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Freeing Ourselves From the Corporate-Ruled Global Economy

As we restructure our physical and economic relationships for true economic efficiency and reduce the human burden on the biosphere, we will see our interdependence more clearly.

At a recent conference, I saw the potential for blending two of the most exciting emerging movements of our time -- the living building and the living economies movements. A vision of the combination of these two movements energized me with renewed hope that we humans can end our isolation from one another and from nature -- that we can move forward to achieve a prosperous, secure, and creative human future for all.

The Living Building Challenge

The conference I attended was led by Jason McLennan of the Cascadia Green Building Council and the International Living Future Institute. Ambitiously titled “Living Future 2011,” the conference focused on the “Living Building Challenge,” which takes Green Building standards to a new level. As I listened to the conference presenters, I heard some of the brightest and most tech-savvy minds in architecture, construction, and urban planning spell out the practical possibilities for creating built spaces around integrated energy, water, and nutrition (food) systems. Some of the ideas are still theoretical. Most, however, are already in application or being incorporated into physical structures now under construction.

These innovative proposals eliminate waste, feature natural lighting, and provide for onsite capture of rainwater, energy (wind, solar, and thermal), and organic matter (food scraps and human waste) for recycling and reuse, including for urban gardens (edible roofs and walls and built in green houses).

Water is used in the first cycle for drinking, dish washing, and showering; recycled for laundry and micro-flush composting toilets; and directed from there to onsite gardens from which it filters into the aquifer. Hot water, cooking, and space heating are integrated to optimize overall energy efficiency.

Integrating multi-purpose buildings into a larger multi-building neighborhood or district system adds opportunities to develop public green spaces, community gardens, edible landscaping, and small-scale poultry and livestock production, as well as natural wetlands and living machine water purification to continuously recycle nutrients, water, and energy.

Integrative projects also create opportunities to balance the utility loads of businesses, which generally have greater energy needs during the day, and residences, which have greater needs during nonbusiness hours. Bringing residences, employment, shopping, and recreation together in close proximity minimizes transportation requirements and facilitates the sharing of autos, bicycles, appliances, and tools, and community connections to mass transit, bike trails, and other transportation alternatives.

The Living Economies Connection

The living building framework focuses attention on shelter and nutrition as the basic essentials of a human livelihood. It seeks to remedy the dysfunctions of current infrastructure designs that isolate us from one another and operate in opposition to the biosphere’s natural generative processes. The living economies framework focuses on networks of living enterprises and seeks to remedy the dysfunctions of an economic system that contributes to this same isolation and disconnect.

Both movements seek to bring the way we live into alignment with the structure and dynamics of Earth’s biosphere, which self-organizes locally everywhere to optimize the sustainable utilization of energy, water, and nutrients in support of life.

The corporate ruled global economy isolates people and communities from the sources of their food, energy, water, materials, and manufactured goods, leaving them dependent on corporate controlled global supply chains that are wasteful, unstable, unaccountable, and environmentally and social destructive. The underlying system structure and dynamics are in most every respect mirror opposites of those of the biosphere.

Working in opposition to the biosphere, the global economy is maintained only by unsustainable dependence on a non-renewable fossil fuels subsidy. It is already failing and its ultimate collapse is only a matter of time.

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