Home The Essential Elements of a Sustainable Future

The Essential Elements of a Sustainable Future

user profile picture JHK Mar 06, 2013
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Executive Summary

  • Downscaling complexity and increasing local sourcing through efficient net-energy means will be the hallmarks of the future
  • Suburbia has three likely destinies, none mutually exclusive: slums, salvage, and ruins
  • What elements to look for in sustainable town/city designs
  • Why "managing contraction" will be society's main focus for a long time to come

If you have not yet read Part I: Why Our Current Way of Living Has No Future, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Smaller, Closer, Simpler

First, circumstances imply that we have to downscale just about everything that supports civilized life the size of enterprise (both private and public), the length of supply chains and distribution webs, the amount of capital expenditure, the complexity of organization. We’ll have to grow our food differently as industrial agri-business flounders on non-cheap oil. We’ll have to rethink transportation as commercial aviation withers and Happy Motoring enters its twilight. We’ll have to do commerce differently as the Wal-Mart model unravels. We’ll have to inhabit the terrain differently.

Second, as a consequence of the foregoing, we’ll see economies become much more local and regional again, as the current episode of globalism unwinds in the face of rancorous competition for increasingly scarce vital resources. Contrary to Tom Friedman of the New York Times, globalism is not a permanent fixture of the human condition; it was an episode of history. The world is getting less flat and more wide again.

I certainly do not mean that trade between different nations and peoples will stop altogether, but the economies of scale that funneled cheap goods made in Asia to all the Wal-Marts of America are coming to an end. The economy of North America will have to become more internally focused than it has been for generations. It will surely be a smaller economy in terms of volumes of production, but it could be a finer economy of things done better and with more care.

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Top Comment

Thanks Jim.  An eloquent and pertinent follow up to the interview with Chris and "Scale Implosion" that appeared on your site and around the web.  I'll...
Anonymous Author by casey
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