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


If solar panels have a useful life of 20 to 30 years, and I anticipate a continuing need for electrical power, I have that long to find an alternative. Silicon cells are a high tech process. Low tech p/v cells can however be made from blackened copper, and thermocouples also offer direct sunlight (heat) to electrical power conversion. Regardless of what you buy or install now, can you maintain it, or replace it? Understand it?


With a modest collection of quality hand tools, even a neophyte can make modest repairs, disassemble obsolete equipment, or fashion vital devices. Imagine trying to "double dig" you garden without a shovel, or loosen a bolt without a wrench.

Obsolete devices are a potential "goldmine" of parts and raw materials.


That which is available, affordable, and sustainable in the most likely situations. This has been essentially ignored in our century+ long oil party. Hopefully you will be inspired to personal research and planning.

Numerous articles on creating your own "home grown" technology are available online at and at When the functional lifespan of your purchases ends, will you still have a need for the product or service? If so, can you repair or replace it with what you have remaining? The greatest source of energy on Earth, is the sun. It evaporates water for rain, powers worldwide thermal currents in the air and water, and thru photosynthesis provides all of the food consumed.

On your own property, with you own property, with your own creativity, what can you accomplish?

Solar/steam micro hydro for power. Consider a large tank of water capable of withstanding modest pressure, not necessarily much about typical city water pressure. Could solar concentration then be used to generate steam in an insulated bladder, to push water thru a micro hydro generator into another water tank?

Vertical axis windmill. Even numbers of opposed arms, each holding flexible material sails. On the power side, the wide billows the sail open, pulling a cable to help hold the opposing sail closed as it moves to windward during rotation.

Clay/ceramics. What could be more “appropriate”, dig clay, add water, form, bake in a solar oven.

Other solar devices. Israeli research has developed a relatively simple means which uses a parabolic mirror to concentrate sunlight onto a fiber optic cable, which then leads to a light scalpel, useable as a laser scalpel. Sunlight can be used to directly “pump up” a laser to firing power. It can heat dangerous compounds past the temperature where they separate into harmless atoms or compounds. Light can readily be manipulated by lenses or mirrors. Given a crashing infrastructure, my feeling is that shiny material is going to be easier to obtain than precision formulated and ground lenses. Take the simple fact that light reflects off a flat mirror at the same angle it strikes the mirror. Now envision many tiny mirrors rather than one large one. If the angle of adjacent mirrors are adjusted right, the light can all be reflected onto a single spot, or spread to provide diffuse illumination from a single bright beam.

In sixth grade, as part of a statewide “Solar House” competition, once my daughter got the concept, she was able to use cardboard and mylar gift wrap to make an 8” wide parabolic curve. She used this to concentrate on black plastic ½” irrigation hose. It melted the hose, but not before it proved that in minutes it raised the temperature of water flowing in the hose to past 114 degrees F.

Her design, shown above, is a two story courtyard home, with second floor outdoor decks on the south 1/3, and the solar panels on the roof. It is intended to be earth sheltered halfway up the lower floor. This combination active / passive model took first place.


What does a human know by instinct?

We have no instincts for even food. A human must think about what is food, how to find it, grow it, hunt it, preserve it. We have no instinct for making fire, writing, reading, or even speaking. We must each learn from the preceding generation. - The Virtue of Selfishness, Any Rand

Web and computer files are the fastest means of finding and gathering information, but rely on continued computer technology. Unfortunately for surviving humanity, the web may be an early victim of the collapse. Download to local storage any file you file valuable, and print all of those you find essential.

Microfiche is a means of storing a great deal of information in a small package, that can be read with a child's toy microscope.

Books probably remain the most practical means of gathering, storing, and passing on knowledge. Your local library should be able to order for you on "interlibrary loan" virtually any book. Read, please! A potential sustainability library (with a lean toward a desert environment) is in the Bibliography . Used bookstores, several of which have online search functions, can yield may priceless "gems".

Plan as though your library is the only one that survives the crash, if your luck is bad, it might be.

Sustainable agriculture Farming Gardening Trees Hydroponics Organic Farming / Pest Control Food conversion technologies? (soybeans to tofu, sugar beets to sugar) Solar energy Passive Solar Photo voltaic Hot Water Homesteading Slaughtering / Meat Preserving Homebuilding Tool Making Cloth Making Husbandry (horses, cows, pigs, chickens, etc.) Technology Old Technology How things work Technology Repair Medicine Homeopathy Herbology Math Elementary Math (Teaching) Algebra Geometry / Trigonometry Calculus Statistics Language Reading (Teaching) English Writing Spanish (simple translation) French (simple translation) German (simple translation) Chinese (simple translation) Russian (simple translation) History General Histories Maps Politics Art / music People Literature 100 greatest books of 20th century 100 greatest classics

Planning for a library points out an obvious factor, which is language. You and your family must understand each other. It does you no good to have books you cannot read and comprehend. You should understand and be capable of using the language which has been used to preserve the information you need.


How are you as a teacher? Can you serve as a teacher for your children, for even the basics of K - 12, let alone some technical specialty? If you must, or choose, to undertake this challenge, good news for you is that standardized testing has shown that home-schooled children can learn as well, if not better, than those who attend a more traditional class. If your homestead is remote and isolated, you have little choice in whether you will home-school, only in the curriculum you will prepare.

It seems obvious, that if you have access to "experts" in any particular field, they should teach that field. If you have neighbors, do you know their background and abilities?


Earth is a sphere, around 8,000 miles in diameter, orbiting the Sun in a path of a slight ellipse at a distance of around 92 million miles in 365 days. We rotate on our N/S axis once every 24 hours. Our axis is tilted about 23.5 degrees relative to the plane of our solar orbit. This tilt means that every day the apparent path of the sun across the sky is a little different. That said, the path can be calculated, and accounted for in positioning of solar interfaces (p/v, heat collection, plants, etc.

Referring to the above diagram, set the angle between the ground and the north pole of the sky at the same number as your latitude. The daily path the sun takes will be 90 degress to the sky pole. Assume a line from the center of the ground position that is 90 degress from the sky pole line. To locate the path relative to the sky pole, the highest summer sun will be 23.5 degrees to sky-north of a right angle, and the winter sun will be 23.5 degrees to sky-south of a right angle. The circles scribed are the locations where you see the sun from the center observation point.

The Earth constantly presents an 8,000 mile diameter disk to the sun. Due to factors such as reflection, refraction, and the angle of the surface in relation to the sun, probably only around a 5,000 mile diameter disk receives useful sunlight. This area when not shaded receives energy at the rate of around 1kwh (3412 BTU or 859,845 heat calories) per sq. yard of direct solar exposure. In planning your solar harvesting, remember that in general in your summer the sun will rise polar of east and set polar of west. In the winter, it will rise equator of east and set equator of west.


Absent an energy breakthrough, biofuels cannot possibly be generated to meet present demand. Much of the population will have to walk, or perhaps ride a bike.

Pedal power, referred to as bicycles, but more properly human powered vehicles, can meet a great deal of local transportation needs. Per power used, a bicycle is the most efficient vehicle available, with a typical adult on an upright bicycle able to maintain a speed of 10 to 12 mph. The same person on the recently “rediscovered” recumbent should achieve a higher sustained speed due to lower air resistance and the ability to provide a more efficient braced "push" on the pedals without also straining back, neck, arm, etc. muscles as is required on an upright bicycle.

A recumbent bicycle enclosed in a streamlined fairing has been pedaled at sustained speeds of over 65 mph - try THAT on your mountain bike.

Personal powered vehicles. The cost and complexity of batteries, fuel cells, etc. may keep personal vehicles from returning to anything approaching the widespread ownership and use of today's industrial nations, or at least from resembling a 20th century automobile.

In 2006 federal law classified bicycles with a electric motor of 750 watt or less, and not capable of traveling under power more than 20 mph, as NOT a motor vehicle. States may not require them to be registered, or require a driver’s license to operate them.

It takes 3 minutes (at 20 mph) to travel a mile, so the electric bike uses 1/20 times 750 watt = 37.5 watt/hours to go a mile. Grid electricity costs 8 cents per 1,000 watt/hour. In running a mile, the electric bike needs 3.75% of a kilowatt hour, or about 3/10 of one cent of electricity.

Round-trip travel between the further most points of a grid city 11 miles on a side (see Chapter VII) would be 44 miles. The electric bicycle would require 1,650 watt/hour, or just over 13 cents of electricity, and just over an house of travel time each way. (Less if you pedal.) Until human powered light vehicles, such as variants of bicycles are the PRIMARY means of transportation, perhaps a bike friendly community needs a separate network of bicycle roads or "tracks." The author recalls at least one such separate bicycle path in Seattle, running behind homes and businesses, with independent bridges over major roads, allowing essentially non-stop bicycle travel for 10+ miles. It was primarily for recreation. (The author prefers restricting heavy vehicle use and opening up the local community roads for manual or low power bicycles – such as the 750 watt federal limit.) The test: Are you comfortable sending your six year old to/from 1st grade on the bicycle paths between your home and the school? BREAKTHRU PROMISES

Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute ( essentially presents in his online book "Winning the Oil Endgame" that advances in materials (light and strong) and in fuel cells will so revolutionize transportation that we will somehow be able to continue to drive where and when we want, with no problem of fuel availability or price, but he presents no consideration for expanding population, or the initial energy source for generating hydrogen fuels.

Consider for a moment alcohol as a fuel. Corn is a potential alcohol crop, but I remain convinced that it will be more valuable as food, and as a beverage for escape of misery, before it will be a practical fuel.

All biofuels have the same "problem", the efficiency rate of converting sunlight to a useful fuel is horrible. Corn for example manages to convert at best 2/10 % (two tenths of one percent) of sunlight to food matter, then, at a wild guess, 80% or more of that is "lost" as solids in the brewing process... You end up with say 4/100% (four one hundredths of one percent) conversion of light to fuel...

The most promising biofuel engines are diesels. A diesel burning "clean" fuel releases 15% to 20% less CO2 per mile than a gasoline engine, and gets 40% better miles per gallon. A diesel can for example be run on pure plant oils (peanut, olive, etc), or diesel can be made from organic waste. It can never be a gallon per gallon replacement, but it is a viable fuel for essential mobile power.

Vs P/V panels at 15% conversion to electricity, then 50% efficiency splitting water to get hydrogen as fuel... You end up with 7.5% (seven and one half percent) conversion of light to fuel...

Despite the much "better" numbers, solar p/v - hydrogen is a "loser" in any thought of keeping the present fuel gulping infrastructure going...

In my daughter's 6th grade, she was part of a group of kids who engineered a single seat, solar powered three wheeled vehicle. With a 200 watt motor, it could operate at something over a walking pace solely on solar power from the panels it carried. But it was hardly what is seen today as transportation.

In 2006 MIT battery advances in lithium-ion technology, labeled A123 Systems, by use of nanoscale particles to coat the battery electrodes doubles power density, with peak energy of up to five-fold, and great drops in recharging times. They are on the market as M1 batteries in Black & Decker portable power tools.

To attain increases in speed, great increases in power are required, or efficient streamlining. A standard, upright and open bicycle would require:


Mph 21 .25 Mph 26 .50 Mph 60 6.00

Compare to the earlier faired recumbent, pedaled by a .20 hp human at 65 mph+.

Biofuel trains. Great increases in the efficiency of burners, and steam engines show potential for continued long distance land travel by efficient trains on well graded and maintained track. This is however not a consideration until a sustainable community is well beyond the level of a single family, or small gathering.


Animals do not necessarily compete with humans for plant foods. Before the inedible portion of plants or food scraps can again be available to plant roots, it must be broken down again by compost bacteria and insects, or a meat animal.

Beyond being a food source, they also provide a source of leather and other materials, as well as service as beasts of burden.

Burros. The small donkey of the dry lands of the world is supremely adapted to living off the browse and meager feed often available, and for its size is surprisingly strong and a magnificent beast of burden. Not to be laughed at, the burro can easily be adapted to useful roles on the farm, including basic transportation and pulling carts.

Chicken. Hybrids will not properly nest. 5 10 chickens, 1 rooster. Feed daily handful of grain & food scraps. Japanese jungle fowl (Biosphere II)

Fish. Tilapia, catfish, or local varieties. 10" min, 48" max deep, 12 15' dia. Dip in the pool (as if a teabag) a bag of horse manure, as food for algae. Scrap meat and bugs as food for fish. (Grow flies on trays of manure & water, and drop larvae into the pool)

Goats. Goats may be produced for about the same purposes as cattle, and their smaller size makes them suitable for many situations. They are often grazed on open range in arid regions. They are browsers (nibble at a variety of plants), and sometimes are better adapted to production of useful meat than cattle, especially in heavy scrubland. While goats may be raised for milk, the really fine milk varieties are not well adapted in the tropics. Sensitive to rain and cold. Nigerian dwarf (Biosphere II)

Ostriches have been around for perhaps 150 million years, and have some traits of dinosaurs, such as wing claws. The meat is red with less fat, less calories and less cholesterol than skinless chicken or turkey. The Ostrich egg is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs, averaging about 60 eggs per year. An Ostrich may have 12 square feet of find quality leather. They have a unique immune system, and oil rendered from their fat has medical benefits. Adult males are eight to ten feet high and weigh 350 400 pounds, with the female slightly smaller. The Ostrich can run at speeds of up to 40 MPH for sustained periods (can they pull a cart?) An Ostrich will live to be 50 75 years old.

Pig. Ossabaw Feral Swine (Biosphere II)

Pigeon. Nest in groups, mate for life, live 7 years, become attached to their home nest, lay every 6 weeks. Take young birds at 1 lb. just before new eggs are expected.

Rabbit. 3 doe, 1 buck, in hutches out of the rain. Feed greens along with some oats or bran.

Sheep. In addition to the wool bearing sheep of the temperate zone, there exist hair sheep which are much better adapted to the tropics. In addition to their value in producing meat, such sheep are often used to control weeds in orchards, and thus constitute a profit producing biological control.


Appropriately layered, putting all of the above together, we could all be living in a home which provides our daily needs, air, water, food, shelter, for our multi-generation family.

Solar utilization. In theory, a 1/4 acre area that receives at least moderate sunlight in reasonable weather conditions can meet the food and home energy needs of a multi generation family.

Food. 8000 to 10000 sq. ft. of crop area exposed to the sun (1/4 acre). In the summer, depending on latitude and weather conditions, experiments have shown some crops actually do better with reduced sunlight, perhaps as low as 1/3. As opposed to shading, can you engineer a means to divert part of the sunlight to another level? This could double, or almost triple (losses in the system) your effective solar growing area.

Consider a two floor greenhouse. Facing the sky is a "shade layer" consisting of a matrix of diffusion grids, and light collectors with light tubes. The overhead diffusion grids scatter the light to the top floor of crops. The light tubes route light to a lower floor, with more diffusion grids to scatter the light to the lower floor crops. In the summer, you may be able to grow two crops in the same square footage of one.

Solar utilization for power. With clear skies, every square meter of direct solar exposure receives around 1 kw of power. Low efficiency panels (10%) requires 10 sq. meters (12 ft. per side, 144 ft. sq.) exposed to the sun for an hour for every kwh of electricity you need. Remember, that if the sun is not directly overhead, the panels need to be tilted, and therefore shade more ground space than they have exposed to the sun.

Daylighting and solar heat collection. One solar tube type device per room, and heat panels exposed to the sun.

Multi level. With your family living under your food source, your structure if spread under the entire growing area could be 10,000 sq. ft. per level, plenty of room for a multi-generation homestead. Does your family have a business to operate? How about a business on ground level, home above, and garden/solar collection on the roof? As reported in Mother Earth Issue # 42 - November/December 1976, the Farallones Institute of Berkeley, California project “The Integral Urban House”, was a 100-year-old Victorian house, adapted into one of the then country's most innovative and successful "urban homesteads". The project was on a 1/8-acre city lot. While the solar exposure area of the lot is insufficient to provide complete subsistence for a family, the innovations in the structure are great "food for thought" regarding optimizing a micro-environment for human habitation, and that such an environment is NOT "natural" by any stretch of the imagination. Regardless of your location, what you need is a mini-ecosystem that is tailored to your family needs. Surely, nearly 25 years later, we can do better.


Do you believe anyone has the right to enter your home against your will, take your water, food, money or other property, unless you are the one who refused to perform your side of a trade, or deliberately or carelessly caused harm to someone else?

Do you base your relationships with others on religion, national origin, race, etc., or the positive and pleasant nature of your interaction with them?


While many will not admit it, elected leaders (at all levels) and heads of major industries are aware of the problems. What they do not have a grasp of is a solution they can impose which preserves their position and power. The U.S. Department of Energy is experimenting with probably every energy device imagined.

If you are one of the (relatively) few who see the problem in advance, and prepare, do you want government, big, or local, to steal from you your home, storage of supplies, food, seeds, etc.? Or do you see the government's job as PROTECTING you from such theft by others?

We need to educate public and elected officials on how their actions affect individual abilities and local businesses, and in particular what they need to STOP.


A homestead should be planned to provide, in the long term, for the relevant family. In general, this starts with a voluntary partnership of a husband / wife, and such extended family members as voluntary live together. With no elsewhere for generations to move to, it will fluctuate at around 4 generations.

At the homestead / family level, it may seen ridiculous to comment on a formal organization structure, but the thought is relevant to later discussions.

A family may have some aspects of "voting", or members in some manner providing input, but in the end a family is probably "run" by the member(s) most capable of doing so. I believe you will find extended families for the most part to be meritocracies - leadership based on talent or ability, with significant influence from the owner of the major assets, or the wisdom of the elders.


In planning / executing your plan, have you taken into account the ecological aspects of your actions? Are you planning on buying a plot of trees, and clear-cutting them down to build your structures, sell for income, and burn for your heat? Do you intend to pump-down a groundwater supply, divert a large portion of a surface supply, etc? What are the net effects of your plans?


It is a common event, that we ignore our health, even for the sake of fun, or for the sake of our family. We certainly work in jobs where our health is impaired.

Your health however should be a priority, not an afterthought. Do you know what is "good" for you, and what is not?

The transition period to a post oil paradigm may be a distinctly unpleasant period. Given the extent of dependence on oil, the scenarios are probably NOT limited by your imagination. A defeatist attitude often expressed about nuclear war is that the living will envy the dead.

Can you physically, and/or emotionally cope with essentially what may be a life-long emergency? The concept of limited resources? Can you physically respond to squatters, or raiders, or worse?


Disrupted industries, food delivery, contaminated air, water and food, and just plain hard work may prove to be more than many can physically handle. Are you ready to live on in tough times?

Immunizations. There are numerous nasty germs out there that are kept at bay by the technology and services of our modern civilization. Absent protections, and with increased breeding grounds, "old" diseases may gain new footings. These diseases remain "typical" in third world countries. Consult your physician for what additional immunizations you should have if you were planning an extended trip thru a variety of impoverished third world nations.

Exercise. If you're not in shape, work with your physician now and establish an exercise program. In selecting your exercises, consider the type of physical labor you are likely to be doing. My personal focus is on bicycling and shoveling.

Nutrition. Not only for weight loss and conditioning, but to build your immune system.


Unless a member of your household is a physician, nurse, paramedic, etc., your home medical care is probably going to be limited. Anyone who requires ongoing medication, or their care provider, must plan in advance for a long term storage program of medications, OR of some locally renewable alternative. A broader discussion of home remedies is in the appendices to this treatise.

There is good news though, even in primitive conditions. Although we like to think that our medical science should be credited with overall better health and the decline in mortality, in reality medicine probably accounts for only a small percentage of the improvements. A better and more varied diet, and basic sanitation are far more deserving of credit.

Complex medicine is more useful in treatment of injuries, and those diseases which have become more noticeable as people susceptible to such survive, where in earlier centuries conditions would have meant their early demise. Unfortunately, we have to a large extent moved past the benefits of improvements in food availability, to agricultural practices, processing, and diets that while of sufficient calories, are deficient in other essential nutrients, and contain additives, which may be damaging us.

That said, if you need the care of a physician, and such is available, how do you pay for it? Do you expect your doctor to work for free, or for barter? Do you believe any insurance program you may have will continue to function?


General Motors (2006) has $64 billion in outstanding UNFUNDED healthcare obligations, which is $50 billion more than its market capitalization. Do you want to be dependent on this? In a scenario of hyper-inflated currency, do you believe any government program would be viable? If Congress just "drags it's feet" about passing an annual budget, the programs shut down. In a localized economy, friends, family, and physical assets will probably be required. Consider health insurance as an agreement among a group of people to pool funds such that if one member needs an expensive procedure, the group has/will agree what portion of the accumulated funds can be so exhausted. The typical member is NOT though "on the hook" beyond money already deposited, and is free to drop out, or move on to a different pool at will.

The income tax code has made it difficult for employees to move on, as the range of insurance pool options are often selected by the employer.

When the government runs the "health insurance" program, the average citizen typically DOES NOT have any other option in selection of treatment, even if they want to pay independently. The government decides who gets what, and who pays what.

Whether thru an employer, private contract, or mandated by a government, big picture investment or tax insurance accounts can easily become mere numbers on paper. Financial investment values can fall to zero. The value of currency can fall to zero.

Your "natural" insurance pool (health or otherwise) consists of your friends and family, those who come to your aid (we would hope) without need of monetary payment, or a government compelling them to do so.


There are those who believe they are rugged individualists , who can head off into the wilderness and go it alone. How well can you provide for yourself and your family absent the present infrastructure?

You can do on your own property and with your own assets anything you have the capability to achieve that is not legally prohibited. BUT: Assume you, and/or your family completely equipped a homestead with everything from this chapter, planning on isolation. Do you have the technology and technique to repair or replace a broken plate or cup? How about a p/v panel? Or even a light bulb?

Preparedness, even modest efforts, can make a huge difference in how well you survive a crisis situation. But survival preparations alone do little for a long term outlook for your heirs, and humanities future.

First do no harm. Have at most two children, and given our overpopulated state, preferably one. Take responsibility for your own household and life support. Share the knowledge, and work with at least two other households to awaken and guide them toward sustainability. In your security, and the security of your family, friends, and neighbors, you gain the strength and resources to look to greater development.

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual. - Vince Lombardi Location. Where do you want to place your family homestead? In the wilderness? Do you have everything you need? Do you have neighbors for help if you need it? ABSENT the crash, what about a simple medical emergency, or even a visit to a grocery store? With a secure home, reliable water and food, in short when you at least temporarily feel secure, you can begin to reason out a bigger picture, how we got where we are, where we need to go, and the next steps. Setting aside the present paradigms which developed in a short-term fact pattern, what limits do you face as you contemplate a scale larger and longer than a single family?

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

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