Bill McKibben, in his book “Eaarth”, makes the point that in a world where conservation of water, power and arable land is of prime importance, the most efficient and economical form of settlement is one of modest size and as self-sufficient as possible. However, because some forms of service connecting the settlement to the outside world (banks, hospitals, etc.) cannot economically be provided for very small settlements, we can imagine one settlement acting as a hub within reasonable travel time from a surrounding set of satellite settlements, the whole forming a single identifiable town or city.
The eminent Greek town planner Constantinos Doxiadis once defined the optimal city as one where the time travel from the outermost boundary to the city centre did not exceed one hour. It is uncertain whether he coined the term, but he described any city which exceeded his definition as a Megalopolis. (He got a surprise when he undertook a consultation contract with the City of Chicago and found that the city, according to his definition, extended out into several neighbouring states, because of the number of people commuting daily by air – but that is another story !). Anyway, as a measure of distance between satellites and the hub, it is a reasonable definition for our purposes.
A feature of almost all renewable power sources is that they can vary in size to suit requirements without undue additional costs. The cost-efficiency of coal- or oil-fired power stations on the other hand, rises substantially with increasing size and therefore, they must service very large areas via complex networks of cables and transformers (which of course, absorb substantial power in themselves). Nuclear power-stations, of course, are right off the scale, so far as economic power generation is concerned, requiring substantial subsidies from the state. Nevertheless, these large centralised installations may have a role to play and this will be discussed in a later post. For the moment, the only point to be made is that remote communities can be totally self-sufficient with respect to power. Indeed, given the large areas required by solar arrays and other sun-dependent installations, they need to be distributed widely for the huge total national power output to be generated. Therefore, in terms of location, it makes sense for new communities to follow the power, so to speak. (Hey, that’s a great tag line, isn’t it. I might use it in other posts ! ).
In these remote communities, self-sufficiency implies that a greater proportion of the population will be engaged in food production, mainly for local consumption. However, if a community is to have comprehensive services and cultural opportunities, it is essential that the centralisation of businesses and services in recent years be reversed and in this regard the Internet, delivered on a satellite-based broadband network could be invaluable in reducing the sense of isolation and allowing people employed by large corporations and government departments to work from home or in small local offices. If government were to provide support with tax relief and other measures, distribution of business operations in this way might be an attractive proposition for large corporations.
This post provides only a skeletal idea of a remote community. You might also like to think of it as a charcoal sketch on a canvas where the colours will be added later The concept will be fleshed out when we come to discuss food production, construction techniques for buildings, lifestyle aspects and so forth.