In the United States the median household works over
half of it's time to pay taxes and interest to bankers. How can we have
the nerve to consider ourselves "free" when over half the fruits of our labor
are conscripted by the parasites! Give me a break! Even the
slaveholders had to provide food and shelter and that burden falls upon us.
Those remaining dollars get sucked up by multi-national corporations,
agri-business and health care which is designed to bankrupt you if nothing else
The Disaster That Is Suburbia
This situation is a function of, among other things,
the socioeconomic structures which, if I didn't know better ;-) , would
appear to be designed to insure that the middle class in this country lived
isolated lives with no sense of community and had little or no chance to
accumulate anything other than debt. Inefficiencies (lost
money) are everywhere! Look at the very design of suburbia!
Absolute insurance that you must own two automobiles per household to get to
work and provide for any other goods and services because there is nothing
at all you could possibly walk to. Not a park, a coffee shop, newspaper
stand, bar or restaurant. Not a shipping center or a DVD or tool rental
place. Not a library or a swimming pool. Not a gym or an office copy
You might have been able to squeak by with one
automobile when it only took one person per household in the workforce.
Those days are long gone. Funny how that works!
This is not an accident and the fact that we fail to change the
design of how we live is nothing but a failure of both imagination and
responsibility on our part. If we fail to take
responsibility for the sane design of our lives, there are governments,
corporations, and banks and all sorts of "Think Tanks" that I assure you will
design our neighborhoods and zoning laws not for your benefit but theirs.
We need new models. Desperately need new models!
Even if we didn't have the monumental threats of
Peak Oil and Climate Change,
record unemployment which is
over 22%! , and a worldwide financial crisis, we desperately need
to regenerate resilient communities that have their own substantial internal
economies and food production systems because I can assure you that the
corporations are going to continue to outsource any and all jobs they can.
Forget government ! How much change have you seen from
Mr. Change? No! He Can't! should be the slogan for the
next election! The sooner we realize government is not going to solve our
problems the sooner we can get to work solving them interdependently.
Just hope government stays out of the way is about the best thing that could
happen. Government should be a tenth the size of the one we have and
when we step up to the plate and start solving some of these problems ourselves,
the arguments for big government are going to look pretty silly.
I actually think we will be able to put the government back
into the hands of the people only when we regain financial (including recovering
more personal time) control of our lives which will come at the expense of the
banks, corporations and government (ordered by influence)
. Any power they presently have is because we blindly
serve their interests with our labor and our dollars.
Live debt free and you are no longer the direct slave of the
bankers. Don't hold dollars or the bankers will steal their value through
inflation. Own your energy and food needs and you need so little income
that your tax dollars are perhaps a third or a fourth of what they otherwise
would be. Invest in community and you will get a far more satisfying
daily experience and if the US does undergo a USSR style collapse along the
lines predicted by
Dmitry Orlov, that community will be your lifeline and your security.
If this project succeeds on a larger scale, I assure you it
won't be because of anything other than one thing ; It provides a quality of
life (experience not stuff), that is superior to what we presently have and does
so at a lower economic cost. I maintain that given
the host of designed in inefficiencies that this is not a very difficult task
economically as long as you think outside the present box, or rather cage they
have designed for us. I consider myself a practical idealist and
think with enough vision and perseverance that a Utopia beyond what any of us
can presently envision is possible is indeed attainable.
The "Secret Sauce" is to make individual automobile ownership
unnecessary. This is done by residents working from home or in the
hamlet's job areas and designing the Common House to provide a single
community owned business model that is what I would call "Life Support".
Instead of a separate bakery, coffee shop, restaurant, or shipping center, a
single multi-function model emerges. This is much the same way the 7-11
convenience store was designed as a multi-function after normal business hours
store model. This was a totally new category of store, so the Hamlet General
Store is designed in the same spirit. As community needs change,
services provided and associated personnel / hours are accordingly reconfigured.
This "right sizing" to fit the needs of the community insures optimal efficiency
from a business point of view. Any excess profit is redistributed as the
Because the 20 households which are footing the bill
for the community are providing the housing for the support staff, as well as
providing food and transportation facilities for the support staff, the dollars
required to provide a high standard of living for the support staff are minimal.
Teenagers and retired persons living in the community can work part time at day
care, farming, food preparation, and other service functions. A
community credit system using personal ID cards for food, automobile use,
exchange of services, allows a local "currency" system that allows a fair
accounting and flexibility should an older or highly paid individual to
contribute more of a balance of money and others to pull
their weight, or satisfy their personal desire to contribute through a heavier
portion of community work.
Banks like to see cookie cutter "fee simple" run of the
mill projects. Conventional, this ain't..... YET! Therein
lies the need to be creative and the opportunity to be ethical by not
participating in feeding the parasites. The goal is to attract two to four
well heeled participants or short term outside private financing for the
additional construction. I intend to finance the sale of the
underlying land and the common house, as well as the greenhouse, 2,400 square
foot storage building and farm equipment and some of the automobiles.
An additional 2.5 million dollars would likely need to be fronted for the
additional construction and remodeling.
This unconventionality gives the creative options of
putting the farm and associated equipment, buildings, and even the
transportation pool under the umbrella of the tax deductible mortgage note.
Interest on food and transportation expense and infrastructure further reduce
the tax bite. Who's to say that interest rate can't be 3% and
refinanced periodically to be sure it's 99% interest? Let's beat the bastards at
their own game! You don't have to cheat. You DO have to be
Development of the 52 acres is designed as a two step
process. The first stage is a small village hamlet of about 20 units
with three additional units for a full time farmer, deli-kitchen chef, and a
Jack of All Trades - Maintenance, Errands, General Manager, Floater.
Residents may choose to work part time in the deli, day-care, farm, or other
service positions. This Village Hamlet is centered on my
present 7,600 square foot home which will become the Common House with a
Deli-Restaurant-Coffeshop-Pub-Newstand, a Office Center with copy and scan
services, shipping services, dvd and tool rental, shopping services.
The common house has a pool, gym, kitchen, dining, walk in root cellar /
refrigerator / freezer, library, laundry, child care, schooling and
recreation rooms as well as specialty rooms such a video editing suites and a
computer with internet access for those residents which only occasionally have
need for a computer or internet access.
The 20 units are purchasing into the common house, the
housing for the support staff, the farmland, the greenhouse, and the 2,400
square foot shop/barn building. There is a lease on demand
automobile fleet with a mix of sedans, a truck and a van. The
expectation is that residents are either work from home or work in the hamlet as
support staff and that an automobile is something that is used once every one or
two weeks. The Goal is that 95% of the things you normally need to hop
into an automobile to purchase are available in the support services provided by
the Common House.
There are obstacles to designing something that is not
automobile centric. Most present zoning codes mandate streets and
parking that is incompatible with an optimized pedestrian community design.
For the last year and a half Greg Ramsey of
Village Habitat have been
working with Dekalb County on a more flexible zoning district designation.
It has been a pleasant surprise how many commissioners are hip to some of the
directions we need to go and are working with us to insure that we have enough
flexibility to evolve community design rather than mandate designs that
everyone will know are bad in 10 years that almost no one knows are
bad today at the peak of oil availability.
Spaces and Structures That Support "Life"
"A Timeless Way of Building" by Christopher Alexander
explores a facet of human behavior that is crucial to designing spaces and
environments. I'll paraphrase.
Within the course of the day different needs arise which if readily
met allow us to feel most alive and happy. We may feel a need to be
alone or to have social interaction. We may have a need for a "nature fix"
to play with our favorite pet. To take a walk or a nap. To watch
children play or to be nowhere near children! If the environment has
spaces which facilitate the ready expression of these needs we feel alive and
happy. If the time and effort to reach the park is too high we just become
frustrated and forego the satisfaction entirely. If we can't readily
walk down to the community coffee shop for a bit of social interaction, we just
grin and bear it. We pile up frustration upon frustration feeling less
alive when our environments do not readily support the full expression
the changing unpredictable forces that ebb and flow within us every day and call
for immediate expression and satisfaction if we are to have integrity and wholeness.
The goal of the design of this village hamlet is
to provide the spaces that allow the full gamut of human needs to be expressed
and fully realized in a readily accessible environment.
Pictures Below are
Not From The Project But Examples of The Spaces and Feelings That Must Be
Supported by the Farm Village Hamlet.
I believe it is an absolute travesty that one generation
cannot leave to the next a debt free residence in a village, a share in a
working farm - net food sufficiency, and energy self sufficiency.
When I die I want to leave behind a thriving community, and if I have surviving
dependents who need assistance, some unused community credits to care for them.
Otherwise I want to pretty much die broke. I love those lines from
George Bernard Shaw's introductory dedication to the play "Man and Superman"
This is the true joy in life: the being
used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The
being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments
and grievances complaining
that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion
that my life belongs to the
whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die - for the harder I work, the more I
live. I rejoice in life for its
own sake. Life is no "brief candle" to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which
I have got hold of for the
moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on
to future generations.
And also the only real tragedy in life is
the being used by personally minded men for purposes which you recognize to be
base. All the rest is at worst mere misfortune or mortality: this alone is
misery, slavery, hell on earth; and the revolt against it is the only force that
offers a manís work to the poor artist, whom our personally minded rich people
would so willingly employ as pandar, buffoon, beauty monger, sentimentalizer and
This EcoVillage concept is designed with these goals at the forefront.
challenges of the next two decades are unprecedented. Peak Oil, Climate
Change, and the likely collapse of the financial system will wreak havoc on the
socioeconomic landscape. Our very survival as individuals will be
challenged. I firmly believe the ONLY answer to these problems is a
shift to developing new socioeconomic models based upon Interdependence,
Sustainable Local Food Production, and Pedestrian Village Lifestyles that
reverse the automobile-centric lifestyles US citizens currently live.
The good news is that in spite of these challenges, I
believe it's possible for humankind to actually Thrive in a manner simply not
possible with our extremely wasteful isolated individual lifestyles.
My two core
values are Growth and Contribution. I desire to be in association
with others who have a burning desire to contribute something constructive and
of value to humankind. I have felt an internal unmet need for
community. It seems to me that the
It is my
personal belief that we are born with a personal predisposition towards
contribution as our highest human value. I feel this internally and I feel
it makes perfect evolutionary sense. An individual was no match for a
mammoth or bison, but collectively we are the most formidable force on the
earth. I believe human survival and evolution cannot be thought of except
as the evolution of an interdependent group of humans.
background for this is of immense importance to the health and welfare of our
individual persons, our families; nuclear and extended, and the health of our
communities, and I believe even the health of our democracy and personal
freedoms are hanging in the balance. We are living in a fast
changing world where it usually takes two adults to support a family.
You may be making $100,000 a year today and tomorrow your job is outsourced to
India. These are scary volatile times for the individual and the nuclear
I believe there is a new model that is actually
the "old" , "original" model that mankind evolved under that offers a far more
secure social and economic structure that will allow us to regain both time and
security and enhance the quality of our lives. The math works, and
with appropriate house design, the social aspects work.
Let's start with the current situation. Below is a
breakdown of the expenses of an average American family from a government
Income Before Taxes
Number of People per Household
Number of Wage Earners
Average Number of Vehicles
Total Non Tax Expendatures
$ / Person
Housing Total Inc Utilities
Presumed Federal, State, Propt Taxes
Pensions Life Ins - Social Sec
Apparel and Services
Personal Care Products / Services
easily see that food is one of the least expensive items. The bulk of the
expense is in housing, taxes, and transportation.
My goal is to come up with a new model that
the work day from 8 hours + 1 hour drive time to
4 to 6 hours with no drive time..... giving time for social activities and
other personal pursuits.
Let me use a personal illustration. I am an
entrepreneur who works from home. With a full time secretary the salary I
was paying was over $36,000 per year. My biggest personal expense
was a mortgage for $465,000. My monthly mortgage payments were over $3,000
per month. I was astonished to find out that if I put the cost
of that one employee as additional payment towards principle, that I could pay
off my mortgage totally in only 6 years!
What to do to cover the bases labor wise?
I have some extra space I am not using. ( Don't most houses! ) By fixing up
a small apartment
1) A Broad Range of Implementations From Extended Family Home to Community
2) Preference Towards Simple Models Compatible With Single Family Zoning
a) Security - Physical and Economic
I have been trying to come up with an explanation for why
humans appear to be so insane since sometime in my mid teens.
Philosophy hasn't been much help to me but studying anthropology and
evolutionary biology has been quite fruitful. First of all you need
to understand that all animals in the wild, including undomesticated humans
survive primarily off of what I call their "emotional intelligences."
Healthy animals in the wild are guided by their emotional preferences which
natural selection has fine tuned for "workability". Some squirrels
probably didn't think gathering acorns in the fall was "fun"..... and they and
their genes didn't stick around very long. The squirrel isn't thinking
"gee, winter's coming, I better stash some food" any more than when I see a
naked woman I am saying, gee my genes are telling me that if I don't procreate,
this could be the end of the line for them. For reasons unknown to me I am
aroused and it's more like "Looks like FUN to ME!" is calling the shots.
Emotional intelligence is in control and the only reason I have those
preferences is because they happen to work for the perpetuation of life and
those emotional biases carried genetically.
The next thing that is crucial to understand that we
have been brainwashed by our screwed up culture into believing that we are
supposed to be "independent". We hear "survival of the fittest" and
we think in individual terms. Most of the domestication or socialization
of humans is beating this unnatural notion of independent survival into their
being. When you study some of the literature on present day hunter
gatherer clans, quite a different story emerges. Colin Turnbull in
his excellent book "The Forest People" wrote that life as part of a pygmy
clan was very easy, however if one of them couldn't get along and was kicked out
of the tribe it amounted to a death sentence if he could not find another tribe
to take up with. Evolution has fine tuned our
genes and our primary emotional intelligences and preferences for
"interdependent survival" not "independent survival".
If being "on your own" in the world amounted to a
death sentence for our ancestors, you can see why it should put us in a state of
fear just as the natural fear of heights, loud noises and the like are adaptive,
so too would be the insecurity that would go with independence. Could this
be why people driven to accumulate wealth never really have enough or feel
secure. All natural appetites for food or sex can be satiated.
It's as though we have been brainwashed into the futile effort of satiating our
true human need for companionship and a vehicle for our own personal need for
contribution with something that can never fill the bill. That is truly a
sad and pathetic state.
All of a sudden a lot of apparently quirky human behavior
starts to make a LOT of sense from a standpoint of being adaptive. For
example, the need for agreement. You might see what looked in the
distance like a bear to you and I thought was an elephant. You say, "see that
bear in the distance". I look and see what looks like an elephant
and say, yeah and leave it at that because I don't care if we agree or not. The need to
agree insures that the organism that is surviving, the clan; has all the eyes
and ears of the clan networked and in communication. The human tendency to
gossip is no different.
Another thing that started to make sense was that I knew deep
down inside that I got a bigger charge off of doing something for others I cared
about than for myself. I came to that realization one morning when I was
reviewing my "values". There were maybe ten of them among them health,
growth, contribution, financial security, etc. Then it hit me.
Most of those "values" weren't so much inherent true "values" but more
"capacities". Ultimately I could only identify two on the list as
true values that resonated with my being; Growth and Contribution.
If you had 40 individuals surviving
interdependently it makes perfect sense that something that benefited the group
should indeed have a larger emotional payoff than something that benefited the
individual. Look at our heroes and you frequently see the
theme of an individual who sacrifices himself for his companions. Sadly
governments make cannon fodder of idealistic young men off of this natural
tendency. Evil bastards!
Now I'll be the first to admit that I am a poorly
"socialized" or "domesticated" human. I consider it one of my better
traits and I am attempting to become less domesticated all the time.
One time I remember being frustrated thinking "If only I had more discipline, I
could conquer the world". Let me tell you something. No
animal in the wild has any concept of discipline. It's totally
unnatural. Talk to an animal trainer and they will tell you that the most
effective trainers work through enrolling the animal into wanting to do the
activity like play or a game.
There are two motivations; push and pull. Pull is
internal and natural, push is social conditioning. Sick maladjusted
humans are so socialized into pushing themselves around they have lost their
ability to even remember what "pull" is. They had it naturally as
children, but if they have been properly domesticated, they go through life
pushing themselves and others around. Pull feeds your energy level.
Push drains it. In Alice Miller's book
"For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in
Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence" she states that in studying the
upbringing of some of the worst Nazis that the only common thread was being
brought up in strict "model" German households. The emotional
lobotomy of the socialization process appears to be able to sever the link to
one's natural moral instincts. If done exceedingly well you get a
Optimizing The Human Experience
If you go into a plant nursery most of the plants will have a
little plastic card identifying the plant and how to optimally culture that
particular species. Instructions like "needs full sun and well
drained sandy soil, water infrequently, etc". I have come to
the conclusion that if you want to identify the dominant conditions that will
allow the human species to thrive, that at the top of the list would be
interdependence. This whole independence thing started with
agriculture. It made it possible for the first time to live stationary
independent lives where we could accumulate wealth. It gave us
cities, governments, armies, libraries, and all of the offspring of technology
including ...... nuclear weapons. No longer was our security our
immediate clan. Instead of banding together to bring down a wooly
mammoth, we were conquering each other.
Most people haven't a clue just how far the intuitions of
banks, government, and corporations have evolved to align themselves in a
predatory relationship against the individual. These institutions have had
control over the educational system and the media and programmed our paradigms
so most accept their subjugation as "natural". The median household
in the United States turns over half of their earnings to the banks and
government ! They haven't a clue as to how the monetary system actually
works because they have been brainwashed into false concepts of the nature of
money. It is my belief that these institutions have systematically
engineered our socioeconomic "norms" to their benefit and our detriment.
Divide and conquer seems to be high on the list of weapons that have been
employed. Pressures to break up the nuclear family, put women into
the workforce and the very design of suburbia is to isolate us one from another.
The extreme inefficiencies of individual survival guarantee we have to work
extended hours to survive and that we will never be able to accumulate