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A Better Human Habitat for the Next Economy

How to build for prosperity
Monday, November 25, 2013, 8:10 PM

Executive Summary

  • 'Smaller' will be the major theme in future development
  • The general principles for resilient human settlement
  • How redesigning our towns & cities offers liberation from the soul-sucking models we live in today
  • What we can leverage from the New Urbanist movement

If you have not yet read (Un)Paving Our Way To Nirvana, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Before I review some of the basic rules and principles for assembling a human habitat worth living in and with some prospects of enduring, a few words about demographic change. The failing suburbs will not drive everybody in them to move to the cities. The big cities of America face equal difficulties with resource and capital scarcity, failing infrastructure that won’t be replaced, and problems as yet off the radar screen such as water safety, public health, food shortages, and social turmoil. The big cities will have to get a lot smaller and that process will take decades to resolve.

I’m convinced that the action in this country will move to the existing smaller cities and small towns, especially places that have a meaningful relationship with food production because there ought to be no question that agri-business will fail, and with it the entire food production and distribution process as we currently know it. One implication of this is that we will restore a visible edge between what is urban and what is rural, and what these places are for. As that occurs people will redevelop an appreciation for the distinction. The human settlement will no longer endeavor to be a cartoon of the rural countryside. And rural places will be organized and inhabited differently.

Therefore, a first general principle is... » Read more

Insider

The Future of Living

The rise of 'vernacular artistry'
Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 11:35 AM

Executive Summary

  • Ready or not, the forces underlying the Long Emergency will force a return to the 'real' (vs the virtual)
  • What regions and town/city models will fare best in this future?
  • The age of the car is over: how will we transport goods and ourselves?
  • Which skills will be in greatest demand?
  • How to prepare ourselves emotionally for becoming less techno-dependent

If you have not yet read Part I: Returning to the 'Real'  available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

A Return To the 'Real'

John Maynard Keynes famously remarked, “In the long run we are all dead.” Which leaves the short to intermediate run, which is a lot. Start with the proposition that we’ll be compelled to reconnect our lives to biophysical reality, that is, nature. The techno-industrial adventure was about the exhilaration of overcoming natural limits — and the grandiosity in thinking that we could de-link permanently and put something synthetic and supposedly just-as-good in nature’s place. In the process, we de-natured ourselves and unplugged from the satisfactions found in being part of something wondrous and whole and larger than ourselves. We don’t have to reinvent the sacred. It has been there all along. We just ignored and disregarded it for about a century, and now we have to rebuild the social and logistical infrastructure for it.  That job will be easier than keeping the interstate highway system in repair.

Expect to be living a far less mediated existence, being more directly in touch with the patterns afforded by nature, the sun and moon, the seasons, the temperature, the sensations, the tastes and textures, the pains and pleasures. For the generation used to sensing absolutely everything through the tiny portal of a five-inch smart phone screen, this may come as a startling psychological shock, greater than the psychedelic drugs of the hippie days were to the Boomers. By the way, nobody should expect that the national electric grid will survive indefinitely, or that every locality will be able to generate its own electricity without the long commercial chains of mining, advanced metallurgy, and the manufacture of modular machinery.

Where to Live?

One of the first questions for people to answer for themselves, especially in a period of demographic turmoil, is what place do I feel okay about being in and how do I set my roots in it? ... » Read more