I've enjoyed following along with the posts about permaculture at sea, and have some thoughts to offer for your consideration.
I first got involved with seasteading as a way to disengage from the military industrial complex; building a sustainable life in international waters seemed like a reasonable alternative. It quickly became clear that achieving sustainability would require that we learn how to produce the potable water, food and energy that a community needs in order to thrive.
That's a lot of learning, and the ocean is very intolerant of those who show up unprepared, thereby failing to show the proper level of respect. So, we realized early on that we needed to establish a shore base from which we could test out the various systems we would need. In time, we wound up creating our community
on the north side of the Columbia River about 80 miles east of Portland, OR. Even our name, Windward, refers back to our origin as seasteaders since progress involves tacking against the prevailing winds.
We saw three key challenges that needed to be addressed. The first involved figuring out how to generate an income at sea in a way that didn't damage the ocean or get us involved in competing with established businesses like fishing or transport. Fortunately, there are more than thirty industrial chemicals that can be manufactured at sea, products like liquid air, fertilizer and bleach. Here on the shore, we've focused on converting woody biomass into replacements for natural gas and propane, but the technology is pretty much the same, and arguably that sort of tech is easier to do at sea than on shore. You can check out that aspect of what we're up to at our Biomass 2 Methanol
The second challenge involved working out an organizational structure that enabled people who weren't related either biologically or religiously to join together without sacrificing their individual autonomy. What we came up with is a form of representative consensus, and I believe that our set of Bylaws
is our most important accomplishment. It's been flexible enough to allow us to grow and cope with change, and strong enough to deal with challenges that can derail an intentional community. Folks are heartily welcome to download a copy, change the names, and save themselves some heartache.
The third, and the most challenging, involves creating a context within which a core group of women will be comfortable raising children. It's one thing for menfolk to go to sea and do things that challenge them, but most women we've met would rather stay on land and garden, work with the animals, explore fiber crafts, build a nest, etc. And within a community approach, there's room for men who want to be in the garden and women who want to be on the water.
We figured out early on that trying to weave together a complete life on a small ship was asking too much of most people; it just didn't meet their needs. Far better to offer options at the land/sea interface so that people could pick the combination that works best for them. Down the road when larger vessels could be incorporated into the mix, that could change, but for us, I believe that shoresteading offers the best of both worlds.
The bottom line is that I've come to believe that a well located shorestead can accomplish nine out of ten of the objectives that seasteaders hope to accomplish. For those interested in studying the art and craft of shoresteading, we offer three month apprenticeships
so that folks can get a sense of what it could be like.