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Healthy living is a result of a sustainable communityTransport and business models - Max asks difficult questions.

The story so far:

Reporter Max Wahlter has been visiting the sustainable city of Porena (see earlier journeys).  Taking a break from reporting assignments in the city itself, he is working hard on a paid assignment to visualize a "Centre of Well-Being". This kind of deep visualization can take you into details of strategy and planning, saving your client a lot of work. This week he goes back to answer the questions raised in his previous visit, about the transport system and the set-up project, and even the business model of such a place.


Making money on well-being is something many would like to do. Health is the foundation of wealth, and of sustainable development. The Centre envisaged in earlier visits sounds all well and good, but I always wonder if these ideas are workable, and when you get down to details you see they were but a new-age, impracticable fantasy. I am really challenging the method now, I want to know details and practicalities. 



I am standing in the departure lounge. The lift is as it was before. I push 'go there'. The lift opens onto a moving pavement. I walk onto it and look around. Exits are on either side, the one on the right says 'PORENA', and on the left, 'Under Construction'.

I like the idea of walking over the ground to allow nature a continuum for spread of wild animals, seeds etc. Just this design element of the city puts the buildings in contact with the natural environment, and joins the green spaces up.

I arrive at the escalator, descend, go round the fountain and straight into the development office. Eying the green sofa from last time, I ring the bell on the desk and ask to speak to the development officer, who comes out with a friendly 'Hi, sit down'.

I am interested in how transport works, and how large is the area?

The Director explains it is 30 km in radius, as a semi-circle, but the centre of a circle is possible too. The development officer's suggestion is to go and try something instead of asking questions so off I go.

I step into the 'BANK' or tourist office.

'What do you want to do?' asks the clerk.

'I want to get away from it all, to quietness.'

A brochure rack offers up a selection of retreats. One is a castle surrounded by water.

Another with a name like 'Festi', another decorated with white rose-petals.  I choose the one with roses; they have a boating pond, meditation rooms, quiet gardens, paths in the forest. No mobile phones are allowed. They have a library and television room.

'How to get there – taxi?'

The clerk nods, smiling.

I go out to the taxi-rank and ask the fare. The taxi driver explains that fares are subsidized and it is SEK 60 (not quite £6 pounds).

I ask the taxi-driver to explain how to get around in the area.

'With mobile phones and 30Km radius there is no problem.'

The cabs are subsidized, the money coming from a reduction in the bus service, and there is a cab-sharing scheme. Cabs are required to wait 10 minutes as a condition of the subsidy (unless the passenger does not want to share).

I leave the taxi-rank deciding a retreat is not for me, and go past the exhibition tunnel. It is advertising a prehistoric park, how do I get there then, taxi? I go past the map of the whole area I saw last time to look at it again. I try to verify the size. It does seem to cover a semi-circle of 30km radius.

These nodes or intersections interest me. Retreats are away from the nodes, but connected to the path system. For concerts etc, at nodes, special transport is put on. For courses etc, I wonder how people would get there?

I see that all transport goes through the central area. They use mini-busses on different routes. These run in time with courses and bring you back to the central area. If you are staying a long way away from the event you want to attend you go back to the centre and take the bus out to where you are staying.

So, that seems to be the answer. During the high season at least, a combination of taxis and scheduled mini-busses all going from the central area serve well-being seeker's needs. It has to be centralized to work, of course.

There is a printed guide to accompany the map. The deliverables are the map, the guide, the brochures – all available on the Internet as well.

On the back of the map there is advertising for various activities.

My personal trainer turns up; 'How's it going? Any Questions?'

I ask him about getting around.

'Cycling is good. Good exercise. You can rent bikes from the central transport area, rainwear as well. The idea is to tempt you away from the busses and taxis.'

'Yeah but can I cycle 30 km.' I am thinking.

'If you cycle fast it takes an hour,' he says.

Not me… I think but say instead, 'Does a company run the personal trainer system?'

'We are first certified by the local authority and we rent spaces there. The health centre is multi-use and used for rehabilitation as well.'

Back at the Development Centre I investigate the set-up project: 'I thought you'd be back!' says the Director.

'Let me check this with you. All transport is centered around one point, walking, cycling, taxi and mini-busses are used.?'

'That's right.'

'What about accommodation?'

'If it is not a retreat, a lot is in this central area. If you want to tour around you stay here. If you have a car, you can go to one of the hotels outside. Then there is the left luggage system. All hotels will hold you luggage for you as you go away for a few days.'

'How did you persuade the taxi companies to go along with this?' I wonder.

'It was easy, subsidy and license to use the centre. The contract was awarded on the condition they provided a certain level of service, plus the sharing.

Same system for the busses, awarding contracts. It was difficult to work out routes. They had to keep a spare mini-bus in case we had a load of people waiting.

That was the reason we had the transport co-ordinator office down there, to gather knowledge about routes and generally sort things out.'

'Why 30 km?'

Because activities are centralised, it had to be small enough to be managed from one place, small enough to have its own character, but large enough to be able to offer a full selection of well-being promoting activities and services.

(Note: the phone rang at this point and Max stopped visualizing. We will try to get him to resume shortly.) 

Next week Max continues to offer us the bonus on well-being, expanding on the business model. Come back! To order the entire book in paperback OR as a downloaded .pdf file, go to

Related reading:
  Do Urban Green Spaces Have Healing Powers? (Apr-29-2011)
  Deep Green: a Good Solution (Aug-12-2009)
  Inventing for the Sustainable Planet, Chapter 17 (Apr-11-2009)
  Kamal Meattle: How to grow your own fresh air (Apr-3-2009)
  Study: Eating Red Meat Increases Risk Of Early D... (Mar-24-2009)
  "We've got lost by acting as though the purpose o..." (Jan-31-2009)
  Sustainable Water and Food prize launched (Jan-23-2009)
  Inventing for the Sustainable Planet, Chapter 15 (Dec-8-2008)
  Government and Sustainability: a How-To (Nov-30-2008)
  Inventing for the Sustainable Planet, Chapter 13 (Nov-12-2008)

Click one tag to see readings related specifically to that tag; click "Tags" to see all related readings
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Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Oct-26-2008)   
I don't know what Porena is doing, but yes, the current patent system restricts the spread of inventions which do not show high profit potential or easy protection. It encourages things that are part of a System, such as drugs derived from previously protected things, or computer software which is related to previous patents. If something is simple, it is probably already in the public domain ("All that needs inventing has already been invented."). Getting funding or protection for something that people need, but that can be easily copied or made cheaper is tough. Most of the things which need to be done to improve life are things which our grandparents did: living simply, growing our own food and energy, making our own hand tools, etc. There is no profitable patent protection for sustainable villages, yet that is what we need. Sure, there are lots of new windmill designs or materials that can be developed, but they gain maybe 5 or 10% efficiency over what could be carved out of a tree or sewn together by someone who understands aerodynamics. From what I've seen, new patents for 'green' ideas are usually something to prolong the status quo of suburbs, cars, castles, and cheap energy slovenliness. Some are great, but those are snatched up by big utilities and big business.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Oct-25-2008)   Web site

Can you elaborate, Stephen? You are saying that our current method of patents restricts the spread of inventions? What does Porena do instead?
Comment by:  stevehinton (Stephen Hinton) (Oct-25-2008)   Web site

auntiegrav asks if Porena had open source patents. Of course it does, in the go-along society of the City, knowledge is to be shared and passed on. In fact, patents are counter sustainable. For inventions to spread at the moment they need a compelling business model to accompany them until the patents run out, this means restricting spread of an invention.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Oct-22-2008)   Web site

Well said - I would add that long term the goal is self-control by each individual, but I agree with you that right now we need to set up a useful set of feedbacks to change societal behavior.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Oct-22-2008)   

Government needs to govern, not encourage the things that people do anyway. In other words, get rid of the patent system: it doesn't "protect intellectual property" because there is no such thing. It encourages consumption.
When talking about "inventing a future", people need to think in terms of de-consuming: finding new ways to do things that reduce consumption. Anything that is designed on the basis of "profits" leads to overconsumption. "Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life. Teach a man to sell the fish and you destroy the oceans."
The belief that making a profit is a right has somehow become the standard philosophy of the human race. Easy to do, since evolution requires a Net Creative result of each species (creating more future usefulness than is consumed), but that's why we invent feedback systems to moderate our behavior. We have speed limits, blood alcohol limits, hunting and fishing limits. Why not a general consumption feedback instead of systems that only limit the amount of risk we can take with specific behaviors that happened to inconvenience someone? It's time to work on the things that make people uncomfortable instead of telling them we can "invent our way out of stupidity" or "buy our way out of bankruptcy".
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Oct-22-2008)   Web site

AG, is that bad or good as you see it... or are you just making an observation? Do you think the current patent system is fine as-is, or should there be some kind of overhaul?
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Oct-22-2008)   

"Inventing for a Sustainable Planet" is a nice idea if it is open-source inventing, but the whole purpose of the patent system is to increase consumption. The government assigns a patent on a quid-pro-quo basis so that people are motivated to come up with ways to expand the GDP and availability of resources to the nation so that it can compete with other nations.

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About author/contributor Member: stevehinton (Stephen Hinton) stevehinton (Stephen Hinton)
   Web site:

Member: stevehinton (Stephen Hinton) Started out as a Science Teacher, went over to management training and then Program Management. Was Managing Director of a sustainable drinking water company for nearly two years. He is now offering his services as change agent and releasing his book INVENTING FOR THE SUSTAINABLE PLANET.

Some environmental credentials:
  • trained in internal environmental auditing at Ericsson
  • Worked as specialist reporter for technical magazines, covering environmental issues
  • Familiar with GRI reporting, ISO systems in general specifically 14000 and the work environment methodology
  • Attended numerous environmental seminars in Sweden including the pivotal "After the peak of oil"
  • One of three original founders of Oil Awareness Stockholm

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