TABLE OF CONTENTS
Our goal is to persuade architects, growers and builders in academia and business that they could and should develop affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhoods.
These would be cohousing-type communities that grow their own food, harvest their own energy, and educate themselves and their descendants.
These Self-Reliant Neighborhoods would be built partially by and specifically for families willing to acquire the skills of autonomy which they could then parley locally into income-earning entrepreneurial teams. Such teams might also be employed in building the next community.
If you are one of the above-mentioned professionals, you might just build for the sheer elegance of creating communities that are radically affordable. This is so because embodying perpetually repetitive wealth production into the original design of a community is truly radical.
A comprehensive design in which the critical human expenses--for shelter, energy, water, food, waste-recovery, child care and education—are “inherently” reduced or eliminated is radical. To ensure that generational affordability of shelter is embodied in the SRN, it would have to employ a limited-equity housing cooperative model. That way perpetual economies ensuring affordability are hard-wired into the community design.
Developer-designed communities are replicable. This advances the evolution of efficiencies and reduces costs over the long haul.
SRN’s would start to refill a diminishing pool of family-sustainable employment with work built into the sustaining fabric of their community’s life.
Academia and business have the essential intellectual and economic heft necessary to repair communities and lives hollowed out by relentless automation and political neglect.
We contend that the enduring personal control of one’s fate requires a deep economic response, one that would permit unbowed citizens to directly transform their intelligence and labor into the well-being of their community on a permanently sustainable level.
Control alone assures dignity. And the controlling view of this website is that these require designers and developers committed to putting flesh back on the bones of hollowed-out neighborhoods.
This website is a work in progress. We hope that readers within the already-robust, global archipelago of ecovillages will help us develop it. Within that community a lack of affordability is a specter that haunts many of us.
Our end game is to persuade academics and business folk that designing and mass-producing radically sustainable and affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhoods at scale is a task worthy of your talents.
We offer this site as one tool in that larger project.
If the forgoing summary is persuasive, you could skip this Overview and our discussion of Current Challenges. These sections are intended for folks who have never considered community life as an economic prospect or who have done and find it off putting for one reason or another.
If that isn’t you, no need to preach to the choir. The rubber hits the road with the sections on Work Groups, Enterprise Teams and Tools.
Over the last couple of centuries an irreversible flood of task-automated knowledge has liberated more folks from poverty, more quickly, than has any other movement in history. But that same movement has recently, at an escalating pace, diminished the pool of dependable, family-sustaining employment. Moreover, the rigorous, cost-basis decision making within the marketplace can rapidly shift supply chains away from worker families.
One response to this and other challenges has been the emergence of ecovillage Islands across the troubled sea of the global economy. This site tries to fill a perceived gap within that movement. That gap--no surprise--is a lack of affordable community options for economically and culturally marginalized folks—the most deeply challenged refugees within the global supply chain economy.
Our response echoes through the ages. Humans have formed or joined Archipelagos of refuge in the midst of social trauma throughout history. Some examples that come to mind are Benedictine worker-monk Monasteries in a disintegrating Roman world, Christian dissenters escaping chronic religious persecution in Reformation Europe, Kibbutzim sanctuaries of self-reliance from pogrom-ridden Europe, Civilian Conservation Job Corps in depression-era America or the U.S. military for any number of young folks looking for a way out of trouble at home.
This site is a tool that aims to describe in broad strokes “what” an Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhood Option is, “why” we propose it, and the “work” and “tools” such a community would need to endure and prosper.
“What” an Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhood Option is, we address in this section (the 100s).
“Why” we are persuaded that creating such an option is necessary is covered in SRN Response to Current Challenges (the 200s). The short answer is to meet an array of societal challenges that are clear and present.
“Work” Group organization that maximizes self-reliance internally and Entrepreneurial Teams to generate necessary community income are discussed in SRN Work Groups and Tasks (the 300s) and in SRN Enterprise Teams (the 400s) respectively.
“Tools”—are looked at in detail in SRN Tools—Buildings, Food Chain, Energy, Community and Information (500s).
A Self-Reliant Neighborhood is a community that is maximally autonomous in shelter, energy, water, food, bio-waste recovery, existential employment, access to education and governance. It combines existing cohousing and ecovillage tools and routines with developer-driven design, financing and construction practices to create a maximally autonomous, community-controlled safety net.
We propose a SRNO as a market solution, not only for an automation-driven, shrinking pool of family-sustaining employment, but for other problems—both long-standing and novel—of nature, nurture and political neglect.
Families and individuals, marginalized for whatever reason, could employ themselves in directly providing for their community’s self-reliance, while augmenting their income from whatever other regional market employment might be gleaned, individually or in entrepreneurial teams. For families that are willing to live in community, an ASRN could provide the assured continuity of meaningful life doing the most fundamental of all human jobs—providing for immediate loved ones and neighbors and for those of the next generation.
The maximally self-reliant neighborhood described here, is only totally self-reliant in those elements that are essential to keep a community’s kith and kin alive and together. A careful reader might point out that that has been a characteristic of most village life throughout history, albeit ever hostage to dominant regional political and military minorities.
An ASRN village would differ from these in that beyond providing for life’s essentials internally, they will be organized for harvesting online resources to acquire skills and to forage within the local economy individually or within community-based entrepreneurial teams.
Fundamentally ASRN members would never again be existentially hostage to the intermittent thrashings of their ambient economy. An ASRN would harvest globally to thrive locally. We are, for example, communicating our proposal on the quintessential global tool—the internet.
While the time that members might allocate in regional employment would depend on the latter’s availability, their family’s security would endure regardless of it. Children would be raised to directly experience the stamina of natural cycles that anchor and secure their life.
A Self-Reliant Neighborhood is not unlike the human who is reading these words. You are an organism of flesh and blood that supports and weaves a meaningful life in a web of significant relationships with others. The Self-Reliant Neighborhood’s physical body includes buildings and land, as well as a daily harvest of air, water and energy.
The meaning of the SRN’s life would flow from the worker-family culture that is the backbone of existing cohousing and ecovillage communities. This worker culture begins with members who have intentionally chosen to reclaim the strength and wisdom of extended-family lifeways by sharing vital resources.
A core strength of an ASRN is the fluid confidence of living within shouting distance of folks who have their backs not only in the routine provisioning of life’s essentials, but in the depth and variety of experience a community provides.
So far, it is the souls of a minority of the economically stable folks who have created ecovillages. They have, for the most part, been motivated by passion for community and the environment.
Our candid goal is to attract a larger number of folks whose souls are currently motivated by fear—the fear of gradually losing control over the fate of their family.
In our times, a former route out of poverty through worker-level jobs in business and industry is vanishing apace. Employment statistics can be deceiving. The quality and options of life matters. There was, after all, full employment throughout most of history—as peasants confined to manors, as slaves on plantations, in workhouses or in prisons, galleys, gulags and concertation camps.
The Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhood is one possible way forward for folks who suffer from the withering fear that they are permanently hostage to forces beyond their control. It is our hope and conviction that the regenerative infrastructure of an ASRN can heal the souls of the many.
The SRNO model differs from today’s ecovillages in its focus on developer-driven design and mass-replicability. Today’s ecovillages mostly have solidly middle-class origins and have been designed and built from the bottom up. It is member savings and other transferable assets that permit the extra costs that a unique design entails. Economically challenged families do not have such resources.
They could, however, learn in the building of and thrive in living within an enterprising ecovillage. That is, if it was designed from the outset to employ residents in achieving self-reliance in shelter, energy, water, food, bio-waste recovery, access to education, employment and governance. Any economically challenged worker-family or individual willing to share responsibility could thrive in such a community. However, it would first have to be designed, financed and built by a developer.
The management components of this website—the Work Groups—are based on the first-hand experience with others in implementing the governance of a new ecovillage neighborhood.
While the Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhood Option model presented here has had to expand the number and scope of the Work Groups to achieve maximal autonomy, their practices of governance and work sharing remain anchored in the cultures of cohousing and ecovillages.
Their practices enhance community cohesion and ensure property maintenance. We know that Work Groups are effective within community owned and self-governing neighborhoods. And this model is our clear preference. However, achieving autonomy within a traditional management company model is certainly possible also. Let’s look at both.
To ensure resident skills in specific areas of the physical infrastructure, like plumbing, wiring and air conditioning, we propose that that future resident-owners should be integrated as craft apprentices within the construction phase of any SRN building project.
Post-construction maintenance and farming routines would include transferring skills to among other members to ensure a robust level of competence throughout the community and across generations. All Work Groups would not only provide goods and services but also train their coworkers and successors.
Skills honed by residents in-house might be used in the marketplace to earn income for individuals or within community enterprise teams earning income in their region.
Founding documents would include making the equitable distribution of work among members a priority. Residents would be encouraged to find their own equilibrium between community-based, equal-value work hours inhouse or in community enterprise teams and market-valued work hours. The former encourages solidarity based on the equal value each hour of each members life. The latter permits individuals and families to pursue unique goals in careers that may not be critically relevant to the community.
The Education Work Group would translate the community’s visceral social and technical self-understanding into a mentoring curriculum that could serve K-12 students, adults seeking marketable skills and in-house enterprise.
We think the sharing culture with its natural penchant for encouraging leadership and skills throughout the community, would be the optimal social matrix for achieving a dynamic balance between in-house and marketplace employment.
Seeding the Earth with maximally autonomous, sustainable communities using a more traditional management system is also a viable option. One such project has been recently initiated by Regen Village, although it is very much upscale from the option we propose,
It may well be the case that less socially engaging forms of management are more easily replicable and that many families might prefer these to taking on the personal commitments involved in shared, self-governance cultures like cohousing.
While we think the adoption of the latter practices fosters community cohesion and increases autonomy, it is possible that many of their functional equivalents—though certainly not all—could be supplied within the management structure of a residential developer.
It is entirely possible that a Regen Village type of developer-managed models might be the quickest way forward in many areas. There are solidly middle- and upper-class folks who want to be part of the solution and might readily adopt a conventionally managed condo that employed non-residents.
SRNO thinks the planetary task of providing local forms of autonomous energy, water, food, and waste-to-resource practices is a value in its own right and should be supported whether through intense self-governance and employment or through traditional management practices.
The structure and size of a community is flexible. The number of families advantaged by the personally intensive culture of cohousing does not correspond precisely with the number necessary to fill the employment requirements for achieving maximal autonomy.
A minimum number of families needed to serve an infrastructure able to provide essential food and utilities would be set by its technical requirements and geographical setting. Optimally, some portion of any community should be drawing income from outside the community.
Beyond these technical and income criteria the number of the optimal number of families depends on one’s comfort level for extended family-type friendships and commitments. These vary among individuals, For some gregarious folks, the optimal size might approach a hundred families. Most folks seem to feel that a community of thirty to forty families is probably right. One solution is to have multiple neighborhoods in a common village. This works rather well in my community, EcoVillage at Ithaca—with a hundred families group in distinct neighborhoods.
The critical point is that the community be large enough to ensure maximal autonomy. And that means indefinitely, self-sufficient in shelter, energy, water, food, access to education, bio-waste recycling, employment and governance.
Creating the engineering, residential and agricultural infrastructure of such communities is technically feasible. Socially, there are decades of cohousing and ecovillage working experience to draw upon.
The provision of essential goods and services sufficient to secure maximum community autonomy is carried out by the SRN’s Work Groups. Each of these is defined by a set of mostly routine tasks that distribute the work load within the general area of their responsibility. These tasks emerge from the management and maintenance requirements of buildings, grounds and farm or from community lifeways.
Community success depends on assigning them to skilled residents, providing them with efficient tools, training up their replacements and venturing into the economic hinterland with enterprise. Strength in numbers and skill sets is what counts. Skilled members using tools to perform prosaic tasks is where the rubber hits the road in assuring self-reliance.
This website arranges essential tasks among seven Work Groups whose names betray their areas of responsibility: Implementation, Coordination, Education, Administration, Building & Grounds, Farm and Shared Life. It then discusses their potential forays into the economic hinterland as Entrepreneurial Teams and the array of fabricated and mental Tools they will need.
We gratefully recognize that all the information contained on this site was harvested from the work of others or from our shared experience with others in community.
So please do feel free to enlighten us further by filling gaps you may find or challenging us with more apt or less expensive tools or techniques than those on display here.
The dates inserted on each page represents its last review and/or edit. Don’t miss the opportunity to change those dates by sharing what you know, but that we as yet may not. Contact us at “Your Input?”.
We think that efficient and affordable designs and their construction by academics and business folk is the only path by which the option of a Self-Reliant Neighborhood could become available to those who require it most. The oft-stated goal of affordability within the Ecovillage community is only meaningful if it means affordable by the marginalized.
Absent the conscious effort of architects, builders and growers to design, build and market affordable, self-reliant neighborhoods, this lifeway option, will remain beyond the reach of the many. When we arrived at this conclusion, we began to assemble the pieces of this website.
There is an enduring set of nutritional, housing and employment challenges that can be meaningfully addressed by a variety of private and public initiatives. The one we outlined here, an Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhood Option, has a singular advantage over most others. Its solution re-anchors families in a historically dominant form of local self-reliance—in a pattern of life that pre-dated the modern industrial system that has gradually undermined it. An ASRN recovers that earlier pattern of local autonomy, while augmenting it with the considerable enrichments of modernity and eliminating traditional patterns of subservience.
The ASRN’s formula is simple. Humans use the tools of modernity, and some ancient ones, to transform sun, air, water, soil and bio-waste into food. It re-integrates humans into the local physiology of nature and even heals some of the wounds we have inflicted on long-suffering Earth during the last phase of industrialism.
Some of the latter are:
1) worker families displaced by our automation-driven, global supply-chain economy—now intensified by artificial intelligence;
2) groups whose communities must be rebuilt after the climate-change-induced natural disasters or just the old-fashioned ones;
3) groups chronically depreciated by historical cruelties and cultural betrayal;
4) individuals and families disillusioned by chronic political negligence and a failure of cultural imagination.
To provide safe harbor for refugees of nature, nurture and neglect we advocate further seeding the emerging global Ecovillage Archipelago with Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhoods (ASRNs), islands of radical resilience, to shadow the growth of our global supply-chain economy.
In the following sections we will look at chronic ethical, economic, political and environmental requirements that can be partially met my making the Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhood a practical option.
Unequal access to family-sustaining employment caused by automation is creating new economic want atop traditionally chronic challenges. Both employment issues and the habitual trials of nature, nurture and neglect can be meaningfully addressed by developer-driven affordable SRN’s.
Families of moderate and low-income have a chronic problem for which membership in an ASRN is one possible solution. That problem is the lack of a predictable safety net during periods of automation-induced, unemployment or underemployment.
Unlike solidly established middle class citizens, a growing number of folks are finding that the physical integrity of their families is threatened by an unpredictable and diminishing pool of family-sustaining employment. They are haunted by unpalatable options:
--to dislocate or disperse family members to find work
--to move to less safe or healthy dwellings
--to disrupt adult social networks
--to uproot kids from friendships and schools
--to experience the emotional disorientation of not being able to provide for kith and kin through work.
--to consider a criminal option to provide for their families
The list goes on. Intended or not, concentrated wealth finances the relentlessly automating, technical changes behind these disruptions. The few, while personally immunized by wealth, are financially involved in the dark side of the otherwise laudable end of reducing the cost of producing goods and services. That dark side is a reduced pool of dependable employment. This is true nationally and globally.
The “O” in SRNO simply suggests that from an ethical point of view all citizens should at least be provided with the option of being able to protect their families through predictable, enduring work.
“Protect” means able to robustly provide life’s necessities. “Predictable” means under their control. “Enduring” means embedded in sustainable, natural processes.
We propose that this be accomplished, not by despoiling the few, but by providing economically displaced families with the option of living in self-reliant communities whose destiny they can control through work in a manner analogous to how the few control their destinies through concentrated wealth.
This site is designed to bring together information on autonomy-inducing components, some combination of which could be marshalled to provide self-reliance for a community of families anytime anywhere. We regard having the option of surviving through work in such a community as an ethical minimum.
The rise of long-distance marriage Article on families separated by financial compulsion.
A program that permanently meets the requirements of displaced worker families could, of course, also serve other challenged groups as well. These might include the chronically homeless, ethnically or sexually penalized minorities, unemployed or underemployed parolees, disabled veterans or civilians, at-risk young folks, orphaned or abused children, refugees from natural disasters, war or persecution, recovering 12-step folks in search of more community, and in a general way all who have been marginalized by nature, nurture, or national neglect.
Such folks often find a way forward in faith communities whose ethical injunctions include compassion. Our own experience is that empathy among folks in cohousing and ecovillage communities is as intense as that found faith groups, although the former are accepting of all spiritual traditions. They tend to readily adopt any custom if it enriches community life—regardless of its origin. That said, a particular religious group might choose adopt and adapt the ASRN option to serve its unique traditions.
Whatever a potential resident’s personal challenge or spiritual background may be, the sense of becoming a directly, significant player within the weave of a community’s life is a powerful healer of souls.
Beyond challenged individuals and families, the attractive force of shared community living appeals to and has incorporated more than a few comfortably middle-class families into the Ecovillage Archipelago already. Some report having felt ethically compromised by their compelled adherence to an unjust economic system. Such folks are probably the vast majority within today’s ecovillage movement, forming the cadre for its current bottom-up, member-driven model of community formation. Many have been disturbingly moved by their nation’s and the world’s failure to address longstanding social, economic and environmental challenges. They have come to regard their participation in community life as an appropriate karmic response to finding themselves unwilling participants in our collective ethical failures.
Many brood over the inability of folks of moderate and low income to be able to join their communities. I suspect many such families, or their children, would be willing to join and provide experiential leadership in an ASRN that was economically accessible to all. One does not have to be marginalized to seek a more ethically robust way of life.
Expanding the security of one’s family to embrace that of an entire community is what sets membership in a Self-Reliant Neighborhood apart living in a conventional neighborhood. What may have befallen one’s isolated family in the past need never be repeated when the kin of blood are expanded by the kith of community.
One’s ethical reach is extended as the focus of care expands. One becomes part of an extended family whose fate looks you in the eye whenever you line up for a community meal. The works of your hands and your mind spread into a community making all things under the Sun somewhat less vain.
Each family within a SRN’s would secure an essential level of economic security by its commitment to and integration within the work life of that community. And the life of the community would be secured through its regenerative immersion in the biological cycles of life on Earth. As such every hour of one’s work life directly contributes not only to securing the wellbeing of one’s family and of one’s community for generations to come, but to healing that yet larger family of life on Earth. A developer-driven, technically robust, but austere, infrastructure design could extend this depth of security and agency to the many.
An ASRNO proposal intends to help fill gaps where job market requirements are insufficient to match regional population density. It would provide families with the option of off-grid, existential employment where their labor is directly transformed into their own and their community’s well-being.
However, this would in no way preclude access to income from beyond the community. On the contrary, the essential security of an ASRN would liberate members by increasing their work options. They could hone new skills doing inhouse jobs and accessing online education which they might then use to cherry-pick part-time regional work, rather than settling for erstwhile Hobbesian work options. A family’s need for life-sustaining employment might vary over time on a spectrum between full in-house and full market employment. But nowhere on that spectrum would the physical integrity of a family’s life be put in jeopardy by forces beyond its control.
Cost cutting through minimalist and replicable design is critical to serving the largest number of economically challenged citizens. Adopting a minimalist perspective and using as many open-source elements as possible in design and construction are first steps.
Design costs are one development cost that need not be replicated. Once proof of concept has been established in a maximally self-reliant prototype, soft costs are reduced to copying files and filling out forms.
Those of us who have been involved in the member-driven design of a community’s infrastructure can testify to the extra costs inherent in creating a one-off design to accommodate the input tastes of many stakeholders. Unique designs just cost more.
Replicability has been the design element by which access to most, if not all, technical innovations have eventually trickled down the social layers.
Absent the lower costs derived from smart design, construction and mass replication, those who really do need a permanent economic floor beneath their feet will remain hostage to forces that have reduced their prospects already.
As important as beauty is in human life, there will be time enough for a mature community economy to satisfy it.
A SRN community’s existential self-reliance means that local economic wellbeing can be secured wherever there is the human need, human commitment and sufficient land. A community’s location could be deeply rural or in the heart of a hollowed-out city.
Determining the carrying capacity of the location, would depend on the relative weight the developer design strikes between aquaponic and open field farm components. Urban locations and longer winters might shift toward the former, rural and shorter ones toward the latter.
In any case, the salient feature of being maximally autonomous, combined with the ubiquity of the web, means that decisions with respect to location would not be burdened by many of the constraints from earlier eras.
To a large extent, electric, gas, water and sewage lines would be off the table. Road access to schools and market jobs would endure, but advanced planning for in-house enterprise projects and the possibilities of home schooling would affect their importance as well. Maximally autonomous communities would simply provide a wide range of novel economic options--location flexibility being one.
The one-time cost of building a SRN is a sapling compared to the full tree of recurring wealth it would produce over generations. The return in tangible wealth that would flow from an initial capital investment, sufficient to finance an affordable SRN, would be multiplied as sun, rain, soil and work generate and recycle goods and services indefinitely.
The analysis of Thomas Pikety in Capital in the 21st Century points out that economic, social and political stability would require that the accumulations of wealth be somehow redistributed, but he doubts this can be accomplished politically. In The Economist’s October 2014 Special Report on The World Economy, Ryan Avent suggests that the exponentially growing virtuosity of the “digital revolution” will require governments to provide “workers with more of a cushion against the painful effects of that creative destruction.”
We suggest that a one-time redistribution of wealth that is sufficient to finance an affordable SRN represents providing a hook and line for catching fish indefinitely, over occasionally handing out a Friday night meal ticket.
In an affordable SRN, human energy is directed through a sequence of production processes in which every output is also an input within an endlessly recurring circle of life. Once that circle of nature, work and tools starts turning, the external costs of energy, water, most food, waste recovery and shelter are mostly off the table. Also, the collaborative disciplines and routines of self-governance and work can be extrapolated into income-producing enterprise teams.
There is an economic wisdom embodied in naturally replenishing biological circles that predated the fast-forward evolution of technical innovation. A community that re-integrates itself into that ancient cycle of life will replenish itself indefinitely and still be able to skim the cream from the technical evolution.
Even if at the outset the dwellings are affordably built and priced, rules that permit market-rate resale, gradually undermine enduring affordability.
Both condominium and market-rate coop resale rules would fail to preserve indefinite access to affordable housing as membership changes over time.
If indefinite generational affordability is a community goal, some form of limited-equity housing coop form of tenure is necessary. The Self-Reliant Neighborhood Option we advocate is meant to be generationally affordable indefinitely. Therefore, we must advocate for some limited-equity housing coop (LEHC) form of residency.
Our experience of ballooning home prices under any market-rate regime, even within ecovillages, is that they will gradually restrict resale, and therefore residency, to the affluent.
The market-induced, survival policies of companies can adversely affect the survival prospects of worker families displaced by them. We think the oft-touted “equality of opportunity” should provide public support for both. If there’s a political case for advantaging companies to be able to provide jobs and wealth for some folks, there should be one for financing SRNs that, once established, can provide jobs and wealth for the many perpetually. The latter deserves the same political support provided to the former.
Corporate lobbyists have wielded an financially dominant whip hand in persuading governments to rescue their bosses from unanticipated market shocks, some of which were consequences of their own management policies. We don’t argue against such rescues. For these bailouts also involve the fate of lots of worker families.
However, a basic level of equity would require similar treatment for individuals and families who have found themselves caught in the tide of market forces unleased not only by corporate negligence, but also by the natural blowback of their success in adopting more efficient techniques of production. The automation they must employ to survive is a process that will, absent radical political intervention, continue to reduce family-sustainable, employment options.
If the subsidized rescue of car companies and powerful banks is an appropriate public policy, then a similar policy to foster self-reliant, worker family communities for those left partially or completely unemployed in their wake would not be amiss.
Think of it as low-income housing with a regenerative difference. Unlike the plethora of government subsidies such housing projects do not address, the Self-Reliant Neighborhood virtually eliminates the need for additional support in utilities, food and employment. Residents will be providing these for themselves.
We feel that supporting an affordable SRNO as a public policy is a dignified path to restore a once and future middle-class status for those who have lost it and to advance it for those who have heretofore been denied it.
All political factions claim to support both hard work and equality of opportunity in accessing it. Within existing cohousing and ecovillage communities there is already a deeply ingrained culture of work and personal responsibility. In an affordable SRN the added commitment to achieving maximum autonomy in providing shelter, power, water and food for kith and kin could only strengthen that ethos.
Communities whose core culture is anchored in work, equality of responsibility and enduring family stability can credibly challenge the political shtick sermonized by some or embody the sincerely-held convictions of others. This culture of work and responsibility within the existing ecovillage archipelago already exists and can stand up to any political rhetoric.
Because automation is driven by the incentive of reducing the cost of goods and services and thus increasing competitive advantage, it will continue—inexorably.
Nations will have re-construct “safety-net” bridges between the diminished wages in a shallower employment pool and the cost of the goods and services workers still require.
Any public policy that reallocates resources has to determine the nature of what is transferred, how often it changes hands and the criteria for determining its recipients.
We suggest that states could transfer responsibility for these directly to citizens by a one-time subsidization in creating affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhoods. Those willing to share work in community could opt in to such communities in place of receiving a variety of support programs. The state would be reducing the range of its responsibility to provide a safety net by transferring it to citizens willing to provide for themselves in SRN’s. Members would become responsible for their own housing, food, energy and former public services like water and sewage.
Progressives accurately assert that Global Capitalism accelerates wealth inequalities within all societies and displaces many from access to just levels of employment and remuneration. If democratic stability is to be preserved or enhanced and a minimum of economic justice ensured, then some form of wealth redistribution is essential.
Those thoughtful and principled Conservatives who recognize the problem, nevertheless rightly indicate that any project of redistribution will only have enduring societal value to the extent that it protects economic growth by providing economically justifiable work for its recipients.
Providing market-displaced citizens with the work of maintaining their community dwellings and providing its members with clean water, energy and food while transforming its waste into assets is inherently economical and should be ideologically neutral. The identity of worker and the recipient also makes it uniquely meaningful. The identity of one’s work with the direct provision of goods and services for one’s community instills a personal incentive and a self-enforcing work discipline that Conservatives espouse and a form of economic justice that Progressives champion.
Moreover, the Internet provides serious levels of general education and market-skills training which would be advanced by a SRN Education Work Group. A form of community governance that includes employment, study and the provision of utilities and food is powerfully synergistic.
A public policy supporting the creation of Affordable Self-Reliant Neighborhoods for folks willing to live and work in community should bridge the championed values espoused by all politicos, if we are to believe what comes out of their mouths.
Self-reliance is an American value espoused by all political hues. So is voluntary cooperation of citizens in support of one another. We submit that there is nothing more self-reliant and cooperative than a maximally autonomous community taking care of its own and willing to share its experience with others.
Family values will surely be enhanced in a community where working folks stay focused on providing for the next generation and are working together to that end. Also, it should be remembered that extended families with multi-generational overlapping of responsibilities was the norm until quite recently in human history. The Cohousing-Ecovillage model provides the means for re-forging those extended family ties and values within a technically advanced market economy.
Critics of welfare programs often advocate that recipients perform work for assistance. The SRN model suggest that for folks willing to become members of a Self-Reliant Neighborhood, the state can forget monitoring both work and welfare. Folks will provide their own welfare through their own work. Commitment to community work would be a given in any SRN. Failure to honor this commitment would be sufficient cause for removal from it.
To the extent that a human community can confine its draw upon Earth to resources within its physical perimeter, it will thereby regenerate that domain and grant some small respite to the rest of Earth. Such an interior, self-reliant metabolism requires a circular flow of energy in which every community output is also a community enriching input.
It is not any particular level of human consumption of natural and manufactured goods that has compromised our Earth. Rather it is the undisciplined acquisition of their components and the indiscriminate dispersion of their waste that has so compromised our life on Earth. Transforming the outputs of human consumption from being waste into becoming value-added inputs in the natural circle of life is a regenerative circle that a SRN embodies. The following are some regenerative processes.
About 40% of Earth’s land surface is deforested, biodegraded farmland that consumes 70% of global water available. Aquaponics farming can produce ten acres of polyculture produce and fish for each of those acres while using only one tenth the water used on seasonal farms. That water will repeatedly circulate from fish tanks as detritus-rich “wastewater” to fertilize plants that reciprocate by cleaning it before its release into the fish tanks.
The manufacture of fertilizers, along with current farming practices, food transport and refrigeration accounts for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions as well as causing nitrogen and phosphorous contamination of groundwater, rivers and lakes. In a SRN, livestock consumption of food scraps, composting routines, and both anaerobic and Black Soldier Fly bio-digestion of human waste can replace phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizers with nutrient rich slurry for fields and protein-rich larvae for fish and fowl.
Smart building construction employed in dwellings permits them to harvest and store rainwater for open-field and aquaponics farming and solar energy for multiple tasks. Buildings become environmental asset producers that eat their own mortgages.
Today while 1 in every 7 people in the world suffers from hunger, 1 in every 3 pounds of food is wasted in storage, transport and undisciplined disposal of scraps. A SRN’s farm-to-table supply of food eliminates food lost in storage and transfer and compost, anaerobic and Black Soldier Fly natural recovery means that no food is lost at all.
The circulation of energy, water, food and recoverable waste within a neighborhood splices its members into the naturally regenerative web of life on Earth. Life on Earth heals its own breaches, if permitted to do so. Matter and energy flows through a SRN in biological circles within circles, nourished by sun and rain, and in so doing, keeps folks within the limits that nature imposes on the place they call home.
The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report indicates that mitigating, not avoiding, catastrophic climate events would require transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.” The emergency flight of coastal flood plain climate change refugees is one such event. In time, it will become evident that for most such climate refugees there is no going home.
For such refugees, as for other outcasts of human neglect or cruelty, living without meaningful work on handouts in camps is a demoralizing dead end.
If SRN models that embrace future occupants in training, building and management processes can establish proof of concept, refugee camps might be transformed into temporary building sites in which worker families create their own homes. Having acquired the skills of self-reliance, many of them might become cadre for training up the next lot displaced.
In the name of defense armies all over the world regularly take raw recruits, teach them how to live and work together and, fairly rapidly make them NCO’s.
In the name of humanitarian relief and environmental defense--it can be done.
Work Groups are the SRN community’s vital organs. Their mandate is to ensure maximal community self-reliance, such that no member or family need ever be involuntarily displaced for economic reasons. During the planning and building phases, a temporary Implementation Work Group composed of future residents would acquire the skills of self-reliance and form the permanent Work Groups: Education, Administration, Building & Grounds, Farm and Shared Life. Once established, delegates from each of these would form a permanent Coordination WG to take over the tasks of Implementation.
Individual WGs are defined by their tasks. These should be posted in a Group, Task & Worker Roster maintained in real time online. Depending on the number and complexity of its tasks, a WG may delegate one or more to teams or tasked individuals. Tasks are implemented by establishing regular routines, maintaining necessary tools, training new workers and always seeking out maximum efficiency in getting the job done at the lowest possible cost in time and capital.
Decisions on policies that shape the performance of necessary tasks are sorted out in Work Group Meetings. These meetings adhere to the Meeting Facilitation Guidelines established in the Community Founding Documents.
Prominent among these guidelines are:
Mutual Respect: In meetings, individuals function as peers in deciding how to accomplish their tasks. While no individual can block a decision arbitrarily, neither can a Work Group arbitrarily block a member from expressing their views.
Transparency: All community members should be alerted in advance to upcoming policy decisions so that they can study them and present their views. They are also entitled to access the Minutes of all meetings shortly upon their conclusion. We think that transparency delayed is transparency denied.
In our times, an Ecovillage Archipelago is emerging as the world is being seeded with sustainable communities. The Work Groups we describe in this section are based on personal experience in planning, building, living in and maintaining a neighborhood in one of them--Ecovillage at Ithaca (EVI). It grew over decades from the bottom up by members intimately involved in the design and building processes.
Alternatively, the members of an ASRN would inhabit, from the outset, a developer-designed, technically standardized infrastructure for housing and farming. To ensure the success of the nascent community, the project would need to train some future residents with critical skill-sets. They would form the core of an Implementation Work Group that would establish other Work Groups and then morph into a Coordinating Group.
The Work Group Tasks and Tools we examine in this website are the human, digitized and fabricated components necessary to maximize a SRN community’s self-reliance. They could also be parleyed into Enterprise Projects to engage their region economically and generate income for the community.
The Work Groups we use to organize this website are Implementation, Coordination, Education, Administration, Buildings and Grounds, Farming and Shared Life. We examine the Tasks performed by each in one main section, the Enterprise teams they might create, and the Tools they require. We use the term “tools” in a broad sense, ranging from an open-season farm lot to a software application in accounting.
Our goal is to create an inventory of WG tasks, tools and potential enterprise teams which, when creatively assembled, will provide enduring neighborhood homes and essential livelihoods for any families willing to share and self-organize.
The particular set of Work Groups presented here, although based on experience, is not cast in bronze. We had to provide some organizational scaffolding. Other arrangements are possible.
However, the tasks themselves are derived directly from the goal of autonomy. They are inherent in the ASRN project. And, however arranged, they must be routinely done to assure self-reliance.
Routine tasks are weaves in the tapestry of community life. Every meeting’s agenda item settled, every floor mopped, plot of grass cut, strip of garden weeded, chicken securely cooped in the evening, child mentored, community meal prepared, cart repaired, surface stained or painted, porch swept, or snowbound pathway shoveled, constitute the shared life of the community. The performance of all tasks is essential in ensuring the endurance of one’s kith and kin indefinitely.
Each Work Group is defined by the specific array of tasks it performs for the community. These should be provisionally included in the community’s Founding Document and future members should be trained, as necessary, to perform them as part of the planning and building processes.
As the community evolves, Work Groups will hone and schedule the routines necessary to perform their tasks efficiently and enduringly. The latter implies that transferring essential skill sets to the next generation of residents is part of any task.
Ethically and practically, a SRN depends on adherence to the principle that within the community all human life is equally valuable. While talents vary, the passage of an hour of time at in each person’s life imposes the same charge against their time on this Earth. All humans are equal in that no moment of their life, once spent—for good or ill, in pain or in joy—can ever be retrieved.
However, an hour spent in ensuring the endurance of one’s kith and kin well beyond one’s own life endows it with a kind of immortality. Conscious moments, if shared, endure throughout the generations as our wakeful lives overlapped indefinitely.
We hold this fact of life to be of sufficient weight to value all hours spent at work as equal. We hold that all work hours spent on community tasks must be counted and credited as of equal value in community accounting.
As we consider our own experience of community life and the culture of cohousing that informs it, we would say that this view of the equal value of all work is a salient feature of our culture. We suspect that without it the richness of that life would fade.
The Implementation WG is transitional. It will be composed of committed future residents who work and train during the development process to manage the human, digital and fabricated components of the future community. Their skills must be commensurate with fulfilling all the tasks that define each of the permanent Work Groups: Education, Administration, Building & Grounds, Farming, and Shared Life. Their main job is to gradually separate out sets of their members into forming each of these groups, transferring to them the responsibility for performing the discrete tasks that define each Work Group.
As soon as these Work Groups are established and their internal roles filled, this transitional Implementation WG will morph into a permanent Coordination Group.
--Finalize Core Documents
--Establish a web-accessible Archive for Core Documents, Meeting Minutes and Policy Decisions.
When the Education Work Group is established, this task will be transferred to it. (see Education WG for details)
--Establish and maintain a web-accessible Group, Task & Worker Roster
This roster would delineate tasks, residents responsible for them and their parent WG. When the Administration WG is established this task will be transferred to it.
--Assist Work Groups in establishing task routines
--Assist Work Groups in filling WG Group Roles: Leader, Secretary, Facilitator, Coordination Delegate
--Evaluate and adjust assignment of Tasks as necessary
--When Work Groups elect delegates to form the Coordination WG relinquish ongoing tasks to it.
Once the Work Groups that have been separated out from Implementation WG have been established and their roles filled, each will select a delegate who will together from Coordination WG. The latter will then replace the Implementation WG by assuming any tasks not yet assigned and taking on additional ones.
--Select Leader, Secretary and Facilitator
--Confirm that each task has a WG that is primarily responsible for its routine implementation
--Coordinate process links among different WGs
--Elect a Board of Directors as necessary to conform to State law
--Clarify assignment of community tasks among WGs, when necessary
--Plan and Facilitate all Full Community meetings
This would include the following steps. Prepare any issues or policy proposals that Founding Documents require be decided by entire Community. Send notifications of full meetings that include full agendas, decisions to be taken, legal requirements for quorum if necessary and option of submitting proxy. Facilitate meeting and archive all documents relating to it
--Respond to issues brought to it by the other Work Groups
--Consider task changes within and among the Work Groups as requested
--When called upon to do so, the Coordination WG is tasked to resolve gaps or overlaps in the community’s provision of goods and services to the members.
The Education Work Group is tasked to archive all WG Meetings and Policies and to maintain a robust online library of educational material. The latter should assist residents of all ages in finding whatever knowledge they require. The library will evolve to target specific recurring areas of need, like K-12 tutoring, market-oriented skill acquisition or community Work Group skills. Both in-house archives and web-based resources will be monitored and updated.
While each Work Group will maintain a set of its own records, they will forward their meeting minutes to the Education Work Group archivist for filing. All community technical and farming documentation will be archived with the Education WG as well. As much of its information as possible will be transformed into lesson plans that can be used in home schooling (if desired) or in Self-Reliance Seminar Entrepreneurial Programs.
Archive Core Documents, Meeting Documents and Policy Decisions
Core Legal Documents
-- Founding Document
-- Certificate of Incorporation
-- Proprietary Lease
-- Record of Proportional value of dwellings
-- Technical and Farming Documentation
Archive Meeting Formats and Guidelines
--Augmented Meeting format Augmented Meeting format
Archive Work Group Records
--Archive digital backups of Meeting Minutes of all Groups.
--Archive any policy changes
--Confer with WG Secretaries and/or minutes-takers as necessary.
--Assist members in finding Meeting or Policy information when requested
--Routinely inspect archives to reduce unnecessary duplication, to recover missing or damaged files and to verify accuracy of ensure online and external hard drive copies.
Establish Weekly Digest to summarize WG’s activities
The Weekly Community Digest will summarize the minutes of any WG meetings and other significant activities of the WGs during the past week.
With respect to the meetings it will simply copy an established feature of all meetings called the Digest of Meeting. Ideally, this Digest is generated during any meeting as each agenda item is completed and minds are fresh. That Digest will include the following self-explanatory items:
--Date and Name of WG
--Any Policy Decisions?
--Next Meeting: Date, Time, Location and Agenda items
--What we Want the Community to Know from this Meeting
Promote access and understanding of Founding Documents and Policy decisions
Maintain academic, technical & market-oriented digital library
The Education WG would regularly monitor online teaching programs in all subject areas. The goal would be to provide members of all ages with effective learning options. Folks are different not only in age but in their learning styles.
Maintain voluntary mentoring list for K-12 subject and market skills
Establish a regular routine for canvassing members on their willingness to mentor children in K-12 subjects and adults in marketplace skill acquisition. Promote mentor use and improvement of digital library.
Maintain community intranet
--Decide on the devices and routines of communication among SRN members
--Assist members in the use of the SRN intranet
Maintain community public website
Collaborate with Shared Life WG in maintaining Common House and Training Center
Create curriculum for Self-Reliance Seminars
The Administration WG is responsible for stability in accounting and employment. It will ensure equity and accuracy in all community financial transactions. Relatedly, it seeks to maintain an equitable and profitable allotment of employment among maintenance, farming and enterprise tasks, while encouraging individual employment in the market as well.
To have the cash necessary to purchase products the community can’t produce requires that some resident members bring revenue into the community from work outside of it.
Invoice to members calculated in equal-value work hours
As noted above the equal value of each human life and the plain fact that every hour of work is an irredeemable charge upon some human’s life, persuades us that the latter be reckoned with equal credit in community accounting.
Therefore, each monthly family statements of receipts, credits and net balance will be calculated in equal value work hours.
--Debits for goods and services from community
These receipts include some basic goods and services that are relatively constant from month to months:
This would include a regular amount of fresh and preserved food. Each family would negotiate with the community CSA to determine the amount prepared and unprepared food their family requires for a month. They would receive and be invoiced in work hours for this amount each month.
This would include the use of a dwelling whose monthly rent would be calculated in work hours per month based on its community-defined proportion of the entire community mortgage and property taxes.
Other discretionary goods and services
If a family chose to sign up for Community meals there would be a charge for that. The purchase of extra food from the CSA would be a charge.
However, all receipts from the community would be calculated in work hours. Work hours that are of equal value are the common currency of the community.
--Credits denominated in work hours
Determine each member’s equal-value hours of service whether either providing goods and services directly for community consumption or in community enterprise teams that earn income in the marketplace for the community.
--Net Balance statement of credit or deficit
Each family’s monthly invoice will indicate debits, credits and a net balance. Members who work outside the community part-time or full-time and incur thereby a work hour deficit, would pay in cash from their external income sources.
Such work hour deficits paid in cash are important to the community. Although the community aims at maximal self-reliance, many goods and services that the community requires cannot be furnished inhouse. Necessary purchases from the region will require cash income earned in the marketplace. It is highly desirable for the community to earn that income from either through entrepreneurial teams or from individual members wages or salaries.
Incorporate Enterprise Teams’ expenditures and receipts into monthly budget
Ensure all monthly financial obligations are met.
Prepare all tax-related documents
Maintain community fund records
Manage equitable work distribution among members
Maximize cash income from marketplace sources
Maximal self-reliance cannot mean total for the simple reason that important goods and services—think coffee, computers, internet access and health care—cannot be provided in-house. Acquiring such necessary and life-enhancing products and services requires that some resident members bring revenue into the community from work outside of it, while depending on the work of their brothers and sisters for their utilities and food. A member might work totally outside, totally inside or in a hybrid schedule somewhere in between.
The economic viability of the community will depend on maximizing cash revenues from individual or entrepreneurial engagement within the regional marketplace or beyond. Community members will always be encouraged to find work outside the community to provide the revenues for personal and community goods and services it cannot provide in-house.
Respond to any unmet work requirements
Encourage establishment of community enterprise teams
The Building and Grounds WG is responsible for maintaining the common house, family dwellings, animal shelters and workshops, as well as the energy and water storage facilities. It would store a host of hand tools and larger equipment and establish routines for their use by members.
B&G WG would also monitor the construction technologies that underlie the buildings and infrastructure of the community with an eye to the future. More efficient devices and techniques not only for maintenance, but for new construction should be noted and communicated to the Education WG for their inclusion in lesson plans for Self-Reliance Seminars.
Ensure new building legal compliance
Establish Intranet and Internet security and maintenance
Maintain energy harvesting equipment
Every roof harvests energy and many walls store it.
Maintain heating and cooling systems
Maintain lawns, play spaces and woodland
Maintain roads & paths,
Maintain routines for non-agricultural grounds
These would include plantings, mowing, snow removal, parking areas.
Maintain water channels, treatment, storage and distribution
Store all construction and equipment documentation
Maintain & replace equipment as needed
Monitor the condition and usefulness of our existing mix of equipment to ensure that it is sufficient to meeting the needs of the community, has adequate durability and reliability, and is being operated safely and correctly.
Proactive maintenance & repair:
Managing the ongoing maintenance of such equipment by establishing maintenance routines to be followed when using equipment. In the case of major repairs, making judgement calls about whether repair or replacement is the most cost-effective choice.
The Farm WG monitors and manages all assets and routines of food production. These include, but are not limited to, plants, bushes, trees, fish, fowl, bio-waste, compost, ground water, shelters, hand tools and the work routines that integrate them. Much of the Farm WG’s effort involves letting the gifts of nature—sun, rain, air, critters, bio-waste and soil--with its legion of microorganisms—do what comes naturally. But a great deal consists in actively monitoring and scheduling optimal input/output, cyclical flows among these. If done mindfully, these circles of life also regenerate the piece of troubled Earth we call home.
Here’s a rough summary of those flows in a SRN:
--Photons, CO2 and water perform the dance of photosynthesis to ultimately produce sugars, fats and proteins at the heart of life on earth
--Solar and wind energy is stored in batteries to provide any heat, electrical energy for tools, and transportation involved with farming.
--Rainwater is accumulated in cisterns to provide fish and plants with the essential medium of their growth and the community’s terrestrial creatures with the fluids they require each day.
--We humans add our bio-“waste” to food scraps that can follow one path to grow Black Soldier Fly larvae as food for fish and fowl
--Or this same bio-waste can feed microorganisms in anaerobic bio-digesters to provide methane gas for cooking and a nutrient rich slurry fertilizer for the open fields.
--Fowl are grown in farm lots to eat agricultural pests and some of our food scraps and to provide eggs and meat for community members.
--Larvae-fed fish are grown in aquaponics tanks to provide another protein-rich food.
--Fish detritus-enriched water is fed to aquaponically grown plants which consume it and provide clean water back to their aquatic cousins.
--Fruits and vegetables are grown in aquaponics systems and in open field farms to feed the SRN members and assure the community’s essential nutritional autonomy indefinitely
Establish and assign work routines for all food operations from planting to preserving
Anaerobically transform community generated bio-waste anaerobically into gas energy and fertilizer slurry
Anaerobic bio digester equipment is used to transform human fecal, urine and food scrap bio-waste into methane gas and seasonal garden fertilizer slurry. Specific tasks follow:
Collect & add human and animal bio-waste to bio digester
Collect & add food scraps and plant bio-waste
Manage methane gas storage equipment
Manage fertilizer slurry transfer to seasonal garden
Use Black Soldier Fly Larvae to biologically transform community generated bio-waste into food for fish and fowl
Collect & add human and animal bio-waste to BSFL bin
Collect & add food scraps and plant bio-waste to BSFL bin
Collect larvae for distribution to aquaponics fish tanks and seasonal garden fowl
Manage a BSF Larvae Rearing Unit
Coordinate supply of larvae sufficient to meet the demands of Seasonal Farm Team
Compost table leavings into soil (see “What is Composting”
Manage aquaponics farm operation
All aquaponics components are designed and managed both for community nutrition but also with an eye to increasing community income through enterprise teams. The following are its basic components:
1) Fish Tanks. Pools in which fish grow, reproduce and provide nutrient rich water for plants
2) Water. The fluid medium needed for plant growth. Fish waste, nutrient rich water (no soil required) is the medium from which plant roots obtain their water and nutrient requirements. It is filtered of suspended solids waste before entering the plant support apparatus.
3) Plant support apparatus. These are biologically inert vessels that support plants and fix their location as the water medium feeds them. The three main types are Raft, NFT and Gravel Filled:
--the Raft plant support type (aka Float, Deep Flow, Deep Water) inserts plants on foam rafts that floats atop water. The large volume of water involved acts a buffer for the fish by dispersing their waste in the raft tank.
--the Nutrient Film Technique plant support type inserts the plants in holes on the top side of long PVC pipes. These are slightly tilted so that a thin film of water entering the top end slowly passes through the roots of plants to be collected at the bottom. The water flow provides the plants with nutrients and oxygen.
--the Gravel Bed plant support type inserts the plants into some inorganic media like gravel or perlite. The fish enriched water is periodically flooded into the bed whose gravel filters the water and supports the plants.
Some specific tasks follow:
Monitor & regulate temperature & quality of water in fish tanks
Monitor circuit of water from fish tank, through plant medium, & back to tank
Harvest and process fish
Harvest and process vegetables and fruit
Maintain grow light routines
Manage seasonal farm operation
Seasonal farming is open air farming that includes plant and animal products and bio-waste in a circle of transfers that regenerates the soil.
The following are some of its tasks:
Maintain Fences, Barns, Sheds, Bins and Coops,
Maintain Swales, Plant beds, Berms and Drip irrigation components
Maintain chicken tractor coop and rotate it according to schedule
Maintain composting routines
Manage Biochar production
Manage full-year greenhouse routines
Manage plant and animal husbandry and harvesting
Update “Seasonal Garden Tasks & Times” document
Update Plant Bed Rotation document for each year
Correlate larvae requests with BSF operation
Liaison water needs with Building and Grounds WG
Harvest and preserve food from both seasonal and aquaponic farms
The Shared Life WG monitors the neighborhoods meals, meeting spaces and mores. These are centered on the Common House and its kitchen. Their overall effort is “to make a house a home”. And while the process of doing so can be rewarding and joyful, it is also relentlessly complicated. Finding creative ways to soften sharp elbows and egos is part of the game. So also, is encouraging quieter members to find their voices and speak their minds. It is often the case that “still water runs deep”.
Food and festive occasions are essential to this process, but they don’t just happen. Folks have to work at growing the customs that will sustain intense effort when the going gets tough.
Establish and maintain routines for general safety and responses to crime
Support customs and facilitate regular community events as they evolve
Create and post routines for use of kitchen and dining areas
Manage children’s Community House play space
Create and post routines for guest room use
Create and post routines for laundry room use
Manage scheduling and preparation of community meals
Determine resident numbers and food preferences for each meal
This involves establishing online sites to post upcoming meals, menus and routines for families to sign up and indicate preferences. The site would also indicate cut-off date for each meal to permit cooks adequate amounts of time to plan and prepare meal to match number of respondents.
Report member/family meal fees to Administration WG
Choose and prepare menus
This would include providing alternatives of basic menu items to accommodate resident food restrictions and preferences,
Stock recurrent commodities
Coordinate food needs with Farm WG
Schedule cooks and assistants
Schedule dish crews and dining area clean up
Report kitchen-related maintenance issues with Building & Grounds
Launder kitchen and dining cloth items
Maintain hospitality features in the common house (coffee, tea etc.)
Establish guidelines for domestic animals
Monitor and update a bulletin board
Develop membership guidelines and mentor potential or new residents
Self-reliance within a community means that many of the goods and most of the services that folks in the conventional world purchase will be provided by members in house. Those same every day goods and services will continue to be in demand in the surrounding region. Community members, accustomed to teamwork inhouse and possessing the requisite tools, could form income-earning entrepreneurial teams to meet that regional demand.
In a general way, I would say that SRN members should first prove they are up to meeting the requirements of their community. But when these are met, there is every reason to use home-honed skills to derive income from the region. As noted earlier it will be essential to earn income from outside the community to purchase what cannot be provided inhouse.
Seen in this light, entrepreneurial teams move beyond no longer being hostage to the market. They begin using it for their own ends. There will always be, after all, mortgages and taxes to be paid.
Keeping the books balanced for a community in which the value of goods and services generated by it are denominated in both equal value work hours and common currency may be a unique challenge. The inhouse portion of an individual member’s work life could also vary from month to month depending on their opportunities in the market. This means that a monthly fee would have to cope with that variable as well. And then there are all the conventional community expenditures and tax preparation filings. Suffice to say that accounting within a community requires a serious amount of math savvy and software skills. Could the providers of these accounting services become the nucleus of a small accounting business?
The multiple skill sets required to wire, plumb, paint and generally maintain dwellings and agricultural-related structures would be learned by future residents during the building phases as part of any SRN project. From the developer’s point of view, ensuring the future residents had the skills necessary to maintain the property while it was being paid off would have to be integral to the project. Once learned these skills could be marketed by residents, the quality of whose work would be influenced by its primary application to their own homes.
Landscaping a community’s grounds and farm plots requires appropriate tools and serious amount of labor. What is regularly done at home can be marketed in the region.
The Education WG would regularly monitor online teaching programs in all subject areas. The goal would be to provide community members of all ages with effective learning options that match their learning profiles. Folks are different not only in age but in diverse ways of learning.
Once a Education WG assembles a credible archive of online assets that would be honed by mentoring their own extended family, extending that practice into the market place might be a natural extension.
Once the Farm and Shared Life WGs are adept at providing for the requirements of its own, any surplus could be sold in the regional market as well. There is a growing market for prepared meals made with fresh produce and meat, either using the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model or in direct contracts with restaurants and grocery stores.
The Community could hold Self-Reliance Seminars in the Common House and Education Center. This was the first structure builtg and it housed worker-members in training during construction.
All of its interior and exterior components (insulation, plumbing, heating, electrical, photovoltaic, wind turbines) would be partially exposed for display purposes. It would be built within walking distance of the community’s, indoor aquaponics and bio-waste recovery systems and the seasonal farm. These essential components of self-reliance would reveal their functional roles in providing maximal autonomy—a sort of transparent 3-D textbook of how it is achieved.
After construction, the Common House and Education Center would provide the community with its kitchen and dining area, that could double as an after-school homework and mentoring center. It is also the natural setting for holding SRN Seminars. The setting would permit an intuitive grasp of all the elements of self-reliance.
Of course, we understand that not all Americans are willing or able to live in community. And yet many thoughtful middle-class families would like to contribute to global resilience by reducing their grid dependence and nurturing the space around their homes into health. These might well be attracted to the purely technical and biological components of self-reliance.
Our life in community is made meaningful as we work together for shared ends. But the effectiveness of our Work Groups depends on having tools to hand to pursue those ends.
We use the term “tools” expansively to indicate the structures, grounds, farmland, equipment, hand-tools and documentation that Work Groups use in providing for the well-being of their community.
A spreadsheet that displays a schedule of the tasks involved in seasonal farming or a cogent article concerning these routines are both tools. But so are the Black Soldier Fly bins, the fish ponds, the plants, the open fields, the chicken coops and the rakes, hoes and tractors needed to transform words into food.
Such tools are presented under the categories: Building, Food, Energy, Community, Information
This article is a comprehensive survey by Christopher Mims (Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2018) of recent developments in 3-D printed construction.
He compares 3D construction to a handful of discoveries, like the bicycle, the steam engine or glass, that once understood quickly become universally transformative.
He enumerates examples of this process:
--The government of Dubai has set a goal of 3-D printing 25% of every new building by 2030.
--Prototype single-family dwellings have been 3-D-printed in China, Italy, Russia—and Texas.
--Global infrastructure firm AECOM uses 3-D printing to prefabricate jail cells and hospital rooms.
--Arup, a construction engineering giant in Europe, is testing a variety of such “additive manufacturing” technologies, in materials ranging from concrete to stainless steel.
The author predicts that although new, an examination of the basics—"the way the technology could potentially save energy, materials and time—the more it starts to feel like an idea that just might work.”
He points to experiments, born of hope in this technology, that are emerging in both the richest and the poorest parts of the world.
ICON is an Austin-based construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding and making dignified housing the standard for people throughout the world.
Using proprietary 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials, ICON is solving a plurality of problems in the contemporary building industry with their breakthrough technologies.
Why is 3D printing the most appropriate technology for addressing affordability and building performance in construction?
Conventional construction is slow, fragmented, wasteful, and has poor thermal properties which increase energy use, increase operating costs, and decrease comfort. Also, conventional materials like drywall and particle board are some of the least resilient materials ever invented. By contrast, 3D printing offers the following:
2. Lack of manual labor
3. Concrete is a well understood, affordable, resilient material
4. Concrete has a high thermal mass (comfort & energy efficiency)
5. 3D Printing produces a continuous, unbroken thermal envelope (comfort & energy efficiency)
6. Replaces multiple systems of the home in one technology (foundation, structure, insulation, interior & exterior sheathing, moisture barrier, finished surfaces, etc.)
7. Near zero waste
8. Tremendous design freedom (curves and slopes are no more challenging or expensive than straight, plumb lines).
New Story, a non-profit (see Crazy Until It’s Not), is making a determined effort to demonstrate how the shelter needs of a billion folks around the world could be met. They are doing it one community at a time.
Their audacity seems to be born of an on exclusive focus on meeting the shelter needs of that challenged population, a pursuit of emergent 3D Home printing technology to get there and intense, global networking.
In their own words: “The challenge we face is monumental; there are more than a billion people across the globe living without safe shelter. To make a dent in that number, our ability to scale up has to change”.
Here are some of the insights they bring to this project:
--Housing stability and resilient communities are essential for changing society.
--Technology is a force multiplier—hence 3D printing construction.
--Creating change should be an open source pursuit.
--Achieving audacious goals requires a diverse ecosystem of partners.
--Hypotheses and beliefs must be data-tested and data-influenced.
--Design must be participatory—requiring input from resident community.
--Building must be participatory—using local skills and training up as necessary.
This model has all the components of this website’s concept of a Self-Reliant Neighborhood (sirno.org), except perhaps for cohousing governance and management routines. It includes educational and enterprise projects within it. If employment within the latter and the community’s routine maintenance jobs were targeted on the marginally-employed within the community, this model would certainly go far addressing some of the socially debilitating effects of increasing automation.
If 3D Printing construction is used in this 110 unit project, its cost profile would provide a credible measure since stick and brick costs of building similar communities are known.
Sunconomy’s website describes geopolymer concrete models that are:
--Affordable due to faster construction with less waste
--Strong enough to withstand 220 MPH winds
--Net Zero energy use with LED lighting, high efficiency heat pump and appliances
--Rain water catchment enabled
--Healthy interior with natural materials
--Smart design with IoT (Internet of Things) in home automation and security standard
--Able to achieve lower insurance costs due to design and materials that significantly lower risk of major hazards such as fire or roof damage.
The Minka-type model is a minimalist dwelling, whose compactness and single level design serves the purpose not only of affordability, but also of accessibility and the preservation of its resident’s personal energy and safety.
Construction begins with building a platform composed of prefabricated floor boxes. The platform is anchored to screw pilings that transfer the dwelling’s load securely down to the requisite depth of earth.
Then, a precisely-spaced sequence of inverted U-shaped “portal frames” composed of plywood are attached. These are fitted into the stabilized floor and the spaces thereby created are infilled with pre-manufactured wall and roof panels or “boxes”. These boxes are pre-designed to meet specific load-bearing, surface-type, insulation and special use requirements.
One special-use wall box is the Utility Wall which combines in one accessible panel the major electrical components and the water intake, heating, distribution and drain channels.
While the Minka’s current price per square foot ratio may appear unspectacular, the packing of life-targeted and security-enhancing design into each of those feet may alter this judgment.
Also, in response to questions, Dr. Bill Thomas, the initiator of this design, made two points that are relevant to the Affordable, Self-Reliant Neighborhood Option offered on this website:
First, if consistent large numbers of a stock models were ordered, the economies of scale would lower costs.
Second, and most relevant to our focus on low-income and/or marginally employed future residents, he is confident these could be trained in fairly short order to build their own dwellings. Also, such skill-sets, once mastered, would not only bring down their own building costs, but might form the basis of another SRN Enterprise Team whose income is essential to provide goods and services the community cannot provide in-house."
In a SRN, each household unit has a kitchen to permit families the intimacy and privacy that home meals traditionally provide. However, regular potluck common meals and/or community-run meal hours with a consistent menu can simultaneously free up time for busy families and create a relaxed venue for strengthening broader community ties.
This website is a mostly free source that explains how enduring energy savings in air heating and cooling can be permanently embodied in the construction of a building. Whether you want a little information or need a great deal, this site will provide. On its opening page it has a remarkably clear and concise 90 second video explaining the PH construction concept. Although, it does provide a good deal of information without charge, it does go commercial at various choke points, sending you to a page that invites you to pay a membership fee for more access.
Since our website, sirno.org, is designed to keep costs to a minimum, we suggest you do a google or wiki shift on the term that presents the choke point in your search. So far, we have found this a workable option.
If you can point us to an equally informative website that is totally open source, we would like to hear from you,
This is an 8-page Technical Bulletin that summarizes and explains the components of Aquaponic Systems. It is followed by references, including videos. One thorough and illustrative video is Aquaponics-An Integrated Fish and Plant Production System. It details the processes involved with some helpful 3D graphics of how the parts are connected viewed from different angles.
This is a high-graphics, minimal-words webinar that covers almost all aspects of Aquaponics. It is not comprehensive, but a starting point from which to branch off and pursue content it alludes to with minimal explanation. Helpful to make you aware of what you need to research further.
This is a graphic twenty-minute talk that draws multiple processes—photovoltaics, direct sunlight, biomass production for heat--into the Aquaponics food production. Importantly, it includes the discussion of Black Soldier Fly cultivation of grubs for fish and fowl. BSF processes transform all forms of bio-waste into BSF larvae, thus integrating the need to deal with human bio-waste directly into a process of food production. Finally, it describes the conversion of a modest vacant store into a miniature urban food farm that displays most of the components of a closed loop agricultural system.
Brief article on the hygienic value of using Black Soldier Fly Larvae sludge management It describes the research supporting the hygienic value of using BSFL routines to transform human fecal matter into a valuable source of protein. In aquaponics and open field farming these BSFL are nutritious supplements for fish and fowl respectively.
This abstract advocates for the use of BSFL to provide a solution for the health problems associated with poor sanitation and inadequate human waste management in developing countries.
This is a 110-page pdf file that provides the information that its title implies.
Two-page composting hand out.
What is composting?
The biological breakdown of organic matter by a managed process. Decomposition that occurs all around us in nature can be controlled by human intervention to produce a high-quality soil amendment. A compost pile is a managed microbial farm for recycling nutrients from organic wastes. Understanding the process is important to manage it well.
Environmental Benefits of Compost
*Reduces contributions to the municipal waste stream.
*Reduces or eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
*Conserves water by reducing irrigation needs.
*Sequesters atmospheric carbon dioxide in soil as stable humus.
*Binds with pollutants, preventing them from running off into the groundwater
Soil Benefits of Compost
*Increases populations of earthworms and other beneficial creatures (in the soil)
*Promotes a healthy microbial population
*Improves soil structure
*Improves soil aeration and water retention.
*Helps to form soil aggregates
*Slowly releases macronutrients
*Increases nutrient-holding capacity
*Increases nutrient availability
*Moderates pH levels
*Suppresses soil-borne pests and diseases
*Ties up heavy metals
Mesophilic Phase (69 F to 113 F)—Initially, mesophilic bacteria and fungi-those organisms that thrive in moderate heat—reign. As they break down sugars, they give off heat, which will cause the temperature of the compost pile to rise.
Thermophilic Phase (113 F and up)—Thermophilic organisms takeover and break down proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates like cellulose. If the pile reaches 130 F or above, pathogens and weed seeds are killed. Eventually, the organisms that thrive at these temperatures deplete their food sources. Decomposition slows, and the temperature of the pile begins to drop.
Curing Phase—Decomposition slows. During this phase, mesophilic organisms, including actinomycetes, which give compost its earthy smell—take over again, continuing the slow decomposition of lignin and other tough compounds. Compost may be ready to use anywhere from two weeks to six months after this final temperature drop.
Single page graphic that describes the succession of creatures that transform organic residues into rich soil.
This Word document outlines a seasonal planting year in a chronological outline by seasons and months arrayed vertically from December through November. It outlines flat planting, pricking out, soil planting and harvesting specific plants in greenhouse and in open fields. We hope the broad December through November sweep will permit a grasp of the needs of the entire year in brief read. It is easy to get lost in the minutiae of current work.
This document is based on the climate of lower Michigan and would have to be adapted for different regions.
This document fails to integrate animal husbandry into the garden’s growing year. Please feel free to help us in accomplishing that.
The Word document displays plants but in four rotation bed groups: Leaf beds, Root beds, Fruit beds, and Legume-recovery beds. Individual plants belonging to each bed are then arrayed, chronologically from left to right in a sequence of tasks from seed flats to harvesting
This document is based on the climate of lower Michigan and would have to be adapted for different regions.
This document fails to integrate animal husbandry into the garden’s growing year. Please feel free to help us in accomplishing that.
This is straightforward video from Solar CITIES IBC that walks one through the building of a bio digestor step by step in a way that provides a visual grasp of what the parts actually do in the process of bio-digesting. To see the same information in text form: Solar CITIES IBC text
SimGas designs, produces and installs biogas systems for households in Africa and Asia. These systems produce clean gas energy and organic fertilizer: two valuable assets to increase income whilst saving life, nature, money and time. Moreover, their product is scalable to the number of families using it.
This website provides concise information with minimal words and helpful graphics.
This product is a single home anaerobic bio digester. The website uses hyperlinked pictures and videos to address the questions most folks might have. Its special value for any designer of an SRN is in displaying proof of the concept that transforming food scraps and fecal waste into usable gas and fertilizer is feasible even at the single unit level.
A heat pump always relocates heat from one space that gets cooler to another that gets warmer. During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house and during the cooling season, a heat pump moves heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors.
Because it doesn’t generate new heat to condition space with warmth (or cold) it does so at about a quarter of the cost of conventional heating and cooling appliances.
The relationship between the indoors to be heated and its outside environment is analogous to the kitchen that is that is warmed by the heat extracted from the interior of a refrigerator.
Commercial Example: Promethean Systems Used in energy compromised rural settings. Promethean YouTube Their technology enables food suppliers to reliably store and preserve perishable food items—such as milk, fruits and vegetables—without the need for expensive diesel-powered generators.
We think this is the optimal point of entry for understanding the intensely rich social component that cohousing brings to any Self-Reliant Neighborhood. The Cohousing community is successful and growing way of life around the world. If you discount its assumption that each family will be able to provide its own income sources independently, the personal dynamics it reveals are identical to those we propose for a SRN.
Architects, development consultants, builders and marketers who address the specific needs of cohousing communities are among the professionals this website seeks to influence. They will already be accustomed to the working with folks who understand the value of community.
What we will need to discover is whether they can adjust their visions to produce truly affordable communities by extending their tool kits and designs to build maximally autonomous communities. Also, could they extend their briefs to include training future residents in managing the tools and routines needed to achieve local autonomy in food, energy harvesting and bio-waste recycling? Cohousing professionals are natural points of entry for investigating the potential for building truly Self-Reliant Neighborhoods.
This is a format devised to combine all the communications and documents related to a meeting into a single Word Document. That document would proceed through the following steps to ensure that nothing relevant to a meeting is lost and that all participants are kept fully informed:
-Prepare meeting agenda document
-Email agenda in Augmented Meeting Format doc to membership
-Facilitate Meeting using document
-Close each agenda item with a round (no crosstalk canvassing of members) to finalize a Digest entry that succinctly describes its treatment at this meeting
-Email the finalized AM doc to members (and Archivist) as final act of meeting
The Administrative WG would maintain regular Employment Records of the three distinct types of employment whose equilibrium would be necessary to ensure the community’s economic stability. These are work performed by the Work Groups that directly provides goods and services for the community, marketplace work performed by Entrepreneurial Teams and marketplace work performed by residents on their own initiative.
The skill sets needed by Work Groups to maintain their community in existence are the same as those that folks in the conventional economy have to find in the marketplace. In-house Entrepreneurial Teams, having acquired skills within Work Groups, could earn additional income for the community by going public.
Revenue earned by Entrepreneurial Teams could then be used to purchase goods and services that the community cannot generate even when maximally self-reliant. Think mortgage payments, internet connection, property taxes, health insurance, paint, lumber, caulk, coffee and condiments.
A final source of revenues to meet these demands would be that provided by members working independently in the marketplace and paying the community in cash for the goods and services actually generated in-house.
While these are three distinct types of employment, it is conceivable, and even probable, that one could shift from one to another or work part time in two or all three of them.
Adherence to community goals of affordability and inclusiveness might suggest that members recently marginalized by market shifts could at first work more hours inhouse or in entrepreneurial teams. However, the overall economic health of the community would also be enhanced by individuals whose market-earned income is traded for community goods and services.
For that reason, a robust Education WG that would include internet access to acquiring skills the market requires are an essential feature of community life.
In their own words:
“We believe that community is an essential building block for creating a cooperative and sustainable world. The structures and wisdom of community are both a means and an end to meeting the needs of all people and the planet, and must be available, understood, appreciated, and developed.
We envision cooperative communities of all kinds working together to meet these needs.”
This is software from a web community called hOurworld. It could be used to manage the exchange of community work hours for community goods and services. Time and Talents is a free software package that was designed for folks who want to exchange equally-valued hours of work. If used within a SRN community it could work as follows:
--All members of a SRN work in-house at the job of providing goods and services to the community, outside in the region or in some balance between the two. T&T software would focus on the inhouse work. A glance at the list of types of service exchanged at “Hour Exchange Portland” makes is clear that any of the services given or received within a SRN could be included in this software.
--Each member would input the service hours he or she worked into the T&T software, indicating the related Work Group.
--The Administration Work Group would calculate in hours each month all three types of services (general, discretionary and dwelling specific) for each household.
--Each month inhouse work hours related to services received by one’s household would balance, exceed or not reach them. If the latter the T&T deficit would pass this information to an Administration WG member for invoicing.
Hour Exchange Handbook Summary of how the time exchange is used in Portland, Maine
Quick Start Guide for hOurworld: powered by Time and Talents
The Common House and Education Center would ideally be the first structure within the project. It would contain a bunkhouse section where future residents could be trained during construction to provide the Work Group skills needed after completion. Its permanent use would be as community kitchen, dining, office, study, mentoring, seminar and archives center.
The Center’s utility components (plumbing, heating, batteries, electrical circuits and gauges) would be exposed within the rooms rather than hidden behind walls. Rooftop devices would be accessible on flat roof or from catwalks. An actual wall section would be displayed. The Center would be a large open kitchen/study/dining room with bunkhouses and baths—easily convertible from dining to lecture/demonstration hall.
The Center would be located in close proximity to the community’s aquaponic, bio-waste to resource facilities and seasonal lots and outbuildings for animal and plant farming. The ensemble would combine working examples of all the tools of autonomy in a single location.
The Center and its associated facilities and spaces would be created as a sort of transparent 3-D textbook of how maximal autonomy is achieved. Its purpose is to educate generations of residents in the essential tasks of the community Work Groups and as a community Outreach Seminar Center—an income-producing Community Enterprise.
The same space also serves as an after-school homework and mentoring center, a guest bunkhouse, and income-earning Seminar center for teaching self-reliance.
The latter’s curriculum could demonstrate a complete circle embodying solar, wind and earth energy harvesting and storage, BSF and anaerobic bio-waste production of larvae and nutrient slurry for fish, fowl and plants and food preservation, preparation and marketing.
The building would permit community members to intuitively grasp the elements of their own self-reliance and would ensure that certain members always possessed the critical skill sets their community requires.
Some problems with traditional meeting procedures
The Augmented Meeting Format attempts to eliminate problems that arise when information relevant to a meeting is divided among multiple documents. Such documents are: the agenda & meeting announcement, additional documents relevant to the agenda, the meeting minutes, the minutes distribution email with requests for corrections, the distribution of the finalized document, and the archival record.
Some problems caused by this diversity of documents are:
--Time and material are consumed as meeting facilitator makes copies of all relevant documents for attendees
--Time is consumed at meeting making sure all members have all the documents
--Attendees are often surprised to see documents for first time at meeting without having had time to study them carefully.
--Time is consumed in bringing attendees up to speed on content of such documents
--Transparency is diminished by delays in consenting to minutes of prior meeting. If there are time-sensitive matters involved, then transparency delayed may be transparency denied for all practical purposes.
--Minutes sometimes go missing.
Combining Agenda, supporting documents, Meeting Minutes and Consent in one document distributed at the end of each meeting avoids these problems.
Positive ends sought in using Augmented Meeting Format
The following are the ends sought in adopting the Augmented Meeting Format over more conventional methods.
--To induce all presenters of any Agenda item to front load their information into the Agenda replacing need for duplicating much of this information by the notetaker
--To reduce multiple emails concerning a meeting to one only whose enhanced content would only evolve and be finalized at the meeting.
--To eliminate paper handouts at meetings making it the responsibility of attendees to bring their own copy of the Augmented Agenda
--To involve all meeting participants in consenting to the finalized wording of meeting’s resolution of each Agenda item in real time.
--To insert this finalized wording in a “Red Digest” placed at the beginning of the Augmented Meeting Format to provide an accessible and complete rendering of the essential content of the meeting.
--To provide immediate access to meeting’s content to rest of community
This article argues that the corrupting influence of concentrated wealth has been able to successfully misdirect and channel grassroots discontent with economic inequality into immigration and sovereignty issues. Beyond using their wealth to buy political influence directly through exorbitant campaign contributions, they finance politically focused “think” tanks and buy media outlets. They use these to shape “negative agenda power” to define which problems are worthy of attention. Economic inequality is displaced with visceral appeals to issues of crime, immigration and diminished national sovereignty. Between 1941 and 2014, rising inequality is associated with political agendas focused on these issues and on crowding Issues of economic justice out of mind.