Gaiaville LLC will be a green, sustainable, zero carbon footprint, intentional village of 350 homes where being green is not limited to architecture and building systems, but is rooted in an understanding of the interdependence of all life forms and ecosystems on the planet. Within Gaiaville all social, economic and spiritual interactions and relationships are based on the principle of equal exchange: giving and receiving in a balanced manner that respects everyone’s will, choice and autonomy. This will be a training environment where adults and children can learn how to become the leaders, stewards, protectors and guardians of our planet. Additionally, this effort is an open source platform where the scope of work for this community is available to anyone. Serving as a template for the village of tomorrow, Gaiaville will be developed using the latest advances in sustainable technologies for a community of approximately 350 families. The village is envisioned to exist on 1,000 acres in the Catskill Mountains. Currently, there are 52 acres in Long Eddy, (Sullivan County) New York, and an additional 1,000 acres will be acquired.
Sustainable communities have been attempted before. The degree of their success is still under examination. Within Gaiaville sustainable living is not just about the principles of LEED points, but about a higher calling – a realization that if we do not change our relationship to the resources and bounties of the planet, we are going to end up with a world that will be hostile to our own survival. To create a green community that is respectful of the earth, one has to look beyond building systems, pollution control and green power generation. For example, it is sobering for architects and builders to go back after several years and witness how the sustainable buildings and environments that they intended are being utilized by end-users. Rarely do you witness an adherence to the original design intent. Mostly, the green features are not being maintained for the end-users are not motivated to do so.
The problem with the current model is that too much emphasis is placed on the environment alone, which cannot teach a lifestyle choice to anyone nor change behavior. There has to be self-interest and motivation for anyone to change a habit.
At the risk of alienating the sustainability industry, we are saying that without teaching the awareness and connection that all aspects of our daily life and choices have on supporting or depleting the planet’s limited resources, no behavior will change. For when one realizes that the ethics and morality of a sustainable lifestyle is in one’s ultimate and best interest, then one will be motivated to act accordingly for a better tomorrow. Once the individual understands and supports the ethical and moral calling of sustainable practice, then the social, cultural, economic and spiritual interaction of the residents will begin to collectively support the sustainable mission. For that to happen, all activities and disciplines that support communal existence, interaction and habitation must be in sync and broadcast a similar theme – respect and perpetual existence and renewal of the common resources and ultimately guardianship of our planet. If we take care of the planet, humanity continues to exist.
The success of Gaiaville depends on the harmonious blending of the following group activities and disciplines: Green Architecture and Design, Green Power Generation, Food Production, Commerce and Economy, Education and the Arts, and Wellness and Health care.
Green Architecture and Design
Gaiaville is being planned from scratch on the 52 acres that we now control in Long Eddy, New York. It is the nexus point of the effort. There is an old four-bedroom farmhouse at the southeast that will be renovated. The property is divided by Route 97 with 40 acres to the west and 12 acres to the east. We are seeking a larger site, but for now we are focused on that parcel. The site has a combination of rolling hills, wooded areas and a babbling brook at the eastern edge of the property. The village center and commercial district should be clustered around main streets fronted by commercial buildings such as food co-ops, banks, restaurants, and retail stores. These properties may be two- to three-story mixed-use buildings with a commercial ground floor. Also, civic buildings such as an assembly or city hall, place of worship, school, performance center and wellness center will be included. The height limitation in the town center is four stories. The town will be designed to highlight landmark features of the property and provide vistas of the meadows and the forest in accordance with green design principles. This is to be a pedestrian friendly town with walkways and sitting areas, meditation spots and a plaza that will encourage social interaction while respecting one’s right to privacy, peace of mind and self-exploration.
Great effort will be taken to address water and refuse management in a manner that is earth-friendly. Creation of water retention tanks will capture rain water for agricultural, food production and landscape use. Most potable water in this area comes from wells equipped with pumps. A common ceramic filtration system may be needed for the center of town, but may not be necessary for single family homes depending on the water quality. Due to recent heavy rainfall and flooding in the area, the water management of heavy rainfalls should be a primary consideration. Forestry and plant management will encourage the use of local and native plant species to facilitate ease of maintenance and support the current ecosystem.
Aside from the town center with commercial ground floors and apartments above, the rest of the town will be single family homes nestled and blended in the landscape. The homes will have a maximum of three bedrooms. The architecture and the type of home should be easily made using local materials and systems to create a super-insulated, green home. The homes could be a combination of both passive and active solar or earth shelter homes. Homes will use local, natural materials that have little or no off-gases (VOC) whose negative ion production is plenty to help support human health and habitation. All the building and construction systems will follow the LEED homes and LEED neighborhood principles to a zero carbon footprint. Appliances and fixtures will follow LEED rating systems such as dual flush toilets and re-capture of grey water. Residential and commercial properties will be designed to withstand wind shear up to 180 miles per hour and the design shall be earthquake resistant. Since 48% of greenhouse gases come from homes, the intention is to reverse that trend. The goal is to create homes and a community that do not impact negatively on the planet. Finally, the village will have extensive wireless capabilities.
The village will generate its own power via current technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass power generation such as recapture of methane from animal waste. These technologies can be deployed singly or in combination with each other. The goal is to create an entire functioning community that will be off the grid or connected to the grid in a net metering capacity. Now instead of disconnecting to the existing grid and generating an internal grid to store and release power, it may be more prudent to allow buildings, homes or complexes to generate, store and utilize their own power. Instead of a central power generation plant, maybe the approach is to create individual power generation points at every home. The homes will incorporate smart systems to monitor energy usage and save power. Items such as village lighting and power requirements can be met by solar power with smart technology battery backup.
Additionally, there are a lot of promising technologies, such as magnetic motors that use the attraction and repulsion of magnets to create a high output motor; nuclear fusion that uses the technology of cold fusion to create endless power and perpetual motion motors, i.e. motors that once started will continually work until the parts run out. The above may be able to support the goal of green power generation. Gaiaville will foster an environment where such technologies can be developed, tested and deployed.
In general, most power generation companies only get to install their technologies on a case-by-case basis one home at time. Gaiaville is an opportunity for them to install and deploy said technologies for an entire village of 350 homes. We will partner with such companies and offer them the opportunity to deploy such systems and showcase the merit of their goods. All Gaiaville will require from the green power companies is that the residents of the community be trained by the companies in the installation and maintenance of the system and equipment. Thus, a local intelligentsia will be trained in the field of power generation installation and maintenance. This skill set will be marketed to outside individuals and other communities.
Education and the Arts
How do you teach children a sustainable approach to all things? How do you teach the laws of equal exchange (to give and receive in a balanced manner) in all interactions? How do you teach the law of noninterference (you can only share of yourself if the other party gives you permission)? We know that current school systems favor test scores instead of the growth and evolution of the child’s individuality. Self-development is discouraged. Instead, Gaiaville’s education is based on the Waldorf, Reggio Emilia or Montessori school systems that are closer to supporting a child’s personal development and encourage individual and critical thinking, growth and the assimilation of ethical values toward others – respect for all life forms. Thus, will and self-determination are critical to happiness. Yet, the will and volition of others also enter the equation and co-mingle with intent. Respecting everyone’s choices implies that we are all interdependent. Thus, our actions affect the community and the planet at large. The crucial question is, “Does my will and intent serve or deter from the greater good?” This system will teach planetary leadership skills, accountability and responsibility.
How do you teach the above-mentioned concepts to adults? The citizenry of the planet has been behaving in a self-serving manner; we will have to find a way to teach them that the common good is in ultimate interest of the individual. For example, if I respect and assure the perpetual existence of all life, I and my progeny win. This will be a process rather than an event. This continuing education system will be available to all residents of Gaiaville, and also to outside visitors by creating immersion programs with short- and long-term stays.
Additionally, there will be a 750-seat theater and performance center. This will be a means to allow artists, musicians, and other performers a platform to develop and nurture their craft and skills. Art and performance education will be used as a way to access the right side of the brain, bypassing judgments and objections.
The town will produce its own fruits and vegetables. An organic farming method using a combination of the biodynamic method, hydroponic or aquaponic systems will permit a scalable ability to generate macrobiotic food with no chemicals, pesticides or preservatives. What size farm and what kind of farming equipment will be needed to support and nourish a village of 1,500 residents? Remember, the idea is to be as self-sustaining as possible. Thus, residents will be encouraged to work a few hours per week for their food unless disabled. Farms will be cultivated and managed by residents, keeping the highest standards and enlisting the support of the Devic kingdom. Can we create a hydroponic and/ or aquaponic system that can operate in wintertime and provide food and produce to the community in a non-planting season?
Most of the food will be locally grown, and the surplus will be sold to outside markets. The standard of food growing practice will be at or surpass the Demeter level.
Commerce and Economy
It is safe to say that the free market economic and current global market system is not sustainable. After the mortgage mess and the multiple bail-outs for US corporations, the United States economy is limping. Meanwhile, in Europe Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain had to be bailed out, with Spain and Italy waiting in the wings. The EBC, European Central Bank, is running out of money and the repayment terms for these bail-out loans put these countries in deeper perils. The bail-outs are doing nothing more than putting a band-aid on a major wound that needs to be sutured. The entire system needs to be reconsidered. The paradigm of a debt economy fueled by free-market greed is not sustainable and certainly not renewable. Fixes to the current model are doomed to fail. You cannot regulate nor legislate the level of greed that is acceptable. Moreover, there are enough resources on the planet for all men, women and children to be housed, fed, educated and provided with all basic needs that will allow them to live a happy life. For this to happen, we have to think outside the box and find a model that is renewable and sustainable, taking into account the common good. Yes, individuality and the pursuit of self-interest is great, but not to the point where self-interest encroaches into the common good as in the current model that is depleting all common resources and heading for an implosion.
The trick is to balance self-interest with common good in order to create a renewable economical system. For this to happen, one has to be taught about the ethical and moral importance of maintaining the common good. The needs of the many are in my ultimate self-interest and will lead to my long-term survival.
Wellness and Health care
The issue here is multi-fold. Allopathic medicine is about 200 years old and has made some great strides in curing diseases and providing health care. Of late, this modality has become more about dealing with symptoms rather than causes. In Gaiaville, emphasis will be on understanding and/or promoting holistic health, including preventive measures and possible alternatives to physical intervention. Homeopathic, herbal and energy medicine are much older and have value that established allopathic practices are treating as quackery. How about an integrative approach where the allopath and the homeopath and the energy practitioner are working together to help the patient achieve optimum health? In places where this has been tried the healing process is greatly accelerated. The focus should not be on which modality is better, but on a collaborative effort to provide the patient with the best treatment possible.
Second, our health care system and the delivery of medicine are now in the hands of administrators, insurance companies and drug companies, not the doctors and healing practitioners. This causes the doctor to have to focus on the number of patients to be seen per day or what procedures to perform, rather than on optimal paths to healing, so that s/he can remain financially afloat. What if instead of paying insurance premiums, we were to pay a monthly cost directly to the healer for concierge delivery of healing? Where this model has been tried, doctors find themselves better able to focus on each individual patient. Since there is no quota to make, the physician can focus on the healing practice.
We envision the use of holistic practices, where the physical state and blood work are equally as important as the patient’s state of mind. Wellness and preventive medicine will be a major focus of the Gaiaville health care model.