TUESDAY, FEB 24, 2015
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: SOME INFO VIA WAYFORWARD MACHINE, SUSTAINABILITY, FROM THE WIRES, FEDERATION, GREEN LIVING, HISTORY, FESTIVAL
TUCSON (A-P) — There is an event called Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival that offers "a common vision for building a bright sustainable future in our beautiful desert Southwest" that will "preserve or enhance our quality of life while reducing our consumption of energy and other resources,” resulting in a sustainable Tucson. I've been to it, may go again, but the following has no connection with the event, the organizers, nor their vision. I envision a different sustainable Tucson. The Event has many sponsors eager to ply their wares. I have no sponsors and no wares to ply.
Science, free but for the price of an effort, is a tough sell. No one stands in line for it. Time and attention are required. You can't just read a book or two, attend a workshop, and "know it" or love it. Those who have already embraced evidence-based ways of knowing, however, may be interested in alternative visions of things to come that do not require a taste for oversold products and visions.
Let's cover the basics in a paragraph: The only known sustainable Tucson area human way of life was practiced by Native Americans who hunted and gathered mainly along the river, creeks, and cienegas in the Tucson area after an initial pulse that coincided with the megafauna extinction. They did so for millennia, wandered far, and may have numbered in the hundreds, but then came corn and the agricultural way of life. For a few thousand years native farmers planted corn, squash, tobacco, and beans in small floodplain plots. Then, for over a thousand years, water was diverted from the river to irrigate more plots. Far more food could be grown than gathered and the agrarian way of life supported more people, but the more they grew the harder they had to work, and the closer to the edge of sustainability did they get. The population of the mid Santa Cruz Valley, consisting of several agricultural villages whose inhabitants each numbered in the high hundreds, grew to a few thousand total. Near Tucson, the irrigation supported villages were at the base of Sentinel Peak which became Mission San Agustin, at the base of Martinez Hill which became Mission San Xavier, and in south Marana which became a Portland cement plant.
The people of the river, the hunter gatherers, changed as the millennia passed, as one culture/tribe replaced another, but the number that the region could support remained more constant. The first irrigation supported culture arose about 1250 BCE and passed away about 750 BCE leaving no cultural history, so they are known by no name. They may have been Mesoamerican farmers from the south, the first Tucsonians, who lasted about 500 years. Agriculture continued to be practiced but on a lesser scale.
About 500 years later, after some environmental restoration, another irrigation supported population pulsed. The new Tucsonians' irrigated agriculture was such a success (for a time) that they likely took in remnant survivors of the Anasazi, Fremont, and Mogollon civilizations (all corn-based) after their collapse in the 12th - 14th centuries. The second Tucson area civilization collapsed in the 15th century as did their neighbors to the east, the Paquimé (their neighbors to the west, the Patayan culture, also corn-based, ended in the 16th century before contact with Spaniards). What they called themselves is unknown. They are known today as the Hohokam: an O'odam word for "all used up." The O'odam replaced those who were all used up as dominate culture, likely taking some in. They continued irrigated farming but not on the same scale as the Hohokam.
The last group to displace an earlier one was not native to the continent. For a couple hundred years they who had come from the south also lived the agrarian life. They numbered in the hundreds, but dominated the larger native population who served their needs and wants. Their cattle came to dominate the landscape as the new comers dominated the irrigated fields. Then came others from the east who also brought cattle and brought the railroad as well. By the 1890's the cattle population, at peak twenty times that of the then human population (but only 1/4 present human population), had collapsed. The range never recovered. Water in the Santa Cruz Valley and its floodplain was over used; the river cut down. Agriculture never recovered. The human newcomers came to be supported by water, food, and material imports that poured in by train, truck, and aqueduct. People came to replace the cattle in even greater numbers.
Currently there are about a million people just in the Tucson area. Being told that the life one knows and lives is unsustainable causes cognitive dissonance. A common response is denial, but some have difficulty dismissing reason and evidence. Their response is not to kill or ignore (much easier) the messenger, but to interpret the message, to chew on it, to alter it until it seems palatable. The more gifted soon make transitioning to a resilient sustainable way of life seem wonderfully inviting and may make a living overselling their visions. They envision rainwater harvesting creating an urban edible forest. Such a forest is indeed possible as long as few actually consume it. A few children who pick and eat the fruit as part of a photo op would be cute, and well-fed volunteer gleaners could harvest food for the food bank to give away, but urban micro gardens will not feed one million people. Tons of fruit can be gleaned each year. Rainwater havested from roofs could (doesn't but could) produce tons more of garden produce. But Tucsonians currently consume about 1,000 tons of food per day. Do the math.
But let's not belabor the obvious, or what should be obvious. Moving on, let's envision Tucson sustainable (some time in the future, maybe 23rd century):
Sustainable energy sources exclude fossil fuels. Nuclear fission is alternative, but fissionable materials, left over from Earth's creation, are limited too. To power sustainable life for another few hundred million years, think fusion. We have a fusion power plant that is just 93 million miles away. It offers free delivery, guaranteed in 8 minutes, and it is warrantied to last 100,000,001 years.
But no fusion power plants on Earth exist, nor should they. Fusion power on Earth, should it be achieved by humans (making power that was "too cheap to meter") would transform the planet unless humans were transformed first. Per business-as-usual, oceans could be covered in floating cities so dense that the only waves would be machine generated in recreational pools. The entire land surface could be covered in multistory megastructures kilometers deep that would blend seamlessly with those covering the oceans. Okay, there'd be a seam to allow for tidal movement as there would be seams to allow for earthquakes, but few would notice them. To make room for the expanding population, much of the earth's crust could be hollowed out and artificially illuminated. Some life, not kept as pets, may be kept in zoos to amuse.
If the Exponential Growth Culture could be sustained, this is the future. Since growth could not be limited to Earth, the home planet would become the center of a galactic empire. Humanity would be transformed too, but not necessarily for the better. We may come to be known as the Borg Collective, Inc. The Milky Way would be seen as a galaxy for the taking, the first of many, just as Earth had been a planet for the taking, the first of many to be subsumed.
Or we may come to dome over our cities to eliminate light pollution limiting our ability to see the Milky Way on cloudless nights and to have total control of city climate. The domes will be covered in soil and forests will grow on them or the deer and the buffalo will again graze them. Some humans will choose to live 'in the wild'. They be called Eloi. Within the domed-over cities and the cites carved out of the lithosphere, billions will live. Some of the produce of Nature on the surface world will be havested to be served in gourmet restuarants serving elite Morlocks.
Okay, let's try a different vision. Let's imagine humans accept limits to growth—self-imposed limits. The Federation decides that the human footprint be limited to no more than 20% of the planet (the Federation defines footprint as any area within 5 km of human habitation/development or 2 km from any road). One fifth of the planet could be claimed by one species. Humans, and their mutualist plants and animals, could have 20%. Federation Directive thus nullified the 21st century Growther practice of laying claim to 95% and "preserving" 5% for recreational use. [The Trekker conceptology allows for a cosmic simplification: Will the default Business-as-usual Culture, which we are for better or worse a part of, evolve into the Federation or into the Borg Collective? If you're a Growther, the Borg look like winners—and what's not to like? Why would anyone resist? Hint: it could be an ethical issue.]
After political boundaries became of only historical meaning, the Federation used watershed maps and clarified that no more than 20% of any watershed could be appropriated by humans and their plants or animals, and no more than one self-governing body could lay claim to more than one watershed. Furthermore, the 20% included a buffer area that could be used only for human visitation in the more highly populated watersheds such as Tucson's Santa Cruz Watershed.
In some watersheds having a low human population, the 20% buffer area could also be used for grazing or logging managed by resident range scientists or silviculturists. The Santa Cruz Watershed was once range, but it had never recovered from historical overgrazing and had few trees. Due to the high population, the buffer area supported only human recreational hiking. In some parts of the world where dryland farming was possible, the buffer area was used for both pasture and cultivated farming of annuals and/or perennials. Coastal watersheds could fish 20% of their coastal waters with oversight by marine biologists and their eco-nomy might be largely based on fishery exports as other watersheds were based on forestry, range, or dryland farming.
Some watersheds had high energy resources based on wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, or hydroelectric. They exported high emergy products such as solar panels and computers, and imported necessities like wood and food (e.g. grains, dry goods) from the other watersheds. The high energy watersheds supported higher populations and higher education. Solar powered Tucson came to be one of the Athens of the new world.
Defining "watershed" included a size range. For management purposes, "watershed" size was not maximized. The fewest number and the largest size would involve counting rivers and streams flowing into the sea and considering the entire drainage area to be the watershed. Thus a creek that ran into the sea could define a small watershed of 10 km² and the Amazon basin (6,915,000 km²) another. Small watersheds were consolidated and large nominal ones subdivided.
The general guideline was to define a watershed, or part thereof, to be no larger than someone near the border (headwater or mouth of a drainage area) could travel by low-power vehicle in a day to reach the central area. Average watersheds were thus areas of about 100 km radius. A very fit human on a bicycle can travel about 100 km in a day, if not day after day. The Santa Cruz Watershed was somewhat below average in size, but residents considered that an advantage. Some management policies had to consider entire watersheds, such as the Colorado, as some had to consider the planet, but planetary issues were the province of the Federation. The 200 odd nation-states of Earth's colonial period became the 4,000 member watersheds of the Federation of Watersheds. In each, watershed sovereignty mandated watershed responsibility.
That the 20% included a buffer area meant that if an isolated 1 km² area was claimed for actual development, which required a 5 km buffer around it, that a 94 km² minimum buffer area (97.9% of total area) was needed and counted as part of the allowed 20% maximum. This encouraged claims to be consolidated into just a few areas within a watershed. Roads were also a use that counted, but while areas developed for other use had to have a 5 km undeveloped buffer, roadways included only a 2 km buffer on either side. This minimized roadways to interwatershed highways that also connected settlements and cities. Thus the Santa Cruz Watershed came to include the Nogales, Tucson, Marana, and Casa Grande urban hubs with associated agricultural villages, and with a narrow 4 km corridor connecting them and the rural villages around which was a 5 km buffer area. The total buffer area was about 12% of the watershed. The four hub cities, with villages around and between them (the 8% developed area) was a bit over 400,000 acres for dwellings, work areas, and agriculture.
Usage did not include polluting 20% of the air as no actual boundary for air existed. Only 20% of the land surface could be claimed for living on, recreating on (hiking in the buffer zone), and farming/grazing. Groundwater and surface flow was not included as no actual boundary for water existed. There was no pumping of groundwater or damming of surface flow. Only rain runoff from inhabited developed areas was included. Runoff from the 80% + 12% was allowed to flow unused (by humans) as limits had to be embraced. Only rainwater catchment from inhabited areas, including ponding of runoff, was allowed, and that excluded the buffer area that could only be used for visitation. Since the river itself could not be used for agriculture, humans tended to claim a strip on one side for use such that the river itself was within the buffer area, and so could be visited. Humans tended to claim bottom land on one side of main rivers, leaving the other side and tributaries unclaimed, thus leaving room for nature.
The claimed area of the Santa Cruz Watershed consisted of 365 km of Highway dotted with rural development bordered by buffer that bulged out around the cities and villages along the roadway connecting Nogales to Casa Grande and beyond. Tucson occupied about 4% of the watershed and served as the main hub for the Santa Cruz Humanscape. With half of total urban population living in the urban part of Tucson, the big city could not produce enough food to support its population and depended on food imports from the rural villages, suburban micro-farms, as well as imports from the Marana and Casa Grande areas. The food was delivered by solar e-trucks driven by e-drivers.
The remaining 80% was for nature, for wildness which is the preservation of the world, including the human part. Federation scientists thus came to concur with Thoreau's observation. Human visitation within the 80% was allowed but was carefully limited; was by permit only. While scientists with legitimate work were favored, and some pursued a PhD for that reason, youth were also favored. Most area residents were granted a permit once or twice in their lifetime, and several weeks time spent in wildness, alone or in small groups, became a rite of passage in which the mantra was the old Leave-No-Trace.
While fusion power was developed, the Federation limited its use to space, the final frontier. Earth-based power had to be limited. It was limited as it had always been, except for a few places like geothermal energy in Iceland, to Sol-shine. Earth-based power away from the coast was solar power which included wind and biomass, but mainly solar panel generated electric and hot water. While some electric was stored in batteries for emergency medical use, use by first responders, and for low-power personal use deemed "essential" such as for reading at night or smartbook use, most energy used to do work, to do the heavy lifting, was used while there was sunshine to produce it. Thus humans and machines worked when the sun was shining, and slacked off at other times. Rainy days were holidays.
All roofs and needed shade structures were solar roofs. In agricultural areas the plants were the solar arrays and only farm-bots carried solar electric panels. Covering the south side of Mt. Lemmon in panels was not an option. The solar roofs also collected rainwater. The area roofed was limited to the developed areas not used by plants. What had been residential suburbs, became suburban micro-farms. The roofs of the former home sites were maintained for solar/rainwater collection. Some of the densely packed historic home sites were farmhouses for the micro-farmers. As it took about 4 m² of catchment to irrigate 1 m² of crop, rural/suburban areas exported solar power as well as food to the cities and used rainwater catchment from their roofs and panels to support agricultural endeavors. By limiting solar and rainwater collection for storage to roofed areas, a limit to both power and water was determined. As the 21st century had taught the world, a species's gotta know its limitations, and in the case of humans, set them.
Within cityscapes all rainwater falling on roofs was collected and
stored for mainly human use. The greywater of the city was used to
maintain eatable fruit tree Greenways through which the Strollways for
walkers and Cycleways for rollers passed (formerly known as streets when
they had been dominated by steel behemoths). Food production in Tucson,
due to limited rainfall, was quite limited, but valued out of
proportion to the food produced. Per capita water usage was limited to
30 gallons/day/person (total rainwater catchment divided by population)
for all water uses in the city, including for evaporative cooling. This
compares to 130 gallons/day/person in Tucson in the early 21st century
(not including agriculture which produced virtually all food elsewhere
using on average about 2,000 gallons just for irrigation per person per
day including those living in a desert where the food was eventually
Most humans had grown up in rural areas favored for growing children. Most youths came to the big city to study, to discover their proclivities, to connect, to develop talents, and so most young people spent time in the city as they had in wildness. When the time came, those wishing to raise a family favored the outskirts of the city (suburban farms) and the rural areas where their children, as they had, could explore the buffer zones dominated by nature. Since 80% of the population was involved in agriculture at any one time and most city dwellers had grown up in the country, they maintained an urban micro-garden for fresh treats. The 20% living a part of their lives in the city were supported by the 80% for most of their food needs. The boundary between rural and urban was fluid in every way possible. Limiting oneself to urban or rural living was atypical, so there was no class division.
In urban areas all water that did not fall on roofs for collection fell on Greenways, and the excess was channeled by storm drains to outlying agricultural areas. No rainfall was left unaccounted for, so precious was it to those dependent on it. As over half of the humans' 20% was buffer area, humans intercepted about 8% of all rain for their use. This may seem excessive, but the 92% unused by humans made the rivers flow again. Without setting limits, few birds will sing and no rivers will flow in the desert Southwest.
In rural areas agriculture was dependent on rainfall, not on groundwater pumped nor water diverted from the river, and what did not come from city runoff came from rural/suburban roofs and surface runoff diversion. Agriculture was limited thusly. To both collect rainwater and reduce evaporative losses, some food was produced in greenhouses year around. Retractable solar panels were extended in summer to both moderate temperatures within and export more power to the city. In rural areas there was more greenhouse roof than residential roof area.
Heavy vehicles traveled only along the Casa-Nogales Highway which was guttered to divert rainfall. The road was uncovered as almost all vehicles were direct solar powered. Runoff from the road collected in tanks at low spots and when the sun shined, solar pumps piped water to rural farms. Water was limited, but people made do. They had relearned the old adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."
Food is for more than thought. It is one of the essentials. With water, soil and sun, food can be produced. Air is also needed, but unlike water, soil and sun, it is not in short supply, not a limiting factor. While 80% of the population lived in agricultural areas surrounded by nearby buffer areas, they did not do most of the work. Their residential roofs were needed to collect water and energy as well as to shelter their residents. Life in the country tended to be clustered into small villages. Many considered children to be their primary crop, and so parents and grandparents favored life in the country, as did their children who roamed the buffer zone watched over by Federation drones. Unlike those in the early 20th century and before, rural hayseeds remained well connected to the world via the Info Ether that the internet had become.
The humans were workers, within limits, but also overseers. They oversaw the work of they who slowly did the heavy lifting, if only to express their approval and appreciation. Unlike their predecessors, they did not use animal power, much less human power, to do most of the work. They who labored in the sun did so without complaint. They were hyper-intelligent in some ways, but not pan-dimensional beings. They did what they were designed and made to do. They were farm-bots extraordinaire.
The farm-bots were versatile machines, but not high-power machines such as farmers in the 20th century used. Farm-bots were solar powered by panels they either carried or were tethered to. They worked when the sun shined, when the crop grew. They planted, monitored, patrolled for plants growing where they were not wanted (weeds) and removed them as seedlings. They watched for insect pests and plant diseases, and they knew what to do. Little power was needed. They used more brain than brawn. When needed, they used simple machines as the Greeks had to move mountains (slowly). They knew when to harvest and did so. Humans pitched in and helped as needed. Farmers managed agro-ecosystems. Produce was put on solar e-trucks for export. Some produce was processed and solar cooked before it reached the city, hot and ready to eat.
Human farmers preferred to stroll or roll to oversee their domain, but some oversight while sitting at a computer terminal was needed. Still, unlike in the good old days, human farmers "worked" only about two hours a day. Early on in the post-transition period the need for public works programs and shortage of bots meant humans had to work long and hard to get by, but with prosperity the need for human labor became such that individuals competed for volunteer positions to enhance their community service quotient. There was time enough for study, for art, for mindfulness, for love.
Walking was common. Virtually all needs were within walking distance. As Federation scientists sometimes had to point out, human health depended on meeting, if not exceeding, a minimal activity level. While pedaling was common, it was roughly equivalent to walking, and like walking, involved about 30 to 50 watts of effort. Minimum activity was easy to monitor using a pedometer (which also doubled as rollometer). If on average a person took more than 10,000 steps-equivalent a day, equivalent to walking at a moderate pace for a total of 2 hours out of 24, then they avoided the sedentary life, a condition known to lead to ill health and premature death, a condition most living the industrial way of life had suffered from. Avoiding activity intolerance came to be considered a good thing, and one reason cars, which for a time had served mainly as yard ornaments, came to be scraped for salvage, apart from the few that ended up in museums.
Within the cities, "streets" had been transformed into Strollways and Cycleways. The two were kept separate and were defined by speed. Strollways were for walking, for sauntering, for standing to admire a flower, to sit and chat, or just to sit. Nothing moved faster than a walker. Parallel to the Strollways were Cycleways where nothing moved faster than an average human-powered wheel. There were skaters and cyclists. Some cyclists preferred one wheel, some two or more wheels, but to coexist, speed had to be limited. There were some humans who could pedal a velomobile at 80 km/hr, but they were not average. Average humans pedaling average cycles determined Cycleway speed. Average was 15 km/hr to 25 km/hr, so 25 km/hr was the speed limit on the Cycleways. Rollers (cyclists and skaters), could use the Strollways, but their speed was limited to 8 km/hr as that was the speed limit there. Humans wishing to run could use the Cycleways. Those pedaling a velomobile could take to the Highway.
Rollers having cycles (typically e-cycles) that could go faster than 25 km/hr could take to the Highways. In large urban areas there were lateral Highways connected to the main Highway. The lateral Highways were used by the trolley buses and other cargo carriers where speeds up to 25-50 km/hr were possible. Of course few cyclists could pedal that fast. As many human rollers, especially as they aged, could not maintain 15 - 25 km/hr as allowed on the Cycleways, those with special needs had e-cycles. There were also e-skaters. Those who had vehicles that could go faster than the speed limit never did. All e-vehicles had GPS and knew where they were, and what the speed limit was, and so did not provide assist to go too fast. E-trucks could use the Cycleways when they had to, but only at cycle speed.
E-cycles became status symbols for some (as muscle cars had once been) as only those who had by middle age, when e-cycles might be needed, had saved up enough transportation pons by walking and pedaling when young instead of taking e-buses, could afford them. Velomobiles with huge 500W e-assist motors that could do 50 km/hr were occasionally seen on Highways. They were the remanent sport car/Harley equivalent (once powered by 500,000W+ fossil fueled engines), but very few could afford them by saving enough transportation pons to acquire one. They were the fastest form of private transport. The mortality rate for velomobilers, the "1%ers," was higher and most humans came to realize that 15 km/hr (average human power pedaling speed) was fast, fast enough, and way faster than walking at 4 km/hr average. Long distance public transport machines for those with an occasional need for speed could do 50 km/hr on the Highways. Thus a transportation system provided for human needs with carnage and mayhem secondary to high speed minimized.
Those who took to the intercity Highway favored solar paneled e-cycles that allowed them to go as long as the sun shined. Rural villages typically had several that residents in need could occasionally borrow. Most people in the rural areas, who felt a need to visit a city, however, favored taking the solar e-buses that stopped at a village near them. On the bus they could leave the driving to the e-driver and read or socialize with other passengers.
Cargo was transported along the Highway by e-trucks covered in solar panels driven by e-drivers who didn't mind not driving at night or going slow on cloudy days. Speed can be an acquired want, but is rarely a need. Railways were maintained for automated long distance transport. E-trucks could join together to create a train to ride the rails. Their solar panels powered their own wheels and surplus power charged the train engine battery which provided the e-trucks extra power when needed. Long haul e-train trucking was more efficient and did not use the Highway. Unlike trains of yore, they did not have "cow catchers" because they did not go fast enough that cows (possibly present in rural ag areas) or wildlife couldn't get out of their way. Humans rarely rode the trains and the buffer zone was only 10 meters.
If there was a medical emergency in a rural area and a battery powered ambulance was deemed too slow, a glider was used. Those actually having a need for speed were taken to the nearest glider facility, put on a glider-bot, and a highly compressed air water-rocket was used to launch it at high speed. Another booster water-rocket then turned on taking the glider to a high altitude where it separated and flew itself back while the glider-bot, with an e-nurse onboard, soon landed at the city hospital where the doctors were monitoring the patient in route. Smarter machines, not higher-powered machines, were valued.
Neither village nor city life should be forever, especially in just one village or one city, till death do thee part. Sustainers valued mobility and good government depended on it, on both the village, city, and watershed level. If people can vote with their wheels, they can abandon corrupt, incompetently run sinking ships. Rolling Rooms were common.
In the 21st century people built tiny houses on trailers to circumvent zoning restrictions that forbid the building of homes deemed too small by building contractors and the bureaucrats they lobbied. As the Federation was not a consumer society, people were rewarded in proportion to the number of things they could do without. With few things and a sharing, gifting eco-nomy, a large house is not needed to store stuff. As the consumer life was not sustainable, nor even worth living, it passed away and the consumers addicted to their consumer ways also passed away.
The adaptive came to know their wants from their needs, and came to neglect cultivating their wants, contrary to what relentless adverts from earliest childhood had directed their recent ancestors to do. They came to favor meeting their needs instead. More house, as with most things, is not better house. By keeping it simple they retained their mobility. When they married, they adjoined their Rolling Rooms. When they had a family, they added more RRs. When children left home, they took their room with them. Rolling Rooms were not self-powered, and the e-wheels came off, but with borrowed wheels and added panels, they were easy to move, albeit slowly, across the continent. Some ended up for a time on sailing barges. A few had circumnavigated—sailed/rolled around the planet.
The solar panels on their roof that supplied needed power for lights, small motors and electronics, along with extra panels that came with the e-wheels, could power the wheels that moved it. Travel was in the slow lane, but home was never far away. When a person didn't like their abode, they modified it, typically many times over a lifetime. When they died, after valuables had been inherited, their Rolling Room was moved to the Pyre Place and they were burned in it. The nutritive ashes were mixed with soil and the metal recycled. One's Rolling Room was designed to last a lifetime.
In the consumer society, Rolling Rooms had not been tolerable. They
couldn't possibly hold enough stuff, and they didn't cost enough. They
weren't fast enough to "share" the road with the high-powered vehicles
consumers had been oversold on. People could even make their own without
incurring debt. There just wasn't enough profit in them, and every
consumer knew that small was unthinkable, and smaller unthinkabler.
People knew that just one room per person would never be enough, even
though their ancestors, who didn't know this, lived several to a room.
But change happens; in the new world order, "enough" came to replace
"MORE!!!!" and nobody noticed the loss.
In so far as possible, people were self-sufficient with respect to essentials. What was considered essential, beyond water, soil, food, shelter, transportation, and love varied, but connectivity via the Info Ether was essential and universal. It was a way to communicate with those not in earshot, to find things out, and through the media of e-print and pictures, moving and otherwise, to connect with the dead, the best of whom were well worth knowing. Under Federation influence, schools as little Gulags (forced learning camps) had passed away. Children are natural autodidacts who don't need to be told what to think, but who benefited if taught by friends, family, and community how to think, learn, and figure things out. Teach a child how to learn and they become a lifelong learner. Teaching children what to think was considered child abuse and dealt with. Schools came to be places to house learning materials, for use by young and old, such as equipment needed to do chemistry, physics, electronics, pottery, art, wood working, fabrication, astronomy, microscopy, etc.
If all humans were self-sufficient with respect to energy and resources, like well-rooted trees in the sun, there would be no economy apart from environment. To live in Tucson much food had to be imported. Cities provided services, such as advanced medical care, in exchange. As Tucson had more sun-hours per day than most cities, it had only solar power in relative abundance. Dryland farming was not possible, and locally produced foods were not abundant. Tucson came to use its solar power to manufacture solar panels needed elsewhere, such as areas where dryland farming was possible. Thus non-perishable foods, like wheat, corn, and beans, were exchanged for Tucson's solar panels. By importing basic dry foods, Tucson's local agriculture could focus on producing fresh foods. Tucson didn't make computers, but exchanged panels for them. Thus did the eco-nomy function.
The eco-nomy didn't exist to make people money beyond the dreams of avarice. Some people had to be involved, but they were volunteer public servants who for a limited time were compensated enough for their public service, but not rewarded enough to make them do more than was needed. Non-informative advertising had been banned by the Federation, and information about goods and services was freely available but only to those seeking it. Billboards and other such signage existed only in digital photo archives. All media was ad free. The Federation ceased to use money. Their eco-nomists studied the flow of emdollars between watersheds. The Oversold Society had passed and with it all overselling. And nobody noticed the loss other than the profit mongers.
Profiteers also missed money, but those not habituated to it had only a historical knowledge of money. There was a medium of exchange, called pons, but the pon eco-nomy differed fundamentally from the prior money economy. Pons were a non-transferable birthright provided freely by the distribution system, but in limited amount determined to be enough. They were issued to individuals according to mutually agreed upon measures of need. For each individual, "need" was definable and set equal to 1. If 0.8 was just enough to get by, then those who opted to not serve the system in any way, received 0.8 pons to exchange for "enough." Normal humans endeavor to live well, do the right thing, and severe society, their local community because biology deposes them to. They would get 1.0 pons, plus or minus 0.1 or 0.2. The ultra exceptional, viewed by the community to be invaluable members, would serve as their primate ancestors did, for social status, to be thought well of, without any need for monetary compensation. Some material rewards could be allowed, so the most highly valued could be offered 1.25 pons to exchange for more than they actually needed, thereby allowing them to gift others and preserve their social status (anyone so privilaged who merely inflicted excess on themselves would not be thought well of). Elites could live up to 1.25 times "better" than average, or have up to 1.67 times more than the village misanthrope, and be deliriously well pleased, unlike the billionaires of old who made 10,000 times more yet lived pointless lives of excess. Very few humans were so antisocial as to make a special effort to avoid doing anything to benefit nature or community members and to thereby merit a 0.8 pon ration. Few were so driven or talented as to receive a 1.25 pon ration as an expression of irrepressible community gratitude, typically for an elder who had lived an exemplary life. In a sustainable system, consuption needs to be no more than enough.
Food is a need. Food pons were issued to each according to each person's need for health and activity level as measured by their rollometer. The food needs for each according to age, health, and activity level was readily determined. The food pons could be exchanged for foods according to preference, but extravagant quality choices had self-inflected consequences on quantity and there was a learning curve. Immoderate foods were an option and most could occasional partake. Pons were bio-ID linked, and could not be traded, given away, stolen, nor transferred. They were issued to all and no one had more than was needed (±0.25). Having enough to eat was a human right; eating at a restaurant was not. Most food pons were exchanged for unprocessed dry foods and local fresh foods. Food was cooked using solar or biomass (on cloudy days) by the eaters of it. Exceptions were few and savored. Most lived within cycling distance of a public eatery. There were three in Tucson alone (early 21st century there had been over 1,600).
Other pons were for transportation, water, clothing, housing, and power. By not exchanging transportation pons for local travel, they could be saved to allow longer distance travel. By not using local e-buses for many years, some could travel the world over land and sea, and did. Recreational glider use was not unknown, but flying was associated with extreme emergency medical transport, which none hoped to ever use. But for most, travel was virtual via the Info Ether which involved far less energy. Freedom was maximized, but of necessity, within limits. Freedom is the recognition of necessity.
Perpons were issued annually on December 21 and could be used for personal discretionary spending much as all money once had been, thus perpons supported a vestigial money economy. Perpons could be traded, stolen, or given away. Some became obsessed with the acquisition of perpons and used them to indulge personal extravagances. Some prostituted themselves in sexual and non-sexual ways, pandering to any human weakness they could exploit. While cognitive behavioral therapy was available for such people, their quest for personal wealth was tolerated as the total perpon amount was limited and divided by population to determine how much each received. What was limited, per necessity, was aggregate excess. Some level of excess could be allowed and so was. As it had been, fools and their perpons were soon parted due to the OCD predatory machinations of they who were viewed by most as a remnant quasi-criminal subclass who had once been considered not only normal but exemplary pillars of society.
In economic terms the social order was classless, but people will die for status, will sometimes kill for it, so those who sought "MORE" worked for it. The reward was not money, perpons, nor any material thing. People need to think well of themselves and by extension to have others think well of them. Writing poetry, composing music, dancing the dance, giving expression to one's inner vision, providing good service is its own reward. If others like one's offering (as gift), that is a plus. When there are things that needed to be done and one has the time and ability to do it, doing it will be appreciated and one's status will rise.
Picking nits out of another's hair is a need. Nit picking, ever since our ancestors could pick nits, had been valued. Our ancestors lived without monetary reward. The belief that without paying people to do things in money that can be used to consume things, then absolutely nothing will be done, is a modern falsehood of the cash society perpetrated by the well-moneyed. Things done where often noticed and noted in the public record on the Info Ether for benefit of those who were not paying attention. Everyone's acts of gifting, within limits they determined, was the gifting eco-nomy that enriched all.
Philanthropic organizations depended upon perpon donations. Those donating had their donor-quotiant raised. Those living from perpon issue to perpon issue were not well respected. Most had perpon savings to meet an unexpected personal indulgence. Some willed that any remaining perpods they had on their death be used for a wake when their Rolling Room was burned..
The Federation arose as alternative to chaos, and the suffering, genocide, conquest and mayhem that comes with it. Membership was by invitation only. Some refused Federation policy, their system of principles (derisively called "the new world order") and their offer of assistance. As the years went by, some of those who chose decent into maelström, came to reconsider. Tucson and watershed was one of the early adapters to join the Federation.
That Federation was deemed best which governed least, and when humans were ready for it, not at all. The Federation stood for rule of law, specifically physical laws, such as the laws of thermodynamics and energetics—the system laws governing environment, power, and society. Nature's laws had to be obeyed in the long run as chaos, death, and likely extinction were the alternative. Energy could not be created by throwing imaginary money at nature (first law of thermodynamics).
All energy transformations involve loss (second law of thermodynamics). Sunlight is dilute and only a small fraction of it supports life. Higher levels of energy could be concentrated but always with loss, meaning that high embodied energy content was possible but limited.
Biological systems organize to increase available power whenever possible until constrained (fourth law of energetics). Without environmental or self-limiting constrains, overshoot and collapse are the final constraint, an oft repeated pattern (e.g. yeast in a vat of fruit juice....). Those who had understood the limits to growth, who were once dismissed or derided as loons when growth had been in full swing, understood what needed to be done and formed the Federation to define limits. When the credibility of they of the growth economy collapsed, the Federation began to get people's attention.
The Federation was based on evidence and reason, the best available, and was democratic in the sense anyone with time and talent could, for the price of an effort, seek to understand life, the universe and everything. Reality was not voted on, was not a matter of opinion, as they who endeavored were not free to believe what they wanted to. They had to connect the data dots and follow the breadcrumbs of evidence to find and face whatever reality they were able to grasp. Modeling with AI assistance helped make up for human intellectual deficits.
Understanding the exponential function was a starting point. The global commons could only be managed by people who understood the physical, biological, social, and energy systems involved. Those having the most demonstrable grasp of reality merited participation in formulating and continuously reformulating the Federation's evolving policy. Those who claimed that Earth was a planet for the taking had their claim examined and it did not bare up to close examination. Neither did their behavior.
The Federation defined limits. Information about goods and services was readily and freely available to those who searched for it, but beating people over the head with ads, opinions, POVs, beliefs, ideologies, talking heads, faiths, claims without limit, pontificating, lobbing by special interests, was disallowed in polite society (the Federation).
The Federation's Info Ether was the entire content of the internet ranked (vetted) to favor evidence-based, cogent content. Any content ranked down included the annotated reasons why to invite questioning. Gog, an AI descendant of Watson, ranked Info Ether content and challenging Gog was permitted, indeed encouraged, but evidence and reason trumped firmly held assertions. Anyone could challenge Gog, and many did. Occasionally the human prevailed and Gog re-ranked.
The Federation's mandate was to preserve the "common interest" (not to be confused with the "public interest" that implies "human interest") to protect the planetary commons—the life-support system that all life depended on. Allowing humans to continue to preside over the greatest mass extinction since the late Cretaceous was not an option (for Business-as-usual it was, but not for the Federation). How much of a planet one species could subsume was the prime question that lead to the prime directive of the Federation.
Some argued any more than 1% was too much. Others argued that as much a 50% of Earth's surface could be claimed by humans and still leave room for nature. A decision had to be made on the basis of insufficient evidence. A vote was taken. Those voting had to take a test to assess how much they understood of things that all, whether a 1 percenter or a 50 percenter, agreed needed to be understood and considered. Those who passed with a score of 100% had their vote count 100%. Those who scored under 70% had their vote discounted. Those in between had their vote prorated. Thus did the beginnings of a democratic meritocracy, rule by all citizens who merited their vote, arise.
The result was that 19.834% of the planet could be appropriated by humans for their use. Not one to be innumerate, the Federation rounded the result to 20%. Every 20 years the Federation has reassessed this number, but new estimates have yet to differ significantly enough to warrant a change. The human overlords of the planet came to accept the 20% once they got used to it. Life on Earth rebounded, including human life. Especially human life.
Births were of necessity limited. Birth pons were transferable, unlike other pons, and they could be sold for perpons, but only to the Federation who could also give them away. Birth control was a universal, so having a child was a act of choice, not sex. Every citizen was chosen and came into society with a birth pon. Exceptions happened rarely and no one favored the result. If a mature citizen wished to reproduce, they could transfer their own birth pon to one offspring. A couple had two to transfer. Those who chose not to reproduce could transfer their birth pon to another as a gift or sell it to the Federation. Those obsessed with perpon acquisitiveness could exchange their birth pon for perpons, and thus decrease the frequency of their genes and memes in future generations. That the disparaged 'perponers' might someday become endangered did not concern most in the Federation.
If a child died, its birth pon transferred back to the parent who transferred it. Most who did not wish to be parents gifted their birth pon to a relative who may want another offspring—their own biological offspring or that of another. Male couples could exchange their birth pons to adopt, as could female couples not choosing insemination.
If the Federation determined that global population should be increased, they gave away birth pons to exceptionally good parents who wanted more children, and if necessary rewarded willing parents to have or adopt new citizens. If population needed to decrease to remain comfortably within carrying capacity, they rewarded the non-reproductive who surrendered their birth pon, which they retired from circulation. If one type of human was under represented in the population, such as those of Native American decent due to historical causes, the Federation preferentially rewarded parents for having or adopting children of minority decent.
The population within a watershed was determined by local decree. More people meant less energy, water, space, and resources per capita. By living more frugally a community could have more to share and invite others to live with them. Those who valued other humans lived only according to their actual needs as to have more meant taking from others including the unborn. In the real eco-nomy of transformity, bigger pieces of the pie meant fewer pieces—there needed to be fewer people in one's watershed. To want more than one needed was to be a sociopath in need of treatment.
Tucson was a place many around the world wished to immigrate to. By keeping births below replacement level, Tucsonians could have their pick of people of interest and ability. Thus the UofA was known as a world renowned university.
Sustainable Tucson would be a wonderful place to live, but for how
many? Assume about 25,000 acres of roof area, that all rainwater falling
roofs is collected, and that most is used for irrigation. Together with
rainwater runoff diverted to crops, a self-sufficient population within
the watershed could have been as high as 26,000, far higher than the
aboriginal population, but about 2% of 21st century population. This
implies that, one way or another, 98% of 21st century residents left the
area. Fortunately, for those who remained, most left voluntarily in the
early transition years for greener pastures having more water.
So how is it that 89,000 people actually came to live within the Santa Cruz Watershed by the end of the 23d century? Well, the area was not self-sufficient with respect to food. Over half of the food, basic dry foods, was imported, allowing local agriculture to supply mostly fresh foods. In winter, Tucson was an exporter of fresh foods. Because of the mild climate and available solar power, Tucson became a manufacturing hub, especially for much needed solar panels. Trade allowed for imports, and some areas able to dryland farm had a surplus, so Tucson was on the receiving end of their food and wood exports. About 9,000 people lived in the Tucson urban core and surrounding suburban micro-farms, up from a low of 1,100 that occurred during the transition.
The prosperity of Tucson was due to its early adoption of solar power. In the early 21st century it was not clear if solar electric could generate enough power to make more solar panels than was used to produce them and support the system. Attempts to do so broke even; nearly the entire output of the solar powered solar panel factory was needed to mine materials, transport them, process them, support the people and bots involved, and make enough panels to replace the panels being used to make panels. The net eMergy was marginal. Those who were promoting solar did calculations that suggested a solar powered solar panel factory would produce many more panels than used to produce them, but promoters of "sustainable solar" had an obvious bias in overestimating net eMergy. The only way to know if solar could be sustainable was to guess then test, and Tucson was an early adopter.
Scientists and engineers from around the world came to Tucson to undertake a sort of solar "Manhattan Project" effort. Initial efforts were indeed marginal, but persistence lead to solar panel manufacturing efficiencies such that for every 100 panels made, only 31 were used to replace the panels being used to produce panels. Tucson came to use extensive solar roof installations to collect power to make panels and harvest water to produce fresh foods locally. The early investment in solar allowed Tucson to support one of the largest urban populations in the Southwest. The solar-based wealth of the city exceeded the prosperity of most others, and citizens had up to 200 watts of personal solar electric to power their personal life. Those wishing to immigrate to Tucson were many, but of course population was limited. Most of those who would be Tucsonians could but endeavor to do as Tucsonians had done with their 20%.
The political power of the Federation was limited. Not all had joined; not all accepted Federation defined limits or assistance. There were areas closed to outsiders and little was known, apart from satellite monitoring, of such areas. None who chose to enter returned. As Federation scientists were not invited to enter, none did so with Federation approval, pursuant to its policy of non-interference.
There were some who had been born into a Federation Polis who came to reject Federation policy. The ultimate consequence for subverting or defying Federation policy was not death, but the withdrawal of freedom, which in extreme cases meant banishment. Citizens of one watershed, who could not live within its normative laws, could immigrate to any watershed who would accept them. One watershed came to accept so many of the disaffected from around the world that they came to secede from the Federation, which did not require going to war. The Federation merely withdrew.
Some societies outside of the Federation maintained some connection, such as via the flow of information. Other areas allowed no contact. Some who renounced Federation citizenship chose to enter the unknown areas. What became of them was left to speculation. Did they die at the hands of xenophobic partisans? Did they encounter a eutopian society of such dazzling splendor that none ever thought to return? No one knew.
Some thought that the Federation knew and either did not want citizens to know, because they could not compete with splendor, or that they knew all who entered died and allowed their death as alternative to executing the militantly anti-Federation which Federation policy did not allow. But no one knew, and those who thought they knew did not accept the Federation's denial.
The Federation was known, and in the century after the transition all but 7 percent of humankind had opted for the Federation solution. Most wanted to survive and came to thrive within Federation defined limits. Federation members supported a small global and mobile military force whose only function was to protect Federation members from territorial expansion efforts of the remaining would-be growther enclaves.
A vision of Tucson sustainable, of a Tucson that has achieved sustainability, can be a deliriously wonderful feel-good one. The transition from Growth Culture to a Sustainer Culture, from one committed to overselling the public on everything (including sustainability) to one committed to the Power of Enough, however, will not likely be a feel-good part of the story to come. The alternative to transition is not transitioning—i.e. overshoot and collapse ending in possible extinction. Unless there is revolt, a kicking in of the rotten door of growthism, a rejection of life as it is now lived by most, then the greater the overshoot the bigger the collapse. If extinction is not the outcome, if lessons are learned, then that will be THE TRANSITION. It will be a transition that will not be embraced my many, including those who embrace the idea of transition. Change that is not embraced will therefore involve a lot of kicking and screaming, a lot of murder, mayhem, and destruction.
Our best hope may be that lessons will be learned and that collapse
will not be total; that partial recovery will not be followed by
subsequent collapse a few centuries or millennia later. A better plan is
to learn lessons now, to not wait to learn things the hard way, or
rather, when the time comes when most people will have to learn the hard
way, there will be a few who can help them clarify the issues.
But don't count on humans learning the hard way. They may not learn at
all. So why wait? Learn now while the learning is easy. Revolt, reject,
resist now. And when others are ready to learn, teach what you have
already learned by doing.
Define what a sustainable life might actually look like and live it. Transition now; one household at a time. Go off-grid in the city or a village. Live off your rainfall, your 5 watts of solar power (or maybe 50W or whatever's >0), and see how much food you can grow. See if you can produce something for export to trade for what you can't produce.
Note: Solar PV electric is envisioned to be an alternative power basis for civilization. It may be less efficient than harvesting wood (sustainably) from a forest and burning it to produce (some) electricity using steam, or (cue wild techno-optimism) slightly more. It may have net negative energy output, meaning it takes more energy to maintain a solar PV power system and all needed support systems than the PV system produced. There is currently no evidence that PV solar could be a significant net producer of energy. For some, that solar PV could be net positive is a conjecture; for others a faith-based belief. PV solar currently requires AC inverters with high embodied energy and limited lifetime, but by going DC they could be eliminated and 5% - 10% of solar power produced would not be lost to conversion to AC and often back to DC. Other refinements could lead to positive net energy output. The above vision for Tucson is an example of techno-optimism, but at least one that doesn't, so far as is known, violate any laws of physics or energetics. Other energy sources may have to be used to make solar PV panels and system components. If so, Tucson would be a consumer rather than a producer of solar and would be hard pressed to offer goods or services to exchange for solar panels along with everything else considered as needed, meaning Tucson's prosperity would be much less than envisioned or nearly the same but for far fewer people.
"The Intellect should always be the servant of the Heart, and never its slave." —August Comte (1798-1857)
From "An Ecolate View of the Human Predicament"
Note 2: As an exercise for the student/citizen, pick the watershed (or an approximate 200 km diameter—20,000 to 31,416 km² sub-watershed area) you live in and help the Federation out by developing a land use plan with map as a starting point for Federation scientists who will need local cooperation. Indeed, it will have to be locals, not the Federation, who decide what 20% of their watershed to claim and how best to develop it. Call it "Envision ___________ __ Sustainable" written as a 23rd century Wikipedia article accessed via the Wayforward Machine, and a copy of your plan can be hosted here. The Federation's helpful suggestions may be needed to resolve sub-watershed boundary disputes.