What is Open Source Ecology?

Before reading this post, we invite everyone to write a message about what you feel Open Source Ecology means to you, and your ideas on how this can be communicated effectively to others. How do you feel about Open Source Ecology?

Open Source Ecology’s latest core message is “Building the world’s first replicable, open source, modern off-grid global village – to transcend survival and evolve to freedom.” But what does that mean? Here are some explanations of what we think the message of Open Source Ecology means:

Replicable means that the entire operation can be copied and ‘replicated’ at another location at low cost.

Open source means that the knowledge of how it works and how to make it is documented to the point that others can “make it from scratch.” It can also be changed and added to as needed.

“Technology for ecology.” Technology and permaculture working together. Machines to help with tasks that are integrated with all other processes.

Restoring ecosystems: As the wilderness survivalists such as Tom Brown and others can demonstrate, with enough planning survival is trivial – with 2 hours a day in labor to survive in an abundant living ecosystem. Most of the world’s ecosystems are being destroyed, though, and their ability to sustain life is degrading. Since before any of us were born the world has been in an era of cheap hydrocarbon fuels to make survival trivial for many people by using the brute force of cheap hydrocarbon energy to do work and grow food while not worrying about sustaining ecosystems, and forgetting about the future. As this era comes to a close those who have benefit from the era of oil will be entering a world they can barely imagine: a world of wasted ecosystems and declining energy where survival is tough, with almost no preparation for such a situation. For us to make survival trivial again we must restore living ecosystems using the knowledge and technology invented by the large mass of people that the oil era allowed to flourish.

Off-grid basically means not connected to an electrical grid, but could mean just living without electricity. Modern off-grid can connotate living off grid with some industrial grid-produced temporarily useful electric energy system like solar/wind/hydro/fuel powered generator. In our context it means more: not connected to a larger hierarchical grid, either for water, food, power (fuel, electricity), or production. Maybe we could have a more descriptive term to show the production aspect, permafacture, in the core message.

Permafacture: A car is a temporarily useful consumer product – eventually it breaks down and is no longer useful as a car. The same is true for almost any consumer product – they are temporary, and when they break down they are no longer useful for their intended purpose. They come from factories that use resources from trashing ecosystems and using lots of oil. Even the “green” ones. Most consumer food is grown on factory farms using similar processes, and resulting in similar effects. When the resources or financing for those factories and factory farms dries up they stop producing, and all the products and food they made stop flowing into the consumer world. Consumers are dependent on these products and food for their very survival, and every product and food they buy from these factories contributes to the systems that are destroying the ecosystems that they will need to survive when finances or resources are interrupted. The more the consumers buy, the more dependent they are on the factories consuming and destroying the last of the resources left in order to maintain their current easy and dependent survival. These factories are distributed all over the world, and need large amounts of cheap fuel to move the products to market through the global supply and production chain, trashing ecosystems all along the way. The consumption of the products and food is completely disconnected from their production and so consumers do not actually see any of these connections or their interruptions as the factories and supply chains try hard to keep things flowing smoothly, until things reach their breaking point and the supply of products to consumers is suddenly interrupted. Open Source Ecology aims to create the means of production and reuse on a small local scale, so that we can produce the machines and resources that make survival trivial without being dependent on global supply and production chains, trashing ecosystems, and cheap oil. And we will be able to do this “permanently” because we will be accountable to ourselves to not overuse our local resources and destroy our local ecosystems as the effects should be immediately visible. This is a step towards transcending survival, making it trivial for everyone so that people can focus on other things, like evolving to freedom.

Global Village” – An interconnected network which brings people all over the world together, into a village. This is different from other forms of organization:
Hier-archy – few nodes at the top connected to successive branching layers of nodes below them, with information flowing up a chain of nodes to the top, and decisions typically made from the top down to direct the actions of all nodes.
Chaos – every node is independent but isolated – information, decisions, and actions are handled independently and work in the same direction only incidentally.

Independent and Interconnected, Peer-to-Peer network, “Global Village” – Each node is independent but also connected to all other nodes to communicate information so that decisions and actions can be coordinated through the network for all to work together.

Our means of achieving all these things is through the “Global Village Construction Set“. For more information, the entire theory of Open Source Ecology can be read in the OSE Proposal document. We think that supporting this project is the most important thing that anyone could be doing right now, but apparently most people don’t feel that way. Why?


  1. Ric Frost
  2. Lost Chief

    Hell why not put another off subject comment here. Enteresting Vortex water turbine power system.

  3. Joe

    That wasn’t an off-subject comment. There is a very real danger (though it might not happen for decades if ever) of a large solar flare knocking out our major electrical grids, and it would ripple through and knock out all our interconnected grids. Off-grid electrical systems would, I think, be immune to this. It’s something that unfortunately we probably won’t tackle as a society any time soon because it’s just so abstract, but the threat is there.

  4. Jeremy

    Interesting system Lost Chief, maybe we’ll look into it someday.

  5. mb21

    I agree with you that:
    – the consumer and trash-economy can’t keep going
    – the internet, and technology generally is spurring the emergence of a peer-to-peer society where everybody is quite independent and free but which is still very interconnected. It is built on voluntary and often spontaneous collaboration.

    – I’m not so sure about all the people on earth living in villages in the future. Densely populated cities do have real advantages: people need to travel less far and are more likely to meet like-minded people face to face. Obviously, cities that are too large don’t function either. There need to be local centers in cities too. While transporting food from the surrounding land needs to be done, this is still very different from flying food around continents.
    – On the virtual internet the peer-to-peer economy works great, but mass manufacturing physical goods like computer-chips is simply more economical than everybody doing his own thing. While 3D-printers/fabbers might change the picture a little bit and I completely agree that the design should be free/open and peer-produced, I think that the actual manufacturing of most physical goods will remain more centralized.
    – I agree that distributed energy production is the future. But most forms of alternative energy production are heavily dependant on local weather. This means that connecting those solar cells and turbines in a grid is the only solution to balance the needs and temporal surpluses of the different producers and consumers all over the country.

    What I consider a next very important thing is really getting the designs of as many as possible things online and free/open. Provide a real alternative to consumer-products that are built to break. That’s where I agree most with you guys 🙂 And I think smart companies will figure out how to make money by manufacturing those things while working with the community to design them. As companies like Red Hat did with Linux and other free software.
    We probably need a major overhaul of the financial system on the way, to set the incentives right: from ever-growing trash economy to building real sustainable value.

  6. Antti Karttunen

    I agree with most of the points mb21 said above.
    Sometime later I will write a longer account
    about my personal motivations.
    Meanwhile, a slightly off-topic, but interesting link:

    Bicimáquinas (translates as “bicycle machines”) are pedal-powered machines that act as an intermediate technology to assist the family economy in obtaining a higher production capacity in agriculture and in small business. Each bicimáquina is produced individually in our shop with a combination of old bikes, concrete, wood, and metal. So far we have developed several original designs that have proven to be both functional and economical.

    and furthermore,

    we are happy to share our designs with other non-profit organizations working with community-based technology. Please contact us if you are interested in a particular bicycle machine.

    I just wonder, would it make a sense to add a basic
    bicycle gear, chain and pedal mechanism to your
    GVCS, for making both above mentioned bicycle machines as well as ordinary bicycles?
    (Google also for “bamboo bicycles”).
    I guess that LifeTrac and Solar Steam
    engine will not always be available for all the
    possible tasks at the village.

  7. Marcin

    Just to clarify the meaning of Global Village, the concept has no a priori restriction on population size. This size is based on the ability of the community to use resources in a regenerative fashion.

  8. Arthur Eves

    I am inspired by what you are doing. I share with mb21 concerns about scalability. There’s a twofold problem I believe. How to make urban and rural environments more fulfilling. Villages are a great place to start. The star/spoke system connecting farms, villages, and cities evolved over eons and was only recently disrupted by railroads and automobiles–both of which were beneficial in the short term at least.
    Back to the main question though: What is an open source ecology?
    Oddly, to me, the first thing that comes to mind is openly published transgenics…sort of like mixxing but we’re dealing with genetic material rather than video or audio files. I know this is verboten in these circles and that there are potential negative side effects But consider this: Prior publication of gene sequences under a creative commons license should prevent the commercial exploitation of work done based on that info. f GMO corn was public domain would it be the problem its made out to be? An interesting question. Do you want everyman tinkering with this stuff and not culpable for misfirings or escapes into the wild?
    In terms of basic practices and infrastructure I like the idea of open source ecology. I am personally working on a hydroponic, aquaculture, vermiculture semi-closed loop unit that I will release designs on and try to share info with users. There’s always a line though that runs between profit maximization and sustainability. It doesn’t matter what method you use. When you push populations into stress because of density, or offer pests an attractive harbor for the same reason, then you end up having to bring in external nutrients or pharma. It’s not good but if you don’t you lose your crop. The trick seems to me to be to maximize biological activity and run a balanced system where you can reasonably predict the outcomes. That ‘s part of the appeal of monocultures but then you end up deeply in debt to the bank and need to continue the insanity to make debt payments. If you can deal with the complexity of a nutrient -enhancing organic polyculture then that would be the way to go, but there’s little field-tested information out there. That’s why I think what you’re doing is important. I hope you can achieve critical mass in the media to make that happen. You’ll need thousands of devoted users for the knowledge base to come close to adequate. I’d rss all the ag extension sevices as part of your site to get started.


    Arthur – regarding ‘hydroponic, aquaculture, vermiculture semi-closed loop unit that I will release designs on and try to share info with users’: open source implies publishing early and often. Do you have any designs that you could share, to generate a review and feedback loop based on a greater community? Feel free to put info up at if you have no other venue. At Factor e Farm, we are replacing the hydroponic component you mention with organoponics. – Marcin

  9. Sepp

    Open Source Ecology, to me, would signify freely available know-how.

    This includes transformative technologies that allow us to work without (or with as little as possible) external inputs such as fuel and electricity, as well as methods of cultivation that can sustainably generate enough nutritious food and an abundance of raw materials for survival such as fibers and building material.

    Tools would be a second step in an open ecology that strives for allowing self-reliant independence of a village or similar group from external inputs.

    My definition may have been colored by following your blog for some time 😉

  10. Andrew Hanlon

    Not to detract from what you are doing – I think it’s very noble – but I object to the popular hijacking of the term ‘ecology’ to signify all things green. Ecology is a scientific study of the environment and the organisms within it. As a person who studies ecology I find it very annoying that people think that I am studying some woolly, hippy, populist subject, when in fact it is very technical, mathematical and complicated. To me ‘open source ecology’ would be access to scientific papers on population and community ecology – it would have absolutely nothing to do with wind turbines etc. because they are only loosely related to ecology. If you wanted to have a website about that you might want to call it ‘open source green ideas’ for instance. Here endeth the rant.


    Andrew, open source ecology was initially coined as the integration of human and natural ecology. We are not hijacking ‘ecology’ to mean ‘green’, as much as using it to m mean ‘integration.’ Open source ecology is an integration of natural and human systems, including technology and natural ecosystems. – Marcin

  11. Lost Chief

    We should never mess with GMO crops. You may want to watch the videos UN-NATURAL SELECTION, FOOD MATTERS and to learn how Chemical farming is not as productive as natural farming watch these videos NATURAL WORLD-A FARM FOR THE FUTURE, THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN, KING CORN, I WANT MY FATHER BACK. And for how to grpe closed loop productive systems watch the videos ESTABLISHING A FOOD FOREST THE PERMACULTURE WAY, all SEPP HOLZER videos & the 30 other videos on my myspace page & in my blogs.

    Open source ecology to me stands for sharing of works and ideas that have to do with natural resources. It may be better focused to name it OPEN SOURCE SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL VILLAGES.


  12. Mark

    For me, this project is less about helping the world and more about

    1) good designs that have no restrictions on the amount of review and testing they receive,

    2) low cost commodity components for all the material things I need, and

    3) the ability to adapt those components to my heart’s content into the individual objects I use in my life.

    I read a comment about the Internet ten years ago that said that the impact of most new technologies were overestimated in the short term and underestimated in the long term. The same will probably be true of the GVCS: over the next few years we will be using it for pedestrian things like cutting the costs of constructing outbuildings, but in twenty years it will have completely transformed the economy.