Zone 4

Tangible Assets, Close to Home

Here is where we are quite literally bringing it all home. Home is where the heart is, and it’s also one of the best areas for making profitable investments. Leveraging your own experience, energy, and sweat equity, along with money you have saved or borrowed, can pay big returns. Investment could be in one’s home, in home improvements such as adding an in-law or rental unit to your house, in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, or for other ends, such as building the physical elements of household and community resilience. Converting financial assets into tangible assets is the distinctive feature of this zone, and at the same time, much of what you do in this basket offers intangible rewards such as pride of ownership and accomplishment.

Key areas of Zone 4 focus

  • Home/house/property
  • Local infrastructure/commons (parks, utilities, etc.)
  • Energy systems/choices
  • Local shopping & sharing

Greening in the red zone: resilience in broken places

Looking for some hopeful, practical stories of personal and community resilience?  Check out Greening in the Red Zone, which compiles inspiring stories of regenerative commitment from parts of the world where things have fallen apart, ranging from Syrian war zones to tornado-wracked towns in the midwest.  

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Bringing solar savings to those who really need it

As the price of solar panels has fallen in recent years, many new financing models have emerged, each of which aims to lower the financial hurdles for homeowners to go solar.  Solar installation companies offer long-term financing at somewhat below your current monthly electric bill; community solar projects buy in bulk and spread the savings to homeowners; and leasing outfits own the solar they put on your roof.  But all of these avenues have tended to target those already primed to go renewable, and their financial benefits often take years to pay off.

That’s why this article in Slate caught my eye:

Take PosiGen, a 4-year-old company based in New Orleans that pairs energy-efficiency upgrades with solar-panel leases—all for no money down and monthly payments of $50 or $60. PosiGen doesn’t target yuppies in Boulder, Colorado. A survey covering one-third of its 6,000-odd customers found that “our average customer is a 56-65-year-old African-American female, who spends at least four hours a week at church,” said Aaron Dirks, the intense 40-year-old West Point grad who founded the company. Three-quarters of its installations have been in census tracts where the area median income is below 120 percent of the national median. Call it blue-collar green.

PosiGen’s goal is to reduce monthly energy bills by at least $50—and that’s not the familiar “save at least as much as you pay us” threshold, but saving $50 after paying them.  One customer’s electric bill had been $185-300 (varying with the seasons); after PosiGen’s efficiency and solar upgrades, it was $75-150, including her $60 monthly payment to PosiGen.  As is typical with lease arrangements, homeowners get to use all the solar electric generated during the day, and they buy additional energy from the grid as needed; PosiGen retains ownership of the panels and receives the revenue generated by any excess daytime solar energy that’s sold to the local electric utility.

I’m not sure how PosiGen is keeping the costs so low, but kudos to them for targeting populations that can really benefit from significantly reduced electric bills—they often even forego credit checks, having found that their customers value the savings enough to make their modest payments even when times are tough.  They’ve installed 5000 systems in Louisiana, and recently expanded to Albany, NY and Bridgeport, CT.


Center for a New American Dream

The Center for a New American Dream works to redefine what the American Dream means – focusing on the connections between a hyper-consumer culture, quality of life, and the environment. It offers numerous programs and tools to help Americans reduce and shift their consumption patterns. Visit website.

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Institute for Local Self-Reliance

For decades, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has championed just that. It focuses on local control and reliance particularly in the areas of broadband, energy, independent businesses, banking, waste (to wealth), and the public good. Each of these areas contains a deep database of articles, relevant rules and resources. Its website has numerous audio, video and written resources. Noteworthy is a searchable database of local, state and federal laws in areas of interest to local self reliance, such as composting, anti-privitization, beverage containers, etc. Visit website.

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Community-oriented responses to breakdown

The following initiatives gather a wealth of practical, organizational, and inspirational materials that foster local economies, local culture, and local resilience. Within the resilient investing framework, the work of these groups are—in many ways—both “close to home” and “evolutionary”; we see strong local communities as a key element in a resilient response to any and all future scenarios.

Transition Towns
Transition is a global network of local/regional groups working to build resiliency. While Transition began from the framework of preparing for a post-peak-oil world, the evolution of the movement has led to a wide range of local initiatives that foster local economies, social justice, increased renewable energy, and other projects that, like much in the Close to Home strategy, offer powerful contributions to any possible future scenario.

Transition United States compiles news and resources; also includes a map of the over 150 active Transition Town initiatives in the US.

Transition Network is the global Transition resource center.

Resilient Communities
A project from the UK that shares some roots with the Transition Network. In the words of founder John Robb, a resilient community produces the food, energy, water, things, and incomes it needs locally. Visit website.

Peak Prosperity / Crash Course
Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity website is dedicated to helping readers to understand and prepare for the many huge changes that are underway in the areas that Martenson calls “the 3 E’s” – economy, energy and environment. It’s a member-supported site (charging a monthly membership fee) that also contains a deep and wide offering of resources available to all. While somewhat more oriented toward breakdowns that we may be, the resources he offers are a close complement to the fundamental thinking behind our resilient investing planning. Includes practical resources, blogs, and group discussions.

The Crash Course is a series of free video courses that provide context for the many complex challenges in today’s world that promise to bring great change in years ahead. A book and DVD are also available.

Dark Mountain Project
Dark Mountain is a loose network of writers, artists, philosophers, and others who generally see some degree of environmental and/or economic collapse to be likely in the coming decades, and efforts to reform the system as essentially spitting into the wind. In response, many in the Dark Mountain community consider it more constructive to devote their energy to fostering local and regional cultures, with an emphasis on practical skills, arts, events, and stories for a new time, and developing an historical understanding of the kinds of stories and thinking that led us astray.

Dark Mountain website. Includes in-depth essays from many contributors, and links to Dark Mountain’s series of book-sized journals, each one rich with historical reflection, interviews, fiction, poetry, and visual arts.

Article: NY Times Magazine feature on Paul Kingsnorth and xxxx, two key figures in the Dark Mountain Project.

Article: Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist. A good introduction to the thinking behind Dark Mountain; the first of three annual essays published by Orion by co-founder Paul Kingsnorth.

Audio trialogue between Kingsnorth, David Abram, and Lierre Keith, responding to the themes of Kingsnorth’s essay.

Interview with Paul Kingsnorth, from Orion.


SEE ALSO our page on What is Resilience?

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