The Triple Crisis of Civilization

Low-Energy Community

 
  1. 1.Strive for a balance between peripheral agricultural land which can supply almost all the food for the farmers and community center inhabitants. Local food will ultimately rely completely on manual or draft animal work, solar-powered tractors, and biofuels made locally; in lieu of food with all co-products returned to the soil. Fossil-fuel based fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and high-energy irrigation will end.

  2. 2.Transportation energy will become unavailable except for electric or muscle power. Therefore, the furthest distance to a community center would be a radius of about 20 miles. Present U.S. arable land of about 300 million acres will not be able to provide for 300 million inhabitants at today’s rate of 10 energy units of fossil fuel input for each single energy unity of food output. An ideal community would have about a 20 mile radius (800,000 acres) with one-half (400,000 acres) arable land to support 250,000 people (1.6 acres per capita) with approximately 200,000 in non-agricultural roles. This leaves 50,000 people to live on 10,000 farms, each with approximately 80 acres with one-half tillable. The other half of the land could be forest, green space, and recreation area. On this basis, a downsized U.S. population of 250 million people could live on 1,000 such community centers utilizing 800 million acres or about one third of the total U.S. land area.

  3. 3.Each urban community center could provide the energy-mixing hub for surrounding, self-generating residential electricity as well as centralized energy sources. It would also be the social activity and manufacturing center as well as the nexus for intra-city electric-rail travel and shipping, and may also connect to traditional water-travel routes.

   

    The above model is only an idealized form. Obviously our present urban and rural structure will have to gravitate in this direction as any other arrangement has to be compromised by the available food supply and limited by local and long-distance travel requirements.

    Food production and travel (movement of people and/or commerce) will be the greatest challenges of the future. Domestic heating and power are a little less serous but still very difficult. Reduced population is essential to implementing a 50-year plan based on relocalized community living. Traditional walkable urban centers are better starting points for the low-energy community concept.

A key component in a low-energy sustainable future is a localized community center with the following objectives: