Sustainable cities of the future
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14-11-2011, 07:36 AM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
No flying car fantasies; i was thinking about the kind of living spaces we actually could build - or, far more interestingly, how we might transform the cities we already have, to serve the people instead of the money, once this economic cycle has run its course. That's what i was really hoping for: ideas on what changes to make.*

As for how much agriculture can feed how many people, it depends on the kind of agriculture. The present kind is unsustainable in any quantity, because it's so heavily dependent on oil products (fertilizer, as well as machinery) and long-distance shipping. Large-scale grain and cattle farming will be the first casualties of the collapse. Then coffee, cocoa and other exotic crops for cold climates.
Food will have to be grown intensively and close to the consumer.... But this is good in several ways: it will automatically green the cities, which need the air cleaned and cooled anyway; being surrounded by vegetation is healthy for body and mind; cultivating plants is useful and regenerative work - plus they get fresh food, cheap.

*What do you think about recycled styrofoam igloos in earthquake zones?

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14-11-2011, 08:03 AM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
Like Peterkin said, much of the food issue lies in what kind of agriculture we practice.

The very first step towards sustainable food production should be corn. STOP GROWING IT! Unless it is for actual food (less than 15% of corn crops in the US are used as food) stop wasting valuable land on it. Corn uses incredible abounts of nitrogen, which is added to soil as fertilizer. This destroys the soil structure (along with horrid farming practices like using Round-Up) and means that the soil will always need fertilizers to grow things. If, however, we grew a variety of different food crops on just a fraction of the land we now reserve for corn, and used better farming techniques (like no-till, encouraging microbial activity instead of fertilizing, cultivating predatory insects instead of spraying pesticides, etc.) we could feed everyone quite comfortably. And even things like cattle could have a positive impact, if it is a properly managed "crop". (Every few years, letting land grow to wild pasture, and having animals graze it, returns years worth of nutrients. Plus, properly grazed animals DO NOT pump out methane like so much propeganda would like you to believe. It is grain fed animals that do this. A cow in my pasture NEVER sees grains unless she finds them among all the other native grasses in the pasture. Besides, she will pass right by them for a mouthful of grass).

But this is all grand scale stuff. Lets take it down a notch. A while back (probably a year or so) I challenged people on this forum to grow some food. Any food. As simple as a single tomato plant. Not many took me up on the challenge. How bout I make the challenge again. Grow food in your house. If you don't know how or what to grow, I will help. I grow watermelons in my windows (yes, indoors) as well as tomatoes, peas, canteloupe, lettuce and chard, and a host of other things. Most can be grown in the dead of winter, in a sunny window, with very little care. Even if you grow a single tomato, that is one less tomato tat has to travel to get to you, and one less tomato filled with chemicals that you will put into your body.

Try it. I will help every step of the way if you want. This type of thing is how we get started on the road to a stable food economy. It's taking things into your own hands. It's taking part.

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14-11-2011, 10:12 AM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
Yay! My only good window is currently full of unproductive plants (though the miniature orange tree did yield fruit a couple of times, its season is too long and fragile for reliability) i think i can adapt one other south-facing window, if i sacrifice some cedar cover... tough choice, that. Purple basil made the transition to flower-pot and is doing okay. Had climbing beans in the front porch this summer, but no beans - i thought sure there was enough insect traffic in there! Going to try running up cukes around the window-frame, and maybe arugula or tiny Chinese salad veg in the big pots around the feet of hibiscus and palm.

Been considering this:



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14-11-2011, 11:36 AM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
(14-11-2011 04:23 AM)mysticjbyrd Wrote:  With the scarcity of oil, the suburbs might no longer be sustainable. Cities might very well become much larger, much more compact, and more sustainable, sort of like city states.

Ohh or is this thread talking about a fantasy future with flying cars?

(13-11-2011 05:54 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  
(13-11-2011 04:23 PM)Zatamon Wrote:  Then, each of us could build our own house on that piece of land and grow our own food.

Got a number ya don't wanna hear: 1.6 billion. That's the sustainability figure for agriculture without industrial combine.

There were 1 billion people alive in 1800 and by 1880 there was 1.6 billion people alive.
So yah...that # is crap and whatever source it came from is also crap.


PS: Isnt the lunar fuel, He3.

D'oh! He3. Tongue

The number ain't crap, though, It's a modern consideration based upon a pile of analysis. Yet it is crap in that it is "negative thinking" - and I try to avoid that stuff. Wink

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14-11-2011, 11:45 AM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
"(less than 15% of corn crops in the US are used as food)'

I have not looked this up, but that figure only seems to account for human consumption. I am sure a huge percentage of that is used for livestock.

Ethanol corn consumption likely inst very large at all.
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14-11-2011, 01:14 PM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
(14-11-2011 11:45 AM)mysticjbyrd Wrote:  "(less than 15% of corn crops in the US are used as food)'

I have not looked this up, but that figure only seems to account for human consumption. I am sure a huge percentage of that is used for livestock.

Ethanol corn consumption likely inst very large at all.

You are correct (sorry, should have clarified) most is used as feed. Ethanol is a pretty large portion too though. The problem is, corn is a terrible feed for livestock. It's as bad as grains like wheat, oats, and barley. Basically it gives the animal a fucked up digestive system, causing diahrrea (so chronically that an adult would no longer have a colon capable of passing normal stool) and severe gas (THAT is why people think cows are bad for the environment) If fed a normal diet (grass, grass, and a little grass on the side) cows are very efficient at converting plant protien into a more digestable source of protien for us, they greatly improve the quality of the soil upon which they graze (IF they are given the appropriate amount of space) and instead of pumping excess methane into the air, they actually reduce carbon dioxide by accelerating the natural processes that recycle all solid carbon. In fact, saying accelerate is not even accurate. Better to say they bring things back into balance.

Thanks for pointing that out Mystic.

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14-11-2011, 01:21 PM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
Peterkin,

The window farms work well for herbs and such, but don`t work very well for fruit bearing plants like tomatoes, peppers, melons, or cucumbers. I find the main key to indoor growing (at least for me) is transplanting. I like to do it often, and never have any issues with transplant shock, even with sensitive roots like cucumbers. It allows a dense but breathable root system. A little H2O2 treatment right before transplants gives the roots an oxygen boost and transplanting is a breeze.

Not to say you shhouldn`t give the window farm a try, but in my experience, you`ll do best with herbs and leafy greens.

Ill try to find the pic of how I grow watermelons for ya. I think you`ll like it!

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14-11-2011, 03:05 PM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
Leafies is about all i'd attempt with the limited hours of light and cool temps most of the time - that's not the room we live in. Have had tomatoes and peppers in pots, but they didn't produce well, even with much better (tall, unobstructed double-glazed SW facing) windows than i have now. Squash would be okay, even if it only produced flowers (batter fried - yum!) and it's pleasant to look at.
The hydroponic business is intriguing, and i can imagine the benefits in an apartment or office building, where frickin great 16th storey windows are going to waste. There are quite a few versions of this method. One acquaintance swears by his system; says it requires very little effort, once you've set it up properly. It looks to me as if the roots are cramped, but he says not.

Goats are cheaper, hardier, more compact, less demanding, and produce good milk. We'll have to cut way down on beef consumption, regardless what the cattle are fed: it's inefficient. Wheat products, too. Our whole diet will have to change.... Well, not mine; almost everyone else's.

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14-11-2011, 04:06 PM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
Amen to goats! The milk and cheese is WAY better than cow IMO, and the fact that they don't eat as selectively is a bonus both for the keeper and the land. As far as the meat (I think I recall that you don't eat meat yourself, but generally speaking) it is good, but more difficult to prepare, and definitely has a flavor that the North American palette is generally not used to. That is all just a matter of changing what people are used to though.

Beef is a good meat, but you are right about reducing the amount we consume (generally speaking). It takes large chunks of land to raise beef sustainably, and that land should only have beef on it every 3 to 6 years (depending on climate, crops, proper rotation, etc.) Therefore, we simply don't have the space for beef to be a "primary" meat source. But by employing diversity beef can be a sustainable, healthy, and humanely raised meat.

Another great meat that is often overlooked in North America is rabbit. We raise our own, along with chickens, and they are not only a fantastic meat (tasty, healthy, tender and moist) but also a joy to work with. If we change our attitudes about livestock from "walking hunks of meat" to "animals that we care for, and after being provided a good life, will in turn provide us with nurishment" then I foresee several things happening. First and foremost, people will think about where their food comes from, and it will actually matter to them if their food was tortured on a feedlot, or raised by a caring farmer on his own homestead. And that's not just the "be kind" part either. When I raise/slaughter/butcher my own meat, I am always thinking of not only how to best treat the animal, but what will be healthiest for my family, since that is precicely who will be eating it.

I don't think everyone needs to kill all the meat they eat, but I do think everyone should know where that meat came from and what practices were employed to get it to the table. That's why my beef and pork come from a neighboring farm that I can actually visit and SEE the animals, and why my rabbit and chickens are raised right here. (Looks like spring will welcome our first dairy goat. Can't wait!)

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14-11-2011, 04:47 PM
RE: Sustainable cities of the future
What kind of goat. Alpines are pretty but Nubians are more popular in Ontario. I was raised with a Saanen - difficult temperament, that girl, but i think my mother spoiled her - fantastic milk. Imagine some miniatures in apartment-complex enclosures... yes, you'd have to fence the yard and refrain from planting oleanders or geraniums. For meat preparation, consult anyone from the West Indies. Back in my well-invested youth, i worked with people from the islands and their food was amazing.

Apartment dwellers could also, very easily, have a communal rabbit hutch on the roof - in the roof garden. Or that underused common room where the old ladies are supposed to play cards and have craft classes, but somehow never come. Put in a couple of catfish tanks at the same time.
Stick the treadmill and stationary bikes up there, in a pleasant environment to work out, hook them up to generators, have your shower and recycle the water through the vegetable beds.

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