“We stole it from our children…”

1 Apr

We live in a world saturated by “sensationalistic” media. You can literally span the globe in seconds… in horror.

Fear-mongering and “doom and gloom” sell ad time and seemingly rule the day, in a world driven by profits and not benevolence.

We’re reading and watching daily…

… about cities decimated by disasters. Places Like Christchurch, New Zealand and entire provinces in Northern Japan.

Let’s not forget places like Haiti, Peru and Chile, as well. Earthquakes have really been brutal in the last several months, all over the planet.  Couple that with tsunamis and raging wildfires and you get the hint that an angry Mother Nature is giving us all a spanking.

Is there an upside to this madness?

In all the chaos and catastrophe, some would say: “Yes.”

I’m one of them. As areas rebuild they have opportunities to begin anew – creating order out of chaos and sculpting environments more compatible with both person and planet.

Now, anyone who reads this blog knows I’m not about to go on a “Treehugger” militant environmentalist rant.

What I AM suggesting is that reorganizing and rebuilding areas to be more compatible with both “Mother Nature and Mankind” can be both cost-effective and a huge boon to the people living there – not just NOW, but for the generations to follow.

By really putting some thought into action… (in the trade we call it “Pre-Design”) not only will they establish more comfortable and sustainable environments, the architects of these new places will rekindle long untended fires – hopefully fueling the desires of our kids, who might just have a shot at home ownership when they reach an age that requires they tend their own created nests…

In fact, that’s one of my biggest fears, truth be told;

Will my children be ABLE to own homes of their own?

Or, will it be “a luxury completely out of reach of the common man”… by the time they’re old enough to agonize over it’s loss?

Places like Christchurch, New Zealand are now giving serious thought to concepts like “sustainable town planning” as they literally redesign their city from the rubble up.

Talk about “blessings from curses”…

It’s an opportunity not afforded many major cities… Christchurch gets to initiate a new, sustainable and environmentally friendly list of features BECAUSE they get to start with what some would say is a “clean slate”.

The Japanese will be faced with the same set of circumstances, once they’ve had enough time to define where it will actually be safe to rebuild. My heart grieves as I think about all those families struggling to determine their “new” futures in a very uncertain world.

In our past, we didn’t really consider things like future energy costs, rampant inflation, or climatic change. Towns were not as sophisticated as they need to be in these times we now live in.

Back then… we built SHELTERS. It had to be fast, affordable to build and capable of being constructed with the labor and materials that we had on-hand.

Now, City Planners must take the long view – we have to consider the “new truths.”

It’s not enough to build McMansions on every corner anymore. Everything has it’s price. And like death and taxes, the price must be paid… Rising energy costs top that list in my view.

Foresight and design of scalable architecture that will allow growth both “out and up”,  creating infrastructures that will support the weight of the masses that will come is a requirement that cannot get pushed off the table any longer.

In America (and most places beyond) urban metropolises are generally large sprawls surrounding compact and centralized commerce zones. Public transportation (like buses and cabs) crawl thru the centers like ants, but seldom cover the out areas comprehensively.

How many of you live in places where buses don’t go?

How many of you live in places where there are sections of town completely isolated from you, unless you drive a car?

In the city I live in, there are actually Hospitals, Libraries and Government Service Offices that are unreachable without a very expensive cab ride. It’s due to poor planning, plain and simple.

And there’s more to consider;

The price of oil is all over the map as I type this.

OPEC is using current Geo-political events to play with the barrel prices of oil.

Comprehensive public transportation and alternative vehicles can help combat these “seemingly uncontrollable manipulations” of profit.

We don’t have a leash on OPEC.

They do what they want, whenever they want, usually at our expense.

We have to recognize that transportation systems based on fossil fuel powered vehicles have many costs that exceed the act of fueling:

  • Manufacturing vehicles requires large quantities of energy and oil products.
  • The number of cares required affects the construction of roads (more public transport equals fewer roads required)
  • Fewer roads would mean less impact on habitat and better maintenance of environmental stability.
  • Fewer required vehicles equals less Air pollution in the form of carbon monoxide.

It should be noted that carbon monoxide contributes to climatic “change” and effects…

Somebody said:

“We don’t inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”

I say that we stole it from our children… and it’s time to give it back.

In my opinion – If we are to be smart about rebuilding these cities and provinces (or even planning new communities) , we shouldn’t rush into the reconstruction without planning to meet the needs of today as well as considering the needs of tomorrow.

We have a chance to construct cities that utilize alternative methods of transportation; things like bicycles, electric cars and cargo haulers, and even pedestrian friendly corridors. Putting “dedicated” lanes in existing cities would normally be cost prohibitive (think of all the ramifications… like taking part of people’s front yards to “claim” the required space) but when you’re rebuilding or re-settling… it would be much easier.

It reminds me of those commercials you see on TV;

“You can pay me now… or you can pay me later.”

And prices seem to be going up exponentially across the board. So, can we afford to wait for “later?”

Take electric bicycles. We’ve all seen them. Some of us covet them. They allow us to get places we couldn’t normally go, cost effectively and relatively quickly. Need to make a quick milk run? That electric bike can be just the ticket. And you plug it in at night to recharge it, for pennies.

Electric buses are a larger version of the electric bike, for those runs where you need room to carry more cargo, like several bags full of groceries from the nearest SuperStore.

What if you created hubs where electric buses connected with places where electric bikes or even electric cars could be used, to “reach out” even further? Ever been to a nursery? Ever seen those electric carts they use to haul around hundreds of potted plants and bags of planting material?

You have to admit they’d haul a lot of groceries home… or even several kids to soccer or the library… for pennies.

I know you’re rolling your eyes;

“Ronin is preaching Utopia again…”

But these same principles apply, whether you’re talking about “Christchurch” , “Corten Clan” or “Church Camp”. If you think “scalable” you can see where these same concepts could be applied to villages, towns, cities or metropolises.

The technology is already there, sitting on the shelf waiting to be implemented. The only thing stopping us is ambition and initiative.

Now, take all this “concept stuff” and transfer it to that “Corten  Community” that you’re wanting to build, in places like Houston… and heaven forbid… in the “out and aways”…

You know who you are…) 😉

There are several clans/tribes/family groups building “Corten Villages” as I type this. I know it’s true. I’m working with several of them, myself. They stretch from coast to coast.

I tell them what I’m telling you;

By really thinking thru HOW you interact with each other, you can not only plan and build sustainable communities, you can actually enhance your everyday “face to face” lives. Efficient, affordable, sustainable improvements will lead to the achievement and fulfillment of a higher standard to measure your existing “quality of life” against.

Our forefathers gave this some thought as they plied the prairies in Conestoga Wagons.

We just have better tools.

Now, SOME of us are rethinking this as we make forays into “forest and furrow”…

As we think hard about looking for places to resettle our families while the world slowly turns…

Image Credits: HiveHouston.org


8 Responses to ““We stole it from our children…””

  1. Jay Gerke April 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    How about lots of Corten villages that are self sustainable, or nearly so?

    • Renaissance Ronin April 1, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      From your lips to Heaven’s ears…

      Look, I know I preach to the Corten Choir… but the deal is it can really be ANY sustainable community, be it Corten Steel, Earthbags (one of my personal favorites right behind ISBUs), Straw Bale, Rammed Earth, or whatever else you can find that will thumb it’s nose at Mother Nature when required.

      In my view – It’s about taking “secure steps”;
      Corten Castle, Community, City, County, State, Country… Each step, built on the success of the one before it… takes us closer to securing our own futures based on self reliance and self responsibility.

      And it insures that our kids at least have a fighting chance…

      I’m more than willing to take a few more scars if it means that my children’s path will be clearer…

      I brought them into this world… it means that I owe them a life.

      Until of course… they leave the nest… probably with an empty refrigerator humming away in the background… 😉

  2. JGoin April 1, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    It’s only now that other countries and enclaves of individuals within those nations are able to move forward in such large-scale at a faster clip due to the “clean slates” provided by the disasters that befell them.

    Problem being, Americans have had plenty of chances to do this with their own disasters and planning, but the abundance of oil and the dunder-headed belief that materials and fuel sources are all infinite have blinded the largest portions of the population from the truth.

    If we really want to see any advancement, there has to be some outpouring of support from academia and builders in order to convince the aforementioned portion of society that it’s -worth- building something sustainable and that the price will eventually come down with enough purchase and investment in the technology.

    BTW, the images provided in the post remind me of designs provided by Jacque Fresco at The Venus Project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Venus_Project)(http://www.thevenusproject.com/). They’re beautiful designs either way. Keep up the good work.

    • Renaissance Ronin April 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      We do have our work cut out for us, to be sure.

      And I’m quite familiar with the works of “Futurist” Jacque Fresco. His “Cities of the Future” – “The Venus Project” serve to inspire us all. A lot of Jacque’s work spirals around the idea of a “Research City” built to demonstrate his principles.

      And, perhaps (while admittedly not as “Star Wars” in appearance) HIVE Houston is a “stepping stone” to achieving some of Jacque’s goals.

      I believe that enclaves like HIVE will demonstrate that “lofty goals” (as some define them) are indeed achievable, by simply using common sense, ambition and hard work.

      And, our children will be the beneficiaries.

      HIVE… and Jacque for that matter… have my full support.

      They’re actually DOING… and not just talking. Good on ’em…

      And we’re the better for it.

  3. heidi April 4, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Alex, I’m never rolling my eyes when I read your blog, as you think so many people do. Rebuilding is the perfect time to get it right. The key is to do the research first, not to figure it out as you go. Look and you’ll see there are as many wonderful stories out there in the news as there are bad ones. Recently, the Chilean miner rescue, the ban of the death penalty in Illinois, rave reviews for a new play, sports heroics (if your team wins). I believe that the good news we’ll be reading about in the near future will have to do with thoughtful, humanitarian responses to our energy problems, and creative, cost-effective green architecture. I hope your family is well. P.S. I love your photos!

    • Renaissance Ronin April 4, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      Thanks Heidi,

      The way I see it…

      Show me a project that fails and I’ll show you a project that didn’t have a good plan.

      The clock is ticking. We can’t just keep doing the same things. The “same things” don’t work.

      I’m not sure they ever really did, we just weren’t as observant or aware as we could have been. There are 6 Billion of us on this rock, all trying (sometimes at least) to peacefully co-exist. Even small steps (be it one family or one Enclave at a time) can make a small dent that hopefully will add up and make a major impact.

      And personally, I love that when a project like yours (for those of you who don’t know Heidi… I’m talking about HIVE Houston) makes itself “undeniable”…

      I get to put my thumb in the eye of another naysayer. 😉

      Hey, you know me… it’s just the way I roll… 🙂

      Josh is recovering, albeit slowly… Ever try to keep a three year old off his feet? It’s an “Olympian task”… 😦


  4. Jeremiah April 5, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Even more importantly than the question of how do we rebuild a city with the best practices that have been talked about, how do we alter, or enhance, our cities and “burbs” to make them more sustainable, user friendly and build community where currently we’re stuck in our “bunker” mentality?
    Short of a devastating Tsunami that comes through “Armageddon” style allowing us to “rethink” our cities and communities, where does the conversation start right here at home for creating “retrofit” communities that can be interconnected and interwoven into strong and prosperous cities not of the future, but of the now?

    • Renaissance Ronin April 5, 2011 at 10:34 am #

      I suspect that the answer to that lies in aiding and augmenting the communications skills of the leaders who will either “pave the way or create the potholes”…

      The “designers and architects” of those new horizons will require more skills than a sharp pencil or a CAD puck…

      Now, more than ever, the leaders must “teach” – clients, communities, conventions… Pick a podium. 🙂

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