Thoughts on “The Line”

This 2-minute video shows a vision for a dense, eco-oriented city called the Line, that would be built in Saudi Arabia.

This is akin to the Ecocity Builders concept, which I like a lot, and which has long been espoused by Richard Register et al. Ecocities are envisioned as densely populated settlements with the tallest buildings (4-5 storeys) forming a tight nucleus surrounded by nature and many transport options with an emphasis on human-powered modes.

The Line is different in some ways that I see as not green:

1) Why is it shaped like a monolithic wall — a human-invented structure designed to serve as a barrier — rather than the more natural, organically emergent, plural cluster shape envisioned by Ecocity Builders and more close to the shapes and forms found in a forest or savannah?

2) Besides being shaped like a barrier, the linear shape is also designed to favor mechanized transportation rather than human-powered transport. The video refers to how quick it is to get from one end of the city to the other. Quickness is efficient in a capitalistic industrial sense, but the slower and “less efficient” modes such as walking, bicycling, scootering, wheelchairing, skateboarding, etc., are what build vibrant social connections, social capital, community. (Edit: I assumed they were talking about some sort of train or monorail, but maybe they have walking in mind when they say it’s quick to get from one end to the other.)

3) An economy characterized by heavy dependence on automation rather than healthy reliance on human beings, cottage industries, micro businesses. A healthy community is intricately linked by an interdependent web of services provided by humans living in right relationship with each other and with the rest of nature.

4) The envisioned linear skyscraper-city is seventy-five miles long. Plans call for five million residents. Meanwhile, magnificent Tokyo (one of my favorite cities) accommodates I believe about eight million residents in its roughly circular central area which is about six miles across.

5) As always with techno-green visions like this, the “energy sci-fi” objection comes up. I don’t have the scientific and technical background to know if the “energy math” would work or not, but based on various things I’ve read or watched from knowledgeable people whose assessments I trust, I strongly suspect it would not.

All of that said, any creative efforts that challenge the prevailing notions of what urban settlements can look like, and at least trying to leave nature a lot more space, are worth considering. And hey, it’s a design concept. If some element doesn’t turn out to be practical or feasible, the design can be tweaked.

Landscaping letters

Dear fellow beachside residents,
Following is a letter I am circulating to officials & staff of our city, as well as neighbors and fellow activists, regarding our City’s landscaping practices and how they affect the environment. Your comments are welcome, and anyone who wants to join in an effort to promote the use of our tax dollars for more eco-appropriate landscaping is welcome to contact me. Also, anyone reading this is welcome to use any of this verbiage in your own communications with your local government officials, as well as HOAs or other bodies.


Hi everyone! Hope you are having a good week. Questions:

  • Who (which person/people, which department) makes the actual decisions as to what gets planted on public property and how it is maintained? For example, the beachside police precinct on Harvey. Does Public Works make those decisions or is it Planning, City Manager’s office or some other department(s)?
  • What would it take for neighborhood residents to have a say in what gets planted on city properties in their neighborhoods, and how it is maintained? For example, at the beachside police precinct, replacing high-maintenance turfgrass with more authentic coastal vegetation such as sea grape and tall dune grasses and dune wildflowers, that supports the local wildlife while radically cutting back on irrigation, and reducing use of noisy, intrusive gas-powered equipment in neighborhoods.
  • Regarding spraying of sidewalks by herbicide trucks: What would it take for a neighborhood to get this sidewalk spraying stopped? Would a group of neighbors need to get up a petition, or just submit a formal request or what?
  • Alternatively, is there an opt-out list where individual property-holders can register their addresses as no-spray zones? (The contractors driving the spray trucks are friendly and respectful, and they know to avoid spraying close to my garden, but I would like there to be a way for any interested homeowners to officially opt out.)

Attaching photo of starved manatee from the front page of today’s News-Journal, to show why our landscaping practices are of utmost urgency. I know this is hard to look at, but it’s important.

Everything we do on the land leads to the waterways. Healthy seagrass and clean waterways are essential not only for our iconic manatees, but for an entire web of life on which we ALL depend.

AND, the ecological urgency aside, we have opportunity to save a LOT of money and labor which can then be channeled to urgent landscaping tasks such as heat mitigation, drought-flood mitigation, pollinator support, ecosystems restoration.

If you need guidance or hands-on help with any of this, never fear! Our region has many extremely knowledgeable public-service organizations (native plant societies, permaculture guild, county soil & water conservation board, citizen experts etc), any of whom would be delighted to support the City or any department interested in sustainable landscaping. Also, I as an individual am always at your service!

Thank you to each and every one of you for the important work you do to keep our city running.

All the best to you,


Jenny Nazak

Happy House-Sharing

One of the best ways to shrink our eco footprint is to reduce our cost of living. And one of the best ways to reduce our cost of living is to share a house or apartment. Living with roommates: the original “affordable housing”!

Figuring out ways to share space with people can actually get really fun and creative, as well as offering a huge financial advantage over living alone. And an emotional advantage too! In the USA, loneliness and lack of community are causing all sorts of public-health problems.

Nowadays even middle-aged and older people are starting to see the wisdom of sharing housing. In the Craigslist house-share ads you might see reference to “Golden Girls”. And certainly, sharing housing is also a win for young people just starting out.

In my blog I have made various posts over the years offering suggestions such as moving to smaller towns and buying houses together. Sharing housing is a huge leverage point for reducing the stranglehold of consumerist culture.

For the past couple of years, I have had only one housemate. Recently, a second friend moved in. Having two housemates is great! Each of us contributes a unique set of skills and resources to the household.

Now, there are certain factors that make it easier to share housing. The biggest bottlenecks are the kitchen and bathroom. A lot of people in the USA have been conditioned by consumer society to think they need their own personal bathroom and their own kitchen.

At my house, here are some ways that we “stretch” our one kitchen and our one bathroom.

1) Housemate’s little shaving basin in his bedroom. If everyone has one of these, the only time we really need the bathroom is to use the toilet. Also helpful for cutting down on bathroom bottleneck, we added an outdoor shower. Many times, we prefer it to the indoor shower.

2) Housemate’s little dishwashing setup. Also each person has a couple of little appliances in their own room. They each have a little microwave and water kettle in their rooms, for example. They are both welcome to use the kitchen also, but they actually mostly prefer to default to their own little setups in their own rooms. (Myself, I just use the kettle and stovetop in the kitchen.) We share one big fridge.

You can see photos here on my DEEP GREEN Facebook page. And I made a chatty little 1-minute video on YouTube as well.

It’s surprising how simple little things can make all the difference. Creative adaptation of the inside of a house or apartment (which we call Zone Zero in permaculture design) is a major, often overlooked leverage point for increasing our healthy interdependence on each other, while reducing our toxic dependence on hyperfinancialized, centralized, official systems.

Are you sharing housing? If so, what are your favorite tips? If not, what are some of the things stopping you?

Constraint: friend or foe

Constraint can be the seed for great leaps forward. Constraint can be an engineer’s best friend. Constraint sparks innovation. Whereas abundance often sparks replication and growth of wasteful or otherwise harmful designs and practices.

Constraint can thus be used in a very beneficial way.

Or, constraint can be used in a detrimental way, to shut down new ideas, discourage thinking, and put up roadblocks. The favorite bleat and refuge of bureaucrats is “liability” (we can’t plant fruit trees because of liability; we can’t let citizens manage city-owned empty lots because of liability; etc.)

Constraint: liberator or logjam. We each get to decide.

Degrowth: helicopter analogy

I found an article that’s a very helpful addition to my “verbal toolkit” for explaining degrowth. Also just hearing degrowth talked about in mainstreamland is a great morale-booster. Hope you will find it helpful as well. It’s a New York Times article by David Marchese, “This Pioneering Economist Says Our Obsession with Growth Must End.”

I particularly like the helicopter analogy, and (as a permaculture designer) also applaud Daly’s reference to design of an economy.

“Our obsession with economic growth

“Growth is the be-all and end-all of mainstream economic and political thinking. But what about the possibility that our current pursuit of growth, rabid as it is and causing such great ecological harm, might be incurring more costs than gains? That possibility, that prioritizing growth is ultimately a losing game, is one that the lauded economist Herman Daly has been exploring for more than 50 years. He spoke with our colleagues at The New York Times Magazine …

“The failure of a growth economy to grow is a disaster. The success of a steady-state economy not to grow is not a disaster. It’s like the difference between an airplane and a helicopter. An airplane is designed for forward motion. If an airplane has to stand still, it’ll crash. A helicopter is designed to stand still, like a hummingbird. So it’s a comparison between two different designs, and the failure of one does not imply the failure or success of the other. But in order to move from our present growth economy to a steady-state economy, that’s going to imply some important design principles — some changes in the fundamental design.”

#Degrowth #HermanDaly

There’s no _____ on a dead planet

It’s a popular saying among us climate activists. And no matter how you fill in the blank it’s true, because there’s no anything on a dead planet.

And yet, as unthinkable and unacceptable as it is for us humans in the rich industrialized world to keep on this deadly path of killing the physical biosphere, we must also never stop fighting for human rights; basic justice and equity. The erosion of human rights in recent times is only shocking to those of us who have never before really experienced a loss of our rights.

If we kill the biosphere, we lose our physical lives. If we continue to allow human rights to be taken away, we lose our souls. A culture where people have lost their souls is a dead culture. There’s no NOTHING in a dead culture. Colonizer culture is a dead culture.

“Tree-hugger”: a really dumb insult

A candidate for office in my county posted about how fed-up he is with the clearcutting of forests for development: “I stopped at 6 different developments yesterday in our county, and each one was totally Clear Cut, meaning complete devastation of nature that was living and thriving there before … not a single tree or blade of original grass left, no wildlife. So Sad!”

I responded: The clearcutting is bad enough, AND furthermore, the “landscaping” they replace it with is a second assault on the eye and the environment. Turfgrass, waxy cartoonish nonnative plants. Shaved, barren ponds.

I get sick of hearing people who recognize the value of trees being ridiculed as “tree-huggers.” When developers replace trees with gross, out-of-place manicured landscaping, maybe we should call them “GRASS-kissers”!

There’s no reason why developers can’t do more natural landscaping. Native plants & trees double as green infrastructure.

We can encourage the grass-kisser developers to embrace a more natural, beautiful, and less resource-hogging approach.

There are many local resources available to help us with native landscaping, green stormwater infrastructure, edible landscaping (food forests etc.)