CitySteading™️

Simple living, extreme early retirement, being wealthy, ...
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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by unemployable »

Seems like urban REers dream of moving out to the country a lot more than the reverse. And isn't that the whole point of living a low-footprint lifestyle, to keep natural stuff natural?

tonyedgecombe
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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by tonyedgecombe »

Jin+Guice wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 5:15 pm
I disagree again, our cultures solution is always to ship the waste somewhere else. The waste challenges of living in a city are different than in the country but I don't see why the cities waste is automatically higher/ worse. The current paradigm for dealing with waste is insane so no one does a good job.
Cities produce more waste because people in cities are richer. Clearly that isn't going to apply to the people here but the majority will spend everything they earn, hence produce more waste.

50% of the worlds population lives in cities but they produce 70% of the worlds carbon emissions.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by jacob »

tonyedgecombe wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:22 am
50% of the worlds population lives in cities but they produce 70% of the worlds carbon emissions.
Roughly, speaking/back-of-the-envelope calculations confirm this. For example, in the US, Democrats and Republicans split the vote nationally about 50/50 and that they do so roughly depending on population density turning from Republican to Democrat roughly at 800 ppl/square mile (~300/km^2). We also know that 2/3 of US GDP is produced in Democrat (=> city) districts. GDP in turn is highly correlated to CO2 emissions. So the numbers bear out.

I do not know if this holds in other countries. The US construct makes the "density-effect" rather obvious though.

That's another way of saying that cities emit more because the people who live in cities are richer or more accurately more productive on average. It's the concentration of people and the resulting synergy of complex networks that make this possible. This is also why cities exist in the first place. All those solar panels, well pumps, and refined diesel that rural folks use for their self-reliance were very likely manufactured in a city... and could only be manufactured in a city. This is the service cities provide in return of food/waste services from the hinterland.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Riggerjack »

All those solar panels, well pumps, and refined diesel that rural folks use for their self-reliance were very likely manufactured in a city... and could only be manufactured in a city.
I think you have your cause and effect backwards, there. When a business gets going successfully, people gather around that area. When enough of this happens in the same place, we get a city.

The difference between rural and urban is the density of successful businesses. Look at what happens to cities when the businesses leave or fail, i.e. the urban rust belt.

As to productivity, I agree. If one uses GDP as we currently measure it, urbanites are more productive. But this is an artifact of the measurement.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Jin+Guice »

I think we are all jumbling up cause and effect; what's possible with what is; as well as micro and macro.

Cities produce more waste than rural areas (I didn't know this before @tonyedgecombe said it, but I'll accept it). That's what is. It doesn't tell us why.

Jacob and tonyedgecombe argue that this is because cities are richer. In a society where waste externalities are barely penalized and almost all income is spent immediately, this makes sense. This is trying to uncover cause and effect and is not a simple stat that is either true or not. Just because it makes sense to me doesn't mean it's true. It could also be 90% true or 10% true.

What I'm trying to say is that a citizen of a city isn't de facto more wasteful than a rural person. Just because, in the aggregate, city people ARE more wasteful than rural people, this doesn't mean, individually (or in aggregate) the HAVE to be. The "more wealth = more waste" model supports this assertion, unless you assume city citizens are automatically more wealthy than rural citizens (in all possible worlds). We are now in the realm of what's possible, which means we can really say anything. Thus the assumptions we make to draw our conclusions are what is important.

What I thought RJ was saying was that the city is intrinsically more wasteful than the country. This is what I'm disagreeing with. Since we're in the realm of what's possible it's impossible to "prove" anything, but the discussion can still be enlightening. It's not that urban areas being more wasteful than rural areas is totally outside the conversation, but the reasons why become much more important.

So, who cares?

The initial thread was about trying to reduce carbon footprint and dependence on the global economy in the city. If this is impossible it's a fruitless endeavor, one either has to move to the country to "stead" or not.

I think CitySteading is possible and I think living in the city has some intrinsic benefits over living in the country as far "steading" is concerned. Especially if I can expand the definition beyond "totally self-reliant" to "self-reliance and relying on your local community." I remain unconvinced that it is intrinsically easier or harder to "stead" in the city or country, I am convinced that it is different.


Riggerjack wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 5:25 pm
Ahah! I knew we agreed about something. :D
Probably most hings except this. :)

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by jacob »

@Riggerjack - Cause and effect is a chicken and egg issue. It doesn't matter in terms of describing the system. In that framework, the fact that well pumps aren't manufactured in rural areas just means that well-pump businesses make no sense there. Without loss of generalization, this extends so the absence of other businesses in rural areas. This is what makes them rural---not necessarily why it makes them rural. This also explains dying cities---areas that are reverting to rural/lower density.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Riggerjack »

@jacob

Long post, probably only of interest to me. But you have made this claim before:
the people who live in cities are richer or more accurately more productive on average.
And I agree with this. In a way. Where I disagree, is in our definition of productive. If we agree that more GDP is more productive, this is absolutely true. And I agree that GDP is a useful measure of productivity. In particular when comparing dissimilar systems.

Where I disagree, is when we try to break out productivity within a system, using the same currency, in dissimilar environments. Let me try to break this out with examples (entirely fictitious samples, with numbers chosen for ease of math.)

Al is a plumber in Manhattan. He has a small apartment that he rents for $4/mo. He makes 160k/year. A typical days work looks like: walk to subway, take subway 3 stops, walk to work. (0.5 hours) Get truck from shop, pick up service tickets, head out. (0.5 hours) Drive 17 blocks (0.5 hours) circle blocks, looking for parking close to worksite. (0.5 hours) find parking several blocks away. Grab toolbox, a few materials, and walk to site, clear doorman/security get to leaky faucet (1 hour) turn off water, open valve, diagnose problem, realize that the right washer is back in the truck. (0.5 hours) go to truck, grab parts, go back to site, install, close up, get paperwork signed, and back to the truck. (2 hours). We are 5 hours into the day, but maybe he has time to go clear a drain a few miles away. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and maybe he can fix the leak, and a drain, in the same day.

Brian is a plumber in suburban Columbus Ohio. He rents a 3/2 house in Columbus for 2k/mo. Brian makes 80k/year. He drives to work (0.5 hours) Get truck from shop, pick up service tickets, head out. (0.5 hours) Drive 17 blocks (0.25 hours) find parking at site.(0.0 hours) Grab toolbox, a few materials, get to leaky faucet (0.1 hour) turn off water, open valve, diagnose problem, realize that the right washer is back in the truck. (0.5 hours) go to truck, grab parts, go back to site, install, close up, get paperwork signed, and back to the truck. (1.5 hours). We are less than 3 hours into the day, but maybe he has time to go clear a drain a few miles away. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and maybe he can fix the leak, and a drain, and yet another drain, in the same day.

Charles, used to be a plumber. Then he started his own shop. Now he employs Brian, and 5 other plumbers, plus Wilma, who runs the shop, orders parts, answers the phone, and does the bids, to keep the place going. Charles makes 240k/year. Charles now plays golf, and drinks all day.

Who is most productive?

Measuring by GDP, Charles is half again as productive as Al, who is twice as productive as Brian.

But if we measure productivity in working nodes in plumbing systems, Charles is entirely unproductive, and Brian is half again as productive as Al.

So how do we account for this? There seems to be a disconnect between GDP and productivity.

Cost of living. It much more expensive to live in Manhattan. Are groceries more expensive? Yes, but not significantly. Are utilities more expensive? Again, yes, but not significantly. But Real estate is more expensive. By a lot. So much so, that Al pays 4k/mo, for an apartment that couldn't be rented in Columbus. On order to get a plumber to come work in an area with such a high COL, he has to make twice as much as Brian. And Al's boss isn't cheap, he has to make twice what Charles makes. Is Al's boss twice as productive as Charles?

So what are we to make of this? Higher real estate costs translates to higher GDP, and higher wages. Perhaps, what we need to do is pump up asset prices, to raise cost of living, to raise wages.

And as we have seen over the last decade, this works. We have the magic wand to fix the economy. We call it QE!

But there's always a catch. The number of plumbing nodes in plumbing systems, is not expanding at the rate that our measure of productivity is expanding.

Maybe it's just a plumbing issue. Let's try a new example. One at the other end of the income and education spectrum.

Dave is a badass lawyer in SF. Top of his class at Stanford, Dave makes 1.5M per year. Dave works 80-100 hours a week, and bills for 160. Dave bought a condo across the street from the office for 3 million.

Edith is a lawyer in Columbus Ohio. She did well at Ohio State, and she makes $150k/year. She works 40 hour weeks, and bills 60. Edith has a newer mcmansion in a newer development that she bought for 600k.

Dave makes 10 times what Edith does. He also works 2-2.5 times as many hours, and bills over twice what she does. Is Dave 10 times as productive as Edith? Is he only twice as productive? Dave paid 5 times what Edith did for real estate. Are we better off with a lawyer spending 3 million for housing, or 600k? How much better is the whole economy, if we encourage more Dave's, rather than more Edith's? More Al's, Brian's, or Charles'?

And that is why I object to the use of GDP in this way. The increase in GDP over actual increase in productive assets is an artifact of how we measure GDP. Our productivity hasn't increased, we are merely diluting the unit of measure.

Yes, higher costs of living are associated with higher incomes. But how much of that higher income goes to higher costs. And is making a landlord richer the goal of our economic policy? Should it be? Are we all richer because the landlord is richer? (Full disclosure, I am a landlord. :twisted: )

If we only use GDP as our measure, conveniently, we don't need to ask. But I submit that urban workers are less productive due to logistical considerations, but capital is concentrated in urban areas, and as assets appreciate, this distorts our unit of measure.

TL;DR: high urban incomes seem to get split between higher taxes, and higher housing. Productivity goes down, and costs go up, in urban environments.

Bonus points: Now think about how those differing ideas of costs and income affect choice of shirt color.

More bonus points: How does this income distribution affect urbanization/traffic/development/real estate costs? Are these reinforcing feedback loops, or balancing feedback loops? And what would change that?

Well, maybe that is too many bonus points... :ugeek: But when I get to talking about simple economics, this is sort of what I am thinking about. It doesn't seem as simple when I try to write about it, though. Sorry about that. :oops: It's probably hard to tell, but I am working on improving my writing for clarity.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by tonyedgecombe »

We all know GDP is a poor way of measuring your quality of life, this whole community is dedicated to proving that.
TL;DR: high urban incomes seem to get split between higher taxes, and higher housing. Productivity goes down, and costs go up, in urban environments.
@Riggerjack I'm not sure making up figures proves your point :)

I suspect it mostly depends on where you are on the economic scale, there are plumbers and car mechanics working in my village but there are no bankers or lawyers. People are moving to cities because that is where the high wage jobs are, they see those higher wages more than offset the higher property costs.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I agree that GDP is an information suck, but thinking in terms of tangible productivity (cords wood/man-hour-acre) misses the true value of cities which is trade opportunities (possible customers encountered/minute-acre.) Obviously, if I am standing out in the middle of a field with a pile of pumpkins I grew, but no road to market, my personal GDP is limited by marginal value of next pumpkin pie I am going to make for me.

I am pretty half-ass at the craft of sewing, but I whipped together a handmade pioneer outfit for Halloween party last weekend. One of the guests at my daughter's wedding happened to be a stunningly beautiful NYC native who occasionally models and was once featured in a NYT photo spread of hip urban teenagers. She loved the weird extremely over-sized mop-cap with a ribbon I made for my costume, and it looked amazingly stylish on her (as opposed to me :lol: ), so I gave it to her, and she is going to wear it around the city. So, it is possible that it actually will become a new style!!! That's an example of the power of the tight web of connections of wide variety of human and other resources provided by a city environment.

I highly recommend "Scale" by West, because he explains the math behind why this is true.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Riggerjack »

@7
And if we were having this discussion in 1999, I would be in complete agreeance with you.

But how many of those interactions, the serendipity, the synergy, is now online? How does that change the curves in the scales you are talking about?

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by tonyedgecombe »

Yet the internet businesses seem utterly focussed on building offices in cities, they might put the odd datacenter out in a rural area but all the important staff are centralised. Whatever is pulling them to do this has only got stringer over the last twenty years.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Riggerjack:

It seems to me that the people who are most savvy in their use of the internet are also the ones most likely to use it as a quick connect towards meat-space rather than otherwise. I am not sure why this is true, but I think it has something to do with important/influential people highly valuing their time, but everybody does have to eat lunch or play tennis with some other human.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by EMJ »

Sustainability expert Michael Mobbs: I’m leaving the city to prep for the apocalypse
The man who wrote the book on living off-grid in the city plans to retreat to a rural bolthole, saying eco-friendly progress has not kept pace with the speed of climate collapse

https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... apocalypse

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by wolf »

Great article. Thank for sharing @EMJ! He has really built a self-reliance and sustainable house in Sydney back some 20 years ago. That's impressing.

7Wannabe5
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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Yeah, I admire/envy his cojones in dealing with petty bureaucracy and code. I get shaky when faced with notices threatening $300 tickets every month and possibility of jail time. It's almost certainly for the best that I am selling my urban project to a tougher type. The article within the article by Catherine Ingram was also interesting, yet oddly more reflective of how I was thinking/feeling a year or so ago, than how I am thinking/feeling now.

I would also like to note for the record that the rural/urban, Republican/Democrat divide in the U.S. purple states is more complex than simple statistics/demographics might suggest. One reason for this is that there are multiple flavors of "rural", from sturdy middle-class farm communities to impoverished mountain scrub forest communities to more affluent touristy lake and ocean side realms, and sometimes these can all be found within a few miles of each other. The same is also true of the cities, For instance, I have tutored inner city children who have had so little exposure to anything outside of their neighborhoods, their outlook is even less cosmopolitan than that of the young guy who drove the truck for the Amish carpenter who built my BF's shed on land that was last developed for fish processing in the late 19th century.

Rapidly increasing urbanization of population is a world-wide phenomenon which is much more evident in Asia than the West. I can't give adequate voice to my intuition, but my observations of the quick upwardly mobile integration of my newly immigrated young students and my reading of brilliant novels featuring protagonists such as modern day Chinese garbage pickers/recyclers, leads me to believe that the future is tilting quickly in a direction not exactly in alignment with the linked nested articles. IOW, I believe the unfortunate tragic trends described in the articles are going to develop by mid-century at latest, but I also believe that two or three other big things will likely happen sooner. So, kind of like, good idea to pack an umbrella based on prediction for weekend weather, but better plan on slathering on some sun block for your walk to the beach today too.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Riggerjack »

Yet the internet businesses seem utterly focussed on building offices in cities, they might put the odd datacenter out in a rural area but all the important staff are centralised.
Yes, but this is a new trend. I wouldn't look to a new company to see this. I would look to old companies, to see what is failing.

GE is an excellent example. A huge, ultra centralized organization. The multiple decade leader in synergy. They have the skills, vision and process. Abd where are they now? Spinning off any piece they can find a buyer for.

Nothing went wrong at GE. They didn't change, or get sloppy. The world changed.

Better communication means there is less value in central decision making. And more value in local decision making. That which works well in a world of land lines and faxes, does not necessarily do as well in a world of email, texting, 24 hour a day present smart phones, etc. Cogs didn't get less efficient. But the competition did get more efficient.

Jacob says the well pumps company isn't out in the sticks, because it makes no sense to build it there. I say it isn't there because nobody built a well pump company in the states since the 90's, I'm guessing. That it hasn't been yet, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense yet, it just means it hasn't, yet.

New trends take time to identify. Then get studied, and adapted to. I haven't heard anyone saying that I'm right, I have no data to back this up. This is just a trend I see.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Ego »

@Rigger, there are a few points that immediately popped into my head when reading your example since I often deal with plumbers who are frustrated with our lack of parking.

1. Our plumbers charge $89 plus parts per call, operate 24 hours a day, charge the same rate at 2am or 2pm, do not charge travel time and rarely charge more than the flat $89 fee because they know we have several similarly efficient competitors to choose from.
2. The rural plumber travels much longer distances between jobs.
3. The city plumber has many more jobs in a smaller radius, multiple trucks, varying expertise of plumbers depending on the complexity of the job, nearby distributors stocking unusual parts, unusual tool rental nearby.... ie. economies of scale.
4. Most of our plumbers live in the xburbs, commute to the city at their own cost thus benefiting from lower housing costs.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by tonyedgecombe »

Riggerjack wrote:
Sat Nov 02, 2019 6:39 pm
Jacob says the well pumps company isn't out in the sticks, because it makes no sense to build it there. I say it isn't there because nobody built a well pump company in the states since the 90's, I'm guessing. That it hasn't been yet, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense yet, it just means it hasn't, yet.
Schlumberger seems to make them in Tokyo and Schenzen neither of which are rural areas.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Riggerjack:

Obviously, there is a good deal of regional variation within the U.S., but based on your description of the facilities available at your "rural" home, I would suggest that in many regions, including my own, it would be classified as something more like "large estate suburban" or "pony-set suburban." There are rural realms where the only library within 50 mile drive is one room in a building built in 1892 which is only open on Tuesday and Saturday and the Family Video store in the biggest town in the county still does a thriving business and the township building inspector owns a pet bear.

The young guy I met who drove the truck for the Amish carpenter, although skilled in woodworking and not opposed to technology, had never heard of the Tiny House movement. He was laughing his head off at the notion that people might want a shed built on a trailer. The Amish guys couldn't believe it either, especially when I told them how much they were going for.

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Re: CitySteading™️

Post by Riggerjack »

@7
When I was a freshman in high school, I walked a half mile to where I could catch the station wagon, to go down the road a few miles, down a gravel road a mile or so, to pick up 2 more students to then continue down the road to a dying timber town to get dropped off to wait for the school bus. The school bus took us to the next dying logging town, where were would get the rest of the kids, to move to the next town, where the school is. 2 hours each way, 3 in the winter.

I understand rural comes in many flavors, and urban, as well.

My unnecessarily confrontational tone seems to have struck again, and I find myself arguing tangential points to what I was trying to say.

I think I will bow out here, what I have to say won't fit. I'll try it again in my journal.

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