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By Jim Bell











With all the drama we manage to create as a species, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we are, like other life forms, part of and totally dependent on our planet's ecology for our survival. Arguments about how much abuse our planet's ecology can sustain before a major collapse ensues may be interesting, but isn't it a little crazy to cause unnecessary damage to the only life support system that we have?

The human species is endowed with unbounded cleverness. Unfortunately, this cleverness is poorly balanced with wisdom. Nowhere is this imbalance more graphically illustrated than in the contradiction between how we as individuals, nations, and as a global community, go about satisfying our needs and desires, and the negative effect these activities have on our planetary life support system. Daily, the media bombards us with information chronicling the results of our assaults on nature. But, even as our awareness and concern are increasing, we still respond to this information as though hearing reports of some distant battle in which we are not personally involved.

Deep down, any thinking person knows that this is not the case. Yet, day to day, we are carried along by the momentum of practices and attitudes that no longer correspond to the current eco-nomic situation on our planet.

To date, we do not yet know how to live on our planet in ways that are eco-nomically sustainable, even though most of the technologies needed to do so have already been developed. Yet, if we don't learn soon how to do this, any success toward solving other human problems will, at best, be temporary.

I therefore submit that the underlying goal that will allow us to achieve whatever else we set our sights on as a species is:

To learn how to live and make a living on our planet in ways that are eco-nomically sustainable and to teach that knowledge to our children.

To achieve this goal, we must answer two basic questions:

  1. On the surface of our planet, "WHERE is it appropriate for humans to do WHAT?"

    If our goal is to live on our planet in ways that maximize eco-nomic sustainability, how do we decide where it is most appropriate to site our cities, what areas should we set aside for agriculture, for wildlife habitat and so forth? If we have made land use mistakes in the past, how can we evolve gracefully into a more eco-nomically secure land use pattern?
  2. Once we have resolved the "Where" issues, we must determine "HOW should we do the WHAT?"

    How do we design our cities, and the buildings and infrastructures that make them up, so that they operate in ways that are eco-nomically sustainable? How do we grow and use food, timber, and other plant materials in ways that protect genetic diversity, build soils, and eliminate pollution? How do we mine and use our planet's mineral wealth in the same way?

The chapters that follow attempt to answer these and related questions as a guide toward learning how to live in ways that are more eco-nomically secure.






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