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Why Self-Sustainability?

Hi Everyone,

I wrote a meme yesterday: Writing is like slave labor, only the pay isn't as good.

My agent has been working hard to sell Sex Without Religion, but so far we've gotten only nibbles, no bites. It seems we are being beaten out by titles from teen idols. Publishing houses are now being run by skeleton crews, things are so bad. Calling them conservative in this economy is an understatement.

In the little time I have to write, I'm reverting to memes. They are quick and easy, but like potato chips they don't really have the substance of a full meal. The chances of publishing them are even less than those of SWR. And now economists are predicting deflation.

Self-publishing is out of the question at this time. All resources are being directed to establishing Whirlwind Community's self-sustainable agriculture. To call the task monumental is another understatement.

Right now, two students are visiting and volunteering. Both, coincidentally, are accomplished pianists. One is staying for a year, perhaps more, while the other is scheduled to stay for a month but might extend the visit.

We've got thousands of saplings that need to go into the ground this fall, not to mention 140 acres to seed.

We just installed a solar pump on a well that for years had only a windmill pump. The solar wind combination insures constant flow.

We also built a 25 foot steel tower for our 5K gallon water storage tank filled by said well, insuring about 15 passive psi.

The combination of tower, tank, and solar and wind pumps practically means self-sustainability right there.

Needless to say, I am very concerned about humanity's capacity to smoothly transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources.

One of the big differences between renewable resources and oil is in the rate of delivery of their cargo of energy. The explosive nature of fossil fuels is what made the internal combustion engine possible. This, in turn, translated into the capacity to quickly generate and release hundreds of horse power.

This capacity was then used to, among other things, pull a plow through the dirt. Doing so, we were able to turn millions of acres of grassland into farmland. Never mind the dust bowl, we eventually began to look at soil not as a living and breathing synergy of microbial life, but as a sponge into which we must pour the petrochemicals necessary to maximize our yields.

Even if oil were a renewable resource or we had plenty of it, our agricultural methods constitute a dead end. But in fact, as we lose millions of tons of topsoil every year, depleting our carbon base and seemingly increasing our reliance on the very dead end methods that resulted in this crisis in the first place, we are also facing serious shortages of the very energy source that fueled the entire debacle. And just in time, pretty much, for the seven billionth baby to be born.

Human beings can keep the grid going, keep cars going, and keep most small machines going with renewable resources. We may not have the acceleration that oil affords, but we can hit high enough speeds on the highway and air friction can still be handled by electric motors. What won't be as easy is to keep tractors going.

Tractors don't need to go as fast, but they have to pull a great deal of weight. Diesel is perfect for the job. Our battery technology is not quite up to the task. Trains pull a lot, but the acceleration is extremely slow. Once momentum (mass x velocity) is achieved, again it's just an issue of dealing with friction. Tractors, moving slowly, don't have much momentum. And the weight or drag they have to pull through is dead weight that does not actually contribute to their momentum.

Given enough time and money, it stands to reason that humanity might be able to figure its way out of this dilemma. The challenge goes back to the transition. Considering today's political climate, it's hard to see where the issue of this transition is even addressed, let alone tackled. And time is of the essence. After all, we are talking about nothing short of the manner in which we create food for ourselves. Hungry people don't make for happy people.

This comes back to the importance of Whirlwind Community as a model -- one of many -- for self-sustainability. Most of the planet is in a semi-brittle to brittle state, just like we are here in the high desert of New Mexico. It is crucial that the methods by which to sustainably cultivate the land in such environments be widely understood and implemented. The alternative is to actually reach the dead end insured by our current methods and find we have no time to turn a corner and change our agricultural habits.

We are not reinventing the wheel here because, in fact, the wheel has not been invented for exactly this location. I've received a lot of help over the years from experts, but when it comes down to it each expert could only provide a few spokes of the wheel. The entire frame and axis were developed over years through trial and error. I think it is ironic that the varied methods of sustainable or permanent agriculture -- while as old as the hills in some ways -- are also just now (meaning in the last 50 years) being fully developed. We are still learning.

But the more we learn, the more we see how every day brings more to keep up with in terms of the destruction of our ecosystem. Our relationship to soil is basically shot. We can change the world if we could just develop and evolve our relationship to soil.

It isn't at all ironic that establishing a community along the lines of self-sustainability also means centralizing power in the community. Eventually, this translates into free time, which for the yogi is utilized to centralize awareness in the spire. Our motto around here is to create systems that let nature do the work. The mimicry of nature centralizes power in the community because nature is the ultimate ascetic -- the ultimate energy conserver. It seeks to waste nothing, and shows by example the manner in which all resources can constantly feed each other in never ending cycles.

If you're interested in self-sustainability, the major drawback is that it isn't cheap. Unless you're rich, no one person can do it. And even if you are rich, expertise is greatly needed to avoid half the mistakes you'd otherwise make. You'll still make the other half of the mistakes, but at least you can avoid many needless expenses.

Then there's the issue of location, and nearby populations.

And then there are the acts of god and other ecological issues that are beyond your control and, more and more, beyond our capacity to predict due to shifting environmental circumstances.

And then there are larger economic issues. When I first got here, I could buy a T-post for less than $2. Now, they cost over $6. Don't even ask about lumber.

If you have energy or money to invest, I suggest self-sustainbility but also to join forces with other like-minded people. And get expert advice from someone who has actually created self-sustainable systems that work.

If you're interested in what is possible in the world of self-sustainability, please feel welcome to visit.