Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Radical Green Return and The Sustainable Eco-vill

(See previous posts: “The Sustainable Society Is Not The Same As The Living City,” “The Livable City Is Not The Same As The Living City” and “A Continuum Of Eco-City Models: A Brief Introductory Sketch”)

AS ONE INCREASINGLY MOVES toward the ecologically integrative end of the continuum—toward the sustainable eco-vill to the “radical green return” where urbanism and environmentalism finally become mutually exclusive.  The remote cabin and the organic farm and the eco-vill as a community development offer explorations in alternative technology that are applicable to cities, such as John Todd’s “living machine” that recycles wastewater[i] or off-the-grid developments using passive solar and solar and wind generators and alternatives to lawns such as fruit and/or rain gardens.  These models of human habitation are also important to the city, not only as a local food source, but as both an optimal ecological habitat in their own right and as an innovation lab for “seed ideas.”  They are to be strongly encouraged. 

The eco-vill offers much to the long-term future of the “living city,” but it inaccurately presumes that post-industrial urbanization is ecologically unnatural.  While this presumption seems obvious to most, it contributes to reinforcement of a strategy of separation from the larger Earth ecosystem and keeps the relationship adversarial.  Plus, as a model, it does little to resolve the immediate and near future impact of a global population of billions that urbanization is addressing on a large scale through ecologically adaptive features.  Across the long run, if global population levels and even reduces, sustainable society’s emphasis upon urban townships and eco-vills will become increasingly important.

Characteristics of an eco-vill might include a development/community of perhaps
  • 20 houses ranging in size from 900 to 3600 square feet [five bedrooms and four baths, using 100 kilowatt hours per month as compared with a non-green home using 1000 kw/month, using wind and solar power with an annual power bill of three-hundred dollars for propane] with each house having a maximum budget of 250 kw/mo,
  • smaller yards foregoing grass turf for grapevines, kiwi, gooseberry, plum or other
plants fitted to the climate,
  • passive solar design, power-sipping appliances, earth tubes extending six feet underground for low tech geothermal cooling, thick walls and insulation, solar panels for hot water, water collection, and
  • a community area, community wind turbine, orchard, greenhouse, ponds, 4000 square foot community garden that sells produce,  and sewage using worms and carbon material that then leaches into a constructed wetland.

[i] John and NancyTodd, From Eco-Cities to Living Machines: Principles of Ecological Design. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1994.