Human Powered Neighbourhood: The Community Kitchen

It’s 2030 and the 14,000 residents of the first carbon neutral neighbourhood in the Netherlands gather at the communal fires, where they cook and eat together.

Read more: Human Powered Neighbourhood: The Community Kitchen.

Scientists’ Warning on Affluence

“For over half a century, worldwide growth in affluence has continuously increased resource use and pollutant emissions far more rapidly than these have been reduced through better technology. The affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions. We summarise the evidence and present possible solution approaches. Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements. However, existing societies, economies and cultures incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change.”

Read more (open access): Wiedmann, T., Lenzen, M., Keyßer, L.T. et al. Scientists’ warning on affluence. Nat Commun 11, 3107 (2020).

Notes from a Tech-Free Life

“Around eleven p.m. the night before the winter solstice of 2016 I unplugged my laptop and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever. I had just put the finishing touches to a straw-bale cabin that I’d spent the summer building on the three-acre, half-wild smallholding where I live. The following morning I intended to begin a new life without modern technology. There would be no running water, no fossil fuels, no clock, no electricity or any of the things it powers: no washing machine, internet, phone, radio, or light bulb.”

Read more:  Not So Simple. Notes from a Tech-Free Life, Mark Boyle. Plough Quarterly Magazine, July 2019.

Constant Pressure Compressed Air Storage

Reader Paul Blais sends us an interesting idea:

“I’ve been following your website for years and I like it very much. I’ve been reading your article from 2018 about off-grid compressed air energy storage and I’ve been thinking about a possible solution regarding the varying pressure problem which you mention about small scale, low pressure vessels.

What about using a constant pressure reservoir? My idea is to use a long airtight bag stored in a trench and covered with sand, that would inflate and deflate pushing the sand up and down. The height of the sand column would determine the inside pressure of the bag, which would remain constant across it’s whole inflation range. The sand would also act as a thermal mass, taking and restoring heat to the air.

I’ve read that similar storage ideas exist [1] but involve putting the bags deep underwater, which is not practical for off-grid purposes. Unlike a deep-water reservoir, a bag put under sand would not try to float, so there would be no need for complex anchors at the bottom.”


Update. Reader Erich Wälde comments: 

> Unlike a deep-water reservoir, a bag put under sand would not try to float, so there would be no need for complex anchors at the bottom.

This is not entirely correct. The bag will work it’s way up! Around the edges some sand will always travel from “above” the bag to “below” the bag — unless the bag has considerable “flaps” around it, which will extend well into the neighboring area, i.e. complex anchoring, I’m afraid.

Other example: I bought a house several years back. In the garden there is an underground tank, which was used to store oil (heating). Heating was changed to use natural gas rather than oil, so the tank became unused. In order to fully abandon its operation, we had to get it cleaned out AND we had to show that the tank is not in the parking lot. If it were there, then it would have to be filled up with concrete or sand. Otherwise it would work it’s way up, very slowly, due to its buoyancy force. This is in Germany and local administration knows about each underground tank. Its well regulated.

So: You can’t trick physics 🙂

The Future is Public: Remunicipalisation

“Resistance to privatisation has turned into a powerful force for change. (Re)municipalisation refers to the reclaiming of public ownership of services as well as the creation of new public services. In recent years, our research has identified more than 1,400 successful (re)municipalisation cases involving more than 2,400 cities in 58 countries around the world.”

“But this book is about more than just numbers. It shows that public services are more important than ever in the face of the climate catastrophe, mounting inequalities, and growing political unrest. Together, civil society organisations, trade unions, and local authorities are crafting new templates for how to expand democratic public ownership to all levels of society and opening up new routes to community-led and climate conscious public services.”

“The Covid-19 crisis has made clear the disastrous effects of years of austerity, social security cuts, and public service privatisation. But it has also demonstrated that public services and the people who operate them are truly the foundation of healthy and resilient societies. As privatisation fails, a growing international movement is choosing (re)municipalisation as a key tool for redefining public ownership for the 21st century.”

Read more and download the book. Via Aaron Vansintjan.

Mental Resilience: The Art of Survival

“Following the 21st century radical changes on this planet, we have realized it was high time for us to give new contribution based on evidence from the siege of Sarajevo experience (1992-1996), to the urgent need of establishing a resilience module – for the sake of terrified individuals and unprepared societies alike. Extreme urban conditions produced a parallel civilization in which creativity was a basic necessity. The process of adaptation left no space for stagnation and helplessness. Work was the law of mental and physical survival.

“Working towards resilience kept people’s minds occupied – work eliminated thoughts that could destroy their motivation. It was necessary to establish a balance in the extreme urban conditions of life. This was done through creating peaceful, simple, normal situations, according to one’s personal needs. During the siege, the continuation of normal life in the city, the continuation of creativity, was as important as bread or medicine or water for all citizens of Sarajevo.”

“In this book we are not presenting a theory, but a real life evidence of an open mind potential to win in the face of the unknown, the new, the uncertain and the unthinkable. We believe that citizens who lived the Sarajevo siege present an example of hope for mankind facing serious threats and the changes so far unthinkable on this planet of ours.”

Read more and download the book: The Art of Survival. Extreme Conditions and Human Resilience: The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996, Suada Kapiç. Thanks to Jere Kuzmanic.