Planned Forest Communities

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, August 12, 2017

One of the major causes of climate change denial is self-interest. Owners of oil, gas, and coal reserves have trillions of dollars in potential wealth they don’t want to give it up. These people will do anything to protect those riches, including intensive propaganda campaigns against science. So any solution should involve ways to compensate their loss of income.

The meat industry is also a major contributor to greenhouse gases. If all the lands that are currently used to produce meat were converted into forests it would be a significant step towards solving climate change. Of course, it would be unfair expect meat producers to sacrifice their wealth for public good. What we need are alternative income sources for each industry that would be hurt by economic disruption required to stabilize the climate.

The meat industry could be paid to not raise cattle equal to what they currently make. But it would be better for the environment if the land was returned to nature, and especially to forest ecologies. Can we imagine alternative economic activities for those landowners?

This got me to thinking about how to commercialize nature so it profited humans but also profited plants, animals, and the biosphere. Many people love nature, so I wondered if it would be possible to build planned communities embedded in forests. So instead of neat lawns, they’d have unfettered nature.

Is it possible to build houses that produced their own energy and coexisted with nature? Such houses would need to be fire and storm proof, could handle trees falling on them, last for centuries, be warm and cool as needed, not be tied to sewers and street systems, have access to water, safe from tiny to large critters, impervious to the elements,  and be appealing to live in? Plus, could such communities provide jobs for its inhabitants?

I would assume planned forest communities would have low human population densities. Maybe one family per 10-100 acres. The inhabitants could become caretakers, observers, scientists, researchers, users, and lovers of the forest.

I wonder if agriculture or minimal horticulture could be embedded into the forest ecosystem without major impact to the ecosystem. Such forest communities could support tourism, camping, hunting, fishing, bird watching, wildlife study, and so on. Also, if these communities were closed to being self-sufficient means their inhabitants wouldn’t need large incomes. We don’t need billionaires living in the forest, but people who require little economic success because they want other kinds of rewards from life.

forest community

[Photo is one of a series from “Eco-Friendly Forest Communities.”]

There is already a movement called community forestry where people volunteer to maintain a forest. Can you imagine living inside a forest? And there are already countless indigenous communities living in forests around the world. We can learn from them and should protect their way of life. The World Bank already does this. Urban living can theoretically be very energy efficient, but I think a significant portion of our population are tired of city life and might want to return to nature.

What appealed to me while meditating on this idea this morning was the challenge of constructing a modern home that fits harmoniously into the forest. How could we design back-to-nature communities that benefit the global ecosystem yet expand the local economic system? The push-back to solving climate change comes from people wanting to protect their wealth. Is it possible to generate compensatory wealth, and even generate new wealth from an eco-social-capitalistic system?

Our problem is a failure of imagination. Too many people can only imagine things being the way they were. We literally have an infinity of possibilities. Maybe even an infinity of better choices.




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