green(Note: this is the story behind the story…)
I’ve just moved to Lost Valley (http://www.lostvalley.org) as a resident: my first foray into living in community long-term. It’s been an interesting transition to go from quiet solitude and serenity in the Sierra to 50+ people in the Willamette-Cascades.
My current focus is to get back on the lecture circuit. I gleefully call it the: baby-kissing, chicken-dinner lecture circuit. I’m writing an article about ‘real’ sustainable behavior + giving some presentations on it.
‘Real’ Sustainable behavior
Over the last 20 years I’ve watched too many people, (including myself) get sidetracked from this thing called ‘sustainable’ behavior. – so I decided to start a conversation: here’s a starting statement :
Everyone claims to be sustainable, few are. Our beliefs and behaviors are disconnected: cognitive dissonance. What does it mean to actually do sustainable things in everyday life – especially in community? How does one change embedded, unconscious behavioral patterns we learned as children?
Let’s start with definitions: what is sustainable behavior? By it’s very nature, behavior is sustainable. If you’re not behaving (bad or good), you’re probably sleeping – and even that is called ‘sleeping behavior’. You can’t escape behavior: maybe we should add it to death + taxes.
Sustainable behavior is doing good for the environment, our health, and social justice. It’s a bit easier to define it from a negative side: doing no harm, not taking from future generations, not poisoning our environment, avoiding carcinogenic chemicals, and not treating people + countries poorly.
For me, living sustainably is ultimately about living within the carrying capacity of one earth and avoiding negative chemicals. Let me explain:
If all 7 billion earthlings lived a lifestyle that allows the earth to prosper – that’s living within one earth. Right now we are consuming over 4 earths. We need to shift away from using limited, subtractive type resources that the earth cannot replace. Our entire economic system is set up to be depletive.
We need to use renewable, additive resources that our earth/humans can easily replenish (sunshine, carbon, our own garbage…). The shift is already occurring.
I’m lucky to have built my WinSol3 home from the ground up with Cradle-to-Cradle in mind and use 90% additive resources.
For the average American – how can one live comfortably within one earth? Most Americans use over 10 earths. Is it really possible to live with 10% of everything… AND be comfortable. Of course it is. The big obstacle is our beliefs + behaviors, change that and the rest is easy.
example of what to STOP doing:
Stop all your air travel. After red meat consumption, air travel ranks way up there in environmental impact. If you can’t stop, at least choose the most modern, largest + longest flight. I’ll have David Suzuki take it from here: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/climate-change/science/climate-change-basics/air-travel-and-climate-change/
One example of how to do live comfortably within one earth: Sieben Linden (ecoVillage in Germany, www.siebenlinden.de) uses ~ 1.15 earths which has been independently verified. The 140+ people live in comfortable, hi-tech, modern homes. It costs less than €12,000 per year and they live like millionaires because their community capitalization is over $1m while no one ‘owns’ the land or buildings. WOW.
Next to living within one earth, we need to stop poisoning where we live. We have over 200,000 chemicals, 200 of which we know a little about. We are doing irreparable harm to our bodies and our biosphere. What to do: it’s easier to talk about avoiding bad chemicals, than to talk about only using good ones.
There’s a great list of negative chemicals that do irreversible harm to humans and accumulate in the biosphere. Dr. Michael Braungart and his MBDC + EPEA companies have made these public. Click here.
Beyond all of this, ‘real’ sustainable behavior is about shifting to renewable resources and a replenishing rather than depletive economy. It’s not just about renewable energy which is where all the attention is. We need to extract, develop, and propagate renewable everything: transportation, buildings, clothing, appliances ++ We need to stop these ‘one-offs’ extraction and consumption patterns like mining and extraction. Once we remove mountaintops (coal, copper, silver…) they are not replaced for millions of years. Once we extract and lower water aquifers and the ground sinks, that storage capacity is gone forever.
Maybe the C2C concept of ‘use current solar income’ should be changed to ‘use only renewable resources’ in everything – not just energy.