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Sustainability for Survival

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Rational people that do research beyond  the spoon fed official pablum of mass media will conclude that our present economic and political systems are literally collapsing as our "leaders" stand like deer in the headlights. We face a triple whammy of global warming, oil depletion and credit melt-downs such as the sub-prime crisis. Building reality based sustainable communities is no longer just motivated by a "green ethic". Setting up intelligent sustainable systems is a necessity for survival. Changing light bulbs or fuel just won’t get it.

We need a total paradigm shift.    

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley Twenty Principle Points to Guide the Urgent Building of Sustainable Communities:

1. As we evaluate "economic development" in our community, always ask how any proposed change or new development will effect the entire community; the commonwealth of citizens and the surrounding ecology.

2. Meet as many local needs from local sources as possible through the mutual work of citizens. Build a local and regional economy that supports the creative and productive enterprise of local free market entrepreneurs, not state subsidized multi-national corporate behemoths. It is good to remember that the dictionary definition of fascism is simply "the merger of state and corporate interests.” Here is a sobering quote:   "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my    country. . . -corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money   power of this country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all   wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."  -- Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 

3. Use local resources to meet local needs first, and then market any surplus outside of your local community in concentric circles of distribution. Sell closest to source first to minimize energy used in transport of goods.

4. The industrial concept of "labor saving" technology diminishes the real economy of a community if it results in an increase of unemployment or substandard quality of goods produced. Technology and mechanization may save time and money from a one dimensional view, and then cost the community greatly from a "whole system" perspective. Rapidly rising energy costs are changing this equation dramatically. This requires constant reassessment. Our present industrial model of agriculture is a striking case in point; We now spend 10 calories of petrochemical energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy. Industrial agriculture presently operates with a huge net loss to the community; It is only propped up with expensive subsidy programs. In the USA, the petroleum industry receives nearly 100 billion in annual subsidies. The actual cost of petrochemical fuels is $10; $3 at the pump, and $7 in tax payments, and this doesn’t even measure the huge impending costs of climate chaos from a carbon burning culture. The bio-fuel and agricultural sector is propped up with another $100 billion in subsidies. Subsidies can only be supported as long as the global economy buys US paper currency. Our global monetary system is not sustainable; it’s based on "shared illusion". Once this illusory bubble collapses, the entire economic system collapses. A real economy must be built in each local region by real people with real resources within a new real value paradigm.

5. Set up intergenerational communities where the old and young work within a "whole system" community structure to care for the specific needs of people at each stage of the life-cycle. Institutional childcare and the exploitive nursing home industry have very high social and financial costs. We must integrate all ages into efficient systems of a well functioning local community. Inter-generational co-housing is a good model to develop.

6. Develop appropriate technology for adding value within the community at a scale that is in balance with nature, the actual community scale, the real human social scale and the actual carrying capacity of the local ecology.

7. Develop small scale industry and business to support local farm, fishery, and forest economies to produce real goods for real needs. A sustainable society can only be supported with resources from sustainable sources.

8. Produce as much of the energy needed by the community as possible at the local level. Conserve and utilize all energy within intelligent systems to lessen the actual need for energy. Effective conservation is much more cost effective than chasing an illusory and temporary techno-fix.  Nature conserves energy whenever possible. There is no waste in nature. We need to apply scientific bio-mimicry to build an efficient human ecological-economy.

9. Work to increase the real income within the community and lessen the need to purchase resources and services outside of your community. The net value of economic activity is the only valid and real measure.

10. Build direct local connections between urban consumers and rural producers of food and energy.

11. Set up integrated systems to circulate money produced locally within the local economy through as many cycles as possible with inter-dependent local goods and services. Bank locally.  Support the local economy in all sectors.

12. Be aware of the real economic value of neighborly acts and community cohesion. A safe, sane society is much less costly to operate than a society burdened with systemic dis-enfranchisement that leads to crime and violence.A world that works for all of us can only be built up from local communities that work for all of the participants.

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Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; SUSTAINABLE OPERATING SYSTEMS/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and (more...)
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