Does a low energy future mean a significantly lower population?

We started off by discussing whether or not houses can easily be de-constructed, and which materials would be useful/valuable.

We then discussed what the remaining population would do with those recently de-constructed houses, the materials available, and the land on which they were built.

Next we discussed whether we would see a population growth or decline, and why people would choose to live in one area instead of another, and if that decision might be based on the jobs available.

We asked whether or not the land from the now empty lots would be viable for becoming places where food could be grown. We decided that it would be possible with a lot of work. The real life situation of Cuba was discussed, where they have actually torn down some structures to turn them into small food lots.

The idea came up that many of the materials from the older houses being deconstructed would be used to repair the homes that are still being occupied.

In a "jobless economy" what do home and workplace look like?

Convener: Gaianne


Participants: Dave, Fred, Sara, also Bernard

Discussion and recommendations:

The idea was to imagine what is likely--and also desirable--in a general way, on the topic of a roof overhead. My idea in posing the question is that when jobs go away, so does the house-and-commute-to-work. What happens instead?

Of course, nobody knows. But the discussion that spun off this question was wide-ranging and fun. Joblessness and or homelessness is already not a hypothetical for some of us, so there was interest in practical skills.

In looking for a new workskill, what to look for? Simple, practical, locally useful seems good. Can timebanking and the coming LETS sytem be of help for connecting skills and needs? Tax issues exist, but are still manageable.

When one thinks of crafts people, one thinks of working at home, which implies having a home. This is not impossible as in some cases banks are not evicting people for fear of vandalism to empty properties.

If you are already homeless and don't know where you will be each night, what can you do? How can you keep or practice a trade? Finding a niche is needful. In this context we should remember the UXA which existed during the Great Depression in Oakland California and had eventually 1500 members living outside the above-ground economy through mutual help.

Are we too high tech? How do you step back to a simpler, more reliable technology?

Dimitri Orlov's writings on the collapse of the Soviet Union are one of our main guides. In the US however, we can expect an attempt to segregate the jobless from the "still okay." So we will have to deal with that. But it may or may not work.

Project A: Build a cob structure, for reskilling and community utility.

Project B: Learn skills of salvage, scavange, and repair.

Project A has already attracted some interest, and will probably happen. Project B is currently still theoretical.



Session 2 1:00 - 2:30
Convened by Dave Taylor
Len, Dave, Sara, Siobhan, Tony, Bernard, and Meg all contributed to the discussion

In any community, there are buildings and houses that are boarded up or otherwise abandoned. Likewise, many folks are homeless or living on the fringes.
It seems like there should be some kind of solution.

Multiple reasons and causes for homelessness - jobs disappearing, illness, drugs/alcohol, overpriced real estate.

What is housing: legal requirements, politics, shelters

Historical perspective - Tony reminded us that "in his day" there were in any downtown area residential hotels where transients or day laboreres could have a room, place for the night.
Modern Real Estate trends have made downtowns too expensive for this model.
Expensive real estate is its own god.

Housing as a basic right; hole in the safety net, families split up because of problems with affordability, irresponsible leadership has twisted priorities.
In europe, 40% of housing is socialized - the state ensures homes as a human right.
USA functions like a rich man's club. Affordable housing is socialism, and socialism is bad.

Squatting - risky because the gov't don't like it/won't permit it.
Probably get kicked out. An illegitimate solution.
Laws money neighborhoods - housing a social construct.
No institutional support for the homeless.

The gov't should put more money into housing for the poor and homeless.

Partial potential solution-
manufacturing facilities that have fallen into disuse probably won't be used for production again.
An albatross on the shoulders of the owner - make available for a new kind of residential hotel.
Not-for-profit development co.
Getting variances on zoning regulations.
Informal boarding house model.
Mixed sizes/ mixed incomes for converting industrial units.
Public safety issues.

Open letter to mayors to make properties available for conversion/re-use.
Open bidding process on city owned properties to individuals.
Find a building that has fallen into disuse and is tax delinquent. Pressurize the deed holder to allow conversion, re-zoning.


What are new ideas/models for Care/Housing for us when elderly/ inferm / demented in New Haven ?

Session 1
Leader: Janet Brodie (
Particapants: Nate Bixby, Marie Pulito, Terry Halwes, Bob Cat, Dave Taylor, Maria Tupper.

What can we do when we need assisted living when we are older. Will we end up in something that looks like the assisted living places of today that look like a hotel with plastic flowers, or will we end up locked in a nursing home?

Co-housing is an option, where a community of people with some common interests are able to determined amounts of resources, such as a shared nurse, recreation director, or shared cooking. To be able to age at home while combining resources of our community.

Some of us are concerned that we will not be taken care of by our children (note some of us have no children).

The choices from Medicaid will provide us with some tough choices. Someone with alzheimers may have to choose to live at home with a single 24/7 live in assistant (who will need to leave), yet still require the household to be run, or to choose an assisted living facility.

More of us will be Getting Alzheimers, especially in the next 20 or 30 years as the boomers get older. Can we have some different options than the ones we have now?

Do we really want to live in a nursing home, where the rooms have no doors?

Not only do we need to keep ourselves physically and mentally fit, but we are also social creatures, and need community.

When the system steps in, will we get what we want? What if we end up abandoned and die? Can we have any hope for our future? Do we have the inner fortitude to stand up to our future adversities?

Some transition words that were heard were Faith, Plan and Dream. Can we be an agent for a potential Dream?

Why not extend our family (say becoming uncle and nephew) so that we can have a larger group of people that care for us and we care for (reference Native people traditions). We can develop our honoring.

At a time of low resources, how will altheimers be handled? Will the decision making processes be taken out of our hands?

If we are not healthy, will we want to take the resources from other people? The native Americans had the elderly (choose?) to spend their last year outside. How can we choose our own death?

Often needy are considered garbage, and the wages for caring for them are low and getting lower. Needs can bring out the compassion in people which makes a more loving community/society.

We often confuse physical disability with mental disability. When someone is mentally capable, but physically disables, they are often treated as totally incapable. Someone in a nursing home may not be allowed to go out on their own, but will be required by a doctor to have 15 minutes of exercise twice a day. This becomes expensive when there are requirements for an aid to always be present, and prevents the person from getting exercise.

Why not use something like a franchise or non profit support system for Alzheimers or housing issues for elders.

Because people with Alzheimers are extremely in the present, Buddhist caregivers are very understanding and appreciative.

Caring is a good thing that comes out of community. There can be a kind of synchrocity when people are together. Someone by themself will be less likely to cook for themself. Community is a great way for people to look out for one another.

We are concerned about what will happen when resources are reduced. The $ for health car will likely go down. Time banking, community groups, family extending, and a more general caring for one another will be options.

It was good to talk about aging issues, and it should be done more.

Happiness correlates with age, possibly because we are wiser and understand ourselves and our needs better, we become more compassionate to ourselves and we have more patience with ourselves.

Too soon old, too soon late.

There are fears about what will happen to us as we get older (such as the symptoms of ALS), and maybe it will not be so bad.

It is an act of generocity to accept the generocity of others.


Continue with formal or informal communication on aging / death issues (aging is related to death).

Start a study group.


The green house concept:
The eden alternative:
A new model for Elder Care:

Dave Taylor


SESSION 1: 11:00-12:30

CONVENOR: Tony Dominski,

Lynne Bonnet
Tod Wormell
Tony Dominski
Patty Krafcik
Terry Halwes
Meg Rudne
Marion Gehlker


Energy efficency ceates housing security by lowering maintenance cost and inreasing enertgy security.

Group participants had an active interest in upgrading their homes and apartments. Energy conservation measures: air leak sealing, attic insulation, hot water heating,heat pumps, concrete thermal mass and solar panels were discussed.

Recommendation: Make an appointment to have a utility-sponsored home energy audit done. Insulate attick, add insulating around electric sockets.

1. Plan a skills workshop on home energy conservation at the unitarian Universalist building with the Skillshare Coordinating Crew (contact Meg)
whitney Avenue, New Haven.

2. Contact New Haven Office of Sustainability to determine their resources in home energy retrofits.

How do we change building regulations so we can live more sustainable?

Convener: Marie Pulito

Participants: Lynne Bonnett, Marion Gehlker, Terry Halwes, Maria Tupper, Randy Domina, Bernard Brennan,Adam Wascholl

Discussion and Recommendations: There are national building regulations that states and towns adopt. In addition towns or neighborhoods or condo communities add "covenants" that are even more restrictive (minimum square footage, maximum occupancy, no clotheslines, etc.). States like Maine (WA, AR, LO, Ga) have no or more lax building regulations. Not CT!! We are concerned about values of our homes and properties. Building regulations "protect us".Discussed compost toilets. Aren't water toilets the holy grail of our western civilization? Composting toilets are used in rest stops, Hamonassette Beach, Cape Cod. We can learn from their practices. Like peak oil there is peak potash - this could come from human waste. In Seattle, "clean human waste" is bagged and sold as compost. In CT, sewage plants cannot bag and sell waste by law. Building with cobb or straw bales: cobb would need engineering approval stamp and then a variance, straw bale is used for isulating outside walls over wood framing so would be more permitable.

Plan: Research info from Germany where they are building truly passive houses that need no heat source because they are tight and highly insulated. Human bodies, hot water and stoves plus passive solar provide heat.

Look at Fine Homebuilding and Journal of Light Construction.

Work at change at town level where you own property. Or run for office for building and zoning with progressive ideas.

Straw bale for all!! It's renewable and local and non-petroleum based.

Add a building focus to Action Group. Skill sharing as individuals get variances for their own projects. Networking with other residents of your town.

What does a month without electricity look like?

Session I: What does a month without electricity look like?
Convened by Randy Domina
Attended by Fred, Gaianne, Bernard, Nick, Tisha, Siobhan, Sara, Len, Roger.

What started as a practical discussion of the immediate consequences of loss of power evolved into ideas about the process of change on the personal and the community level.

Practically speaking...
  • KNOW OUR HOME SYSTEMS: For example, how gas is distributed through a home, how gas is delivered to homes from a central source, how to bypass automated systems like electric-starter gas heaters.
  • WHAT IS ESSENTIAL ABOUT POWER, AND WHAT IS NOT? What rapidly deteriorates our life quality? Food preservation, heat, sanitation systems, water, cooking.
  • IF ELECTRICITY GOES OFF FOR A MONTH, IS IT GONNA COME BACK ON? What does it say about our situation if a month-long power outage is allowed to happen?
  • LOOKING AT OURSELVES: HOW CAN WE PROVIDE FOR OUR COMMUNITY? Can immediately volunteer skills and resources to neighbors. Teach others how to do what you do: use a solar oven, preserve food, etc.
  • RESILIENCE APPROACH: Take many different approaches, and see what works.
  • PLAN B: Not just a backup plan, but integrated into our daily lives. What we should be doing anyway.

What happens if you prepare for disaster expertly, but when shit hits, you are surrounded by many un(der)prepared neighbors? At what point will your self-sufficiency be compromised?

As far as behavior and social interactions go...
  • HOW TO LIVE IN COMMUNITIES? What will people do if there was no electricity, no TV, no computer? What if we don't like our neighbors? What if you can't just get in your car and drive away? (We currently live in a society where luxury is the norm, which is dislocating, disconnecting, detaching. Leads to an avoidance of reality.)
  • HOW DO WE, AS A COMMUNITY, CREATE RESILIENCY? Smaller than a town, larger than a neighborhood. Food production, common resources, shared skills. The Commons.
  • 12-STEP PROGRAMS designed to aid in recovery from addiction offer an interesting parallel to the crisis we face. Our society is addicted to oil, shopping, screens, cars. Like in addiction to drugs, only the people who seek change are willing to accept help. Some conventional people may indeed have to hit rock bottom before they will accept a low-energy future and talking with their neighbors. Some people will not be 'saved.' You come to realize that you can't help everyone recover from addiction, and that some people would rather die before they give up their addiction.
  • PLANT THE SEED and let it go/let it grow. It's all you can do.
  • BUILD A NEW SOCIETY IN THE SHELL OF THE OLD: it really will be a cultural shift to learn to operate on the basis of interdependence and giving/contributing/trading rather than taking.
  • ENTICE PEOPLE: The organic, local food movement provides a great illustration of playing off people's ideals. We can make transition and barter, etc., into something people can aspire to, rather than an ultimatum, which is more likely to scare folks back into their socially sanctioned creature comfort zones.

  1. Form "unplug clubs", where a group of people commit to supporting each other in overcoming a destructive habit. Give up TV for 2 weeks, for example. Get together and make lists of alternative sources of information, fun activities, etc. Discuss successes and pitfalls, learn from one another, support each other, and build community.
  2. Heart and Soul Groups - A more long term discussion and support group. "We're gonna walk this path together, support each other." Share our joys and concerns.
  3. Skillsharing practical things, like rain barrels, gardening, bike repair, food preservation, anything. Either teach each other, or find instructors. Try to keep money out of the interaction.
  4. Live your truth. Plant the seeds without the expectation that the other person will change immediately (how Zen of you). Walk the talk (set an example), then talk the walk (answer questions, have discussions, engage curious people who see your example).

Independence Days, by Sharon Astik
Small Is Beautiful, by E.F. Schumacher
Costanza, author
Herman Daly, author

How does one live without a house?

Session: 1-2:30pm
Convener: Bobcat Carruthers
Convener's contact information: 860-575-9385
List of Participants: Bobcat, Todd Wormell, Fred Cervin, Gaianne Jenkins, Maria Pinango, Meg, Bernard, Patty, Sarah Kirshner

Discussion and Recommendations

-This might be an approach when you cannot afford rent
ways: Wigman, Car, public spaces (lounges), joining a tent city....
-Homelessness can result in a lack of sleep
-Sleep and rest are not human rights, so need for camouflage
-Need for safety
-What do you need to live without a house?
-protection from water
-protection from wind
-access to warmth
-access to water
-access to facilities (bathroom, shower.....)
-access to fuel and energy sources(propane, gasoline, wood, solar panels)
-access to food
-ways to keep animals out of your food (metal cans, prepare what you will eat and no more(no waste!)
-Perks to living "outside"? --> Connection to natural world, a simpler life (simpler solutions to everyday problems, and you tend to always have what you need provided you are off-grid) save money, get more exercise, a slower life.
-Connection to transition?
--> must commute to towns for resources (health care, friends....)
--> in general it is a more sustainable lifestyle

So: how does one live without a house? answer: like a happy dog.

Dogs are happy when: they have food they like, warmth, a pack to hang out with, a warm body to lean on, and the open air (long walks) (Diogenes the Cynic)


- Choose to live below the limit of your economic ability (leads to sustainability)
- Start small
- Identify your needs (need to be in touch? get a cell-phone)
- Try to get an idea of where your goals are and make small steps in that direction.