Monday, May 30, 2011

The Neighborhood as Unit of Abundance-Fostering (Part 1)

I used to think I wanted to be a hermit, or found a colony somewhere on sustainable and egalitarian lines.

When I first came across Christopher Alexander's Living Neighborhoods site I realized that what I really wanted was to live in a cool neighborhood where energy capture, food growing, and waste reclaimation were carried out locally in sustainable (read Permacultural) ways and where my neighbors shared my values (and sense of joie de vivre.)

I'm not a political radical. I'm content—truly, deeply content—with our democratic system. That may seem a strange thing to say in this polarized time but I know enough history to know how good we've got it.  I feel that we have all the clout and influence we need, at least on a local scale, to affect how our neighborhoods are governed, so I don't feel any pressing need to found or join a community on those grounds.

But I do think that retrofitting say, a block, or even just a street, in a modern city would be prohibitively expensive, and the only feasible way to build a sustainable neighborhood rapidly is, therefore, from the ground up.

I don't know that Wendy and Peter of Lone Tree Farm want to go so far as to have a whole neighborhood of people living with them, but they do want to expand the educational aspects of the farm and I hope there will be a role there for the "Pattern Language" techniques.

Prof. Alexander's "Pattern Language" concept is a fascinating fractal library of living geometric architectural patterns which, he asserts (with evidence and applications), can be used to evolve dynamic living buildings in situ by their inhabitants. The Living Neighborhoods site has extended this building process to encompass neighborhood construction and growth.

Whether or not you use Prof. Alexander's techniques, I think there's a huge advantage to creating Permaculture patterns at the scale of neighborhoods rather than single-family residences or farms. Even Lone Tree Farm with their hundred-plus acres would be able to more effectively modify the valley their property straddles if they could do so with the cooperation of their neighbors who share it.

Thriving neighborhoods, integrated with Nature, are the best bet for long-term survival, wealth building, and abundance.


  1. I was checking up on the "Buds" and discovered your blog about the Pony Farm. How wonderful. You'll do fine. There's something magical about planting and harvesting food you eat. Of getting your hands in dirt. Of adjusting the cycle of your day to sun up and sun down. I have a feeling it will be very good for you. The old time hippy in me waxes nostalgic about cabin living. I can just taste the eggs, so different than the mass produced eggs of unhappy hens in cages. I'm happy for you and I look forward to more blog posts about your experience. I see a book developing from the experience. Big hugs and I'll tell Tosh about what you're up to. xoxo Nora

  2. Hey Nora-san! Isn't it great? And we're only three hours north of SF so I might be able to give you some "real" eggs. I plan to work from the farm as a programmer and consultant, and spend a lot of time meditating and clearing out old cruft, and I want to document the whole thing. I want to make videos and maybe DVD(s) and your idea of creating a book is awesome!
    This really (finally) feels like the right time to do this. Hugs and love, and maybe I'll see you and/or Tosh up at the farm. :D