One of the most essential principles of Wisdom Society is preventing the ecological destruction of our planet. This article presents ways to incorporate this principle in the wisdom nucleus. We already mentioned some pertinent features of the nucleus: the members’ residence, agriculture, energy, natural environment and water. However, the nucleus goes beyond the non-destruction of the natural environment. It “repairs” the damages, which already has happened by dedicating a portion of its territory for the restoration of the natural wilderness.
This article will present a description of the technology and methodology used for implementing these principles.
There exist two main technologies used for the construction of small and medium-size residential buildings. One, used in central and southern Europe, and another in North America. The first one is based on the use of cement as binding materials and cement blocks or brick made of clay hardened by the high temperature. Both are incredibly damaging to the environment, particularly cement because its production not only requires a large amount of heat but emits carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide (see details).
North American building technology is mostly based on using timber. One of the methods, usually called frame construction, is far less damaging than concrete and bricks. Since wood is much lighter than cement and brick, the building needs less of a heavy foundation and permits placing insulation inside the walls. Furthermore, when such buildings ages and cannot be further maintained, then the timber from which it is constructed can be reused in a variety of environmentally friendly forms.
This technology is definitely suggested for members’ residences of the nucleus. It also has one particularly interesting advantage: a considerable portion of construction work can be done by the members themselves. Comment: this statement is not something which I read on the Internet, the author while working as a university professor during the vacation, with the help of two graduate students under the guidance of one professional carpenter, built a 300 m2 wooden house! The kind of construction can be even made simpler by using widely available pre-assembled walls, sidings, and pre-cut floors.
The following presents a plan of the wisdom nucleus members’ residence. I stress that it is just a suggestion, and it is up to members themselves to make a decision.
The building would be constructed using a wooden frame method, with the “super” insolation for providing comfort and economy. It can have a form of the two-level structure with floor plan presented below:
This residence is designed to accommodate up to 32 persons. Each of 3 “wings” on each level is divided into 4 rooms plus a hallway. The central spaces, on each level, are dedicated to communal activities such as cooking, dining, meeting, play and education for children, creative arts, etc. The rooms on the bottom level would accommodate the seniors and people with physical difficulties, so they do not too often need to climb the stairs.
As mentioned earlier, each room provides an ample amount of space for each individual member. Some wishing to live nearby as a family can occupy a cluster of adjacent rooms.
There is an extra advantage of such a design. It can be easily scaled down: for example, when the nucleus is still forming and has not, as yet, reached its maximum size, some “wings” could build shorter to be expanded later on.
Before finishing the proposed description of members’ residence, I must confess that I invented this shape because of my esthetic preferences of avoiding traditional routine rectangular shape.
Each nucleus would dedicate a considerable amount of space for the creation of the “wilderness area.” It will be dedicated to protecting or, if necessary, recreating the native flora and fauna. Its size depends entirely on the preference of members and their financial resources. However, in the case of developing at the same time the whole wisdom village, there could be planned a much larger village wilderness area and smaller for each nucleus. This solution has an advantage that the large common area permits introducing fauna, which requires more space than provided by a single wilderness.
The presence of wilderness areas has advantages going beyond maintaining and repairing our natural environment. It provides for members of Wisdom Society opportunities to regain their connection with nature. It is particularly crucial for children where it both promotes and satisfies their innate curiosity.
The wilderness could surround the residence, in more compact form could be adjacent to the residence, or positioned at the boundary of the nucleus. Each of these possibilities has its specific advantages. For example, the first two give inhabitants direct access to nature, while the third one permits joining it with the wilderness of neighbouring nuclei.
Before discussing how to satisfy the energy needs of a nucleus, we briefly overview the ways of acquiring energy without harming side-effects. We begin with what to exclude. On top of the list are fossil fuels, particularly coal, shale gas and tar sands. Their catastrophic side effects are so well-known that further discussion seems not to be needed. In the second place, I would put so-called biofuels, which pretend to be environmentally friendly. It is a big lie: while used, they emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels. Their production requires lots of energy, and the biomass, while grown, needs a lot of water and destroys the soil.
Further on, we need to exclude the use of nuclear energy. Though, when very carefully produced, it does not create immediate side-effects, it is potentially extremely hazardous, and the stored radioactive waste material can be compared to a time bomb, which sooner or later may explode.
There is also, often ignored, hydroelectric technology. Its main “sin” is disturbing the natural balance, and it should be avoided once more safe methods become available.
There exist, however, some natural sources which, if properly approached, can be used to produce the real “green energy.” They are the power of radiation of the sun, the dynamic energy of wind and the heat stored in the earth, which can be utilized to generate geothermal energy.
They all can be utilized by Wisdom Society, however, as far as a single nucleus is concerned, only some forms make sense. Solar and wind energy could be used to produce electricity, while the geothermal energy can be used not only for heating and cooling residential space and greenhouses. Using geothermal energy to produce electricity is done on the scale far above the needs of the nucleus.
We have to distinguish the situation when the nucleus is “stand-alone” or a part of the bigger portion of Wisdom Society. In the following, we discuss only the first alternative, though we return to the energy issue while discussing much larger units of Wisdom Society, such as a wisdom town (around 10,000 members) or wisdom county (around 250,000 members)
The stand-alone nucleus will attempt to be energy self-sufficient as much as possible. Unfortunately, as far as electric energy is concerned, the full self-sufficiency is not entirely possible. On the scale nucleus, using geothermal energy for generating electricity is completely uneconomical. Its electrical energy needs are just a fraction of the output of the smallest geothermal electric generation system.
The other sources, solar radiation and wind, are unstable, depending on the weather. Solar panels work only during the day. Storing electricity in batteries is costly and environmentally questionable since they require complex production and rare metal such as lithium. Consequently, the nucleus, unless alternative batteries are created, to access the electricity should be connected to the general electric grid.
However, it should be noted that it will not create a significant economic problem: since heating and cooling would come from geothermal sources, the electricity would be needed only for light and powering some machines.
To summarize, it looks that for the nucleus, the best solution as far as heat/cooling supply would be small or medium scale geothermal equipment, which is relatively inexpensive. The production of such energy is stable, independent of whether or location. Its source stored in the earth is inexhaustible. Most of the general costs of such a geothermal system come from the labour involved with its installation. However, in this case, the nucleus has a significant advantage because this labour can be performed by the members themselves.
Agriculture is the key component of the functioning of the nucleus. It would be based on the following assumptions: (1) its products have to be beneficial for human health without any harmful side effects and have good taste; (2) it utilizes as little land surface and water as possible; (2) it does not create any destructive effects and, if possible, is beneficial to the environment. You may notice that there is no mention of such ideas as being organic or free of GMOs simply because these terms are often misleading. Also, it is not based on such concepts permaculture and similar because they would require a much larger surface to produce the same quantity of the crop.
There are three key ideas of the agricultural methodology used by the nucleus:
Using greenhouses, which, if properly utilized, provides several advantages such as capturing heat from solar radiation and permitting additional heating and cooling from geothermal technology. They protect from harmful insects and seeds of weeds via a proper screening of the entry to the greenhouse, which eliminates the need for insecticide and herbicides. They permit ventilation of the space and minimize the amount of water necessary for the growth of plants. Finally, to fertilize the non-self-pollinating plants, a greenhouse can become the homes for bumblebee families, which will do the job.
Many annual plants, like for example, wheat, need only four or six months to mature and produce crops. Using the greenhouse environment makes it possible, growing two or three crops a year.
The nucleus agriculture is based on composting and growing such plants as alfalfa to produce high-quality soil and fertilizer. It captures nitrogen, the key ingredients of any fertilizer, and its presence speeds up the composting process. Alfalfa is well known but, at present, is predominantly used to feed the cows and pigs.
Gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR can be utilized to improve the nutritional qualities and taste of crops. Such technologies have to be clearly distinguished from other kinds of genetic engineering, which inject alien, animal genes to modify the plant’s genome. Its impact, so far unknown, may be harmful.
The nucleus agriculture is geared towards saving one of the most critical resources: the water. It is accomplished by watering plants below the surface of the earth, so the water is directly absorbed by the plant’s roots, instead of evaporating, as it is usually done. The greenhouses enable the further economy since the humidity of its atmosphere is controllable.
The nucleus approach to agriculture may be controversial to hard-core romantics and holders of traditional views who abhor the idea of using the technology in agriculture. They forgot that the idea of domestication of wild plants and making them useful for humans by selective breeding was the Neolithic technology continued until today. On the other hand, they rightly oppose using highly harmful herbicides, insecticides, risky genetic modification and chemical fertilizers. However, they often confuse them with other forms of agricultural technology, which are beneficial to both consumers and the environment.
Water is even more indispensable to support the existence of all the life forms, including human beings, plants and animals. This resource, which until recently, was taken for granted, now becomes more and more scarce. The three most important causes of this situation are: the heating of the planet, industrial processing of fossil fuels and modern agriculture. Until the Wisdom Society reaches the critical mass, which gives it the power to influence this situation, it must develop methods to secure access to a sufficient amount of water for humans, agriculture and wilderness.
It begins on the level of the wisdom nucleus. Each nucleus should have a sufficiently deep drilled well to supply members with water for drinking and preparing food. This technology is not too expensive and relatively simple to accomplish. Secondly, it should develop ways to collect and store the rain and melting snow water collected from the roof of its residence and greenhouses.
It would be desirable to purify water used in the household, which generally is directed to an individual or the communal septic system. It can be used in agriculture for the underground watering of plants.
This article may not appear too exciting and attractive. However, I decided to include it to transform our, often romantic ideas about relations with nature, into pragmatic reality.
Most of the topics are suggestions: I do not pretend to have expertise in agriculture, geothermal energy or gene editing. However, each of you can use the same resources as I, that is, commonsense and knowledge stored on the Internet, to come up with your solutions.
However, though our solutions may be different, the above-discussed issues have to be resolved one way or another. Otherwise, the Wisdom Society will dissolve to a dreamland fairytale.