Prefab Communities

The recent days of triple digit temperatures and their effects are showing what the future will look like. That future is now, actually. People are beginning to panic. Systems of all types are failing.

Climate refugees will be forced to flee areas of drought, rising sea levels, devastation from severe storms. Migrants will be desperate for food and water. A desperation that will lead to violence. I don’t know how we can prepare for that.

What follows are parts of posts I’ve written over the past five years. I am less hopeful we can find ways to deal with climate refugees, as we have seen increasing polarization and violence across many divisions.

And yet, in some ways I’m more hopeful as I’ve been learning about, participating in Mutual Aid communities.

Building small communities in rural areas, or around urban farming, will give people fulfilling work to do, food to eat, shelter, and a caring community to belong to, restoring their dignity. These communities can work without requiring money in exchange for these things. Friends in Iowa City have experience with intentional community. And the Maharishi community in Fairfield, Iowa.

The most important consideration is water supply. Without water nothing else works. We will continue to see spreading and worsening droughts.

Following is a draft for creating new communities, not only for ourselves, but with the intention of creating a model that can be rapidly replicated. So the flood of climate refugees have a template to build their own self sufficient communities when they are forced to migrate. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that by 2050, up to 250 million people will be displaced by climate change.


  • Environmental disasters
    • Weather extremes
      • Widespread and persistent drought, rising seas and more intense storms and fires
        • Destroyed homes, cities, land
        • Deadly air temperatures
        • Destroyed infrastructure
        • Water, food and energy scarcity
        • Resource wars
        • Collapsing social/political order
        • Climate refugees
    • Militarism and police states
    • Decreasing availability of complex health care and medications
    • Spiritual poverty

The Midwest

Here in the Midwest we are faced with two broad problems. How to adapt our own lives to deal with these changes, and what to do about the flood of people who will be migrating to the Midwest.

“Along America’s most fragile shorelines, [thousands] will embark on a great migration inland as their homes disappear beneath the water’s surface.” LA Times, Victoria Herrmann Jan 25, 2016

Since we will soon not be able to depend on municipal water and power, transport of food from distances, schools and hospitals, many will be forced to move to rural areas or create urban gardens and farms, where they can live and grow their own food.

The Choice

  1. One choice is to narrowly focus on the best we can do to prepare ourselves and immediate community to adapt to the coming changes.
  2. The other is to also work on ways we can help the many climate refugees who will likely be migrating to the Midwest. Help them learn to adapt and thrive. Although these days violence rather than cooperation seems more likely.

Building Communities-The Vision

We need to model how to build sustainable communities. There have been numerous such experiments in intentional community. But the model needed now must be created with the intention of being replicated many times over with minimal complexity, using locally available materials—a prefab community.

Prefab Community

  • Community hub with housing and other structures
    • Simple housing
      • Straw bale houses
      • Passive solar and solar panels
      • No kitchens or bathrooms (community ones instead)
    • Store, school, meetinghouse
    • Central kitchen and bathrooms
  • Surrounding fields for food and straw
  • Water supply
    • Wells, cisterns and/or rain barrels
  • Power
    • Solar, wind, hydro, horse
  • Manufacturing
    • 3 D printing
    • Pottery
    • Sawmill
  • Communication
    • Radio, local networks
  • Transportation
    • Bicycles
    • Electric vehicles
    • Horses
    • Pedal powered vehicles
  • Medical
    • Stockpile common medications
    • Essential diagnostic and treatment equipment
    • Medical personnel adapt to work in community
  • Spiritual
    • Meeting for worship
    • Meeting for business
    • Religious education

Mobil homes, buses and cars can be repurposed for shelter.

If/when local water supplies dry up in these new communities, people will be forced to move again.

One thought on “Prefab Communities

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