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    What is a sustainable community?

    We have talked about it and given different opinions related to other topics but what communities have we seen that are sustainable? For reference here is a posting of communities that are both green and advertised as sustainable. The key is they already exist and we can see they are designed Green from the start. Living on the west coast I tend to like the one in Bend #3 and the one in Issaquah #6 because I still have family in Everett Washington and they would still be close enough to visit.

    http://www.naturalhomemagazine.com/e...hborhoods.aspx

    By the way I grew up when sustainable communities were more like the traditional native american Indian communities or even a Kibbutz so my perspective is slanted in that direction.

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Amish? I have noticed that they are using a lot more modern tech stuff than they used to, but I suspect they are closer to self sufficient and sustainable that a very large segment of the population.

    I think any small to midsized town that has it's own utilities is a good bet, especially if they still have some manufacturing base left, along with reasonable access to rail and interstate.

    I work heavy construction and the LEEDS standards are not all they are cracked up to be. However they are a start.

    Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. One thing I would love to see more of is edible landscaping and less lawns and ornamental plantings.

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Hate to say this, but I think all we can say is that some communities have fewer sustainable practices than other. I think all we can say is that modern North American society's habits are less sustainable than traditional Amish practices.

    "Sustainability" kind of flies in the fact of the law of entropy, doesn't it? [Full disclosure: my background in physics is exceptional for an English major...]

    Perhaps this will cheer you up:

    Relating entropy to energy usefulness
    Following on from the above, it is possible (in a thermal context) to regard entropy as an indicator or measure of the effectiveness or usefulness of a particular quantity of energy.[38] This is because energy supplied at a high temperature (i.e. with low entropy) tends to be more useful than the same amount of energy available at room temperature. Mixing a hot parcel of a fluid with a cold one produces a parcel of intermediate temperature, in which the overall increase in entropy represents a “loss” which can never be replaced.
    Thus, the fact that the entropy of the universe is steadily increasing, means that its total energy is becoming less useful: eventually, this will lead to the "heat death of the Universe".
    source

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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    Amish? I have noticed that they are using a lot more modern tech stuff than they used to, but I suspect they are closer to self sufficient and sustainable that a very large segment of the population.

    I think any small to midsized town that has it's own utilities is a good bet, especially if they still have some manufacturing base left, along with reasonable access to rail and interstate.

    I work heavy construction and the LEEDS standards are not all they are cracked up to be. However they are a start.

    Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. One thing I would love to see more of is edible landscaping and less lawns and ornamental plantings.

    Aaron
    Looking at some of the green communities in the post I see some things I grew up with and some things I have changed a bit where I live now. I am sure I recycle more now than I did as a kid or even more than my parents. My yard only has native plants and a few things like a fruit tree, tomato, pepper plant and squash. We do have an Herb garden but it is small. I haven’t had a big lawn in years. But I do have the ability to make myself greener or produce a smaller Carbon footprint.
    But what interested me was the concept of a green community starting from scratch and from reclaimed brown- block areas look pretty much alike. In most cases yards and or porches seem to play a big part of the equation.

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    LET'S ROLL 1nterceptor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Hate to say this, but I think all we can say is that some communities have fewer sustainable practices than other. I think all we can say is that modern North American society's habits are less sustainable than traditional Amish practices.

    "Sustainability" kind of flies in the fact of the law of entropy, doesn't it? [Full disclosure: my background in physics is exceptional for an English major...]

    Perhaps this will cheer you up:


    source
    Are you then saying traditional Amish living is the most sustainable community in your opinion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1nterceptor View Post
    we took a simular concept to Africa when I visited there.
    http://www.squidoo.com/Eco-Dome

    Takes lots of manpower but last a lot longer than triditional huts and homes. I just haven't seen any such communities.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Africa--home to humans for longer than any other continent, and the only continent to still have viable populations of large predator mammals (so far).

    China, Egypt, Mesoamerica, and the Fertile Crescent have (so far) supported large human communities and intensive agriculture for at least 5,000 years.


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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Are you then saying traditional Amish living is the most sustainable community in your opinion?
    I really have no idea about the Amish.

    All I'm saying is, to paraphrase an old Simon and Garfunkle song, sooner or later, everything put together falls apart and there's nothing to it. Although, as Roody points out, there are some societies that do this a lot more slowly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I really have no idea about the Amish.

    All I'm saying is, to paraphrase an old Simon and Garfunkle song, sooner or later, everything put together falls apart and there's nothing to it. Although, as Roody points out, there are some societies that do this a lot more slowly.
    Well to be sure some do even if his example is rather broad. What I am trying to get at is do most of us even believe in a sustainable Community. You seem to indicate there are no sustainable communities, unless I missed something. Do you feel the communities I posted represent a more sustainable community? More than what we normally see today?

    I used to like Simon and Garfunkel buit I am not sure they related to thermodynamics and the first law.

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    Senior Member ro-monster's Avatar
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    To me, a prerequisite for any kind of sustainable enterprise, including a community, is letting go of the value system that sees the growth of that enterprise as a primary goal, and replacing it with one that values the overall benefit to the world above any individual or group's benefit.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Well to be sure some do even if his example is rather broad. What I am trying to get at is do most of us even believe in a sustainable Community. You seem to indicate there are no sustainable communities, unless I missed something. Do you feel the communities I posted represent a more sustainable community? More than what we normally see today?

    I used to like Simon and Garfunkel buit I am not sure they related to thermodynamics and the first law.
    Well, Garfunkel's career fell apart but Simon kept on going.

    But I want a definition of sustainable. IMO it's one of the most misused and poorly understood terms in the language.

    Some environmental purists call almost any human endeavor unsustainable, since they don't sustain the planet in a pure wilderness condition. This would be a very strict definition: Sustainable means an activity can be carried out indefinitely with little or no impact on the "natural" state of the region. For example, under this definition, any woodcutting woulod be considered to be unsustainable because it's taking energy out of the forest and permanently changing it's condition. All agriculture would be unsustainable for similar regions.

    I prefer a more practical definition. Some human activities are incompatible with wilderness, but they do allow a balanced state to exist for many years. This is a less strict definition: Sustainable refers to a balanced human activity that can be carried out with only a few inputs, and with minimal damage to the region, although it does produce some changes in the region. For example, under this definition, managed woodcutting would be considered sustainable if new trees grow at the same rate that old trees are cu down, and if wildlife survives in the forest. Similarly, agriculture that has been sustained in many regions for thousands of years, with minimal damage to the farmlands, would also be considered o be sustainable.

    So, what kind of definition are we using here?


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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Well, Garfunkel's career fell apart but Simon kept on going.

    But I want a definition of sustainable. IMO it's one of the most misused and poorly understood terms in the language.

    Some environmental purists call almost any human endeavor unsustainable, since they don't sustain the planet in a pure wilderness condition. This would be a very strict definition: Sustainable means an activity can be carried out indefinitely with little or no impact on the "natural" state of the region. For example, under this definition, any woodcutting woulod be considered to be unsustainable because it's taking energy out of the forest and permanently changing it's condition. All agriculture would be unsustainable for similar regions.

    I prefer a more practical definition. Some human activities are incompatible with wilderness, but they do allow a balanced state to exist for many years. This is a less strict definition: Sustainable refers to a balanced human activity that can be carried out with only a few inputs, and with minimal damage to the region, although it does produce some changes in the region. For example, under this definition, managed woodcutting would be considered sustainable if new trees grow at the same rate that old trees are cu down, and if wildlife survives in the forest. Similarly, agriculture that has been sustained in many regions for thousands of years, with minimal damage to the farmlands, would also be considered o be sustainable.

    So, what kind of definition are we using here?
    Ok... I'll stop with the Simon and Garfunkle.

    Your last definition. "Sustainable refers to a balanced human activity that can be carried out with only a few inputs, and with minimal damage to the region, although it does produce some changes in the region" seems very reasonable.

    However, I think this may be a somewhat hopeless ideal.

    There was a great example towards the end of "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond (I apologize for quoting from this so often, but it's a really great book...). He describes one very small Fijian island that existed pretty much in isolation for many, many year.

    Initially this small society existed on a diet of wild pigs, but as their population grew, they realized they would soon starve to death as the pig numbers were dwindling. They then switched to a diet of shellfish and small fish they could catch. This, too, dwindled. So they added to their diet with some easily growable nuts and have survived to this day on this modified diet.

    The takeaway here is that there's probably no human activity that will never throw the local ecology into some state of imbalance. The key to survival would be for the society to be smart enough to adapt.

    For our society, it would probably have been difficult 250 years ago to see the impact of coal-fired industry. Today, we have to look at our lifestyle and deal quickly with anything that wantonly destroys resources.

    Adaptation is a key element of "sustainability".

    But if you read the book, you realize lots of societies were unable or unwilling to adapt.
    Last edited by gerv; 10-30-10 at 09:35 PM. Reason: added link to the island of Tikopia

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Ok... I'll stop with the Simon and Garfunkle.

    Your last definition. "Sustainable refers to a balanced human activity that can be carried out with only a few inputs, and with minimal damage to the region, although it does produce some changes in the region" seems very reasonable.

    However, I think this may be a somewhat hopeless ideal.

    There was a great example towards the end of "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond (I apologize for quoting from this so often, but it's a really great book...). He describes one very small Fijian island that existed pretty much in isolation for many, many year.

    Initially this small society existed on a diet of wild pigs, but as their population grew, they realized they would soon starve to death as the pig numbers were dwindling. They then switched to a diet of shellfish and small fish they could catch. This, too, dwindled. So they added to their diet with some easily growable nuts and have survived to this day on this modified diet.

    The takeaway here is that there's probably no human activity that will never throw the local ecology into some state of imbalance. The key to survival would be for the society to be smart enough to adapt.

    For our society, it would probably have been difficult 250 years ago to see the impact of coal-fired industry. Today, we have to look at our lifestyle and deal quickly with anything that wantonly destroys resources.

    Adaptation is a key element of "sustainability".

    But if you read the book, you realize lots of societies were unable or unwilling to adapt.
    Very good points--lots to think about here: Sustainability is usually thought of as something unchanging or permanent, but actually it requires dynamic adaptation.... The example of coal-fired industry is excellent.

    Another example is agriculture. We have figured out that we have to use scientific technology to feed 6 billion people--we can't go back to simple organic gardening techniques to feed 6 billion, let alone rise to 9 billion, as is predicted. But neither can we maintain the current practices of industrial farming, since these practices obviously destroy the soil, the atmosphere, and have a lot to do with climate change. We have to find a new way to grow our food. Who knows what this will look like, or whether we can ever succeed? But I think we at least have to try, don't you?

    I think this must tie in with Robert's original question. How can we adapt our communities so they are more sustainable? Sprawl and a billion petroleum-sucking engines to get people around the sprawl--these seem comparable to the pigs on the island gerv mentioned. Kill the pigs and start eating fish instead, and a society is sustained for another 500 years. Kill the cars and start riding bikes, and maybe our society will be sustained???


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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Very good points--lots to think about here: Sustainability is usually thought of as something unchanging or permanent, but actually it requires dynamic adaptation.... The example of coal-fired industry is excellent.

    Another example is agriculture. We have figured out that we have to use scientific technology to feed 6 billion people--we can't go back to simple organic gardening techniques to feed 6 billion, let alone rise to 9 billion, as is predicted. But neither can we maintain the current practices of industrial farming, since these practices obviously destroy the soil, the atmosphere, and have a lot to do with climate change. We have to find a new way to grow our food. Who knows what this will look like, or whether we can ever succeed? But I think we at least have to try, don't you?

    I think this must tie in with Robert's original question. How can we adapt our communities so they are more sustainable? Sprawl and a billion petroleum-sucking engines to get people around the sprawl--these seem comparable to the pigs on the island gerv mentioned. Kill the pigs and start eating fish instead, and a society is sustained for another 500 years. Kill the cars and start riding bikes, and maybe our society will be sustained???
    I was thinking more in line with measurable communities we can view, like the ones I posted. Our society is way too complicated and devided to view an example of it being sustainable I think. But from an organization our green coalition has taken some of its mission statement from I will post a more specific definition.

    Sustainable Community Roundtable Report (South Puget Sound)
    "In a sustainable community, resource consumption is balanced by resources assimilated by the ecosystem. The sustainability of a community is largely determined by the web of resources providing its food, fiber, water, and energy needs and by the ability of natural systems to process its wastes. A community is unsustainable if it consumes resources faster than they can be renewed, produces more wastes than natural systems can process or relies upon distant sources for its basic needs."

    A site that is more in depth of what I was thinking is:
    http://permaculturetokyo.blogspot.com/2006/12/sustainable-defined.html

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I think this must tie in with Robert's original question. How can we adapt our communities so they are more sustainable? Sprawl and a billion petroleum-sucking engines to get people around the sprawl--these seem comparable to the pigs on the island gerv mentioned. Kill the pigs and start eating fish instead, and a society is sustained for another 500 years. Kill the cars and start riding bikes, and maybe our society will be sustained???
    The issue is not sustainability. It is sustainability over time. A car culture can probably be sustained for 150 years. A bicycle culture 500 years. A walking culture 800. (Remembering that even walking with our high-tech shoes creates by-products and side effects...).

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    "In a sustainable community, resource consumption is balanced by resources assimilated by the ecosystem. The sustainability of a community is largely determined by the web of resources providing its food, fiber, water, and energy needs and by the ability of natural systems to process its wastes. A community is unsustainable if it consumes resources faster than they can be renewed, produces more wastes than natural systems can process or relies upon distant sources for its basic needs."
    So let's imagine a bicycle-riding society. A population can only support typical bicycle riding activity for ... say... 500 years. We convince people to patch their tubes instead of throwing them out. Our technicians beg tire manufacturers to reduce toxic compound in tires that enter our food systems as tires wear out and re-enter the soil.

    Still, at a certain point, tubes are useless and must re-enter our soil systems. Ditto for tires.

    So... beyond the issue of sustainability over time... here we introduce another tactic to "īmprove" sustainability. If we are able to export our used tubes to a remote location, our society appears to have beaten the 500 year time limit. We have exported our tube and tire problem somewhere else. This, of course, happens every day of the week. The Dominican Republic realizes its supply of trees is being decimated, stop cutting down trees and imports them from Haiti. The US realizes that landfills of computer chips and boards will fill the soil system with toxic heavy metals, so we send them to China.

    Of course, we are only fooling ourselves. By-products stored in either landfills or China will eventually work their way back to our soil systems. It is only a matter of time. We can fool our population into thinking otherwise, but the deception will eventually be revealed.

    Apparently, there is some kind of information feedback loop that is required to make people see that some activity is really not working. We might eventually come to understand that our bicycle tube problem is working its way into our carrots. This could take a while if we exported our junk to China. It would be actually better if we kept our junk close by.... because we could see side effects quickly and respond quickly.

    That doesn't mean we would have to throw our bicycle refuse out in the streets (although that would be the quickest way to wake us up...) but we do have the responsibility to remember that every bicycle tube, Starbucks coffee cup, Roundup lawn weed killer... all of this ... is going somewhere and will eventually work its way back to our carrots.

    So... long story short... sustainability seems to have two big fudge factors 1) time and 2) how we define the information loop that sets up an adaptive reaction (ie, correction...)
    Last edited by gerv; 10-31-10 at 06:25 AM. Reason: So...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Sustainable Community Roundtable Report (South Puget Sound)
    "In a sustainable community, resource consumption is balanced by resources assimilated by the ecosystem. The sustainability of a community is largely determined by the web of resources providing its food, fiber, water, and energy needs and by the ability of natural systems to process its wastes. A community is unsustainable if it consumes resources faster than they can be renewed, produces more wastes than natural systems can process or relies upon distant sources for its basic needs."
    I don't think this is a usable definition. Cities, particularly cities in anything resembling modern society, simply cannot exist without relying on "distant sources" for basic needs like food. A city, given current technology, can't produce enough food to feed it's population. Food must be imported. That's not unique to modern cities, either. Cities in general, at any level of technology, have to import their food.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcanum View Post
    I don't think this is a usable definition. Cities, particularly cities in anything resembling modern society, simply cannot exist without relying on "distant sources" for basic needs like food. A city, given current technology, can't produce enough food to feed it's population. Food must be imported. That's not unique to modern cities, either. Cities in general, at any level of technology, have to import their food.
    Yes, and cities also have to export their waste, which gerv says is one of the problems. (distance = poorly designed information loop = "out of sight, out of mind")

    On the other hand, in many ways cities are the greenest way for people to live, on a per capita basis (efficiencies and economy of scale). How can we resolve this conflict to make a sustainable city? I think economics is part of the answer. For example, if you make waste valuable, cities will export less of it. This is the idea behind recycling projects--giving more value to garbage so it isn't just thrown away into the biosphere in an unsustainable manner. Another example is zoning and other restrictive use laws that make land more valuable so people don't "waste" it.

    I think Robert's communities need economists on their planning boards as well as architects and engineers.
    Last edited by Roody; 10-31-10 at 09:23 AM.


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    Animals, humans included, are not naturally sustainable using the common definition of the term. They/we will tend to consume resources and grow, until something (usually starvation or disease) curbs the growth and resets the system. No human system has avoided this boom/bust cycle, including the communities in Africa/Asia that were previously mentioned in the thread. In fact, there is evidence that both the Gobi and Saharan deserts were caused by the actions of those early cultures.

    One problem with attempting to be sustainable, using the common definition, is a failure to calculate all of the costs. One big one is that modern economic systems are dependent upon growth. Another is a failure to calculate all of the costs associated with some choice. The one that is commonly referenced is the use of reusable mugs versus paper cups for coffee. These numbers are from memory and may be a little off, but it takes about three years of reuse (and that means just using one cup per person) to break even on the impact of using paper cups. For a ceramic mug the numbers are even worse, about 8 years to break even. How many people end up using one single cup for that long? So the paper cups are usually more environmentally sustainable--something contrary to the accepted belief. Further the paper cups provide a much higher economic boost to the community.

    Like Roody said above the key to any community is making things have a good economic basis. Recycling is really just starting to make such sense. For much of my life, these recycling programs cost money. Now they are starting to break even. In the US long range plans typically do include an economic component; however, since economics is more art than science, it doesn't take much political pressure to change the numbers to something the politicians want them to say. The proverbial rose colored glasses.

    Personally, I have faith in technology and human invention. By and large our communities are cleaner, healthier than they have ever been in the course of human history (1st world). Non-essential concerns such as sustainability are the product of economic prosperity. That prosperity yields the ability to improve living conditions. Maintaining that prosperity is the key to any hopes for sustainability.

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    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Solar Power Is Unsustainable!

    Solar power is unsustainable! The ultimate factor in survival is energy. With a fixed amount of energy a society can only grow so much. It takes energy to maintain a community or a body. When solar power gets integrated into society in a big way that society will have the opportunity to grow. The more solar power added into any society the more it can grow.

    The money savings will be put into other things like goods. After all, money needs to be used otherwise it is just numbers in a computer or on a slip of paper. When that money is spent it must go somewhere for something.

    If politicians realized this they would be all over it. There would be gigantic economic growth due to people having more money in their pockets. I'm cynical in this regard because I believe any politician on a national level is more interested in helping big business than the environment or his constituents.

    Solar power will create more energy for the society which will cause the society to grow. Is that sustainable? As battery technology improves there will be no excuse for not using solar power.

    I suppose having everybody using mass public transit will also create unsustainability because more people will have more disposable income which will cause more spending on goods.

    Ultimately sustainability must be realized in the minds of people. Wants and desires for bigger and better stuff will need to be altered. That is the only way a society will be able to live forever. Humanity isn't up for that right now. All we can do is lead by example until enough people in power agree with us about sustainability.
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    So far it sounds like human society simply isn't sustainable by any agreed upon definition in this forum. I happen to agree with the definition I posted as far as it goes. I see us in a symbiotic relationship with our community and even the earth. It is one of the reasons I did a search on what our society, or at least what was posted on the net, considered a green or sustainable community. We hear in bandied about in these forums as if it had a definition and yet we can’t pin it down in any meaningful way. That would lead me to a conclusion I have had for some time that the only real reason for someone to be car free or car light is because of individual, personal choice.

    If as gerv indicates human society isn’t sustainable and we are doomed to destruction just who is to say what is a better way to live? It isn’t like a rescue helicopter will come and save us if we just hold on a little longer. But there are some people that feel we can develop sustainable communities that go more hand in hand with nature rather than try to fly in the face of of nature and build a massive fortress or castle wall and assume we are sustainable.

    Humans need a goal to work towards not a simple condemnation of what they are doing. My goal was to develop the smallest carbon foot print I could without moving to central Africa just to get a better score. Cutting back on driving was a great part of it as was doing some of my shopping by bike.

    Homes built to fit into the landscape or compliment the landscape intuitively seem greener than homes built to obscure the landscape. Yes I was lucky and had the ability to move close to a major source of water, food and yes sustainable electricity. My community is powered by nuclear, wind and soon one of the largest solar generating plants in the US. It is also why I wanted to see what the posted green communities looked like to see what more I could do personally.

    But could gerv be correct and corporately we can do nothing to make a sustainable community for the long run?

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    Senior Member ro-monster's Avatar
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    People often overlook the most fundamental thing we could do to make human civilization more sustainable at this point -- curtail breeding. With 6 billion people, we are simply overtaxing the ability of the planet's systems to deal with the by-products of our societies. If we got down to 3 billion, we could use fewer resources and produce a lot less waste. It wouldn't solve the problem of creating a sustainable way of life but it would make the problem much easier to solve.

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    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
    People often overlook the most fundamental thing we could do to make human civilization more sustainable at this point -- curtail breeding. With 6 billion people, we are simply overtaxing the ability of the planet's systems to deal with the by-products of our societies. If we got down to 3 billion, we could use fewer resources and produce a lot less waste. It wouldn't solve the problem of creating a sustainable way of life but it would make the problem much easier to solve.
    Yes, but we're not supposed to bring that up because there are religious folks who don't cotton to the idea of reducing population growth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
    People often overlook the most fundamental thing we could do to make human civilization more sustainable at this point -- curtail breeding. With 6 billion people, we are simply overtaxing the ability of the planet's systems to deal with the by-products of our societies. If we got down to 3 billion, we could use fewer resources and produce a lot less waste. It wouldn't solve the problem of creating a sustainable way of life but it would make the problem much easier to solve.
    Well in respect to population growth the US isn’t all that bad. We have a birth rate of 13.83 per 1000. Our population growth rate is only .97 percent. We do get hit a bit because of migration to the US with a net increase of 4.25 per 1000 coming into the US.

    Where you run into resistance talking about zero population growth is they are telling us that most of the population growth we will see in the next 20 to 40 years will come from developing countries and they are the ones than can afford it the least and will resist change the most.

    But let’s say there were a way to get to ZPG would that make a community or society sustainable?

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    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by myrridin View Post
    Animals, humans included, are not naturally sustainable using the common definition of the term. They/we will tend to consume resources and grow, until something (usually starvation or disease) curbs the growth and resets the system. No human system has avoided this boom/bust cycle, including the communities in Africa/Asia that were previously mentioned in the thread. In fact, there is evidence that both the Gobi and Saharan deserts were caused by the actions of those early cultures.

    One problem with attempting to be sustainable, using the common definition, is a failure to calculate all of the costs. One big one is that modern economic systems are dependent upon growth. Another is a failure to calculate all of the costs associated with some choice. The one that is commonly referenced is the use of reusable mugs versus paper cups for coffee. These numbers are from memory and may be a little off, but it takes about three years of reuse (and that means just using one cup per person) to break even on the impact of using paper cups. For a ceramic mug the numbers are even worse, about 8 years to break even. How many people end up using one single cup for that long? So the paper cups are usually more environmentally sustainable--something contrary to the accepted belief. Further the paper cups provide a much higher economic boost to the community.

    Like Roody said above the key to any community is making things have a good economic basis. Recycling is really just starting to make such sense. For much of my life, these recycling programs cost money. Now they are starting to break even. In the US long range plans typically do include an economic component; however, since economics is more art than science, it doesn't take much political pressure to change the numbers to something the politicians want them to say. The proverbial rose colored glasses.

    Personally, I have faith in technology and human invention. By and large our communities are cleaner, healthier than they have ever been in the course of human history (1st world). Non-essential concerns such as sustainability are the product of economic prosperity. That prosperity yields the ability to improve living conditions. Maintaining that prosperity is the key to any hopes for sustainability.
    Human communities and animal populations are sustainable if they are in balance with their environment. There have been numerous examples in history of this - to say that they aren't sustainable by definition is just silly. Of course, over time, conditions will change and then the population needs to seek a new balance.

    To say that western civilization based communities are cleaner and healthier is insane. Go research accounts of what North America was like when Europeans first arrived. The amount of pollution and destruction that the USA produces around the world is horrifying. You might also look around and notice all the people with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in the modern world. Sure the first world countries are nicer than the third, but it is the same system producing both. The prosperity of the USA is partly due to stealing resources and cheap labor from these other countries. There are not enough resources and no amount of technology that will allow everyone in the world to live like Americans.
    Last edited by Thor29; 10-31-10 at 03:39 PM. Reason: spelling

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