own; article on backpacks)
(6) Medicine (see Ben Falk’s book)
(7) Fiber (see this dialog on permies.com)
(8) Fun & A Little Luxury
- Jean Pain hot tub video from Ben Falk, all while making great soil
(9) Resilience & Security
“I believe that only group or community (bioregional) survival is meaningful and possible; individual survival is meaningless, as is survival in fortresses.” (p. 557, Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison)
- Short-term Resilience: Disaster Preparedness
- Food storage
- Water filtering, purification, & storage (making your own Berkey filter); Harvesting rain water.
- Financial Resilience
Next articles in sequence:
This post has been read 5257 times.