Answers to future woes lie in past millennia

REAL estate speculation has pushed house prices beyond the reach of everyone except the permanently employed.

Saturday's report on the housing crisis shows battlers joining the homeless, caravan park residents and welfare recipients in the struggle to find shelter.

People now commute farther to work because houses in town are more expensive. This is ironic in a world where petrol prices will rise for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, these dormitory suburbs will become ghettos of the unemployed.

The proposed subdivision in McLeans Ridges highlights the problem. In an attempt to create more housing, we carve up precious agricultural land.

Cheap oil has allowed us to live a long way from the shops, our employment and the farms that feed us.

That consumer lifestyle forces two working parents to struggle to maintain the mortgage, motor car and family, and as oil and house prices spiral upwards, the entire model heads for collapse.

There is hope.

Over a period of 10 millennia a sustainable form of settlement emerged independently on every continent, in every civilisation.

The traditional village consists of 10 to 30 families clustered together for protection, surrounded by the fields that feed them. These villages are within walking distance of each other, and a day's ride of a market town with medical, educational and cultural services.

The Industrial Revolution began the destruction of these communities, clearing land for large-scale agriculture and herding workers into dormitory suburbs. The motor car completed the process, allowing us to live like kings, burning oil to get around, to grow food and produce cheap goods.

Within five years, petrol prices will render the private car practically obsolete and we will be forced to tear down our fences and work together to grow food we can afford.

If we start now, building small houses, integrated into communities that share resources, we can solve the housing crisis and future-proof ourselves against the end of cheap energy and the food crisis to follow.

Comparing the energy cost and carbon footprint of driving to the supermarket to buy a frozen chicken raised in a factory farm with the zero energy required to raise one in your backyard highlights the difference. Nature, as always, solves the crises we invent.

We simply need the humility to follow her wisdom.

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