Good Morning SuperForest,
In the three years that I’ve been playing the community creation/permaculture game, I’ve noticed one very important through line: water. Specifically, the shared access to clean, hot water. Hot water and how it is distributed is the number one factor in the success or failure of a community, and on a larger level a society as a whole.
We humans are very good at leaking. We pee, we poo, we shed hair, we shed skin flakes. A great deal of the dust in our homes is made up of our dead skin particles. Our bodies are, let’s face it, smelly, sticky, often leaking things, and we must deal with that fact from the day we attain self-awareness to the day we die.
But our cities and the machinery that surrounds us are not based on this basic fact. They are based on the needs and desires of a consumer driven society. A society where you travel from home to work to grocery store to place of recreation and entertainment. But imagine for a second that all four of those places were the same place. Your home was your work, your work was your grocery store, your very home was a place of vast unending entertainment. You could, if you liked, remain comfortably and happily within the borders of your home all the live long day and still get time outside and in the garden.
Obviously in this new paradigm we are using creative definitions of words like “home”, “work”, “grocery store”, etc. But let’s follow it through and see where it leads, and what it has to do with hot water.
Imagine a society based around two ideas:
1. That fresh, clean, drinkable water was our most precious resource.
2. That every human had, by simple fact of birth, equal right to consume and access this water.
OK, now let’s add to this freaky new society the data that we’ve gleaned on humans and their needs, namely that they need to drink clean water, irrigate with reasonably clean water, wash clothing and bedding, and use water for myriad industrial/manufacturing uses.
We see that this new water worshipping society would have some interesting design challenges on their hands. How do you factor in the need of humans to essentially pollute the water they come into contact with with the idea that water is precious, holy, necessary and must be kept clean to be useful?
The answer of course is creative design!
The answer in this case is in the integration with the human system of the garden system. Combine the human needs with the garden’s needs and everybody wins!
It could work like this:
You wake up, you get out of bed and go into the shower. The shower runs a mixture of recycled filtered water and filtered rainwater. Both of these were collected, stored, and filtered by the building you live in. The shower rinses your body clean and the water mixed with your sweat, skin, hair, fluids, and biodegradable soap flows through a grey water system which uses passive gravity and plant based systems to simply and effectively clean this water. You see, plants absolutely love things like pee, sweat, and soap bubbles. All the things that humans produce are what plants crave, and happily all the things plants produce are what humans crave, namely: food! Our mutual need for water unites us in a loop of self-reinforcing mutualism.
The recycled water from your shower filtered through a grey water system that uses plants, microbes, and passive materials like sand and gravel to clean it. The water is then used in the laundry system, and then recycled once more into the garden. In permaculture we call this function stacking; in this case the function we are stacking is share and clever use and re-use of water. The simplicity of the system is delightful. From human to garden to human to garden, as long as the water passes from one to the next in the proper sequence, the theoretical yield of this wonderfully precious water is limitless. We could conceivably design our buildings (i.e. homes) to collect, store, filter, heat and distribute hot water. Our buildings could also house our gardens, baths, kitchens, and laundry systems. All systems that we humans share that require the use of water must be consolidated and streamlined with an eye towards creative re-use and shared access.
Indeed, in order to succeed as a society, we must now set about changing our consumer based living system to a clean water based living system.
In order to do it, we need a critical mass of people to remove themselves from the consumer machine and create a viable life outside of it, a life based on the two ideas of the preciousness of water, and the inalienable right of every human being to access it.
Will you be one of the ones that breaks away? Will you opt out? There are ways to live outside of the system that are amazing and thrilling. The old ways are ending and new ways are needed. The old ways got us here, thank them, praise them, now let’s move forward. We have wonderful bodies that have needs. Our needs as a species are not being met by our current system, and so we need a system that works. That system will be based on these two ideas.
In a nutshell, that’s what three years of first hand study have taught me. You can reduce this incredibly complex issue down to that simple equation.
Clean hot water; do you have it, and where did you get it?
It is an entirely new world.
I love you. Have fun.