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Sustainability for a millenia

 
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Hi, everyone.

What led me to permaculture was the realization that we are not living in a sustainable way, that the style of life we are living is not something to be reproduced by generations to come, or even by ourselves if we are not careful with resources. Especially oil. Oil is not going to support our civilizations for much longer, maybe not longer than a decade, the free energy we have so far enjoyed is about to end. The theat of collapse is real. And here comes Permaculture as a viable option, not for keeping our current life styles, but as a way of keeping some life that we can call 'good' instead of falling into chaos.
Permaculture, as practiced by many around here, will help against the oil collapse in our most near future. And that's a feat! But still...

Reading about historic civilization collapses, all those had one thing in common: the depletion of a non renewable resource that was vital for their economies. And up until yesterday when I read that line I thought of 'fossil fuels', but it's much more than that. It's anything that we extract from the ground: fossil fuel, minerals, metals, even water. Up until now, I thougth that our energy would come primarily from wooden logs and food, but let's fast-forward one millenia or two. Do you really think Humanity will still have access to non-degraded metals? Even iron, the most common metal on Earth, degrades with its use, and some of it is lost every time we try to recycle them, so eventually it will be gone! Not in a century, maybe in a millenia, maybe in ten millenia, but if we keep using it, it will fade eventually, since it is not renewable.

Just as an exercise, how would you think human technology will be, once only truly sustainable materials can be used? When only sun, wind, living beings, dirt, rocks and rainwater can be used? What would be left of our ingenuity?

Materials that I think can work in a 100% sustainable scenario are:
- Non degradable materials: dirt and rocks. Mud bricks may degrade, but can be rebuilt without material loss.
- Natural living materials: wood, wool, cotton, bones, etc.
- Natural chemicals: raw materials extracted from living beings, some synthesis possibly from raw chemicals. This includes things like rubber, organic plastics, glues, inks, oils, waxes, ammonia, explosives, etc.
- Baked materials: Pottery, Glass, Hardened wood, biochar, quicklime, diamond dust, etc.
- Maybe a few metals and minerals can be recovered using living beings especialized in digging it, in very small quantities (like extracting iron from lentils). But not enough as to use metals in structures.

Metals can be replaced in some instances by hardened materials. For example, ceramic knifes can replace steel, maybe it can work for saws too, but it's fragile. Stones can be shaped with high pressured water, which does not require metals.

If we want to become truly sustainable, we have to think in a longer span than the near end of the fossil fuel era, and think about working with renewable energy and materials. If something cannot be done with a renewable material or there's no renewable replacement for the non-renewable materials we are currently using, then it's not sustainable for our species in our given geological time.

Now, take a look at your reliable steel hoe, and wonder for how long our species will be able to enjoy such marvel.
 
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Pottery, glass, lime.. they are not sustainable either, nothing that doesn't grow is sustainable even rocks are not sustainable in the seriously long term.

I don't think it would go that way at all, run out of iron? well get up there and catch some asteroids, we have the tech to do it now, but as we still have resources here so it's not worth doing
 
Abraham Palma
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Rocks are formed in geological processes, and as long as we dont actively break them, they can last for millenia. Just look at those in the pyramids, and that's not even a hard rock.
Glass requires sand with high silica content, which is aguably the most non-renewable of the list, but it can be recycled very easily without loss. Or may not. Maybe we can work out some organic plastics to be as transparent as glass, like methacrylate. However, it might not be cost effective to produce it from vegetable matter.
Pottery can be made of pretty much anything, as long as we are able to grind the dirt into the adequate particle size. And it can be recycled without loss.
Lime can be produced from seashells, so it grows.

About capturing asteroids for their iron content... well, that could be if our descendants figure out how to get out of this rock without using fossil fuels. Iron is so abundant that perhaps we can still be using it in several millenia, but we should keep in mind that it is not renewable, it can be recycled but at a loss, and preserve it accordingly.
I guess my point is to take a sight of the very far away future, and check whether we are in the correct path.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Abraham Palma wrote:Rocks are formed in geological processes, and as long as we dont actively break them, they can last for millenia. Just look at those in the pyramids, and that's not even a hard rock.
Glass requires sand with high silica content, which is aguably the most non-renewable of the list, but it can be recycled very easily without loss. Or may not. Maybe we can work out some organic plastics to be as transparent as glass, like methacrylate. However, it might not be cost effective to produce it from vegetable matter.
Pottery can be made of pretty much anything, as long as we are able to grind the dirt into the adequate particle size. And it can be recycled without loss.
Lime can be produced from seashells, so it grows.
.......

I guess my point is to take a sight of the very far away future, and check whether we are in the correct path.



Lime is produced from huge open cast mines from a fossilised resource it is hugely toxic and polluting to produce and in no way sustainable. yes you can make it from a fresh seashell but where are you going to get 420million tons of lime from? that's todays world consumption if you are brainstorming a future world where lime was replacing steel then that figure would be even larger (and that figure is finished lime it takes more than 1 ton of limestone to make 1 ton of lime)

Rocks are still by most definitions a finite material they are produced on an even longer scale than oil which is technically renewable. (and is renewing itself as we type this)

Pottery cannot be made from anything, you cannot take sand grind it down and fire it to make pottery it doesn't have the correct chemical composition.

No recycling is loss less and even if it were every little chip that comes off, every tiny bit of wear that occurs is a loss and can never be recouped.


If we really want to be sustainable like 100% then we have to reduce the population down to a few million and start living in huts and use only wooden tools, (flint is not sustainable) Or develop a way to split minerals into what we want. 8% of the earths crust is Aluminium and 5% Iron but we can't extract it  in any meaningfull way. The only saving grace is that (except for things we have thrown out of orbit) nothing is actually lost it's still going round in the system, give it a few billion years more a couple of supercontinets into the future it will be all collected back into nice little deposits for whatever follows us to mine.
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