In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein suggests that a survivable endgame for our society depends on “a realizable, if distant, vision” of a better and more sustainable future.
“This means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with today’s vision, one that resonates with the majority of people on the planet because it is true: that we are not apart from nature but of it… This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond ‘mitigating’ and ‘adapting’ to it… It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now.”
To stabilize the climate by sharing survivable greenhouse gas emissions equally among all people, Americans will have to reduce their CO² output by about 90%. Most of the systems and services now powered by fossil fuel will have to be abandoned, or changed to operate on renewable energy. The energy of choice—renewable solar and wind energy— is decentralized. To minimize the transport of food, recovered nutrients, energy and people, our societies and systems of life support must also be decentralized. It is most efficient to grow food near to where it is consumed and to power homes directly and simply with local solar resources.
The most promising way to produce basic human needs of food, water and shelter sustainably is to combine Chinese permaculture, bioshelters, and nutrient recycling. For more information, please read Moving On – Better Homes and Habitats by Earle Barnhart, excerpted below.
Traditional Chinese agriculture
Agriculture in China evolved over 6,000 years from the collective experience of several hundred generations of farmers. Their methods produced the highest possible agricultural yields on an area of land, higher by area than modern industrial agriculture, while using no fossil fuels. Their fundamental practices include growing food crops in polyculture year round on all available soil, controlling and using rainfall and water efficiently, recycling all organic waste nutrients back into agriculture and employing human-powered transport. Today we call this method “permaculture.”
Bioshelters are food-producing greenhouses heated primarily with passive solar energy and containing diverse plants, ponds, insects and soil life. They are essentially an agricultural ecosystem contained within a greenhouse. In temperate climates with sunny winters, agricultural bioshelters can produce food year-round food without fossil fuel. Aquaculture ponds inside produce edible fish while also storing solar heat for greenhouse heating. When bioshelters are linked with outdoor agriculture (such as by producing spring seedlings), the yields of both can be improved and fresh food can be provided year-round.
Residential bioshelters are designed to provide both food production and housing, powered primarily by solar energy. A residential bioshelter can produce sustainable services of housing, food, and water supply, while greatly reducing the use of energy for agriculture and transport. Ideally, residential bioshelters would be modular, mass-produced for rapid implementation, and engineered to be combined into networks and ecological neighborhoods.
Local nutrient recycling
The last frontier of sustainability for humans is the recovering and recycling of waste nutrients, an ecological link missing in our society and agriculture. We currently consume, waste and pollute, instead of recover and recycle.
Recycling of nutrients makes permanently sustainable food production possible. The technology of safe recycling is simple, low-tech and energy-efficient. Safe recycling back to agricultural and natural ecosystems on the home and community scale is necessary and crucial for the survival of a future population of 10 billion people.