Building a world of
resilient communities.



What is space anyway?


I just finished reading a pre-publication copy of Paradise Lot, by Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates (out next year) that makes me wonder exceedingly about the meaning of what we refer to as “space.” On only one tenth of an acre, the authors tell how they squeeze in 150 to 200 different kinds of food plants, including some in a pond and more in a greenhouse, all for year round eating in the north. From this “space” they are harvesting 400 pounds of perennial fruits and vegetables every year (some of which I have never heard of, like Rebecca violets) plus lots of annual vegetables. The book includes a detailed layout map showing how they do it, but I’m still finding it hard to believe. The best way I can think to describe their method is that they’ve eliminated space in their garden except for the pathways, which they are trying to fill with useful low-growing plants too. From now on, when someone asks me how we can prevent food scarcity forever I have a ready answer. Simply eliminate our preconceived notions of space. With work and knowhow, we can always find room to grow more food. Using the forest food methods of Paradise Lot, I have a hunch we could right now be growing all the food we need simply by eliminating all the space taken up by America’s lawns and filling it with food producing plants. If we run out of that space, there’s thousands and thousands of miles along all our roads which could be growing food or fiber.

Recently, we took our grandson back to college. Once more my notion of space was shattered. In a silo- shaped, tall apartment complex where he rooms, architects figured out a way to accommodate hundreds of students more or less comfortably by eliminating space. Something occupies nearly every square foot of that building. The cramped conditions struck me as inhuman but all the students I asked insisted that they “love” being in college.

How extravagant I am. My gardens occupy nearly two acres including the orchard trees and I don’t produce any more food than Paradise Lot does. I am now determined to get rid of all that wasted space between my conventional rows, something I had already started to do because of age. The rewards are immediate. There is less space to cultivate and therefore less expense and surprisingly less muscle needed. I can do “space-less” gardening with hoe and hand easier than a large space with a mechanical tiller. And cutting down the size of the garden means we don’t grow more food than we can eat.

Our house provides at least ten times the amount of square footage for us than our grandson’s apartment building does for him. When I think of the huge size of many newer houses I have visited in recent years, I wonder exceedingly. How often the people who live there admit that their houses are too big. The gross amount of unnecessary space that must be cleaned and heated and maintained in addition to the appalling cost of constructing these huge receptacles of space is obscene. That so many people borrowed so much money to trap all that space inside their houses is the main reason the economy collapsed.

How far off am I to say that space doesn’t really exist? It is a creation of the human mind. Objects in “space” define space and we could add many centuries, maybe immortality, to the earth and save many billions of dollars just by not pretending that space is real and that we need to capture very large amounts of it in our homes to be happy. We have gotten to the point environmentally where we are spending more money maintaining space than we are on objects in space.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.

Take action!  

Find out more about Community Resilience. See our COMMUNITIES page
Start your own projects. See our RESOURCES page.
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW.


This is a community site and the discussion is moderated. The rules in brief: no personal abuse and no climate denial. Complete Guidelines.

Changing the Culture and Changing Ourselves

Our real task is to change the culture and the only way to do that is to …

Pantry on Wheels Enables Indiana Food Bank to Increase Access for Food Insecure

On a hot summer afternoon near Indianapolis, people start lining up early …

Grass from the Past

I found this profile featuring myself and SFT Board member Peter Segger when …

Pedal-power and Precision Revolutionize Food Rescue in Boulder

When 1 in 7 people are going hungry in a country that throws out half the …

In Conversation: Food After Fossil Fuels

While its slice of the overall energy pie may seem relatively low, the …

Of Wessex and Londinium: a Tale of Two City-States

From the furies of Brexit, let me turn to a saner and more achievable …

The Doldrums of Summer

There is a moment that comes every year, usually about this time, when the …