A blog by Mel Riser about LifeBoat Permaculture and Solar Villages

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sun Electronics, one of my goto suppliers, has an awesome sale going on.

Unisolar 134 watt amorphous ( perfect for sailboats )

Sun Power B Grade 430 watt panels.

List is long, but first rate.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

On Panel Inverters

The trend these days towards on panel inverters, grid tied and microprocessor based.

I'm in the process of evaluating three brands...

enPhase 240 ac

cheap chinese 120 vac

Exeltech 120 vac

Test coming soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

long time. but here to say

Solar is cheaper than ever!

We recently bought 4000 watts of panels for 3600 hundred dollars... yes INDEED.

200 watt panels for 180 each... delivered. WOW

let's hope the trend continues!

got solar?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fuel Cell Offers to Save World: World Says No Thanks


February 19, 2011
Each Bloom box shown provides 100 kw cheap, clean energy for CalTech. Other clients include eBay, Google and Coke.
One year ago, the venerable televison news program 60 Minutes broke a blockbuster story that (as The Daily Impact observed at the time —Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?) made even energy pessimists feel a pang of hope. (Okay, 60 Minutes didn’t exactly break the story, but they did introduce it for the first time to a mass audience.) Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, California had brought to market a reliable, efficient, clean and relatively cheap fuel cell that was scalable from a coffee-can-sized power source for a home to a greyhound-bus-sized industrial plant.
The technology was exciting. Its inventor, Bloom Energy founder and CEO K.R. Sridhar, found a way to make a 25-watt fuel cell from a wafer made of sand and coated with special inks that made one side of the wafer the cathode, the other the anode, of the chemical battery. Its manufacture was thus less exotic, less dependent on rare and hard-to-get materials and less toxic to the environment than that of previous versions of the fuel cell. Moreover, the Bloom cell can make use of a wide variety of fuels, from the existing and widely available petroleum derivatives to biogases.
All of this would have been fascinating enough as theory, or as a demonstration project, but the jaw-dropping 60 Minutes piece went on to reveal that industrial-size Bloom Boxes, as they inevitably came to be known, had for some time been serving key installations of companies such as Google, eBay, FedEx, Staples and Coca-Cola.
But the truly stunning part of the revelation was the vision of the future that the product made possible. This was, it seemed, the closest anyone had come to the mythical, always-imminent technological breakthrough that the industrialists and technophiles have been assuring us for decades would come along in time to save us from our energy gluttony and replace oil as the heart of our consumptive lifestyles. Suddenly we could actually, realistically imagine a future in which electricity would be produced where it was needed, without pollution, without necessarily using fossil fuels (although the first units are using natural gas), andwithout transcontinental transmission lines. It could at last be the end of strings-on-sticks providing the shaky foundation for all our high technology. If we could turn that corner, quickly, maybe we could avoid the catastrophe that the end of cheap and plentiful oil holds in store for us.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg grasped these implications: “My first reaction was this was a company guaranteed for greatness. When we look at Bloom Energy, we are looking at the future of business, at the future of the economy, at the future of America.”
That was a year ago, and that, as far as the mass media were concerned, was that. Bloom held its formal unveiling of the project the next day, and after a smattering of perfunctory “Can the Bloom Box Save the World?” stories, sank from view. (Note the journalistic technique: first, burden the technology or methodology with the need to save the world, all of it, and then find somewhere a skeptic to say it probably wouldn’t, couldn’t, or oughtn’t save the whole world, and thus can be disregarded.)
Sic Transit Hope.
It’s happened before, of course. As readers of Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age by Sustainable Living(and few others) will know, a man named Jack Shaeffer showed us in 1969 how to end point-source water pollution in this country. Period. Not only did it work, it caused the Congress and the Nixon administration to declare as a national goal of the United States the ending of all pollution of waterways by 1985. The only catch was that cities and real-estate developers would have to set aside a little bit of land for each sub-division and office park, to deal with the pollution where it was generated. Like Bloom, Shaeffer systems were installed by hundreds of communities and businesses, and worked as promised. Like Bloom, the Shaeffer solution was enveloped by a vast silence, punctuated only by the occasional yipping of professional skeptics funded by industrial polluters. Shaeffer’s solution vanished from the industrial world. Can Bloom’s be far behind?
Would it have been different if Bloom had not concentrated on the big, profitable, corporate installations, and instead had rolled out and promoted vigorously a $3,000, breadbox-sized power source for individual homes? Probably not. The deep national silence about the deadly problems we face, even about the solutions available for those problems, is armor-plated with money, protected by wholly-owned politicians and ratings-mad media, and apparently impenetrable.
The silence of the damned.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cooling Towers and Solar Fans

Space cooling and heating can account for up to 45 percent of your total home energy use every year, but there are numerous strategies you can employ to reduce cooling costs. For instance, a ceiling fan used in conjunction with air conditioning lets you raise the thermostat by as much as 4 degrees while maintaining the same comfort level in a room. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that each degree below 78 degrees on your thermostat will increase your air conditioning bill by 8 percent. You also can use natural ventilation to capture and create breezes, or to help you take advantage of nighttime drops in temperature.
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Other money-saving ideas include minimizing heat gain, weather sealing, insulating, window shading and glazing, roof lightening and landscaping (see “Best Bets for Passive Cooling”). Because natural ventilation is one of the most cost-effective ways to cool your home, we’ll examine it here in greater detail.

Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation makes the most of air motion to cool you and your home. This is the primary passive cooling strategy in all climate zones, but the nuances of its application vary by region. Understanding seasonal wind patterns will help you adjust your window openings, outdoor spaces and windbreaks to increase your comfort without relying on nonrenewable fuels.

Take some time to think about the breezes and winds around your home:

• At what time of day and year are the winds strongest?
• From which direction does your prevailing wind come (the one that blows most of the time, when there are no storms)?
• From what direction do storms come?
• Is there a noticeable breeze or wind most of the year? Does it vary much from season to season?
• Do your local breezes shift daily?
• Is local air movement influenced by geographic features or landscape elements?

There are several ways to learn about local wind direction and intensity, such as observing for yourself (at different times of the day and year), accessing weather data and asking local farmers or other people who work outdoors what they observe.

You also can hang a windsock in your yard. A friend who lives near the ocean has done this; she and her family enjoy being aware of changes in the wind’s direction and force, making them feel more like part of their natural surroundings: “Our prevailing wind comes from the northwest, so most of the time the windsock points to the southeast. But sometimes it suddenly turns and points north, and then we know there’s a storm coming in.” A weather vane on your home or garage can provide the same information.

Becoming familiar with local weather patterns can help you decide on a natural cooling strategy. In hot humid climates, for example, maximum airflow combined with shading is the dominant strategy. In hot arid climates, ventilation is welcome in the hot seasons, and night cooling of thermal mass is particularly useful due to lower nighttime temperatures. In cold climates with cool summers, there may be little need for enhanced natural ventilation. Many temperate and mixed climates will require a variety of tricks as the seasons move from one extreme to another. As you read on, think about your own climate zone and your experiences living there; focus on the approaches that feel most relevant to your situation, and see how you might improve the existing relationship between your home and the breezes.


This is very similar to the setup I created at my house.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Types you find in a Survival Forum or email list...

Average Joe

This is by far the largest group of survivalist on the Internet. They basically never considered themselves a survivalist until they read the Internet. They tend to see self-preparation as simply logical. Their tendency is to very much prepare for the most likely and mundane before preparing for EOTWAWKI. They'll have fire alarms, CO detectors, a fire plan, a communication plan, some food and water preps, home defense plan for common crimes, and decent to fair short term power outage plan. Average Joe usually has excellent information and gets the most from his internet experience, however he isn't one of the more entertaining personalities on the internet.

Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah is one of the oldest posting survivalist types and is typically found on the sites in existence before this one. He sees survival through the rose colored glasses of 1840 and the classic mountain man. His solution to most things leans towards minimal technology and nature. Jeremiah tends to shun technology and high tech gear. The fact the average mountain man was lucky to live beyond age 35 is totally lost on him. All he needs to survive is a good knife. This is a loner type or in very small numbers. Though Jeremiah believes in guns as a defensive weapon by far his tactic preference is guerilla in nature or avoiding confrontation. Long-term food production, farming/husbandry, isn't on his list of priorities for nature will supply his needs.

The Hermit

The Hermit too is one of the older Internet survival types. This is the classic loner approach to survivalist. His approach to everything is I'm on my own and will live in a cave, compound, or bomb shelter while the world goes to hell around me. He totally ignores that no man is island. His approach to society is to withdraw from it completely. Unlike Jeremiah, the Hermit usually depends on long-term food production in his planning but not bartering. This type also favors the gun however usually defensive only with a stratagem of shoot them first and let God sort them out. The Hermit usually gets along pretty well with the Jeremiah on the Internet and is often found on the same sites. The Hermit and Jeremiah are probably the first to condemn others on the Internet. They're there primarily for others to praise their knowledge but not really teach others for others don't fit in their personal plans.

Mr. Conspiracy

Another of the older types, Mr. Conspiracy has some secret knowledge only known to him about this master plan to enslave human beings in one way or another. He often uses the words "They" and "Them" to describe the unknown masterminds of this dastardly plan. He has a real problem with authority and almost incapable of teamwork. Mr. Conspiracy is the first to throw up the flag of revolution but probably the last to ever partake. His take on survival is based on paranoia and fear. Nuclear winter, a massive asteroid strike, civil war, government oppression, and EOTWAWKI in general are typically favorite topics. Given enough data this guy would believe we didn't land the moon. Paranoia is his life and his tool. He's a very entertaining read on the Internet but really offers little actual preparation information.

The Gear Whore

This guy totally sees the answer to all survival issues as equipment or gear. He usually has the best of the best brand name based on what someone told him on the net was the best or the coolest image. Having and collecting the gear is often more important than using it and typically he's long on advice and short on practical experience. His BOB is typically at superhuman strength weight load. Although you can typically count the times he's used his gear on one hand, he's quick to be the expert for after all he has the gear. Although he can quote specification after specification on gear, he tends to fall short on the mundane such as cooking or even making a fire for there is little gear involved. The Internet feeds the Gear Whore's ego and he seeks attention and approval of his approach.


Rambo sees survival as the gun. He typically has the state of the art tactical hardware including weapon systems and vests but wouldn't last a week should Walmart close its doors. He lives for the invasion and ultimate warfare. He looks towards this ultimate warfare as almost romantics dream that he desires above all else. Oddly he is hardly ever a veteran. Rambo tends to lean towards weapons training almost to exclusion of all other preparations. Although this site has had its share, the majorities of Rambos is typically on the newer gun sites and often don't post in the Survival sections due to the mundane topic matter. Rambo's favorite color is camo. Rambo's solution to survival is the gun and he doesn't even realize that if he implemented his plan the odds would be very high that he'd be shot on sight or hung from a tree.

The Poser

This is the most dangerous type on the net. The Poser is totally convinced he knows the secret to survival and is the expert based primarily on what he has read and not what he has lived. He is the ultimate pretender for he believes it. They are the hardest to find out unless you meet them. He won't be comfortable outdoors or using his gear. He typically will have too much gear and once again the top of the top in tactical hardware. If this guy went hunting one day, he's the expert. If he goes camping, he's the expert. The Poser and expert go hand and hand. It's your first indicator. Since his experience is primarily on the Internet, he's one of the first to start his own site or take a dominant role in a new site on the web. They tend to be long on advice but seldom if ever actually go out of their way to meet people. Usually a couple times they will since they believe their expertise is real. After that they decline due to the negative responses afterwards. Anonymity is his ally and as he realizes the extent of this anonymity, his experience at least on the Internet becomes more extensive. He seeks attention and admiration above all else even at the sake of reality. The Poser is often caught up in his lies and exposed by others. I've met some real winners in this category from fake military to fake LEO.

Farmer Bob

Way too few of this sort on the web. This is the guy who has dirt under his fingernails. He isn't planning for survival but living it on the farm. He visits the Internet for tidbits of information but really doesn't have time to spend a lot of time on the web. He's a fountain of information. If he's on the web, he tends to be all over it but seldom a notable web personality.

The Ships Captain

This is Mr. Bugin is my only plan. Totally dedicated to "The Titanic Syndrome" (my plan is invincible), he'll have unbelievable amounts of supplies but about all his planning is lost with the striking of a match. He's determined like the captains of a ship of yore to die with his gear if the need calls for it. The Ships Captain approaches almost every topic except the destruction of his home or the eventuality of leaving it.

Mr. Fincial

This guy sees finical security as the secret to survival. Historically he has a good basis for his opinion. He's usually a good source of information on finical planning but a tad short on anything outside the home such as wilderness skills or bugging out. He tends to be more practical in his planning with it based on the most likely economic scenarios. Typically this type has something to worry about in this regard and why he's such a good source of information. You see the really rich don't worry about such things.


BOBby is very prevalent on the web. He sees his backpack as the ultimate survival tool and only tool anyone will ever need. He realizes the need for a prepared lifestyle but lacks the dedication to go beyond a backpack. BOBby is usually new to the survival scene and not bad guy, just inexperienced.

The Wannabe

The Wannabe could probably be called "The Wish I Had" just as easily. He's the guy who understands the need for preparation but uses the movement to live that aspect of his life he wished he had such as military, LEO, outdoorsman, or doctor. He usually gets along quite well with Rambo or say Jeremiah Johnson but typically not both. In this regard is bias is a tad hypocritical. They are usually quite entertaining Internet personalities and often have lot's of good information. The difference between the Poser and the Wannabe is the Wannabe knows he isn't and just wants to learn or experience what he missed. The Poser is convinced he is what he dreams of. Though typically an amusing Internet character, the Wannabe really rubs the real things the wrong way.


Most posters become jaded with time and then many get over it but some never do. They have learned to ignore the entertainment value of survival forums and feel the information repetitive. Simply put, they are bored. They tend to progress from high entertainment forums to more technical forums until they realize they are even more boring. Its then they either drop off the web or slowly go back to the high entertainment forum. The Jaded will often call for large volumes of technical information not even realizing that should a forum be nothing but lists of information, they'd read it once and never read it again.

The Newbie

The Newbie has just come to realize being prepared is a wise thing to do. He simply doesn't know where to start. Like a bull in China shop, he wades right in. He's a delicate poster still influenced by non-preparation types that early acceptance or denial heavily influence his decision to continue posting or not. He tends to approach topics seen a million times before. The Jaded tends to be his nemesis since they bored with the topics. Every Newbie has the potential to be become one of the other personas. He is the future growth of a forum an essential to the flow of information for every fresh eyes approach to even an old topic reveals new information. His threads are usually a wealth of information if you take time to see it for every time you review the basics, you are actually reviewing your own preparations. Many of the old forums don't have patience with the Newbie and is why they are so stagnant. You see survival isn't an elite club but a way of life.

The Heckler

Last and by no means least is the Heckler. This guy visits the survival forums just so he can feel superior making light of others. The Heckler thinks most survivalist are nutcases and finds what he perceives as their ramblings entertaining. He thinks by ridicule he gains Internet personality status and does not see survival forums as information sources. They live their lives comfortable in their safe zone confident their world will never be shattered and anyone who tries to tell them it will be shattered has to be a nutcase. The media often heavily influences the Heckler or what is popular. Truth be known, they will probably be the first one loaded on a bus in a crisis.


It's a combination of these personas that give a survival forum its entertainment factor. It's the core of this entertainment that keeps bringing people back to read and to post. Otherwise, we'd all just go to the library or browse the net for specific topics. Like a soap opera where you have characters you love to hate, they draw the reader to come back like a light draws bugs. For the average reader, its actually an enlightening experience to realize that the entertainment factor in a forum is what brings them back to the forum. All of the personas play a role.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The Inescapable Logic of
Local Community Self-Sufficiency
(Paper #1 in a series on community self-sufficiency)
This paper makes the seemingly improbable argument that a long string of
apparently unrelated, intractable social and environmental problems have a common
root cause and a common, locally approachable solution.
o The misery of refugees and displaced jobless populations with continuing
dependency on government or private charities,
o Decay of cities (large and small),
o Deplorable conditions of Indigenous Peoples “reservations” and the continuing
loss of their languages and cultures,
o Increasing violence, apathy and mal-treatment of children,
o Destruction of whole ecological systems,
o Desertification,
o Inability of people to adapted to changing climate conditions,
o Toxification of natural and human environments,
o Overwhelming increasing stockpiles of commercial waste products in the general
All these problems, though they may seem to stem from different immediate causes,
surrender to a surprisingly mundane, non-miraculous, locally implementable
solution. While in many cases it may be very difficult or even impossible for a local
population to bring about this solution by themselves, with temporary outside aid it
will be possible. And once a well-defined point is reached, outside aid will no longer
be necessary.
What is Self-Sufficiency?
Self-Sufficiency basically means "able to provide for ones own needs without outside
aid or support." However, embedded within our use of this word lies the idea of
sustainability: The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations (human and non-human) to meet their own needs.
What is a Community?
Communities are created because few individuals survive long or happily on their
own. The word itself is usually defined as “a group of people with common interests
living or operating in a particular area”. Typically only indigenous peoples have had a
concept of community that necessarily included non-humans. It is historically borne
out that any culture that fails to consider the good of all creatures in the
environment almost inevitably ends up making their habitat unlivable one way or
“Unlivable” includes situations where the long-term survival of the population
is dependent upon plundering the resources of regions beyond their own
borders – that is, transferring the problem to elsewhere.
If one can accept the above definitions, and
If one can also accept arguments made by many, many others that human life is
only healthy when long lists of non-human creatures (and their communities) are
also surviving well, and
If one has the honest intention to broadly raise the level of survival of such
Then one should consider
What are the basic, minimum functions the humans in these communities would
have to perform in order to produce a reasonably happy, healthy, self-perpetuating
level of community life
while also
Being able to apply their knowledge, skills and resources to help other communities
achieve at least the same standard of life.
While thinking about what these functions might be, one should keep in mind that:
• It is now generally accepted as a scientific fact that our agricultural,
manufacturing and energy practices are contributing to the acceleration of
climate change on a global scale1. The catastrophic events on the US Gulf of
Mexico coast during the 2005 hurricane season have given us rather a graphic
sense of the magnitude of possible consequences of climate change even if
predicted effects are only “slightly true”.
• Most Americans (like people in most Western societies) have long since ceased
to value self-reliance. Long gone are all the brilliant, simple techniques and
inventions that kept our ancestors alive during earlier times. Indeed, our
dependency on mass-produced solutions purchased off-the-shelf is complete; as
a group we have forgotten there was ever any other way. This same trend is now
becoming prevalent in so-called “Third World” countries.
• Communities run huge risks by having most vital infra-structure services
(energy & food production, water, sanitation, transportation, etc.) so highly
centralized, oil-dependent, easily disrupted and outside local control as they are
• When essential supply and service systems break down and survival becomes
personal, people fight (rationally or irrationally) to protect and defend their
families and other individuals they care about. They will cannibalize their local
environment – and the environment of others – thus producing short-term
survival and long-term misery (like the parable of the man who froze to death by
tearing down pieces of his house to use as firewood.)
Simply put, with the arrival of hazardous social, economic or environmental
conditions, any community that is not constructed to be fully self-reliant and
locally self-sufficient under imaginable worst-case scenarios is likely to fail
and become a burden or threat to its neighbors.
1 See the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “Climate Change
2001: The Scientific Basis” (http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/spm22-01.pdf ) and more
recent papers at http://www.ipcc.ch/ . Also see Pentagon report of October 2003:
“An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National
Security: Imagining the Unthinkable” (prepared for the Pentagon by Schwartz and
Randall, October 2003) at http://www.ems.org/climate/pentagon_climatechange.pdf
This is a very uncompromising datum; unfortunately it is also very true.
Economics and Solvency for Real, Living People
Endless media-fueled rhetoric to the contrary, all economics start at home. (The
word “economy” itself is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “management
of the home”.) If one’s house is not producing more than it consumes, it is insolvent.
That is, the house is not able to pay its debts by virtue of its normal functioning.
People of our commercial culture don’t usually think of a house in this way because
they assume it’s normal to have to work at some outside job their whole lives to
subsidize it.
If one is taking more from his environment and extended community (human & nonhuman)
than he is contributing, then he is making himself insolvent. Rampant
insolvency results in the failure of individuals, families, societies, civilizations and
often whole lists of species that couldn’t get out of the way in time.
If one accepts that
1. the family, extended family or other self-identifying group plus its symbiotes
(non-human creatures that share a cooperative relationship) form a
community, and that
2. this community is an indivisible unit of survival (one member cannot get
along well or at all without the others),
then solutions get simpler. We find we need to solve the problems of survival at a
highly personal, local family/small community level before we can expect meaningful
results on any larger scale.
On a physical level, an important part of what makes people feel secure is a sense of
being in control of the availability of the materials and services essential to
comfortably sustain their lives.
In this paper, when we speak of functional human communities, we will assume the
extended family (perhaps a nuclear family of some kind plus various in-laws; plus
spontaneously “adopted” brothers, sisters, uncles, grandmothers, friends & guests)
as a useful starting point. A very small group or “nuclear family” alone is usually too
small to easily survive under difficult conditions. In all our planning, the extended
family will be the “atomic unit of survival” – the place where the buck stops when it
comes to sheltering, feeding, nurturing, and caring for the individual people &
environments of our world.
We will knock off the useless fantasy that some corporate or government program
will ever care for living beings (human or non-human). People only feel truly cared
for by other people who actually care about them and treat them as family.
Similarly, no environment on Earth will ever be cared for by government decree.
People will care for them because they understand how indispensable are the
relationships amongst humans, non-humans and the physical environments.
The Self-Sustaining Extended Family Homestead
Just as a plant requires nitrogen AND phosphorous AND potassium AND water AND
air simultaneously, so does any community require its interrelated components (food
production, education, fuel availability, shelter, transportation, mechanical
construction and repair, etc.) to be initiated, available, and functioning at roughly the
same time. The absence of any vital ingredient eventually destroys an entire
community – either in an obvious manner (no food) or a not-so-obvious manner
(very inconvenient household systems that fray nerves and cause domestic stress.)
A homestead (a home and the land it occupies) that is intended to withstand
shocking social and environmental upheavals must be virtually self-sufficient, easy to
live in, resilient to extreme demands and easily replicated. By its very design it
should virtually ensure the survival of itself and its occupants. This is so uncommon
in our world that the concept needs to be explained.
For example, a self-sustaining rural or suburban homestead would:
• Provide its occupants with small livestock & plants (for food, medicinal and other
uses) on a year-round basis, independent of the availability of other sources
• Recycle all of the inhabitants’ organic wastes and with it produce rich soil
• Require little or no energy input to maintain comfortable temperatures and
• Provide any needed electric power via wind, solar or other sustainable means.
• Be easily repaired with locally available materials
• Provide water via wells and/or rooftop collection for greenhouse, gardens,
washing and drinking
• Withstand extremes of the local climate, weather (storms), geology (seismic
events), politics (social disturbances, bad governance), and external economics
• Provide quarters for extended family and guests.
The “urban homestead” might provide most of the same functionality though
perhaps implemented differently than under rural or suburban conditions.
Solviva greenhouse /
small livestock structure
(”Food Factory”)
General Use,
Small sleeping
& storage
/ Storage
Small sleeping
& storage
Wood-framed, openwalled,
covered porch area
26 x 10
Figure 1: Sample layout of a rural or suburban homestead
A Core of Micro-Industries
If we seriously consider long-term survival for a group of extended families, we also
have to imagine and create the context in which they will be living. Clearly they
would do better if they were physically somewhat near each other in some kind of
village or settlement that also provided a variety of services. These service facilities
(not all would normally be considered “industries”) include all the various functions
the inhabitants have come to depend upon.
These might include:
Skill Use
Greenhouse, Animal husbandry, Aquaculture, medicinal herbs
Care-taking the external environment such that it becomes
healthy, abundant and amply supports its human and nonhuman
Machining &
Tool- and part-making, tool repair
Mechanics Maintenance of transport vehicles, earth-moving equipment,
wind generators, water pumps
Glass-making Replace damaged greenhouse panels, windows, craftwork
Weaving, sewing Clothing manufacture & repair
Ceramics Crockery, ceramic containers, craftwork
Fuel-making &
Bio-Diesel, methanol, ethanol, glues, dyes,
Auto mechanics Passenger vehicles & heavy equipment
Electrical /
Radios, computers
(“Primitive”) Skills
Outdoor awareness & survival skills, ethnobotany (all traditional
skills of the American Indian scout)
Martial Arts Self-defense, physical competence
Medicine Surgery, midwifery, dental
Salvage &
Metals, plastics, wood, etc.
Construction Housing, HVAC, water wells, etc.
Food Prep Cooking, drying, salting, cooking, baking, bottling, canning
Woodworking Wood harvesting, milling, cabinetry, boat-making, etc.
Schooling Cultural traditions, languages, mathematics, reading
Arts & Spiritual
In all their infinite, beautiful forms
These skill centers / micro-industries would serve as both village service providers
and educational facilities to transmit skills to others in the community and from
outside. While these tiny industries might have a hard time competing in external
marketplaces with the huge manufacturers and their economies of scale, neither
would there be an overwhelming need to compete with outside producers. Given
their internal capacities to satisfy the vast majority of their internal needs, the
community would, after all, be effectively self-sufficient.
Aside from keeping itself running, the primary products of the community would be:
1. Bringing health and abundance to the natural environment within its zone of
control or influence
2. Artisan outputs of each of the micro-industries (new homesteads,
glassworks, ceramics, food stuffs, bio-diesel fuel, weaving, on-site training
class, etc.)
3. Replicating its entire community infra-structure patterns elsewhere and
being a training base for others who wish to learn how to create one in their
own home areas. Thus the pattern is perpetuated.
Solving Thorny Problems
This paper began with a claim that this approach could help unravel some very
thorny social and environmental problems. How could this be true?
Refugees / Displaced Populations / Domestic Groups Stuck in Grinding
Morale knows no bottom when you are powerless to change the misery of your own
conditions. If repatriation is not currently possible, why not at least make the best of
whatever land they have been place upon? Imagine a refugee camp or (in a city) a
whole neighborhood given the infra-structure to:
• Grow adequate quantities of food regardless of how adverse the climate
• Recycle all their own organic waste (including human & animal manure) into
rich, productive soil
• Have the tools, equipment, shops and skilled craftsmen necessary to
provide the functions listed above (not all may be needed and others may be
required that are omitted on the above list)
In other words, instead of letting these people decay on the dole lines or splitting
them up against their will to be sent to distant places, how about letting them build
their own self-sufficient communities right where they are?
Indigenous Peoples
Their situation is usually about the same as the last; they have normally been forced
out of their chosen areas and confined to the least desirable lands. “Giving them
jobs” and “integrating them” into the commercial world is the proven road to cultural
Their first job is the internal physical survival of their group, their values, their
language, their beliefs, their culture. Unless one’s plan is to shatter their sense of
self-worth and thereby subjugate them, then provide them with whatever is
necessary to become completely internally self-sufficient, including training in all the
necessary skills.
Violence, Apathy and Mal-treatment of Children
Imagine growing up in a community where, from your earliest years, you were
encouraged to participate in all the activities that add up to the survival and health of
yourself and your community. Every day you learned things of importance just from
listening to and watching artisans (who know you well) going about their daily tasks.
And when you were ready, you could apprentice with any or all of them.
Your relationship with the natural world – even in a city environment – would be
encouraged by all those who are caretaking the non-human worlds in greenhouses
and outdoor environments.
It is difficult to imagine violence, apathy and mal-treatment flourishing under such
Ecological Devastation / Human-Caused Climate Change
It is hard work restoring forests to areas now deserts or cleaning up the damage of
wars and misguided commercial enterprises. But this is a central theme in the
mission of the community and is fully supported by its micro-industries.
Food self-sufficiency under adverse climatic conditions is accomplished by specially
constructed (but low-tech) greenhouses – using well-tested designs that permit high
production under even the most extreme conditions without dependency upon exotic
(non-locally-available) energy sources or materials. Even under such difficult
conditions, a small group of people well-trained in greenhouse operation can grow
far more food than their community could consume.
Urban Environments
Some special adaptations may be required to implement these ideas in a dense,
heavily regulated city environment. Imagine, for example, an abandoned warehouse
or other trashed-out commercial property cleaned up, renovated and outfitted with a
full complement of living units and workspaces including the above functionality.
There might be a minimum of natural environment available to work with; however,
the greenhouses would be vast spaces still capable of producing an abundance of
Where restrictions make certain aspects of the model difficult or impossible (raising
chickens or goats), other activities would be augmented, ensuring that trade for
unproducible items would most certainly be possible even under very difficult
economic conditions.
As with all other versions of this model, the urban self-sufficient community would
have the non-profit mission of reaching out to and establishing good relationships
with their surrounding communities, working with residents to make their
neighborhoods into self-sufficient communities, if the residents so desired.
Creation of a Distributed Safety Net
By organizing the tools, infrastructure and capital necessary to make communities
and families or other self-identifying groups self-sufficient, they can care for
themselves. By making them more than self-sufficient, they can become part of a
“Distributed Safety Net” for their neighbors and the larger regional community by
having the resources to help their neighbors through a disastrous event and to help
them rebuild. Creating a network of loosely linked but individually self-sufficient
communities across a region would mitigate risks of catastrophic losses.
* * *
This community design is composed entirely of well-tested elements (the
greenhouse, solar electric systems, composting systems, internal economic systems,
etc). Then why hasn’t this been done before? Well, as a matter of fact, it has been
done many times before, but mostly not intentionally and usually not completely.
These types of communities evolved and, with lack of attention and protection, “deevolved”.
You can throw all the airplane parts you want into the air but they won’t ever fly. It
is only an exact combination of parts, well-assembled, well-operated and wellmaintained
that makes flight possible. Getting all the parts gathered up is just one
part of the job. We’ve got all the pieces; but the airplane still needs to be built.

So, shall we do it?