Our Future Path!    A plan for a better world!

Community (an Environmental Issue)


In general, a community consists of a group of people living in the same district or locality under the same government. At one time, a community was also synonymous with the place where a group of people lived, learned, worked, shopped and played. These people were not able to easily and quickly travel to places that were more than a few miles from their homes, so everything had to be close by.

Friends and family were also close, which made for a close-knit community where almost everybody knew lots of individuals within the community, but few individuals outside of it. This close-knit lifestyle is the way that we evolved to live and that we are still better psychologically and physiologically suited to living rather than the way most of us live today.

Over time, faster, more reliable and less expensive transportation made it easier for us to travel farther from home. Eventually, the cost savings that resulted from larger factories and stores exceeded the costs in time and money of travel. Therefore, we could live farther from the businesses that could pay us more and the stores where we could get cheaper goods. This allowed us to improve our financial wellbeing and to have more lifestyle options, but we needed more cars, buses, roads and bridges to get around.

With more motor vehicles, the cities have become more congested, polluted and noisy. With the help of our cars, many of us escaped the deteriorating lifestyles of the cities and moved into suburbs where things were cleaner, quieter and less congested. As time went by, the problems in the cities moved out to the nearby suburbs and many of us moved to suburbs that were even farther out, and we became even more dependent on our cars and more isolated from our friends and family.

Many of us now live in one place, work someplace else, and shop or play in various other places. In fact, there are now only a few localities where we can find a home, school, office, shopping and entertainment near one another. It is not uncommon for us to live in suburbs where there are only homes and maybe a strip mall or two, and work in office parks or in cities where there may sometimes only be a few nearby restaurants and shops. Our entertainment options may be scattered around, with theaters and museums downtown, clubs in nightclub districts, and cinemas, bowling alleys, golf courses and other things sprinkled here and there.

Many of us enjoy being near the cultural attractions, the sights and sounds that exist in urban areas and are willing to pay the higher costs of living there. However, those of us living in these urban areas may need to go out into the suburbs to do our shopping and to find other entertainment options. Others of us have continued to move farther and farther out into the suburbs, because the cost in time and money resulting from the extra driving is worth it to us to find a cheaper place to live.

Although it may still be cheaper for us and businesses to move farther out into our sprawling suburbs, it is not good for our environment nor our civilization. Unfortunately, our regulatory, zoning and tax laws, and our artificially low energy costs have subsidized this sprawl and the damage that we are doing to our environment and the numerous economic, social and cultural problems that have resulted. In effect, many of us are paying higher taxes so that we can live these destructive and unsustainable lifestyles.

Today, there are a few things that are now occurring that are starting to reverse the trend towards sprawl. For one thing, the sprawl surrounding many cities is running up against the sprawl surrounding other cities, which is reducing the amount of undeveloped land that is available and is driving up its price. There is also an environmental backlash to the continued destruction of natural habitats and the extinction of so many plant and animal species. Increasing congestion is also lengthening our commute times, and raising our gas prices which is adding a financial disincentive to our living so far from work and shopping.

In time, the changes that we are now experiencing may help to push us into making things better. However, we really need to act now, before we totally ruin our environment, before we can no longer afford to buy gas, before our economy is in ruins, and before our civilization collapses.


Our use of and dependence on motor vehicles is one of our biggest problems and a roadblock to change. Not only is it expensive in terms of lost time, money, lives and habitat, but the roads and highways within communities are expensive, and separate and isolate us and many plant and animal species. Therefore, one of our top goals must be to redesign our communities into ones that depend less on the need for motor vehicles.

Another big problem is our loss of farmland, open spaces, and natural habitat. Without enough farmland we cannot produce enough food and we will need to import more of our food. In addition, with the loss of our open spaces and natural habitats, not only do many plants and animals lose their homes, but we also lose much of the biodiversity that all life including ours depends on for survival. Therefore, another goal must be to use the least amount of land that we can for our homes, businesses and roads, so that more can be used for farms, open spaces and natural habitats.

Our global economy is also causing many problems. Energy costs are rising and increasing the cost of the transportation we use to ship goods, which is increasing the cost of our imports and exports. International conflicts and diminishing oil reserves are making foreign trade less secure and threatening to cause shortages that could result in a recession that could lead to another great depression. Therefore, another goal would be to shift more of our manufacturing closer to us, the consumer.

Pollution, blight, rundown neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, and crime are also problems that need to be addressed. In our recent history, suburbs have been nicer, cleaner and safer places to live than the cities, but that situation is changing and more of the problems that were thought of as urban problems are also moving out to the suburbs while many cities are now trying to clean themselves up. We want to live in a nice clean secure community, but more suburban sprawl is not now, nor has it ever been, the answer. Therefore, another goal would be to find ways to keep our communities clean and safe.


With all the problems that already exist and are developing with suburban lifestyles, is the answer to have more of us move into our cities? This would allow for smaller suburbs, which could mean less land used for housing and roads, less commuting by car, more of us being able to walk or use mass transit, and reduced pollution. The problem is that our current cities do not really meet most of our goals, and they still have the same problems that drove us to the suburbs in the first place.

To start with, we often find that residential and business districts are in separate parts of our current cities and that most shopping areas are now out in the suburbs. With us living closer together within the cities, bus and train travel becomes easier, but it still may not be convenient enough for most of us to give up our cars. This means that there would still be a need for all the city streets and roads, and there would still be the same traffic congestion, noise and pollution. Although, moving to more electric vehicles might help with some of the noise and pollution problems.

Another big problem with our current cities is that they are not very convenient nor safe for us to walk to many places. Most cities are made up of many tall buildings separated by streets and sidewalks. Inside a building, we can use the elevators or stairs, but each building may only have residences or offices. To get to various other destinations, we must go down to the ground level and then outside. There, we and motor vehicles are only able to go about a block before needing to contend with traffic lights and crosswalks. In addition, within each block, parking garages and jaywalkers result in further competition between us and motor vehicles.


To meet our goals, it looks like we will need to make some big changes. Today, we have a better understanding of ourselves, and our world and we now have a lot of new technology that we did not have when we built our current cities, towns, suburbs and other communities. Therefore, we want to take a fresh look at every possible lifestyle and not just those that have worked in the past.

As a starting point, we need to understand how we lived in the past, how we live today, what habitats are needed by plants and animals, how we would like to live, what technology is available, what resources are available, and what problems our various lifestyle choices create. Using this understanding and keeping in mind our goals, we can evaluate different ideas for better places to live.

To get ideas, I pictured how individuals with various goals might live good, productive and rewarding lives from their births until their deaths. In each case, I wanted to imagine a realistic environment that took our goals into account and that not only worked for one person, but for anyone of any age who would live there. By doing this, I think I came up with some good ideas for building sustainable communities for ourselves and for future generations.

Ideally, it would be nice if we could build these new communities from scratch, so that we could make everything work exactly as we wanted and not worry about inheriting any problems associated with our existing communities. The problem with building our new communities from scratch is that, unless we can clear some already developed land, we would need to destroy open space. Since one of our goals is to protect open space, we will need to retrofit our existing communities as much as possible. Retrofitting our existing communities may take some time and involve some temporary inconvenience, but the result can still be the beautiful, vibrant, convenient and enjoyable places to live, work, learn, shop and play that we could envision.

Compact Communities

Instead of having our communities built around and dependent on the use of motor vehicles, we need to design them around human beings and what we need. We want to make it fast and convenient for us to walk or to bike from home to work, to school, to stores, to restaurants, to parks, to amusements, and to almost everywhere else we would need or want to go.

The way to do this is to create compact communities that have an appropriate mix of homes, offices, schools, shops, parks and various entertainment venues near one another. Most places would be close enough so that we would not have to go far for most of the things that we needed or wanted. In addition, each of these communities would cover a small enough area so that everyone living there would find it easy to walk everywhere or almost everywhere within them.

The best way to create these compact communities would be to replace our mostly two-dimensional communities with ones that are more three-dimensional. Instead of having many one story and other small buildings spread out over a wide area, we would merge and stack them on top of one another into a smaller number of taller buildings that are arranged close enough together to be within easy walking distance of one another. Of course, we must take care to prevent overcrowding.

Each one of these new taller buildings could serve a mostly single purpose like many of our existing buildings do today or they could provide a mixture of different things within them. For instance, in one building, the ground floor might have a large discount, department or grocery store, the second floor might have restaurants, shops and night clubs, the next few floors might have offices, and the top floors might have apartments or condos. In another arrangement, the apartments or condos could be on the South facing side of the building and the offices could be on the North facing side.

Another idea for keeping our communities more compact would be to put more things on building roofs. For instance, a building might have just a few floors of shops, restaurants and offices and then have a park on the roof. This would allow the land to be developed, but still provide us with a park and still give the surrounding buildings a more open and scenic view. Building rooftops could also provide places for some suburban style homes or townhouses that have yards or provide energy generation via windmills or solar panels.

A building’s roof could also provide a very good place to put a greenhouse that could be in the middle of the community but be up high enough so that it would not be in the shadow of nearby buildings and therefore would get good sunlight. This greenhouse could be used to grow flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables that could then be sold year-round to local grocery stores and restaurants. Not only would this provide jobs and allow the grocery stores to always have the freshest fruits and vegetables on sale but would also help to improve the diets of the community’s residents.

With most things within each of these compact communities being close by, we could easily ban all cars and trucks, except for any needed emergency, delivery or construction vehicles. With few motor vehicles within these compact communities, there would be no need for parking lots, garages or gas stations in the interior of the community, which would allow everything else to be even closer together. Where there would have been streets for motor vehicle traffic, there would now be paths for walking, biking and skating and for other small personal transport vehicles.

We also want to make it easier to get from the upper floors of one building to the upper floors of other buildings. In keeping with these compact communities being more three dimensional, we want to provide elevated walkways and crosswalks, and to have additional corresponding building entrances and exits on these above ground level floors.

Think about how a mall has multiple levels with stairs, escalators, and elevators for us to get from one level to the next and crosswalks to get from one side to the other. In these compact communities, the big difference would be that many of these would be on the outside between the buildings instead of on the inside of a building. These outside elevated sidewalks and crosswalks would connect the buildings and could be covered with canopies or awnings to protect us from the rain, snow and other bad weather.

Therefore, a compact community’s ground level would have paths for walking and biking, and room for emergency, delivery and construction vehicles. There would be stairs, escalators and elevators to the second and higher levels. The second or third levels could have walkways and crosswalks connecting all the building and have personal mass transit system stops. As needed, higher levels could also have additional walkways and crosswalks.

A personal mass transit system would move us and goods within and between these compact communities. (See the earlier section on transportation for more information on the design of a possible personal mass transit system.) The tracks for the personal mass transit system and space for the monocabs to travel would occupy a couple of levels above their stops. These levels might also have enough room for some walkways.

Urban Centers

Our urban centers would be made up of some number of compact communities. If an urban center is made up of only a few communities, they may all be joined together into a larger community that would look much like a single compact community. With more communities, we might want some open space between some of the communities so that the urban center would not impose a barrier to the migration of plants and animals. Paths, elevated crosswalks and the personal mass transit system would connect these separated communities.

Most citizens of these urban centers would have little need for a motor vehicle, but for those who occasionally did need one, there would be parking garages and rental places on the outskirts of the urban centers. The parking garages would be for visitors and any residents who did own their own motor vehicles. For those who rarely needed a motor vehicle, there would be regular car rental places. For those who might need one more frequently or who did not want to keep filling out car rental agreements, they could sign up for a car share program where they would have a membership card that would let them take out a car whenever they needed one.

Although we should try to eliminate sources of pollution, we may always have some factories, power stations, sewage treatment plants and other businesses that produce pollution, noise or odors, or that pose some other risk. These would be banned from the urban centers and would be in appropriate industrial parks. Those of us who worked in these industrial parks could still live in the urban centers and use the personal mass transit system to get to our jobs.

In addition to the industrial parks, the area surrounding the urban centers would contain farms, zoos, golf courses and anything else that could not be included in the compact communities. Connecting these places to the urban center would be walking and biking paths, and the personal mass transit system, where feasible, and roads, where necessary. The goal would be to have an appropriate mix of businesses both within and surrounding an urban center so that it would be as self-sustaining as possible to reduce the need for travel to and from other urban centers. Most of the suburban sprawl that currently exists between the new urban centers would be returned to being open spaces and habitats for plants and animals.

Within the urban centers, goods could be moved short distances in small electric or bicycle powered carts. For longer moves, the goods could be moved in cargo monocabs that would travel the personal mass transit system. Special commercial stops could be set up at building loading docks for these cargo monocabs. Since some buildings may have stores at multiple levels, the commercial stops would be set up to lift or lower the monocabs to loading docks at the appropriate levels. Goods traveling between urban centers could also use these cargo monocabs. For goods that are still sent by truck, loading docks at the edge of an urban center could be used to transfer the trailer or the goods between the trucks and the cargo monocabs.

Below ground, an urban center would still have water, sewer and utility lines that would connect to the appropriate treatment plants, power stations, and utilities. In addition, there would be a transport system for garbage and recyclables. Instead of having alleys where we would throw our garbage and have it picked up by trucks, each building would have an internal system for sending the garbage and recyclables to a basement area. From there, the garbage and recyclables would be moved to the appropriate processing plant outside the urban center. Hopefully, most of this waste would be recyclable and little, if anything, would be sent to a land fill. In addition, there could be a separate place for organic material that could be composted.


There are many factors that go into determining the cost of buying or renting a place to live. The price is usually higher for places having more square footage or a pool, being in a safer area, or being closer to transportation, good schools, shopping or entertainment. The price is usually lower for places that are not well maintained or are in bad areas.

In most neighborhoods we find similar types of homes or apartments with similar amenities. They may be classified as ritzy, wealthy, upscale, middleclass, suburban, low income, slum, or something else. This also means that the housing costs in these neighborhoods will usually fall within a narrow range. Because of this, most of us end up in neighborhoods that are segregated by income along with some combination of social factors.

Work is a different matter. Most businesses need to employ workers to do a variety of jobs. These jobs may require a diverse range of education, skills and experience, and demand various amounts of physical and mental energy. To get the work done, employees may need to work closely with or interface with many other employees doing many different jobs and earning very different wages or salaries. In addition, when we shop, go to school, run errands and conduct various types of personal business, we may need to interact or to encounter individuals that have a wide range of incomes.

For most of human history, the individuals who worked, shopped or conducted business in a community were mostly the same individuals who lived there. Of course, living in the same community where one works may not always be possible. For instance, spouses may end up working in two different communities, but they would only live in one or the other or someplace else.

Nevertheless, with a compact community, we want to try to get the individuals that work there to live and to shop there. With these individuals having a wide range of incomes, the community would need to have a wide range of housing options at different price levels all within a given area, so that everyone can have an affordable place to live within the community.

To start with, we want all housing to be clean and well maintained. Prices should be mainly based on things such as size, view and included amenities. We want to have housing that ranges from small simple studio apartments suitable for individuals making minimum wage all the way up to large luxury condos or mansions for the very wealthy. With our compact communities, most housing would be in large multistory buildings, but there would be few limitations on their interior designs and styles. Of course, they would not have attached garages or big back yards, but they could have bike storage areas and access to parks. Some buildings might even have private parks on their roofs.

In addition to the usual apartment and condo designs found in high rise buildings, we could also have some designs that resemble suburban homes. For example, a two-story colonial with basement could easily be adapted for a high rise. Every third floor of the high rise could have a wide hallway with entrances to the homes. Some windows could overlook the hallway, but most would face the outside. A deep balcony could extend off the basement level, which could have a large patio and an area for grass and other small plants. Smaller balconies might extend off the other floors. Although there would be no need for car garages, there could be small garages for bicycles and storage. In addition to this example, many other home layouts and building configurations are possible.

On the other hand, if we can get our overpopulation problem under control, then fewer of us would be forced into living in high rise buildings. We could have more single-family homes surrounding our urban centers. However, they would need to be packed close to their urban center so that their residents could easily walk or bike to everything within the urban center.


There have been many different estimates made for how many of us the Earth can support. (See the sections on Resources and Overpopulation.) Many factors go into making a good estimate. We must compare how much of each resource each of us needs versus the total amount of each resource that is available. We must also consider the lifestyle that each of us wants to live. For instance, some of us want more open space or want to live farther from others. In addition, we cannot forget that the Earth also needs to support numerous other living things that deserve to have good places to live.

With many of the economic changes that I have proposed, these compact communities can be mostly self-supporting. Given this, they become excellent places to test out how many of us can be comfortably sustained in each area of land. That number will be different for each given community, since each location may have a different growing season, water supply, and supply of other resources. Nevertheless, this would give some real numbers to the question of how many of us the Earth can support and how much of an overpopulation problem we really have.


The first thing we would need to convert our existing communities into compact communities would be a master plan. To reduce the overall cost of the conversion, the plan would try to utilize as much of the existing infrastructure as possible and leave as much of the existing open areas and farmland as possible. During the planning process, strict limits would need to be placed on any new construction so that we could ensure that it would meet the needs and standards of the new compact community before the work was started.

The idea behind a compact community is to shift homes, offices and other buildings into a smaller area and remove buildings and roads from other areas that would then become open space or farmland. Given our current laws, the value of the land in areas that would become more urban would rise and the value of the other land would fall. Therefore, the real estate tax and ownership laws would need to be changed and to be phased in over time so that property owners are not unduly harmed or rewarded based on where they own land. It would be best to do this before laying out the locations of the compact community to keep down real estate speculation.

Many existing communities are centered on a main road or an intersection of two or more roads. There may always be a need for some of these main roads, so they may become the boundary lines for some of the new compact communities. For instance, an intersection of two main roads may become the dividing line for four new compact communities. For the most part, all parking areas should be kept away from the intersection, so that they do not impede traffic flow through the intersection. We also want to make it easy for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel easily from one community to the next. To do that, we could move the intersection underground or provide ample overpasses.

The conversion process will take time and may require a few temporary intermediate steps along the way that would need to be incorporated into the plan. For instance, more buses may be needed in the short term until a monorail system can be built. In addition, it may take some time before a lot of us feel comfortable giving up our cars. Therefore, some temporary packing lots may be needed until enough of the nearby communities convert to the compact community design and we get comfortable with other means of transportation.

Next Section

Government Finance Issues - Introduction to the Government Spending and Taxing Issues affecting Our Future Path.

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Friday, January 12, 2024
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