Natural Systems Solutions

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for Sustainable Lifestyles, Organizations, and Communities


"Reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it."
Philip K. Dick

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A Grim Fairy Tale

A "choose your own ending" story

   Once upon a time there was a wonderful city-an oasis throbbing in the heart of a ring of beautiful mountains in the northeast corner of the beautiful Sonoran Desert. Surrounded by an incredible diversity of wildlife, notably the amazing forests of saguaro cacti, its natural charms also included numerous lovely parks, a mild and sunny winter, and an incredible spring. There was historic significance and a charm to its revitalized downtown -- a lovely woven tapestry of cultures -- and the arts and music flourished. Residents and visitors alike loved the city.

   This special place was touted throughout the land as being among the best places to live in the whole country -- and it was not long before developers, drooling over the prospects of personal riches, began buying up the fragile desert property surrounding the city. They told the city's decision-makers stories about economic gains and other 'benefits' to their visions of development -- leaving out the burden of development on taxpayers and the huge negative impact to quality of life for the residents, human and otherwise, of this fair city.

   Hordes of people, fleeing areas in the rest of the country already destroyed by over-development, started moving into houses that had begun to spread like a plague over the former desert, and they crowded into the huge condominiums and apartment buildings that had started to replace historic downtown structures. Local traffic became a tangled snarl, big box stores and strip malls started spreading like cancer, moisture-greedy golf courses began to replace much of the balanced desert eco-system, the increased air and water pollution began to wreak havoc on the health of the entire region, wildlife disappeared, and the exquisite scenery and precious natural areas were gradually transformed into a dusty Anywhere, USA. Most alarmingly, the water table dropped from 20 feet to over 300 feet, at a rate of a decrease of 3-4 feet a year -- resulting in dry river beds and the potential loss of the precious, vital liquid resource needed to sustain any life at all.

   And then true catastrophe -- the twin forces of Peak Oil and Global Warming -- started to descend upon the formerly rather idyllic city.

Choose your own ending:

   Ending 1: Suddenly, most of the food previously purchased by the citizens of the city-produced thousands of miles away by multinational agribusinesses heavily reliant on petrochemicals, could no longer be grown or transported. What imported food there was, plus the little food still able to be produced locally on what was left of the farmlands and available water, became exorbitantly expensive -- and people gradually began to starve.

   They also had to do without most 'goods' previously imported because shipping had slowed to a crawl, and the things they needed were not being produced locally. Worse yet, now it was too late to start producing these goods themselves because there was not enough energy or raw materials to build the needed production centers or manufacture the goods.

   The local economy -- still tied to multinational corporations that could no longer function due to the energy crisis -- died, and as people lost their jobs, more and more of them became homeless. There was not enough energy or water to cool buildings, and people -- especially the very young and very old -- began to succumb to the record-breaking blistering summer heat. It was not long before competition for dwindling resources became fierce, and the city slipped into a brutal, survivalist reality as Peak Oil and Global Warming arrived in full force and took their natural toll.

   Ending 2: A few of the citizens, alarmed by the looming catastrophe, mobilized into action and began creating a sustainable infrastructure for their region. Among the first things they did was conduct a Sustainability Inventory of the region's natural and human-based assets -- determining what the region had and what was needed in order to become self-reliant and sustainable -- because this was needed as a basis for decision-making.

   They set up a networking system so everyone could effectively work together toward a common goal of a healthy, thriving, self-reliant region. When they discovered through the Inventory that the natural carrying capacity of the region could not support even the current residents, they placed a moratorium on growth. They supported increased organic local food production, drylands water harvesting, and permaculture principles. They held community awareness-raising events, they sponsored classes on how to use available resources for sustainable survival, and they supported local people who started filling in the gaps left by the failing multinational corporations -- such as the sustainable manufacturing of products and alternative transportation and energy options, among many other things.

   Although there was a difficult time of transition when the twin forces of Peak Oil and Global Warming arrived in full force, eventually the citizens of this beautiful city settled into a life of great community spirit -- otherwise known as mutual support and reciprocity -- as they worked together to fulfill everyone's basic needs. The bioregion began to repair itself, and ultimately people lived transformed but thoroughly enjoyable, deeply fulfilled lives that maintained the health and resources of the bioregion for future generations.

Choose an ending and see how your choice plays out.

   Allison Ewoldt, M.A., co-founder and Education Director of Natural Systems Solutions, is an educator, ecotherapist, and community activist living in Tucson, AZ with her husband and son.

   If you would like to schedule an introductory consultation session or arrange a presentation or workshop for your group, please contact or give Dave or Allison, co-founders of Natural Systems Solutions, a call at (520) 887-2502.


"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
Frank Lloyd Wright


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