Friday, February 27, 2009

A Model Community?

While looking through The Economist's archives for an article on the transportation factors involved in the current food distribution system versus more locally grown foods, I came across this article out of this weeks print edition. The first half of the article talks about this village of Sieben Linden in Germany. There are about 120 people living there, and they try to support themselves off of the 77 hectares of land that the cooperative owns. This land is a mix of forest, (logged for fuel and home construction), housing, gardens and farmland. The Economist's article had did say that what ever they were not able to produce themselves they bought from local wholesalers. After searching for more information, I came across their website,, and did some exploring. Turns out that the facility is designed to be as self sufficient as possible. They produce their own water and electricity, producing more electricity in a year then they consume. They use the nearby forest and the sun to produce heat for their homes and hot water. More importantly to them they have a tight sense of community amongst themselves, putting on plays and other community events through out the year. While it is not their goal to see the rest of the world adopt all the lifestyle changes that they have made, they try to show that it is possible to live a more eco-friendly life with out giving up most of the items associated with our standards of living today. They share large appliances, such as washers and dryers, much like a college campus, and share cars for when travel is required. One of the biggest changes they wish to see for the rest of society is the more prevalent use of car pooling. While this is an intriguing way for 120 people to live, that is obviously a small percentage of the world's population. Since it is know how much land they use to support a set number of people, it can be calculated to see how much land would be required to support the population of say the United States, if similar villages were to suddenly appear all across the country. Taking our US population of approximately 303,ooo,ooo, and the landmass of the country being 916,192,300 hectares, it can be seen if the population could be spread across the land at the same density of the village or not. Taking the population and multiplying by the ratio of people supported per hectare the number of hectares required to support the US population is 472,207,792 hectares. This turns out to be only 52% of the area of the United States. This means that almost half of the landmass of the United States would be allowed to remain completly untouched. This creates an interesting proposition, why not move to such a system, by slowly reorganizing society into small enclaves that are self sufficient, it if would mean an eco-friendly way to live for everyone? I leave that answer up to you.

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