Sustainable Civilization

From the Grass Roots Up

Introduction - 2 - 3

I. Your Homestead And Essential Life Support - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

II. Physical Sustainability Factors and Limitations - 2

III. Neighborhoods and the Web of Life - 2

IV. Sustainability Principles or Guidelines - 2

V. Ecovillage, Sustainable Civilization Minimum planning for continued organized society.

VI. Sustainability Programs, Politics, and Technology - 2 - 3

VII. The City As Ecology - 2

VIII. Sustainability Laws.

IX. Global Civilization.

X. Future.


A. Appropriate Technology - 2 - 3

B. Mess Micro Environment Subsistence System

C. Factoids - 2

D. Medicine Bag - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

E. Estate Planning - Providing for Future Generations - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8

F. Bibliography

G. Biography

H. Sustainable Tucson - Tucson, Arizona Ecocity analysis

I. South Tucson – Ecovillage analysis

J. Oak Flower – Neighborhood analysis

K. Our Family Urban Homestead Plan

L. Our Plant Selections

Sustainable Civilization: From the Grass Roots Up

Chapter I - Your Homestead And Essential Life Support - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6


A "root cellar" room inside the home along the north wall. Ice / freezing capabilities increases the food storage options greatly. Solar powered absorbent / refrigerant (no compressor) was accomplished in the 1800's, and once made, can operate for decades. Proven combinations are:

Lithium bromide / water (LiBr/H2O) Water / Ammonia (H2O/NH3) Sodium thicyanate/ammonia (NaSCN/NH3) Lithium nitrate/ammonia (LiNO3/NH3) Calcium chloride/ammonia (CaCl2/NH3) Strontium chloride/ammonia (SrCl2/NH3)

Evaporative cooling (where water is a readily available resource) can make a large difference. A simple approach, perhaps to hold food, is a covered fired clay pot, recessed in sand filling a much larger, unfired clay pot, keeping the sand moist, and the device shaded. For a higher tech consider and air tight container, and a vacuum pump. Fill the container part way with water, and pull a vacuum. As the pressure lowers, the water boils at lower temperatures. While some of the water boils off, some will freeze.


As potentially your greatest need for solar heat, the kitchen needs to have the most unrestricted solar access. Consider keeping the heat, humidity and smells of the kitchen totally isolated from the air of the rest of the home.

Winston non imaging concentrators could provide a constant hotspot for an oven.

Mirror or lens concentration on coils of circulating oil could provide a means to route concentrated heat to a "burner" coil arrangement for a stove cooking surface.

Once you have something hot, use insulation. An example, bring a pot of stew, cooking meat, etc. up to a rapid boil, and put the covered pot in an insulated box.


If you're using compost toilets, perhaps you want the bath well vented, separate from the primary home system. Provided you are not using soaps or putting chemicals down the drain toxic to plants, your bath and wash water is a valuable gray water resource.


Sanitation. Human urine and manure contains valuable nutrients needed by the soil. Prior to re use, the pathogens present must be eliminated.

Compost toilet. Low or no water systems where the human discharges are retained at temperatures and with airflow for bacteria to process the discharges into safe fertilizer. Urine must either be diverted and processed separately, or most of it is lost to evaporation.

Expedient: Collect human feces and urine in a container (e.g, a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it) and after each use, cover the wastes with an organic cover material such as sawdust (or peat moss, dried leaves, or even dirt if it is dry enough to be absorbent). When the container is full, transfer of the contents to a compost bin. The cover material serves a dual function of suppressing odors and providing the carbon needed by decomposer organisms to balance the nitrogen present in urine. Each time the waste/sawdust mixture is transferred to the compost bin, it is covered with a sufficient amount of coarse organic material such as straw, hay, leaves or weeds. Kitchen garbage and yard waste may be put in the same compost bin. Once the last addition is made, the contents of the bin are allowed to compost for a year.

Establish a compost pile of about a meter cube. Effective composting requires: Sufficient moisture (50 75%) Dry browns dry leaves and grass, which are high in carbon Wet greens green grass and leaves which are high in nitrogen Air throughout the pile Soil organisms.

It is desirable to have a ratio of 25 30 carbon to 1 nitrogen or much more of the dry browns to the wet greens. The exact ratio is not too critical, but if your pile is not working very well try to get closer to the ratio and/or add some rich soil. If nitrogen is low some urine can be added. The pile needs to be turned so that all materials reach the desired temperature at some time during the process.

Daily additions of peelings, stems and stalks from vegetables and fruits keep the pile loose and temperature up. Piles which are tight have lower temperatures, possibly due to lack of air which, in turn, prevents the various organisms from working. Piles receiving very moist air will remain moist and tight due to lack of evaporation of moisture produced by composting and that being deposited on the pile by the users. The composting process will be slowed or inhibited by excess moisture concentrations.

Heat pasteurization. 30 minutes in a solar oven at 250+ degrees should kill all pathogens. However, a significant portion of the carbon & nitrogen is lost. Lower temperatures must be 150F (65C) for an hour, 120F (50C) for 24 hours or 115F (46C) for a week.

Solarization. Place a 7.5 centimeter (3 in) layer of compost from the toilet on the ground and cover it with a clear plastic sheet (1 or 4 mil thickness) when the outdoor temperature is over 27C (80F). The compost needs to be quite smooth and free of any plants or lumps so that the plastic film will have intimate contact with the soil and compost. The edges should be sealed so that moisture is not lost. The temperature should reach at least 55 to 60C (131 to 140F) for about two weeks. The compost should be very moist (50 75%) but not soggy, such that water can be squeezed out of it. If you need, and can generate the temperatures, quick pathogen treatment can be done, allowing less "careful" disposal.

Pathogens, such as the Hepatitis A virus, which is the most heat resistant intestinal pathogen, are rendered inert by a temperature of 70 C (158 F) in ten minutes, 75C (167 F) in one minute, and 80 C (176 F) in five seconds (2)(Harp, 1996 Effect of Pasteurization, Environmental Biology). These temperatures are easily obtained by simple solar collectors.

Direct soil distribution. The book, "Future Fertility, Transforming Human Waste into Human Wealth", John Beeby describes a rotation system using perennial crops.


Human refuse can have viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and worms (helminths). There are a number of each type that are possible. In urine, bacteria can cause typhoid or paratyphoid fever and worms can cause schistosomiasis. In feces, viruses can cause diarrhea, infectious hepatitis and poliomyelitis; bacteria can cause typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, food poisoning, dysentery, cholera, and diarrhea; protozoa can cause diarrhea dysentery, colonic ulceration, and liver abscess. Some of the worm parasites that can be present are hookworm, various flukes, pinworm, various tapeworms, roundworm, and threadworm. These pathogens are of concern in human refuse.

If human refuse is applied directly to crops, the length of time that the pathogens survive depends upon soil moisture, pH, type of soil, temperature, sunlight, and organic matter. Bacteria and viruses cannot penetrate undamaged vegetable skins, but they can survive on the surfaces of vegetables, especially root vegetables. Sunshine and dry air can help kill the pathogens. If there is any concern about pathogens, compost should be applied to long season crops at the time of planting so that sufficient time passes for the pathogens to die.

To have greater confidence in your compost for your garden, you can permit just your family to use your compost toilet . Then you know what has been deposited in it. Another option is to just spread the compost from the toilet only on tree and bush crops. In addition, the more air that can be trapped in the pile, the better the pile will heat up and inactivate the pathogens that might be present.

Average pounds produced per person per year. Source: Future Fertility

                    Nitrogen     Phosphorus         Potassium          Calcium

Urine 7.5 1.6 1.6 2.3 Manure 2.8 1.9 0.8 2.0 Total 10.3 3.5 2.4 4.3

Range required per 100 ft. sq. of garden

Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium Calcium

0.1 - 0.5     0.2 - 0.6              0.15 - 0.50         0.2 - 0.8

Range one human's effluent can fertilize each year in ft. sq.

Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium Calcium

Urine 1500 - 7500 266 - 800 320 - 1067 287 - 1150

Manure 560 - 2800 316 - 950 160 - 533 250 - 1000

Total 2060 - 10300 582 - 1750 480 - 1600 537 - 2150

Expect each person to produce around 1 gallon of manure per month, which should be applied to no less than 50 ft. sq. monthly, otherwise you're adding too much nitrogen to the growing medium. Layer manure, then 2" soil, seeds, and sprinkle soil. Move on to next 50 ft. sq., cycle back annually for 3 years, then shift to another set of beds.

Urine must be diluted with water from 5 to 10 to 1.


Mishandled sewage creates one of the developing world's worst underlying problems. It leads to death and disease, contamination of land and water, and chronically unsanitary conditions for millions.

However, there an unsophisticated sewage treatment approach may fit the needs of the Third World, and a First World in crisis. This simple and inexpensive approach employs various aquatic plants grown in artificial wetlands . Wastewaters merely trickle through man made watery gardens in which living plants clarify the waste stream to the point where it is safe for people, animals, and the environment at large. In principle, this low tech process should be ideal for the world's poor countries. Plants grow extremely well in the heat of tropics. In fact, because there are no winter seasons, the wetland systems should work better there than here. Yet it is unknown.


A variation of wetland and direct distribution is the Aerobic Pumice Wick presented by TOM WATSON. All liquid wastes drain into a filter tank to hold solids for aerobic composting, allowing the liquid to drain to a bed/tank. Set up an 18" bed of pumice in a waterproof base, with a cover of around 6" of soil. Plant roots access the bed use the nutrients and transpire the water. In the case of too much liquid, the wick acts as a filter and filtered water drains out of the exit pipe. Please ensure liquid does not rise to the compost level.


Workshop, machines, batteries, inverters, chemical storage, etc., keeping these clearly separated from the living space. Aim for no air exchange with the living space.


If capable of being completely separated from the living space, yet circulate air if desired, plants can be kept warm even if there is no need for the heat in the home. Consider some plant mass in every room though, i.e. growing under the skylight.


What do you expect will be the makeup of your household? Think of the future. Plan a home to last hundreds of years. How many generations may need to live in the same place? Do you expect multiple occupancy of bedrooms, are bedrooms to be a private "home", or is it merely a private secure, quiet place to rest. I've seen very "tiny" cabins (rooms) on yachts that were luxurious.

A small space takes much less energy to heat or cool. Canopy beds were not merely for appearances. In cold times, draped insulation allowed body heat to warm the sleeping space. In warm periods open mesh allowed cooling breezes while minimizing the bugs. Envision how small of an a/c unit would suffice to chill for the evening just the inside of a canopy bed.

How about modest personal rooms, with the possibility of linking them for space for couples, those who need to monitor infants, etc., or the ability to easily move walls? Say you've got a five generation homestead, two children per generation, where one sibling each generation left to reside in a similar multi-generation home of their spouse. There are probably 10 people at the homestead. Set the bedroom wing at 1,000 square feet. The effect of an "extra" child in a generation, children to younger couples, or increase in lifespan become immediately apparent to the family as they shift the bedroom walls.


Walled and screened (bugs do seem to be everywhere) outside spaces can provide seasonal, (depending on your climate) if not year round extra living / storage / working space.


Dead cars will be valuable sources of un natural resources, auto windows, conveniently made of shatter resistant glass, not to mention sheet steel, wire, tubing, generators, pumps, and electronic parts. The same goes for "useless" appliances. Where early mankind had to mine and refine metals and minerals, for some time, we're likely to find them merely lying about.


Do not fall into the trap of survivalists or emergency preparedness where you believe you can store sufficient supplies to "tide you thru" a period of crises, and wait for things to return to normal. If you survive better than others because of your preparations, YOU may be the one who needs to provide a rescue, or rebuild civilization.


Have you shared this scenario: You encounter under the sofa, behind the desk, etc., some possession or item of figurative scrap, which you've not seen in a long time. Realizing you are "never" going to need it again, you donate it, or throw it away... Then the next week you desperately need it.

Contrary to those who advocate eliminating "clutter", or personal possessions in general, your homestead needs some significant secure storage area. If I recall correctly, the same "high chair" that endured my baby drool, was not only previously occupied by my older sister, but by our mother, uncle, older cousins, etc., being passed around as needed, and returned to the grandparents home for safe keeping.


There are many products and services that are readily, and cheaply available today, which may quickly become expensive or unavailable. Beyond merely equipping yourself for the projected work, a storage program may provide valuable trade goods (for that vital widget you forgot about), or the means for a new start.

Fertilizers, not only phosphorus, potassium & nitrogen, but also micronutrients. Should you find yourself forced to relocate away from your developed planting beds (or ignored making them) you've got a fallback position from which to start.

Empty plastic soda bottles Canning Jars & Lids with extra inserts Solar dehydrator items for meat smoking, Salt Black pepper Molasses Salting barrels 55 gallon barrels 5 gallon buckets Magnifying glass Flint Knives Tools Wire Rope Cord Fiberglass Screen Screws/Nails/Bolts Foil Mylar/Plastic


During a widespread period of socio economic disturbances (the crash), or war, the scenarios are probably NOT limited by your imagination. Wherever you are, or will be, become familiar with the applicable laws. In particular for U.S. residents, examine the state statutes, county and municipal codes for the emergency powers of your officials. Before you buy, build, plan, plant, etc., know what is prohibited, and allowed ways to achieve your goals.

Be cautious of what you advertise. Whether "legitimate" or not, the "democratic" process (aka mob rule, there's more of us than of you, and we want what you got) may endanger your careful preparations.


If you're planning a survivalist, isolated home site, you're looking for an area that IS NOT one that will be on the first choice list for those who suddenly decide to head for the hills, as providing your own security may become a 24/7 job, precluding all else. You also would not want to be the likely route of a passing casual (hungry, angry) observer who is headed for greener pastures. Ensure your home is not readily discernable from the surroundings, or does not appear lucrative, then even if inadvertently encountered, it may be ignored.

Rolling terrain, hills, etc. interfere with long distance viewing and provide multiple concealment locations. An underground, or even earth bermed home may remain unobserved until someone is almost "on top" of it.

If you select isolation, consider just how sustainable or ecological you can actually be. How much damage does your new remote homestead do to remaining wilderness? Kids in a pup tent in the back yard naively look at it as a "roughing it" adventure. How much different is an attempt to create an ecological & sustainable human environment by destroying yet more of nature?


There are those who can't (financial, medical, technical, etc.) initiate a new self-reliant homestead in the wilderness, or couldn't remain at such even if handed to them free. I will argue that any further such impact on remaining wilderness is contrary to any contemplation of ecological sustainability. We need to use our knowledge, intelligence and skills to repair what we've destroyed, and retrofit for long term sustainability, with reduced demands for new resources and recycle rather than discard. This includes homes, neighborhoods, and entire cities.


If the surrounding territory is without food, power, and fuel, cooking odors, blaring music and lights, and smoke will not aid your concealment. The nutrients of your vegetables are better when fresh than cooked anyway. If you MUST hear your favorite tunes at ear shattering levels, use headsets. For non critical night light, take a cue from the navy, and use red lights, shielded so that direct light from the bulb does not escape the immediate area. You can see to work and move about, but there's no "beacon" in the sky or in the distance. For night reading or detailed work, be prepared to blackout a room. Smoke at night may provide a nosey human a clue someone else is around, but unless they're close, have a dog, or have gotten really good at it, they probably won't be able to easily trace the smell back to you.


Your aquaculture tanks, neat orderly biointensive beds, greenhouse, solar panels, etc. will probably provide indications to travelers that there may be food available. When you simply must have a lot of square feet exposed to the sun, concealment is not simple.

Rolling, uninviting terrain may be among the best defenses for those who select isolation. If you have the right climate, a lot of space, and the ability, dispersing your food crops can lessen the odds of discovery, but it makes your gardening more difficult. Plant along the south slope, near the bottom of the slope, imitating the natural distribution of plants. Knowledge of "wild" foods, or dispersed planting of crops that are not generally recognized as food provides additional protection. Beyond mere concealment, perhaps look for ways to deliberately mislead potential visitors around your home, such as establishing what appears to be a well-used, easy to travel path that misses your home, while making the actual approach path at least in appearance far more difficult.

For urban camouflage the goal is the same, avoiding attracting attention of undesirables. Install barriers that block sight and access, and that don't look out of place. Consider photovoltaic panels that are integrated into roof tiles, rather than the "sore thumb" versions advertising their presence. Enclose your garden space (which is touched on in the MESS appendix).

Whether wilderness or urban, your perimeter needs to be as secure as your resources and sense of security allow/demand. In a minimal homestead, where you have virtually a year-round growing season, and secure access to water, you need to maintain security of an area at least 100' by 100'. You need 400' of appropriate fence, or secure wall.

Unfortunately, as touched on later in property tax and eminent domain discussions, it may be necessary to stay "under the radar" of corrupt government officials. In this perspective, perhaps "Secret Societies" of the past are not the villains such are often portrayed, they may have just wanted to live and be left alone.


In a crash scenario, where laws and courtrooms have failed, interplantings of selected inedible crops may provide protection from human predators, much as there are plants to protect crops from insects and animals. (Be cautious though of what you, and your household touch, and eat!) Approaches to your site can be planted with discouragement plants, such as those with thorns, "poison ivy", etc. Think "Halloween" and brainstorm for ideas that will tend to send intruders in a different direction. As there are ultrasonics that frighten animals and bugs, are there ultrasonic or subsonic frequencies that effect humans?


What you don't know about, can sneak up and kill you.

If you can maintain modern powered sensors and alarms, a modest investment should provide warning of approaching "company". Complete systems, or individual components are available from various suppliers, such as at The "X 10" modules provide a means to select just the aspects that meet your needs. Also helpful might be microphones distributed at your perimeter, and "night vision".

You can also turn to a mobile, voice activated, self propelled, auto refueling and self replicating detection system, often referred to as a dog. I'm not a pet type of person, but a couple of dogs could easily be worth their food.

Expedient low tech. Things that make noise when disturbed, or make the intruder make noise, or deter an intruder from a particular path, some of which may be frowned upon by pre crash local authorities.

Landscaping. Thorns are a ready deterrent for an unprepared human. Rocks can make approaches much more difficult to transverse quickly and quietly than smooth soil.

Non electric sensors. Bells or other noisemakers. Pull strings, rods, or hydraulics (sealed containers with a hose between them) that ring a bell.

Parabolic dish "microphones" are available, which use a stethoscope type headset. Large lens, low power binoculars can assist your low light vision.

Maintaining a full time human lookout for a single family homestead would be my last choice, due to fatigue and the waste of labor. Consider, the military generally sets security watch-standing in four hour shifts.

The person on duty need not be capable of defending the home, but rather just an alert set of eyes and ears, to sound the alarm in the event of an intruder. (80 year old grandma can push an alarm button.) Even so, your multi-generation homestead may have, at best, 6 people capable of standing watch.

Limit official watch-standing to the 16 or so hours when the homestead is not busy with chores being done, and everyone is required to stand a 4 hour guard watch at some point virtually every night. You must trust your electro/mechanical security system, your watchdog, or seek something better and less taxing to your individual family time and resources.

COMMUNICATIONS Although it is arguable that some 20th century humans have become communications "junkies", access to news, and the exchange of information with others is a vital aspect for security and continued development. In the event of a high altitude nuclear “EMP” burst, all bets are off regarding the survival or use of any electronic device, including obviously communications. Devices stored in “shielding” may or may not work. Short of an EMP, many other situations can effect local and distant telecommunications. If broadcasters are still on the air, reception only devices can provide critical information. The NOAA weather radio system has an “alert” system where some radio’s self-activate. After an initial alert though, you may find you want to have the radio on 24/7. A small radio with “D” batteries wired in may last for some significant period of time, but still using up your batteries, even if solar recharged. (see “toys” later) Your news needs CAN though be met, perhaps for DECADES, without power by a “crystal” radio. Two way communications takes more work. Cell Phones – Cell towers may have limited battery backup, and may be overwhelmed by call volume. Don’t try voice, send a text message. It takes a tiny bit of your phone power, and only an instant of tower processing time, potentially able to “sneak thru” a small gap. Don’t be too optimistic though. CB Radio – Little development of the radios has happened since the 70’s, so while the prices aren’t bad, the equipment is primitive. Useful antennas tend to be large (4′ to 8′ on vehicles and larger for “base” or home stations). With smaller antennas the effective range is drastically reduced. Transmissions tend to “leak” into all kinds of other electronic devices, in your home and neighbors you will often be heard on TV speakers, corded telephones, electronic keyboard speakers, etc. Sometimes, during favorable atmospheric propagation, range can be as great as several thousand miles. Get units with Single Side Band (SSB) capabilities and the Weather receiver. 49MHz Personal Communicators - Limited very short range use (1/4 mile max). Very small, usually single channel but up to five. Early cordless phones, baby monitors and a few other devices share this band. Extremely low power drain, 2 or 3 AA batteries and can be in service for months. $30 to $50 each. Family Radio Service - (FRS). Frequencies around 462MHz and ½ watt power limits the range. 14 channels for use. Some units feature 38 ”codes” which let your unit respond only to other units transmitting a designated tone. Don’t expect more than a mile. $50 each for basic FRS models, $90-$190 for higher-end models with additional features. General Mobile Radio Service - (GMRS) like the FRS operates in the 460MHz region. GMRS requires an FCC license with a fee and users must be 18 years or older. Power is 1 to 5 watts, for a range of 5 to 25 miles, depending on terrain and antenna position. There are 23 GMRS channels split up for base, mobile relay and fixed station or mobile station use. Each license is assigned one or two of eight possible channels or pairs as requested by the license applicants. In order to avoid interference or conflicts in use, the FCC recommends monitoring existing frequencies in your area before making your application and requesting your channels. GMRS radios are bigger, higher power means more batteries (as many as 6 AAs) and a higher price. Expect to pay $200 for handheld 2 watt units and considerably more for 5 watt base station transceiver. Amateur Radio - “Ham Radio” is the most regulated, perhaps the most expensive, but may be the useful. All hams and their stations must be licensed by the FCC.. To receive a license, you must pass a written exam. Any license above the entry level also requires a proficiency in Morse Code. There’s no fee for the license (which is good for ten years), no age requirement and operators are allowed to use any frequency for which their license qualifies them. There is a nationwide system of repeaters on the 144MHz and 440MHz bands built, installed and maintained by active and well-populated local amateur radio clubs. Traditional amateur frequencies in the shortwave bands provide excellent coverage for local, regional, national, and even international, communications. Unfortunately, there’s not one radio for all of these capabilities which is why hams typically have three or four separate radios and antennas. The starting level is the “Technician” class license which requires a written test based on a text available through many sources. This class allows the user to operate(among others) in the 2 meter band (144MHz). Small handi-talkies for 2 meters are relatively cheap and give a range of 20-50 miles depending on terrain, power and whether or not you’re using a repeater. Many repeaters provide access to 911 services through the handi-talkie. $200-$500 for 2 meter transceivers. Each radio carrying person needs a Technician license. Long range communications without a ground infrastructure grid seems to be limited to ham radio . *I would appreciate input on a "sustainable" approach to radio. Toys – Wind up flashlights, radios, etc., have very limited long-term use. Consider, plastic cranks and gears, springs that fatigue, etc., and the cost to replace such (IF they can be replaced) vs if you are home, a far better option to devices that wind up, have solar panels, etc., is a big box of batteries, and independent dedicated battery chargers. On the flip side, IF the cute toy would help your sense of security and takes up less space and weight than extra batteries, go for it. Just don’t have you life dependent on it.

Chapter I - Your Homestead And Essential Life Support - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

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