Re: Re: self-sufficient community
From: William Thornton (William_ThorntonBayNetworks.COM)
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 08:37:49 -0600
I'm glad to see this idea being discussed.  The public debate so seldom gets
around to the long-term (I mean even 30 or 40 years!) sustainability of what
we are doing.  When I think of the minimum level of sustainability, I don't
think of a large community in which we have to maintain our current standard
of living and level of complexity, although that would be nice (or would
it?).  I am just thinking of having a Plan B in case all the hopes we pin on
insurance companies, governments, and corporations are misplaced.  30
families is a good size tribe and, given a suitable site, access to water and
energy, could survive in a pinch, hopefully with enough excess time and
energy to maintain some semblance of civilization.  

As everyone knows (I hope), the Roman Empire lasted many centuries and seemed
invulnerable to the effects of time.  But when it collapsed, it was groups of
a few dozen dedicated individuals that restored the land to fertility and
kept alive some memory of civilization until the Muslims in Spain and Turkey
managed to educate and bully us back into the civilized world again.   I
don't say that our situation today is entirely similar, but the way we are
freebasing our ecological heritage makes me wonder if our run will be as long
as the Romans.

I am not so convinced of imminent disaster that I want to invest in weapons
and move to Amador County or Idaho, but on the other hand, I think some
thought should be given to a degree of self sufficiency, the carrying
capacity of the land, and taking local responsibility for our inputs and
outputs.  Grey water recycling, composting, bulk purchasing of staple items,
and a general plan for emergencies and for developing the local resource base
in case of market breakdown would seem to be worth incorporating into a
cohousing plan.   

I think a valid goal of cohousing is to try to stem the tide of conversion of
our most fertile farmland to 5,000 square foot plots of cement and chemlawn. 
Getting the largest piece of land affordable and preserving it for
emergencies (and for the exploration of children) is a high priority on my
list.  Creating an ISDN (or even fiber)-based telecommuting center with the
cooperation of some interested companies could help offset the longer commute
that would be required to get to a real farm.  I forget which high-tech firm
it was that actually created a housing project in the Rockies in order to
hide their key engineers from their competition.  I've heard of telecommuting
centers being established in the North Bay somewhereit seems like such a
center would be a natural fit with a cohousing project.  

Even without corporate involvement, creating viable businesses, even in a
group of 20-30 families doesn't seem so impossible.  Organic produce,
medicinal herbs, mail order, offsite technical support, and Internet
publishing are just a few of the expanding opportunities that come to mind. 
Small businesses seem like the perfect way to keep teenagers busy, which is a
concern that was going around a little while ago. As a teenager, I worked on
fishing boats in Bodega Bay and I wouldn't have traded that experience for
the hottest multimedia system on the planet.  

Did anyone hear the NPR report on that twelve-acre organic farm in Santa
Barbara, completely surrounded by suburban development?  Apparently, the
owners want to sell, but they have agreed with the manager to give him two
years to come up with $750,000about a third of the market value of the land.
 The manager wants to put the land in trust to be preserved as a heritage
farm.  If two acres of a farm like that were developed for about 20 cohousing
units, you'd still have 10 acres left for preservation.  The manager sounds
like a pretty ardent environmentalist, and the idea might be pretty far
fetched in that particular site, but you get the idea.  I guess a key issue
is zoning, at least in the Bay Area.  Is there any chance that zoning
ordinances might be relaxed on the basis of preserving 80% of a site as
heritage farm and open space?    

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