The Better Earth Institute

The social app

This was written initially as a post for my nextdoor.com network, but I’m publishing it here to re-iterate some of the goals/purpose of the social platform and to explain it to new people. Here goes:

I have an app that’s written in html/css/javascript using firebase as the back end and I’d like it to be a mobile app with push notifications. Does someone have a person they recommend to help me do this? Would someone like to join in developing an exciting new platform for communication without interruption advertisements and giving people a deeper sense of freedom and ownership?

You can join the app currently here: http://www.betterearthinstitute.org/connect/

It currently puts people in an x y coordinate system based on their latitude and longitude (and people can move anywhere they want).

Instead of focusing on a status feed for sharing, people share into their own space, and others can choose to pay attention to who they want, when they want. We expect this to facilitate a greater quantity of sharing since people do not have to feel like they’re grabbing the mic or standing on a soap box shouting to everyone something (like I’m doing now). It also allows people to more easily have a stable broadcasted message like broadcasting their business availability or if there’s some specific message they’d consistently like people to see when they attend to their digital presence (like wearing a t-shirt or handing out business cards).

In other words, with a status feed, it would not be appropriate for someone like myself to every single day post something saying “I’m available for tutoring today”, but with my design, it’s totally fine for me to have a place on the map to have that clearly written and in the view of whoever is next to it. And conversely, people are unlikely to post everyday “I need help with _____” or “I still want attention to be paid to ______” even though their need may not have been met yet. Status feeds have their value certainly, but things can just drop to the bottom or disappear OR they become quite popular and then people have to see them again and again who don’t want to see it.

I believe that we should have the best of all worlds communicatively.

In the real world, if we’re not interested in what someone’s saying, we usually can indicate that to them and they usually won’t press on because it’s a waste of breath, also, we CAN indicate to people that we’re interested by moving closer to them. This is part of what the app facilitates. I think community is extremely important and that the internet facilitates amazing connectivity, but I think we’re missing out A LOT when we rely on unpaid services from huge companies that want to maximize profits. It puts users at the mercy of whatever manipulation companies want to do in order to make money whether that means interruption advertisements or data mining.

I believe that there are likely long term psychological manipulations at play in other apps in order to make us better consumers – and that this is valued above depth of communication.

Furthermore, I don’t think it should be a goal to maximize time spent on the app. I think people interacting in person is better in general, and the apps should enrich people’s lives not just the owners of the app. Also in other apps you can’t tell who’s paying attention and when. I post on facebook to my hundreds of friends and maybe I get a few likes but I have no idea who even saw it. On my app, you can/will be able to actively see who sees your content for a much more dynamic live experience. There’s a chat feature that’s radius based so that anyone within a certain vicinity can automatically join this chat simply by moving or being within that radius – this allows people to feel like they’re joining active “hanging out” or meetings or social interaction between new people – and also since you can see who’s talking to you, you could make new friends by seeing someone you already know talking to someone new and then join perhaps more easily or simply ask about the person because you’re actually seeing social interactions (which are somewhat hidden on other sites… you don’t see when someone sends a private message to someone on facebook).

That said, most of the features that are good from other platforms can be added as well.

Anyhow, if you want to know more you can watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4koU7HE96Y&t=314s

Or contact me. I’ve just been working on it hoping to eventually have a professionally grade scalable application that will satisfy a number of goals. I could use funding or donations at this point (http://paypal.me/bettearthinstitute) or find a technical cofounder. Also looking for some CSS/design help and javascript. If you have some connections or want to work on this let me know.

Our Food Mission

We would like to help people eat healthy food. We need to push for a world where the majority of people eat a healthy diet and that diet gets produced in a sustainable and non-destructive/excessively polluting manner. It’s a tricky issue. There are many perspectives about health and sustainability.

Some people really believe that GMO’s are the only way to feed a growing world. Other people really believe that GMO’s will completely destroy biodiversity and produce lower quality food AND that organic can totally feed the world. Others think that the word “organic” does not even mean anything.

Fortunately, everyone agrees that they prefer fresher and tastier food that makes their bodies feel better over less fresh, less tasty food, that makes the body feel bad. We believe that most people would eat more fruits and vegetables if the available fruits and vegetables were of high quality and desirable price.

So we’re starting there.

We would like to see prices of high quality produce go down – and we know how to do it because we’ve been getting better prices for nearly a decade.

It’s simple. Buy in larger quantities from wholesalers or direct from producers – and you will get a better price on everything that has large supply. We have seen prices easily as low as 50% below retail as a regular available option for 20-40 pound purchases of single varieties of items from wholesalers and producers and we can also extrapolate that if a wholesaler sells items at 50% the cost of retail – they too must be making a profit so the price of goods may be as low as 25% of retail.

Prices can actually be as low as 10% of retail based on a cursory look at prices of produce bought at the level of a few thousands of pounds to shipping container quantities (up to around 50,000 pounds).

Part of the price of goods includes the work of distribution and transactions. Things take time. If a seller has to sell to 100 people who are in a line attempting to buy 2 pounds of grapes each… it will take that seller much longer than if they just hand over some boxes containing 200 pounds of grapes. Organized groups of individuals can remove that distribution and transaction cost. They can also save in time. This is especially relevant for people that do not live near farmer’s markets or wholesale markets. Even if a market is 10 minutes away by car, once you factor everything else into traveling, it may take 40 minutes to an hour plus for a person to do their shopping. Take ten people spending an hour each doing their shopping and you have 40 hours per month of people just shopping – the equivalent of a full work week. If one person does the shopping of ten other people, they can easily cut it to 20 hours per month and likely cut it down to less than 10 hours per month.

Cost of goods can also go down if people grow their own or forage their own. We’d like to see more community gardens and areas dedicated to increasing fertility and abundance of food as well as ensuring natural resource availability. Many plants do not require human input for their success at production of edible matter. The cost of goods at some point may only be the energetic cost of actually harvesting the food.

Short story is this: if people organize their purchasing independently they can cut the direct dollar cost of produce by as much as 50%. For many people that will actually alter what they eat – not just save money. In a United States where average fruit and vegetable consumption is often lower than one serving per day… this can make a tremendous impact on our health and future.

Our mission is to see to it that everyone who wants to eat fruits and vegetables grown in manners that actually increase the total fertility and availability of food – can get those foods. We can apply these solutions even for those using SNAP food assistance – many farmer’s markets take SNAP and when people will organize their purchasing, their SNAP dollar purchasing power can double.

How? By each individual being accountable for purchasing one type of item. So perhaps 10-20 people with SNAP go to the market together. 1 person buys the potatoes, another person buys apples, another person buys onions, etc… and then everyone re-distributes… and everyone wins.

Contact David at (510)473-6282 for more information or to contribute.

 

Short Version

There are many ways improve land’s hospitability to humans (as well as other creatures).

In some places merely introducing the seeds of some plants, without adding fertilizer or directing water, will lead to the growth of those plants and the consequent growth of other plants. Perhaps one plant grows which attracts animals and the animals bring both urine (source of water) and feces (source of fertilizer and other seeds) and this leads to growth of new plants. This animal may also lead to the presence of other animals which leads to more urine (source of water) and feces (source of fertilizer and other seeds) and the cycle continues.

Other places could require some simple irrigation  and the addition of seeds and soil matters to increase fertility and catalyze the processes discussed in the previous paragraph. I say simple irrigation to mean methods such as digging trenches or setting up simple systems of water containment and distribution – methods that may have a reasonable labor cost but low dollar cost. Ideally, we can figure out something like “dig a trench near the bottom of a hill that will collect water such that more plants can grow” – this process would simply require working with a shovel – work that many people can do.

We want to facilitate change in ways that people can do on their own with little training and little funding; we cannot wait till everyone has an extra $100,000 to create some rural side-projects. Perhaps the government will decide this to be a worthy task and will create permaculture paradises all over the country, but until then – it seems better to work towards facilitating the simplest least expensive in dollars methodologies.

Orienting towards methods of relatively unskilled labor turning to things like: food production and shelter production leads to real empowerment and freedom that rises above economic competitive factors that can otherwise put someone in a crushing position attempting to sell their time as low-skilled labor – which is ever more difficult when that person must pay rent or buy housing for tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If everyone could build their own shelter and grow their own food – AND they owned their own shelter space and foodspace AND their annual costs associated with these assets were relatively negligible – THEN they would be able to accept a wide variety of work for much lower pay without losing out so much.

It’s not that people of today actually NEED to even earn $1,000 a month to live. It’s that people of today that do not have housing paid for nor food readily available for direct acquisition not requiring financial exchange – that need much more than $1,000 a month to live.

I’m envisioning situations in the US where people have perhaps an acre and a shelter and they paid $5,000-$10,000 for it (or less). Their annual property tax may be $50-$100. And that’s it. Their water comes from the earth and sky.  Their food comes from soil, sun, and water. Their home comes from the earth, trees, rocks, water, and their labor.

 

 

Attainable Sustainable Accessible Path

Here’s what I want to do: I want to connect properties from around San Diego all the way up to Seattle that are around 30 miles of average distance from each other (around 50 properties) and to use sustainable rain gathering techniques (which would likely also function as a roof/greenhouse/or shade structure) so that there would naturally be enough water for a visitor to drink their fill (probably using some filter) and to plant location appropriate beneficial plants at each location.

I want to do this with essentially the least expensive available properties so that if other people, especially young people, wish to do something like this, then there will not be a huge financial barrier. Most of the properties I have looked at are in the below $10,000 range and my expectation of infrastructure costs per property is around $5,000.

So for $750,000 I expect to be able to accomplish the following:

1. Purchase around 50 properties ranging from the San Diego US Mexico border up to near Seattle and the US Canada border.

2. At each of the sites establish a passive method for water collection so that visitors to the property would have a source of water to drink directly or to purify and drink. In most places I expect this method to also double a shade structures, greenhouses, or sleeping platforms. They would also possibly attach to solar shower set ups. When possible, use time-tested natural methods utilizing on-site resources.

3. At each of the sites, plant location appropriate beneficial plants with the long term goal of having significant caloric yield of edible plant matter in each property so that if a person would wish to, they could sustain a trip traversing the entire 50 property path entirely or nearly entirely from the food matters produced on these lands

4. At each of the sites, set up sustainable and independent waste management systems at each location or use appropriate natural methods.

5. I would also put money aside to ensure that all property taxes are paid for and there’s at least 10 years of resources available. I don’t expect generating revenue by donations or payments for use to be difficult given that the annual property tax on the entire range of sites should cost less than 2% of assessed value.

From there, I would open this path up to paying customers and to unique positive influencers wishing to help pave the way for a more sustainable accessible lifestyle. So that we can show the world that sustainable living connects us across the country (and beyond) and that it can EMPOWER us too and overall just feel FUN and inspire feelings of awe.

I want people to feel like they can travel over 1,000 miles EASILY over the course of a month by setting up hospitable sites with lush edible plant-life in easily accessed distances. 30 miles of cycling is a reasonable expectation of fitness for most ages and sizes.

I want people to feel like they can also access land that’s affordable for them and that we can take land that doesn’t look like much and turn it into something we desire and realize with our effort we can contribute to it and turn deserts into oases and so forth.

Having this connected path will make many rural parts of the country more accessible and attractive. This will help people realize what some directed efforts can do to make a place more inviting and how plant-life and water can make an impact.

I expect that this will lead to some creation of new communities and settlements where people can benefit from nature and the fruit of their labor. Imagine if all high school graduates could own an acre of land that they could access through an epic couple days or weeks of biking. Imagine if each of these places had some source of water for them to start a garden or to use the water to create natural building materials. Imagine if YOU could have an acre of land with water, shade, a place to rest safely, and a growing garden. Imagine if you had that acre paid off and only had negligible annual property tax payments (like $25 per year).

Imagine accessible freedom not just for you, but for society at large.

Please help me create this into a reality.

You can contact me (510)473-6282

Addressing Homelessness/Low Income Without Charity

I have not yet achieved my goal of providing low cost housing, but I have looked into land costs, shelter, and infrastructure.

It appears that the same economic rules apply to constructing homes andbuying land as do to most commodities – the more you buy in the fewer transactions the better your per unit cost.

We live in relatively more expensive neighborhoods here. But the rules still apply – if many people join together to say invest in building an apartment complex instead of each individual waiting to buy until after its completion – they can save tremendously.

However, many people have nearly no cash and no credit so buying an apartment here even at 50% off (not sure what the markup is on apartments in a large building are), would still not be feasible.

However, the USA has plenty of areas including places within a few hours drive of here where standard neighborhood size parcels of land could cost as little as $500. (Say a fifth of an acre at $2,500 an acre) In actuality there are properties selling for around $5,000,000 for 5,000 acres ($1,000 per acre). I understand these properties are usually not already legally set up for parceling – but all this would require is sufficient local support (counties signing off on it).

So factually, we could say that land costs $200-$500 for an ample site in rural California. Infrastructure may or may not cost a lot more per site depending. I personally do not believe in the inherent superiority of indoor plumbing and electricity – especially not when cost efficiency and sustainability are key overall – this could be up to the individuals.

I believe we will get great returns by truly looking into what a minimalist design for home and shelter looks like – and to legalize it for year round living; currently, I believe in all counties in California, to legally live somewhere year round on property one owns you must have a legal residence which conforms to a number of standards.

I don’t know exactly what the least expensive way to meet the current standards are – but I believe that working on whatever will meet those standards as inexpensively and eco friendly as possible will yield the most benefits for the most people without having to involve any charity whatsoever – while facilitating that which many charities and municipalities aspire to do – help the less fortunate or less economically able achieve land and/or home ownership.

At the same time, I think we would gain to modify zoning at least in certain areas so that people could live in simpler shelters of their choosing provided they abide by some kind of health/environmental standards.

I think we need to facilitate access to the simpler ways of living our ancestors lived. If a person wants to work the land and get the fruit of their labor and not be an employee for life – they need access to land.

It’s hard to provide value to others, but it’s not necessarily hard to provide value for yourself – gathering food, growing food, building simple shelter, hunting, fishing – these are skills most people can employ if they have access to land.

It’s harder to sell services or products especially when you have to compete with others.

So for a lot of people who are competing and making it… but still feel competitive and a loss of power when their money goes somewhere they don’t expect to get a return from… it makes sense why many charities don’t attract sustained interest. Especially here… it costs $1000 just for a single room for a month in a lot of places here. That money could buy an acre of land elsewhere.

So I would propose building a village that prioritizes efficient design and truly low cost living – aiming for something like less than $5,000 per entire unit of legitimate shelter and land. I’m rather confident that a budget of say $200,000,000 could easily facilitate 40,000 sustainable elegant very simple homes in an area within 4 hours of here.

Perhaps there will be less paved roads in this town, and there will not be six electric sockets in each room, less insulation, and much smaller than 1,500 square feet per home, but I believe it will be an awesome opportunity for those living there and a great return on investment. Buyers could also potentially get loans with $1,000 down and pay like $50 a month or so.

If people lived there in a similar density as Menlo Park or Palo Alto – the land cost might be $5,000,000 for 5,000 acres (and have plenty of open space) and leave $195,000,000 for homes.

So… what can $195 million do if you have 5,000 acres paid off and you want to maximize adequate simple sustainable homes/shelters and minimize cost/materials/pollution?

That’s the question I would like to see the experts answer.

Btw, as I understand it the city of SF spent around $241,000,000 in one year on their homeless problem of around 6-7,000 people.

So the money is here and already being spent on an annual basis – as some kind of charity of sorts.

The idea I describe doesn’t require charity – but I could see a type of charity where people who do have $5,000 or much more could help make the commitment to the initial purchases and contracts so that communication can occur with counties and builders and planners of infrastructure etc… it may take a while to get commitments from say 40,000 people to put down $5,000 each – but I have no doubt that if a legal year round residence were available in California for $5,000 there would be no problem whatsoever selling 40,000 units.

So again, the question is what can $5,000 really do per unit if part of some huge construction deal?

Or even without some big deal. If we ignore zoning for a second and just think of ideal function and cost effectiveness – what can we get? What can people make?

School bus renovation with rain catchment and solar shower? That sounds cool to me!

About the better social platforms

We made an app with paid aid from a professional programmer to give us another way to socialize and communicate – without interruption ads/distractions/and all kinds of unknown things.

It has a unique feature you could describe as a “chat visualizer” (thanks Ian Crossland for the phrase). Although private messages can get sent to anyone anywhere, currently this social platform functions with people messaging those close to them on the map. The map does NOT force people to be next to their gps coordinates and currently people simply get spawned near 0,0 on the map and then can pick their positions. It’s got a glitch right now where multiple people can occupy the same square at once. Please don’t do this without consent. So when you spawn the first time, please pick an empty spot to move to.

Currently operating at this address:
http://betterearthinstitute.org/blokchat

Looks better on desktop, but totally functional on mobile right now.

It has 5 ways to communicate right now.

1. You can click on someone’s image and either read their profile or send them a message
2. You can chat in a regular group chat like a chatroom
3. You can message in a way where you see what people type as they type and also you can delete your message (they aren’t sent to each other’s inboxes but rather “shown to each other”
4. You can post “notes” by double-clicking on a square and then you can post anything you want like a status, a blog post, an embedded video etc…
5. You can change your avatar. your avatar = your public picture so you can make it something with text if you like or a picture that says something or just whatever picture you wish to represent you

Part of the idea is NOT necessarily to keep people on the site all the time, but rather to help facilitate real world communication between people NOT try to track and manipulate them into becoming consumers.

There ARE some plans for monetization, but they will be different. ALSO we expect to develop ways for people to truly OWN their own communities. Once we are more developed.

Anyhow, would love to have you join.
http://betterearthinstitute.org/blokchat

Also, we have another platform for putting out a message to be seen connected to your actual location on earth. http://betterearthinstitute.org/communication

You have your own note to write in

We will gladly accept contributions as they will greatly help at the moment.
https://www.paypal.me/betterearthinstitute

What makes a home? Pt. 1

We intend to deconstruct and reconstruct the foundations of “affordable/sustainable housing”. We have seen many attempts at “green” architecture that although elegant and possibly environmentally sustainable – often carry a price tag that will limit implementation only to a relative few who can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a house.

We have looked around the globe a bit and seen that what makes a home varies tremendously in design, cost, sustainability, and satisfaction of those that live inside.

We fundamentally believe that the vast majority of people can be completely happy with homes that cost much less than $20,000. That’s right. $20,000. Not $200,000. Not $2,000,000. $20,000. Less than $20,000. $20,000 or less homes means that for those buying on loan, their monthly payments could be around $100 per month.

Obviously, more money could potentially be spent on a home – but we have an urgency towards mass implementation that we believe will follow from massive accessibility.

We have seen homes that cost $20,000 in the USA and are beautiful, elegant, more sustainable. The cost of $20,000 is for that single home – NOT as part of a massive contract to build 100 or 1,000 or more similar homes. We have not yet done all the work to estimate accurately what the price would be, but we expect that on 100 or 1,000 home contracts the price may reduce anywhere from 25% to 50%. Truthfully, it does not matter so much about decreasing the cost from $20,000 – more important would be to get lenders so that people could potentially pay $100 per month to own these homes.

Why?

Because we wish to facilitate these changes – we need people to do this. We need people to live in manners that pollute less and produce more good. Expensive homes in expensive areas without access to a “green” life – can only help so many people. By working together to “subsidize” green living – we can see to it that these changes happen.

Decreasing the cost of living, decreases the money needed, decreasing the need to earn money, decreases the need of production – which in general means decreasing pollution. However, the purpose is not to decrease income or productivity – if anything we could say the opposite – by providing home ownership and land access – a lot more productivity can occur.

Many people struggle to become productive since they can not simply do things like gather food, grow food, hunt, build with their own efforts, collect resources directly. As technology continues to progress, competing in the marketplace can become more challenging for individuals – however, for individuals who have direct access to land, water, plants, minerals, and animals – competition does not necessarily need to matter. One farmer produces 10,000 pounds on his acre another produces 15,000 pounds… even though the former may be considered “non-competitive” in certain respects… they still produced 10,000 pounds.

Today there seem to be deep conflicts about wealth. The millionaires versus people “only” earning $45,000 per year. Well… what does $45,000 per year mean when you could outright buy a home for $20,000? What does $45,000 per year mean when you have already paid off your home AND you have access to land that has a natural source of potable water AND have enough water to grow enough food for your family? If you ask me, that $45,000 equals HYPER-wealthy.

IN FACT, I would see that $45,000 income ON TOP of a paid off beautiful and sufficient sustainable home on acreage as obviously wealthier than someone earning $100,000 in a place where rent/mortgage equals $70,000 per year AND they have no acreage, no independent water supply, etc… Especially when one considers that the mortgage may be on a million dollar + home such that the owner actually now has a very serious commitment to continuing to earn that money annually OR serious concern that their property value does not fall significantly.

On the other hand, the person that owns land and home that are fully paid off and purchased for less than the price of many new cars – does not need to worry about this investment depreciating. Especially now. As it is, a person could rent out this house for $250 per month and would be making a great return on investment. $3000 annually for a $20,000 investment. In fact, they potentially could do this on loan. So if they qualify for a $20k loan to build this home, they could build it, pay $100 per month to pay the mortgage and get $250 per month from the rent. They could rent it for a much higher price probably, but the point is it’s very very doable.

 

How can we make things better?

We want to answer these questions.

  • How can we make things better for ourselves?
  • How can we make things better for others?
  • How can we make things better for ourselves as individuals?
  • How can we make things better for others as individuals?

We have come to a number of relatively standard conclusions to these questions that have great implications for ourselves as individuals and as members of a global society in which our actions affect others.

We base most of these on biology and ecology since these categories are somewhat involuntary. It appears we cannot choose to simply breathe something other than air or eat something other than food to live. We must breathe air, we must have water, we must have shelter. The quality of these things matter, and the way we live can affect others’ access and quality.

According to the World Health Organization, some 6-7 million people died in 2015 due to environmental pollution. We are all affected by this. The so-called rich people living in dense urban areas are affected by this. Their quality of life, we argue, is significantly altered for the worse by this pollution – even though some people might view them as somehow the benefactors of the polluting economies because those in these urban areas may have more money.

At the Better Earth Institute, we value the basics first. We value access to clean water. We value access to fresh and healthy food. We value access to space, privacy, freedom from intrusion, safety, and the right for people to self determination.

Our analysis shows a large mass of people that could greatly improve their lives if only they’d make different choices, and another mass of people that could be more easily characterized as enslaved by economies, borders, wars, and lack of access to space to grow food.

We don’t know exactly what we can accomplish as an organization, but we know that we can help every single person that comes to us and that every single person that comes to us can help someone else.

We also do not wish to be seen as a purist or philanthropic organization. In many ways our purpose has been derived through logical analysis of pathways towards accomplishing the selfish goal of having a future for ourselves as grandparents and great grandparents and so forth.

Because if we do not solve the pollution problem, then what will be our fate? And how can we solve the pollution problem if we do not cooperate with others and influence their behaviors? What if we can not force a person to not pollute? It is our working expectation that as an organization we will have no way to force a person to do something that they do not wish to do.

Thus, we must work persuasively.

Thankfully, we expect that our biology will act persuasively for others as it acts persuasively to ourselves. We like to breathe fresh air, not stale or polluted. We believe we speak for most people on this. We like to drink clean water. We believe we speak for most people on this. We like to eat healthy food. Well… you can’t win them all.

But jokes aside, we believe that most people really do want to do what’s best for their bodies and simply some people have a different sense of what’s best based on their experience. We believe that health truly offers the greatest physical experiences of pleasure and so even a hedonist or drug abuser could be persuaded towards healthy behaviors since those would provide the most pleasure.

We believe that no person in their right mind seeks out pain and disease, and yet we know that certain choices will lead to all of those results. So we aim to work with these people and find out what’s the missing link?

We investigate. What information are people lacking? What information do they have that’s misleading?

We implement. Perhaps we simply tell people what we think they need to know, but we know that’s not always enough. We know that for some people it’s not about “knowing” it’s about “doing” and we also know that many people need help to do things. It’s not simply enough to say “acquire more healthy food” because some people don’t have access or the will to access.

We’re here to determine what it is and we believe that for the most part there’s a hyper abundance of low-hanging fruit for people to pick to not only improve their lives, but to begin making a positive impact on others’ lives and to become part of something much greater.