I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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Bill Gates buys 25,000 acres for experimental city. An new opportunity for permaculture?  RSS feed

 
Matt Coston
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Hi everyone,

I would like to hear people's opinion on this.

"Bill Gates just bought 25,000 acres in Arizona to build a new 'smart city'"

http://uk.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-buys-arizona-land-to-build-smart-city-2017-11

Just imagine if Paul Wheaton and sepp holzer (or similar people) became advisers to Bill Gates for this! It could be a huge opportunity to push permaculture into the mainstream.

Anybody think this would be a bad idea?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Everything is an opportunity for permaculture.

The question is, how do you get Gates' attention, and direct it towards experimenting with Mollison's?
 
Steven Kovacs
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This hardly sounds like it fits with "small and slow solutions."  I'd rather let a large number of individuals and small organizations improve the cities we've got.  Incremental development and repair done by locals with skin in the game and who are sensitive to local conditions makes a lot more sense to me than building a "city of the future" in the middle of nowhere, according to the vision of a single man.  If he builds this thing to completion in a single shot, will it have any room to evolve over time?  In 20-30 years when the infrastructure starts to decay all at once, who will pay to repair it?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I'd agree with Steven; small and slow solutions are the way to go. Our knowledge and foresight is limited; the slower and smaller we are, the less damage there is when we crash.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'd rather let a large number of individuals and small organizations improve the cities we've got.  Incremental development and repair done by locals with skin in the game and who are sensitive to local conditions makes a lot more sense to me than building a "city of the future" in the middle of nowhere, according to the vision of a single man. 
  I agree with your sentiments.  It would be much better to build urban gardens with all that money, or to put this money into transitional economies in smaller cities or towns.   But these concepts which are wrapped around with what you'd rather let happen (and or what I would rather let happen), are completely irrelevant to Bill Gates' dream city project. , because this is what he would rather do.  So what if we'd rather something else?  It will happen, if he wants it to, and it will happen regardless of what we would rather let happen. Unless we help him to develop it in a much, much better way, he will likely develop it in a way that is less than optimum, permaculturally.  Shall we wish him success, or failure?  Will we share in that success, or will we watch, passively, as he goes about his plan without permaculture design?    

Bill Gates is the sort of person who might be convinced to alter his design towards something a great deal more permacultural than he originally intended. I believe that he has a humanitarian's heart.

I also believe that if we got his ear, a great difference could be achieved, and might set the stage for a great deal of imitation globally within existing cities.  He has a massive following, and people are inspired by the things he gets involved with.

Part of the reason so many Cities are suffering from many urban instabilities is because of the fact that they grew organically from the horse and cart days to modern commuting and trucking on the same infrastructure system with no forethought or planning, and you see the congested paved nightmare that it is.  There is an opportunity to do things a lot different than all that, and that is a huge leap forward from where any city is at today.    
If he builds this thing to completion in a single shot, will it have any room to evolve over time?
Perhaps?  Who's to say?  But if we have the attitude that he's going to completely screw it up, and don't even try to have a say, then that says more about us, then him.  Will it have any worse luck then so many urban centers that are overbuilt with concrete and pavement covering all of it's watercourses, draining all of it's rain water into storm drains to rush off?  Hence the need to get involved with it early on.  It's a huge opportunity.
  In 20-30 years when the infrastructure starts to decay all at once, who will pay to repair it?
  Isn't that the same with any city?  Certainly he is not going to be building this thing with the idea of walking away from it, or the idea of not using the best possible infrastructure that he knows.  Just one more reason to educate him on what the best possible infrastructure might be, and maybe a design strategy that evokes and supports the true needs of the landscape and the people on it.  
the slower and smaller we are, the less damage there is when we crash.
  True, but again, we are not making the decision here, Bill Gates is.  Unless we get involved, it's full speed ahead with Bill Gate's fantasy city.  If we get involved the landscape at least has a fighting chance.



 
Travis Johnson
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This concept is not new, Warren Buffet is doing this same thing in the suburbs of Georgia.

It does not matter who is at the helm; When you take the King's pence, you do the King's bidding; sage advice of an old mantra sadly.
 
Steven Kovacs
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Travis put it well.  Roberto, if you want to try to influence him, more power to you; at best, though, I think you'd be making a bad development slightly less bad.  Do we really want more greenfield construction, no matter how "green" the construction, given that the urban cores of so many cities (especially in the Rust Belt) could be repaired to greater effect without the need to pave over wild land?

As for infrastructure, no, not at all.  When infrastructure is built over time, the decay happens over time, and it is possible to maintain things because they don't all wear out at the same time.  When it is built all at once, maintenance tends to be deferred until it all comes due at once - and then the resources often aren't available to repair it.  See the "Suburban Fallacy" concept at Strong Towns.
 
Sergio Cunha
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If we can make Bill Gates read that book, A Pattern Language... If Bill Gates has time enough to read a whole book... Then, as Steven said, may be we can make a bad development less bad.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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If we can make Bill Gates read that book, A Pattern Language... If Bill Gates has time enough to read a whole book... Then, as Steven said, may be we can make a bad development less bad.


I agree; if we were to do the impossible, that would be the book to have him read . . . but the resulting development wouldn't be futuristic enough for investors, I guess.
 
Chris Kott
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You're presupposing, of course, that a futuristic city can't be permacultural. I think that's a fallacy. Permaculture is, more than anything else, a design philosophy, and as such, applicable to everything. What Bill Gates seeks to do is design a modern city. Why can't the design philosophy he follows be permaculture?

What if every building in this futuristic city was self-sufficient, built of cement-stabilised rammed earth and compressed earth block, diverted all food wastes to another productive feedstock (might be methane digesters, which I would think wasteful, but could feed any livestock, and would probably go to an insect-based multi-stage reuse process resulting in insect protein and soil), composted all human wastes (probably with a trip through another methane digester and its own insect cycling process) into soil for a zone 5 shelterbelt for the city, and as a byproduct of its existence stored water in underground vaults that would slowly infiltrate overflow into the aquifer?

What if the city was designed with the 5 zones in mind, where there was a planned wilderness area ringing it, making use of processed human wastes in woodlot areas, using this zone 5 to influence the city's climate, and each successive inner zone was denser, not just with people, but intensity of grown space?

What if infrastructure was designed with extreme longevity, as opposed to someone's pocket lining, in mind? He isn't building a city to make money. He doesn't need to. Why, then, would he skimp?

I think there is a huge potential here. Being pessimistic about opportunities can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

-CK
 
Dan Grubbs
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I would not invite Bill Gates or anyone from his foundation near anything to do with agriculture. His foundation is already on record as being a part of an oppressive effort in Africa that forces families off their land in favor of corporate industrial agriculture and global cash crops. This is based from several sources, but I'll list a few below:

The Permaculture Research Institute reports: "The Gates Foundation is spending half a billion dollars a year to ‘feed the world’, most of it aimed at Africa. But as GRAIN discovers, it is imposing a model of high-tech, high-input ‘green revolution’ farming, complete with GMOs, agro-chemicals and a pro-business neoliberal agenda, all in an alliance with corporate agriculture."
https://permaculturenews.org/2014/11/07/gates-foundation-feeds-world-corporate-agriculture/

The Oakland Institute reports: "Bill Gates Supports Destructive Corporate Africa Agenda: Study"
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Bill-Gates-Supports-Destructive-Corporate-Africa-Agenda-Study-20160524-0031.html

"Why do the World Bank's New Indicators, 'Enabling the Business of Agriculture' Pose a Threat to African Agriculture?"
https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/why-do-world-banks-new-indicators-enabling-business-agriculture-pose-threat-african-agriculture

The Guardian reports: Gates investment in Cargill and Monsanto
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/sep/29/gates-foundation-gm-monsanto

Natural News reports: "African farmers fight against Gates Foundation's attempts to implement ecologically destructive industrial agriculture"
https://www.naturalnews.com/047415_Gates_Foundation_African_farmers_industrial_agriculture.html

The organization GRAIN full story: "How does the Gates Foundation spend its money to feed the world?"
https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5064-how-does-the-gates-foundation-spend-its-money-to-feed-the-world

I'll leave you with this quote from The Ecologist:
The Gates Foundation - widely assumed to be 'doing good', is imposing a neoliberal model of development and corporate domination that's opening up Africa's agriculture to land and seed-grabbing global agribusiness, writes Colin Todhunter. In the process it is foreclosing on the real solutions - enhancing food security, food sovereignty and the move to agroecological farming.



I think you now see my point about Gates. He should be kept far away from agriculture. Of course I don't know the man personally. However, he does appear to me to be singularly motivated.
 
Chris Kott
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I see. I was unaware of this. But the fact remains that there is nothing saying that permaculture cannot be applied as a design philosophy to Bill Gates' new experimental city. Whether he will even be aware of it or not depends on those around him and permies who might decide to make their opinions known.

-CK
 
Jarret Hynd
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It's been mentioned in the article that there is no planned date for the construction of the city, so let's not jump the gun here. Even prior to Buffett's project that Travis mentions, these futuristic cities have been thought of and attempted for more than a century, yet there are few  that leave the realm of blueprint concepts.

Belmont, which is bounded roughly by 371st Avenue on the west, 330th Avenue on the east, Interstate 10 on the south and the Central Arizona Project Canal to the north, has been on the drawing board since the early 1990s.


So it's been in the conceptual design realm for 20+ years.

---

I was going to post a few days ago with some ideas on the subject, but there are too many unknowns left to be revealed:

Why is the city being made?
Why arizona?
Who are the other backers or parties involved in the project?
What is the budget for the project?
Besides IoT/Smart technology, what other design concepts will be used?

Gilbert Fritz wrote:I agree; if we were to do the impossible, that would be the book to have him read . . . but the resulting development wouldn't be futuristic enough for investors, I guess.
Chris Kott wrote:You're presupposing, of course, that a futuristic city can't be permacultural. I think that's a fallacy.


I don't think he is saying that permaculture can't be part of a futuristic city, I believe he is saying that investors wouldn't be keen to invest in a project derived around permaculture because it probably wouldn't give their desired RoI and it's not a hyped up, tech solution that gets the general public excited.

Larry Yount, manager of Belmont Partners, said in a statement, "Belmont illustrates that Arizona remains at the leading edge of trends in American urban planning and development, keying off of advances in solar power and electric distribution systems, autonomous auto testing, broadband, and data centers.”


In the 3-4 articles I've read, nothing about "green building" has even been mentioned, which is a fairly hot phrase these days. It looks like the project is almost exclusively tech-focused with the only sustainable practice mentioned being reusing materials. I'm assuming they'll include some of the methods you mentioned, Chris, but I am still under the impression so far that sustainability we are familiar with will take back-seat to tech solutions in most of the development of Belmont. 

---

As for the OP:

Matt Coston wrote: Just imagine if Paul Wheaton and sepp holzer (or similar people) became advisers to Bill Gates for this! It could be a huge opportunity to push permaculture into the mainstream.

Anybody think this would be a bad idea?


I can't see Paul and Sepp's participation with the city design to be a bad thing in any scenario. Whether it would actually happen is not only up in the air, but it's entirely up to Paul, Sepp, other permaculture experts and Bill Gates to answer that question.

That said, Sepp has enough of a profile via the large projects he's done, so Bill Gates and Sepp just need to be introduced or Sepp gets on the team of whichever building developers work on Belmont.

Edit: good post Dan.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Whoa.  lots has happened since I went to work this morning!   Dan's post was by far the most important to view on how I consider my own previous posts.  That said, I do still believe, like Chris, that there still is potential, and that potential for change could be massive in scope, especially considering Gate's stated plans and his current projects, if only the right voice found his ear.  At some point, the wrong voice found his ear, and the present state of affairs with his projects in Africa is the result.  People make mistakes and People change.  I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes.  I change.  I'm not saying that Bill will hear what is being said.  I'm not saying that he will listen to what he hears.  I'm not saying that he will act on what he listens to, but I am saying that there is always room for hope.  Thanks Dan for giving me that information.  It's somewhat heartbreaking that his 'philanthropy' actually isn't.  Where are the great philanthropic billionaires anyway?  LOL.  
 
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