Tag Archives: secular monastery

Sustainable Monasteries Could Solve Poverty, Pollution, And Refugee Crises

The most popular Youtube vlogger is Pewdiepie, a Swedish man-child who posts videos about playing video games and acting silly in his computer room. Pewdiepie currently posts about one blog each weak, which means, in the time between each of his posts, at least 1,900 civilians died horrible war-related deaths somewhere in the world, and that’s a very conservative estimate.

List of war-related deaths by country. At the top are Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria

The civilians who survive these conflicts are only technically lucky. Over 22 million people are living in foreign countries right now because they’ve had to flee the apocalyptic death, destruction and destitution in their birth-land. That’s not counting the 65 million people who have fled their homes but haven’t left their country. This means there are about 100 million people who are homeless because they would die if they went home.

There are 65 million forcibly displace people worldwide including refugees, homeless, and stateless people

That number doesn’t count the 100 million people in the world who are just old-fashioned homeless, or the 1.3 billion people who have homes and jobs but are working themselves to death while starving in a shit-covered tin hut with no water, electricity or sanitation.

In conflict zones, it’s hard to get real numbers how many people are suffering, but we know that over 3 billion people live on under $2.50 per day. These statistics don’t highlight a few isolated travesties. Almost half the population of the world lives in extreme poverty, and there are still several billion more who make more than $2.50 per day and live below the poverty level.

Basically, if you have running water, air conditioning, heat, a bed, pornography and an education, you’re one of the most privileged people in the entire world. Drop to your knees and thank God if the worst problem in your life is that nobody loves you.

If you factor in all the money countries and nongovernment agencies spend on humanitarian aid each year, the cost easily eclipses $100 billion dollars each year. The world could afford to spend more money to fight poverty, but it spends over $2 trillion on the militaries which are displacing people. So taxpayers are spending more money on creating humanitarian crises than solving them.

We already spend trillions of dollars every year on infrastructure that is supposed to help people live functionally, but it hasn’t solved the problem because it addresses the problem in a roundabout way that creates more problems than it solves. All the roads, plumbing, and power lines haven’t saved the poor in Detroit or any other major city in the world.

This makes the problem seem unsolvable, but the solution is really very simple. All people need to be happy and healthy are food, clothing, shelter, water, electricity, jobs, transportation and access to markets. If you built a ring-shaped apartment complex with 100 million condos and offices, then dug a man-made river encircling the entire building and used that to water gardens and orchards, you could give the people living there agriculture jobs and a never-ending supply of food and water.

With those problems solved, some workers could specialize in other jobs, which they could reach by walking across the hallway in their apartment complex. Every business would be connected by one road that would never get congested. The bigger you make the diameter of the circular building, the more external markets it would have access to.

Basically, the complex would operate like a secular monastery the size of a major city. You could also think of it as a permanent, self-sustaining refugee camp. As long as the residents don’t have to pay rent, receive an equitable percentage of the profits their work produces, and aren’t overcharged for the goods and services the monastery sells, then everyone will always have everything they need, and nobody would live in destitution or fear thereof.

How would you pay for such a mega project, and who would build it?  It costs about $120 per square foot to build a traditional house, but if you built the refugee camp/monastery using earthbags, you could bring the construction cost down as low as $10 per square foot. Since all that dirt will need to be dug up anyway, you can use the dirt from digging the reservoir/water channel/moat around the complex.

It would take thousands, if not millions of people to build a structure the length of a small country, but earthbag construction is relatively simple. You could simply have the 100 million refugees do the work and then move into the home they built when they’re done. Then they would have a sense of ownership, pride and shared identity with their fellow coworkers/neighbors.

The richest 1,400 people in the world have $5.4 trillion dollars just sitting in their bank accounts, not doing anything. If each apartment unit in the earthbag megastructure is 500 square feet and costs $10 per square foot, you could build 1 billion, eighty-five million units with $5.4 trillion. This figure doesn’t take all the building costs into account, but to put this in perspective, it costs $1 billion per mile to dig an underground tunnel to reduce traffic congestion. You could build a mile of earthbag apartments with a road, gardens, utilities and an aqueduct for far less than $1 billion per mile, especially if you built it in the middle of Africa, Russia or China where property values are low.

We have the money to end extreme poverty in less than five years. We just need to stop spending it on constructing and repairing inefficient cities full of economic dead zones, and build a mega-home that fills all its residents’ basic needs.

The picture below has the aquifer in the center of the building instead of a moat around it, but it still illustrates my proposal.

1. Buy a field. 2. Build a circular sandbag monastery. 3. Build greenhouses. 4. Work and expand. 5. Replace suburbs and refugee camps with sustainable eco-ring monasteries

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Talk About Saving the World
Be Better People
 Build a Better World
Buy a Better World

Secular, Intellectual Monastery Designs

I’ve come to believe that if businesses treated their workers more like modern day monks in a for-profit secular monastery instead of disposable slaves then the economy would be more stable and (more importantly) the quality of life for human beings would be higher, which would, in turn, reduce all the social ailments that come along with an impoverished, discontented population.

Below are two architectural models I’ve designed that illustrate potential floor plans for secular monasteries as well as IKEA instructions for building walls and roofs. These models are not drawn to scale and are not final drafts. They also represent best-case (i.e. best funded) scenarios. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Brochure showing a 3-D design of a circular, sustainable monastery

Brochure showing the layout of a circular, sustainable monastery with a focus towards office work

Illustration of how to build sandbag walls. You stack sandbags.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
Build a Better World
Buy a Better World
Talk About Saving the World
Be Better People

My Vision for A Secular, Intellectual Monastery

On my “About” page I state that my long-term goal is to build an intellectual monastery. I’ve written a few blogs and comics explaining why I believe we can cure a lot of major world problems by using the monastic community model on a large scale.  You may be wondering why someone would spend so much time thinking about monasteries. This is the story of how and why I did.

I was born an introvert, which predisposes me to want to be left alone in a quiet place, and I’ve come to believe that the events of the first few months of my life predisposed me to the solitary life even more. I spent that time in an incubator in a hospital preparing for, receiving and recovering from heart surgery resulting from the premature birth of me and my identical twin brother. During that time, pretty much the only human contact I received was from a sweet, elderly nurse hovering above me. So my brain adapted to isolation and minimal sensory stimulation.

I showed up to life late and didn’t want to come out of my shell. So I let my identical twin brother speak for me until our parents caught on and made me go to speech therapy. I knew how to speak. The twin studies my brother and I went through showed we had above-average language comprehension. I just didn’t want to get involved with the drama of life. On the first day of kindergarten, I froze in the doorway to my classroom while all the other students stared at me.

As an adult, I’m a completely well-adjusted, functioning member of society. I spend as much time in crowds as anybody else. I can be the life of the party if I need to. I’ve competed in public speaking competitions and managed a computer help desk in a war zone. I’m good at being social. I just need to get away from the crowds and be alone to recharge my batteries more than the average introvert, and I still can’t watch Imax movies or go to theme parks, because all the commotion and sensory overload gives me a splitting headache and wears me out.

People are born all over the introversion/extroversion scale, and there’s no wrong place to be. That diversity is one of humanity’s greatest strengths. We need to understand our personal nature so we can adapt to it. I enjoy being introverted, and I take advantage of the perks it gives me, like the patience to write books and draw intricate pictures.

Back in elementary school, before I was old enough to articulate all of that, I’d daydream about escaping the daily commotion and living in a tree house in the woods. I wanted an orchard of different trees, and I’d build walkways between them and just never leave the canopy.

When I learned about monasteries in middle school history class, I was hooked immediately. I filled notebooks with floor sketches of monasteries and castles, plotted on grid paper.

But living in a castle wasn’t an option in South Texas. I was stuck in suburbia, which is a never-ending cycle of duties, rules, and drama. In high school, I romanticized about living in an insane asylum. As long as I wasn’t forced to take pills that turned me into a zombie, I could walk around in my pajamas, work on my hobbies and have three hot meals a day. It would be the perfect life.

Unfortunately, I’m too mentally healthy to qualify for a free meal. So in my early twenties, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and spent four years stationed in Europe… to my surprise. While I was there I did as much traveling as I could afford and got to see a lot of ancient communal living quarters, which inspired me to study up on the places I couldn’t go.

The history of Europe’s monasteries is set to the backdrop of the history of Europe itself, which is an almost never-ending saga of wars, famines, diseases and economic oppression. Monasteries weren’t immune to these forces, but they were insulated from the worst of it because they were self-sufficient. The monks had everything they needed and barely had to work part-time. Meanwhile, the peasants outside the walls were being used as slave labor and not earning enough to survive. Everyone should be as lucky as the monks, and if everybody had lived like the monks to begin with, most of Europe’s bloodshed and misery never would have happened.

I left Europe and the Air Force in my mid-twenties convinced that a monastery would be the best place in the world for me. So I scoured the internet to see what was available and was unsurprised to find they were almost all religious. This is a deal breaker for me because I believe religions are mythologies, and I don’t want to spend my life dancing around a mythology.

Even if I could play nice, most religious monasteries don’t accept heretics. The ones that do still tend to have schedules and rituals that are an unacceptable waste of time to me. The ones that give you the most freedom cost the most money. There are still a few that will let you stay for free, but you can’t stay long term.

As the internet grew I found more monasteries, but never one that was feasible for me. So I got on with my normal life, commuting back and forth between a house I didn’t own and a job I didn’t like. The longer I lived and worked in suburbia, the more fed up I got with the rat race, and the more time I spent escaping to my ideal monastery in my imagination.

After years of fretting, one day I got fed up and decided that if I could create a monastery in my head, then I could create it in the world. After all, I have opposable thumbs, bipedal legs, and a brain. There’s nothing I can’t do if I work on it long enough. So I threw down the gauntlet and said to myself, “That’s where I want to be. If nobody else has built it yet, then I’ll just build it myself.”So I researched how much it would cost to build a monastery, and I found that it would be at least $500,000 if I hired contractors to do it using standard construction methods. Since I didn’t have any money at all, I researched alternative building materials and floor plans to lower costs. I filled notebooks with sketches and notes until I settled on a circular design using sandbag walls.

Design for modular, pyramid shaped monastery rooms that minimize building materials needed Design for an underground monastery consisting of camper trailers with connected rooms Design for a crescent shaped monastery with a ring of underground camper trailersDrawing of a glass greenhouse shaped like a cathedral Drawing of an Airstream trailer in a hollow, man-made hobbit hill

Circular monastery design

Using the circular floor plan, I only need to build half for it to be functional. I could build that for $250,000 and finish the rest later.

That’s the plan. Now I just need the money. There are a lot of ways I could earn $250,000, and I’ve considered them all. In the end, I chose to meet my goal by writing. Some people would say that’s risky, but it’s what I enjoy doing, and it’s what I’d be doing if I lived in a monastery. This way, if I never get my dream home, at least I’ll have done the other thing I wanted to do.

While I’m writing towards my goal, I’m always thinking about new designs and business plans. Monasteries can be easily modified to suit different purposes, and with enough money, I would build multiple versions, but my ideal monastery, the one I’m going to build first, would operate like a long-stay working hostel for the gifted.

Tenants stay for three months to a year. They work part-time for the monastery, and that covers 100% of their room and board. There are no other schedules or rules, but each tenant has to be actively working on a creative project that has significant value to humanity. The monastery will also host retreats and workshops, and there will be a pay-by-donation campground at the edge of the property to generate passive income.

That’s what I’m working towards and why you can always expect new content on The Wise Sloth. If you want to see some random guy on the internet build an intellectual monastery, here’s how you can help.

  • If you’re an eccentric millionaire who can afford to give an eccentric pauper $250,000 just to see what happens, click the Donate button below.
  • If you know an eccentric millionaire who would give a guy like me $250,000 just to see what happens, then send them the link to this blog.
  • If you want to donate a few thousand dollars, I would invest that money in editing my E-books and putting them into print so I can earn $250,000.

Click to donate via PayPal

I’m not going to nickel and dime my way to building this. I’m very grateful to anyone who wants to throw me tip money to show your support, but I would encourage you to give that to The Khan Academy instead. I may never get my monastery, but they’re providing free online education to the world. The world won’t change until it’s educated.  Every nickel and dime they get makes the world less stupid, and that can’t come quick enough.

Khan Academy logo (Click to donate to the Khan Academy)

In lieu of a donation, you can tell your friends about the Wise Sloth and share your favorite Wise Sloth blog on social media. If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending your time with me. You can look forward to seeing more thought-provoking posts on The Wise Sloth, and eventually, you’ll get to watch me build my monastery.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

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