Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cool Livin', Mon

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We are on our way across the Atlantic as we post this. It is our third crossing in ten days. When our Bates family ancestors made the passage in 1630 it took nine and a half weeks.

To draw enough carbon from the atmosphere to return us to pre-industrial concentrations on decadal timescales may require foregoing air travel in the not-to-distant future, an era that may arrive fairly soon if jet fuel loses its externalized subsidies in forthcoming UN climate talks.

Emissions cuts will be needed but are not sufficient. We need enough new forest to cover four Spains each year. Moreover, we will need to keep those forests in harvest rotations that optimize soil carbon. We will require 100 million people to perform this new kind of work.  We will need to hold their interest by improving farm profits, food security and living standards. Those things have to be good enough that, when push comes to shove, the farmers don’t just cut their new forest down and burn it.

The good news: we know how to do this. We are doing it. We are already succeeding. We need to ramp it up. If we can train 1000 trainers, and they can each train 1000 trainers, each of whom can advise 100 farms, we can rescue the climate, and quickly. We can get back the Holocene.

But we need more green learning centers to do this sort of training. Our first is in the Dominican Republic, where we are modeling the whole enchilada of climate repair methods within a 30000-hectare valley, with 95% offset for biodiversity and carbon drawdown. Within the 5% developed area, there is a “beyond zero” emissions sink. Even the developed part is drawing down.

This is not the first training center we have built. We have done a few now with the Global Ecovillage Network, in different countries. The prototype, although it benefitted from the experience of trials before it, is our Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm. ETC was designed in the early 90s to meet the needs of what we correctly foresaw as a revolution in how humans inhabit the Earth. ETC was designed to grease the skids.

In 1991 we attended a meeting of interesting people assembled at the country farm of Ross and Hildur Jackson in Denmark. It was one of those kinds of meetings that only run a few days but which produce lifelong friendships — as you meet with kindred spirits whose paths and yours seem to have traipsed many lifetimes.

We came back to Tennessee and started a quarterly newsletter, The Design Exchange, and from that we gradually evolved the notion for a training center. We were exploring a new paradigm in learning — an immersion pedagogy that blended residential courses inside a 25-year-old ecovillage and outreach programs on six continents. Because of our history with Plenty, the Farm’s relief and development charity, our curriculum was strongly influenced by indigenous wisdom. The core of it was learning to get along with nature, and be respectful, instead of trying to bully her all the time.

The new branch on our tree is called El Valle. It takes the ecovillage training concept to where it needs to go for the next half century. It builds on what we have learned over the past decades and anticipates at least some of the changes now coming our way.

The Farm was a good model because it already net sequesters five times its own carbon footprint, accomplishing that trick with a nifty blend of keylined fields, injected brews of microbes and enzymes, biochar from bamboo, living roofs, and mixed-age, mixed species hardwood forest. The last of those is the real workhorse, drawing millions of tons of CO2 from the air and sending the carbon deep underground, or shaping it into standing oaks that will later be converted to various types of long-term storage.

This is a model that needs to scale, but one has to always be cautious when using that word. Not everything gets better by getting bigger. There is a point of diminishing returns in all things, from cabbage patches to governments. One need only point to what is happening in the European Union or the former Soviet Union to drive that home. In the case of ecovillages, what is needed is not ecocities but many more small polities, such as we see with Transition Towns.

The bottleneck in making that transition is not land or money. Climate change is coming at us with such force and fury that assets are being made available, quickly. In China some of the best land in the countryside — abandoned Buddhist monasteries and old emperial palace sites, for instance — are being granted to ecovillagers to get something going. The bottleneck is people. There are not enough people with the right skills to get a modern-day ecovillage up and keep it going. There are plenty of earnest youth and older people with work skills, but few have any sense of how to keyline a hillside, make biochar, brew compost tea, extract leaf proteins, or build a cob and strawbale four-season greenhouse.

Our Tennessee Center can only train so many, assuming they can even run the State Department gauntlet to enter the United States for 2 or 3 months. We need more immersion learning sites all over the globe, beginning in the parts where the interest is strongest and the governments are most supportive.

So it came to be that we have broken ground in the Dominican Republic. The green learning "Terra Lodges" at El Valle will be our platform from which to train trainers. It will be a model for a new generation of similar platforms. For the past two years we have been building the El Valle ecodistrict into a state-of-the-art carbon drawdown technology showcase. Working through a transition pathway with local residents that will improve the quality of their lives on their own terms, we have brought in some of the world’s best master planners and conservation experts. We have designed integrated eco-agroforestry, aquaponics and chinampas, a biorefinery to produce a host of valuable nutriceuticals, foods, feeds and fibers from the pyrolysis of biomass wastes (such as coconut coir) into biochar, and workers cooperatives, all within and about a three-ecovillage ecodistrict.

Most of that is not new. We just put it all together in one place. To get to the next step, we are doing crowdfunding. That’s the part that’s got a new wrinkle.

Would you like to live in such a place, perhaps just part of the year? Maybe where you live now suits you, but there are certain times when it is dark and cold most days, or certain other times when it is swelteringly hot and the days never seem to end. If that’s the case, or you just like a little adventure, El Valle may have something to offer.

We are selling timeshares to help build residences for our trainees.

Our Terra Lodge concept was born out of the need to teach how to profitably cool the climate. Cool living is the solution. We have designed integrated human/natural systems that are antifragile and abundant, where no villager need feel any concern for lack of food, water, or shelter from the storms of our grandchildren.

There are many people who want to do something that benefits the world and generates income. The Terra Lodges and El Valle immersion learning complex will give climate activists new skills with which anyone can create a meaningful life anywhere in the world and become part of the growing “regenerative work” landscape.

How we will build our physical infrastructure is by selling cabins. There is only one level of donation for this campaign: usd$30,000.

There is only one perk: a cabin that you will own outright, subject to the eco-covenants that apply to all residents. Your perk cabin:

       Is constructed of organic, sustainable materials
       Is designed for fresh air circulation
       Includes a complete off-grid energy system
       Comes fully furnished
       Has 1 bedroom and bath
       Has 27.5m2 indoor and 27.5m2 outdoor sheltered areas
       Is on 1300m2 land
       Will give you $2400 annual return on what you pay for the title for the privilege of leasing it for 10 months each year.
       If occupancy exceeds 60-percent your ROI rises accordingly

We need to build capacity, fast. Where can you get a guaranteed annual return on your savings, with these added features?

You can help us fund this, and if you like, you can join our new ecovillage there and make some really interesting new friends. Or not. Perhaps for you this is just a socially responsible investment. One that invests in your grandchildren’s future.

Our cool "SCOOL' will rent your cabin for 10 months each year. In exchange, you will receive a return on your investment of 8 percent annually. If your cabin’s occupancy is above 60 percent, your return on investment will be doubled. You have the right to use your cabin 2 months per year, with all these needs provided:

    • Local organic food
    • Drinking water
    • Sanitation
    • Energy
    • Waste treatment
    • Internet
    • Weekly cleaning
    • Laundry
    • Trash collection
    • 10yr maintenance and repair
    • Booking, rental & admin.
    • Security

Since 2015, ECO2 COOL DESIGN SAS, a registered company in the Dominican Republic, has been developing an ecovillage masterplan in El Valle. The Terra Lodge cabins are the first step in launching this carbon drawdown project.

In a few hours we shall be landing in Marrakech. We plan to hawk these timeshares to some of our activist friends during COP-22. Our agenda is drawdown. We are betting that some of those attending will see the value of that too. But just to be sure, before we left home we planted more than enough trees to cancel out the climate costs of all this crazy travel.

4 comments:

Jenny Goldie said...

Bravo!! I have never felt more encouraged. May it be replicated around the world.

Ian Graham said...

count me in Albert, I await you call. (Dundas ON Canada)

artangel said...

This is awesome! I'm inspired! I do have a question about what kind of trees are best suited for maximum carbon sequestration in tropical areas?

Ian Graham said...

Just thought I'd post a followup, I've been in touch with the project manager, Santiago Obarrio, by skype and received the passworded prospectus; going for site visit Jan 17-21 to meet him, assess risks and potentials, plug in. Hope to leave my $US5000 deposit then.
(I'm writing this mostly for the surfers who might come upon the Cool Mon essay and wonder like I did what next steps are.)
The Climate Crisis demands all hands on deck, globally, either to protest fossil fuel infrastructure and use, or to educate and lobby decision makers, or to model and train up for the many options for lifestyles post-carbon, etc. Biologist Guy McPherson says it's too late; self reinforcing feedbacks are already triggered. But he doesn't say 'don't care or don't try'. He says make this the project of one's life, on the off chance that we may succeed in surviving, some of us, the sixth extinction.

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