To break free from the fossil fuel - infinite growth - feedback loop, we must transition towards localized and sustainable systems of production, organization and exchange. We can refer to this principle as Local Resilience.
Start with food.
To reduce dependence external resources we must maximize efficiency; minimizing waste, and distance traveled. Applied to food production this focus can be referred to as permaculture.
Permaculture isn’t a set of techniques or rigid rules, but rather a train of thought, an efficiency-oriented design logic which gives human and ecological variables their due weight.
Conventional agriculture treats the environment as an afterthought. Practices are totalitarian by default. Ecosystems are chopped down and tilled under, sprinkled and sprayed with fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides. The implications for human and non-human health swept under the rug.
Permaculture develops systems adapted to environment. Micro-climates, geological features are taken into account. In the desert, retaining every last drop of available water, and reducing evaporation is key. In a tropical rainforest channeling torrential waters to prevent erosion and landslides is more relevant. There is no one size fits all solution.
While conventional agriculture focuses on mass production of single crops (monoculture), and uses heavy machinery, agrochemical inputs and low wage labor to get the fastest and cheapest result, permaculture applies a systems based approach, mapped to natural processes, to build biologically diverse, multi-layered food forests, to feed future generations with far less work in the field.
Permaculture focuses on economizing travel and the use of space. Gardens begin at the home, radiating outward along pathways. Green spaces produce fruits and vegetables rather than grass. Companion planting, water, slope and soil management extends the space available for food production, minimizing the need for fertilizers and other external inputs, while reducing flooding, landslides and other natural disasters. Organic matter is treated as a resource to be integrated back into the soil, rather than as waste to be disposed of. The entire definition of trash is redefined.
Food production is just one piece of the puzzle. Permaculture logic can be applied across sectors.
The current system is highly dependent on centralized infrastructure, utilizing antiquated technologies which are wasteful and destructive. Electricity production, water, and sewage treatment for cities are handled by a small number of large scale facilities. When a single facility breaks down, hundreds of thousands are left without service. Building, maintaining, and updating these systems is extremely expensive. Control tends to fall into the hands of governments and corporations. Such entities have little incentive to change the status quo.
A decentralized approach to systems design is far more resilient.
A consciously designed metropolis would position residential centers in relation to essential infrastructure in such a way that motorized transport was rarely necessary. Land which would otherwise be used for roads, driveways and parking lots is put to productive use. Manufacturing is cleaned up, scaled down and moved closer to points of distribution. Waste is addressed at its origin.
Existing cities can be designed forward, and retrofitted incrementally.
Centralized power plants are gradually replaced by small scale production centers and micro-grids, powered by renewable energy.
Localized bio-gas systems replace conventional sewage treatment; transforming a waste product into natural gas, and compost. External inputs are are simultaneously reduced.
Residential rain water collection, combined with grey water recycling and utilization, reduces strain on overtaxed, rivers lakes and aquifers. Localized management promotes accountability.
These decentralized, distributed systems are inherently less vulnerable to mass failure, and are much easier to update and repair. Components are added like modules; yards then neighborhoods replaced piece by piece.
The technical path forward is logical and the imperative obvious, but getting from point A to point B requires an organizational and economic component. The human element is key.
- Production - We must transition to local production and reduce our reliance on goods and resources from afar.
- Organization - We must transition away from vertical social structures towards decentralized, horizontal communities.
- Exchange - We must transition off of debt based money towards cooperative economic models.