Walk with us on a mental journey for a moment... We'd like to illustrate a different world we're working to build. However, before we rebuild this world, young people need the vision of what is possible.
Imagine you wake up in your home. It's quiet. You hear birds, but you barely hear cars. They're still there of course, but far fewer cars. And they are farther away. A wide car-free multi-use path sweeps past your home. Walkers, runners, bikers, scooters, e-bikes, and low-speed-micro electric vehicles glide past. Other homes sit beside this pathway. An e-bike repair shop sits under the trees. A city park is set beside the car-free community pathway. Coffee shops, restaurants, small grocers, and other businesses are strung along the community path like beads on a necklace.
The path is vibrant and alive with people. Shady trees cover parts of the path. The air is clean. People are shopping. People are walking dogs. Families are playing. Coffee chats are happening. Breakfast is happening at the cafes. The only thing missing is the wide hot asphalt of a 4 lane road, the fumes from engines, the loud noise of trucks, and the blistering speed of cars. The expensive car insurance, gasoline bills, car payments, and pollution are also missing.
Cars have been pushed out of most downtown areas. People have reclaimed the cities. Feet, ebikes, scooters, LSVs, and solar powered carts move people around. Ironically, people move faster now than they did with cars. Young people invest in a small micro vehicle, and save a great deal of money. Most gas stations in downtown have been converted to cafes. Most tire and oil change shops converted to micro-EV dealers and repair shops years ago. The air is clean and quiet.
Cars still exist, but they are used to go to cities, not through cities. Many towns and cities have adopted the "bubble" concept to push cars to the fringe of the city, and preserve a bubble of multi-use car-free pathways for daily transport within the city. Many of the existing cars are now EVs, and some still use gasoline. Most people only rent, or borrow, a traditional car when they need it to travel long distances. Traditional cars are clustered in depots on the perimeter of town. Everything you need is right here in your city. You can walk to the grocer. You can e-bike to school. Many people have worked from home for years since Covid in 2020. The micro EV Low-Speed-Vehicles use far less electricity, they're affordable, and they actually make transportation fun again. People who live farther in the county still have traditional cars, but the multi-use path network is expanding every year further out. It's cheaper to build car-free paths or convert existing roads than to expand the old asphalt car roads. Municipalities are saving a fortune on surface-street roadwork. Micro-EVs are here for good and life is better.
Some of the people who still own traditional cars are the local farmers. They need trucks to cart local produce into town. Most of your food is grown within 20 miles of where you live. Small farms are actually on the rise again. Chemical farming, massive monocultures, and corporate agriculture have been shrinking for the first time in over 100 years. Incentives for small farmers have been helping to fuel a sustainable transition in agriculture. Your dairy, berries, proteins, mushrooms, honey and produce all come from local farms who supply the independent grocer. Locally raised pastured raised chicken, beef and pork are available at the local shops. Your own backyard has chickens and beehives cared for by you and your neighborhood garden co-op. A few miles away a local aquaponics warehouse raises micro-plastic free trout, sunfish, prawns, tilapia and leafy greens. You can still get to a Kroger or a Costco, but as the smaller farms have proliferated the local food options have increased and big box stores have scaled down.
Digital technology is used to partially automate and monitor the community gardens. Temperature, humidity, soil moisture, PH, and light levels are closely tracked to help optimize care in the farms, gardens, and aquaponics centers.
Most homes and apartment buildings have methane digesters to harvest methane cooking gas from organic wastes. The liquid fertilizers are used in the local gardens and by local farmers. The city has a composting program to send biomass and food waste back to the farms and gardens within town and at the edge of town. There are far fewer fast-food restaurants as the government subsidies for cheap corn to supply the meat industry ran dry as chemical corn yields diminished. The upshot from the fast-food decline is that cost-share insurance rates decreased dramatically as community health increased.
Your home is powered by a mix of methane, photovoltaics, passive solar heating, and supplemented by grid power from a biomass plant at the edge of town.
In the daytime your home's sodium ion battery charges from your PV panels, and then transfers power at night to your Aptera solar micro EV and your commuter e-bike.
Building codes have been relaxed to allow for more Accessory Dwelling Units, Tiny Homes, Yurts, CEB homes, earthships and other creative dwellings built on marginal land, vacant lots and in peri-urban areas.
Centralized sewage only exists in the densest parts of town. In your small town, the municipal methane digester converts methane energy into electricity to supplement the grid. Homes farther from town have their own methane generators, or use advanced composting processes to enrich forested plots of trees.
Your town is alive. People live here. People walk and bike here. Food is grown here. Rainwater is collected here. Jobs are created here. The people used to only sleep here and all drive to the nearest megacity for work... Now the town creates its own work. There are very few big corporations in town. Most of the big big box shops that survived Amazon's expansion have downsized. More small shops have opened lately. There has been an explosion of small business. Good jobs are back: Organic farmers, aquaponics technicians, solar panel maintenance, compost distribution drivers, electricians, local chefs, bakers, potters, crafts people, metal workers and builders.
Food production has become decentralized, local, and is creating new jobs. Energy has become decentralized and diversified. Transportation has been downscaled, slowed down, and democratized. Waste is composted in a circular loops to help build soil year over year. The water systems, rivers, and ponds are getting cleaner as fewer gas powered cars are driven. The town is truly built for humans again, not just gasoline cars and big EVs. The big online retailers finally have to help shoulder the bill of maintaining the remaining road networks their trucks and vans use daily.
This vision might seem quaint. It might seem like a pastoral dream, or an agriculturalists whim. However, this vision is one of stability and sustainability. This environment restores independence to communities. Water, food, energy, shelter, and sanitation for a community should be controlled by the community. Outside corporations and entities extract value from far-off communities within America and abroad, and rarely deliver an equal measure of value in return.
Growth cannot and should not expand forever. Paving over our world is not a good path. Building a world for cars first is not a good path. Subsidizing cheap and artificial food is a poor use of tax money. Allowing distant corporations and bureaucrats control over our water, food, shelter, energy and economic systems puts our local communities at risk.
The world is a diverse and beautiful place. Every place should not look the same. The "Oranging of America" should and must reverse. An explosion of diverse solutions for providing energy, food, water, shelter and sanitation is long overdue.
Your power is local and almost entirely renewable, your food is local and healthy, you work where you live, your friends work where they live, your community design is improving waterways by reducing car pollution, your home is a place you are proud of. You have true ownership in a vibrant community. This place is a good place that is worth caring for. You work 15-25 hours a week for the income you need, and the rest of your week is spent doing other things. You hike, explore, volunteer, cook, visit, and create. How is this possible? Simple living. Sustainable living. Smart living.
Ever consolidating corporate sources of our food, energy, housing, and water threaten the people who depend on them. Small is good. Local is good. Decentralized is good. We cannot afford *not* to try new ideas. Our current farming model, energy model, transportation model, and economic model will continue to destroy our soils, pave over communities, drain taxpayers, and promote an unhealthy society ever-dependent on outside forces.
Nothing about the above vision is "unrealistic". For too long the powers that be dismiss decentralized visions as fanciful, unrealistic, or idealistic. Our world is a big place, big enough for many ideas. Let's try these ideas in just a few places. They won't all work, but many will. Acorn Land Labs is for those who want to dream up a different world. We can't change things overnight. We aren't even looking to replace the world of big farms, big cars, or centralized powers. We simply want to give people options. We should have some big farms, and many small farms. We should have many car-free paths, and a few roads still for cars. We should support big companies that are responsible, and support even more small local companies.
Acorn Land Labs is here to kickstart sustainable, human-focused change within the context of STEM education. Let's build something new. Let's grow something. Let's share new ideas. Let's grow good things. Let's reinvent the world around us.