Rediscovering ecological principles
by Greg Bryant
May 21, 2023
Big projects are bad for the environment. Tall buildings are energy-inefficient, structurally and infrastructurally more expensive per square foot, and they devastate us by separating people from nature. Giant solar farms destroy underground desert root systems and their carbon sequestration. Nuclear power plants require unspeakably poisonous uranium mining by some of the planet's most abused workers. Fossil fuel extraction, and most mining, is similarly poisonous. Factories are profitable in proportion to the destructiveness of the wrecking ball of global extraction and colonization they rely upon. Agribusiness destroys lives and land, is fragile, impoverishing, and unsustainable. Dense modern cities do not allow people to work together to grow their own food, maintain their own buildings, and make a reasonable life for themselves with the labor of their hands and that of their neighbors.
The solution, in general, is to make each person, household, neighborhood, village, and small city as locally self-sufficient as possible. Only then do people and groups become as low-consuming as possible, because they know the value of things.
But 'business as usual' in the destructive and growth-hungry global economy, does everything to move us in the opposite direction.
Centuries ago, almost everyone understood this. There was no alternative. There were no coal, gas, oil, or nuclear power plants;, no plastics, cars, guns, chemical plants, gigafactories, data centers, giant dams, or industrial farms. There were many problems with the systems that existed at that time, but those systems hadn't yet grabbed everyone on the planet, nor the planet itself and all its wildlife.
In the 1970s, when people in the western world became aware of the mess made by the establishment, they realized they had to begin to adapt by conserving what they had. They conserved wild areas, buildings, land. And then they moved life back towards nature, towards becoming part of an ecology again.
One example was the Integral Urban house, a notion and Berkeley demonstration project, to take private homes in urban neighborhoods and making them self-sufficient, with intense gardens, solar panels, composting, rainwater collection, regenerated soils, and craft. RAIN Magazine took this a step further and turned their urban house into a community research center for a sustainable, ecological, public interest lifestyle. More ambitious projects worked on the neighborhood scale, creating urban farms, moving from 'victory gardens' to community gardens, from neighborly house to community centers and ecologically-minded Community Development Corporations (CDCs). This trend still exists, but it is crowded out by corporate propaganda of the worst sort.