Tag Archives: lifestyle

A Sustainable Lifestyle

The environment is our individual responsibility and the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle by each of us is the only plausible way to reduce our impact through industry and population.

“How can we have an organic agriculture or horticulture and manage our landscapes to sustain themselves over generations on one hand, then consume goods from industries managed in ecologically damaging ways on the other? It’s pointless designing an organic garden and then buying a gas guzzling car or building a house from concrete and steel, when we can use local materials with less embodied energy”. A quote of (Maddy Harland | Wednesday, 23rd January 2013) in Permaculture.

I would add. How can we boycott or protest the actions of industry while not living a sustainable lifestyle ourselves. How can we, in good conscience, engage in civil disobedience and action against government policies that we encourage by our own lifestyle choices. How can we expect industry and government to do differently from our own example.

View of the Utah Copper Company open-pit mine workings at Carr Fork, as seen from the railroad, Bingham Canyon, Utah  (LOC) Mining for resources has a negative impact on local ecology.
Environmental impact of resource extraction. A copper mine in UtahThe Library of Congress / Foter.com

I would wager that, no matter how environmentally conscious you are, you still have a lot of room to improve. There are likely many ways that you can reduce your foot print. Some are easy and minor, but others would require major lifestyle changes.

The richer nations use the most resources and generate the most pollution and waste. Poor countries, on the other hand have alarming birth rates and poor practices of land use.The simple weight of numbers leading to desertification and other environmental damage.

The current environmental catch phrase is climate change. Global warming is really the issue, but the wording is not nearly as frightening. Everyone seems to be afraid of change but nobody wants to take responsibility. It is easier to blame industry and government.

So is global warming real? It certainly appears to be. It is less clear what the effects may be, how fast they will happen, and how damaging they will be. It is also arguable as to what can be done, if anything, to stop or slow the warming.

A coal power plant produces considerable carbon emissions and other pollutants. Much of the coal is produced from open pit mines, creating more damage.
A coal-burning power planteutrophication&hypoxia / Foter.com / CC BY

What is the cause? There seems to be a correlation between the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and average global temperatures. It follows that human beings, by their use of fossil fuels, may be part or all of the cause. It may also be that most of the warming trend is from natural causes, but I don’t think there is any doubt that humans are having an effect.

What would have happened if there were no humans on the planet? Well, it is probable that the earth would have followed past trends and gradually warmed to a peak and then cooled. The end result would have been another ice age. Each successive ice age would likely be more severe as the geological activity of the earth lessens. The question is, are people causing a catastrophe or simply delaying the next ice age.

The real question is far more personal. What is the effect going to be, on ourselves, on nations or on the human race as a whole? More severe storms may cause a greater loss of life and more property damage. Rising sea levels may inundate large portions of some nations such as Bangladesh or the Maldives. Large scale migrations and border conflict could be the result. Habitat may be destroyed and extinctions of wildlife may occur.

Polar Bears Play fighting. Polar bears are one species at risk from global warming.
A species at riskFoter.com / CC BY-SA

My own feeling is that, although we may be terrified of change, we can adapt to any changes that may occur. Whole cities can be relocated over a period of a century or so. We can build our shelters to withstand much fiercer weather. Agricultural zones may change but there is little evidence that production would be reduced. Already the corn belt seems to be moving north. A much greater variety of fruit can now be grown in the north as a result of milder winters and the development of hardier varieties. The time span may not be long enough for some other species to adapt but it is almost certain that the niches will be refilled by different species.

Most scientists seem to agree that human use of fossil fuels, leading to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, is the root cause of global climate change. I am not so sure. Scientists have a poor record when it comes to predictions. You only have to read past issues of science magazines to see this. Science fiction writers often do better. What is pretty obvious is that drastic action to curb CO2 emissions could lead to greater social upheaval than the effects of climate change.

Does that mean we should not bother to reduce our burning of fossil fuels. A most emphatic NO. Fossil fuels are a diminishing and finite resource. Already they are getting difficult to find and more expensive to produce. Petroleum products and coal are such valuable resources for other uses that future generations may question why we would burn it so carelessly.

Diesel and gasoline engines in large trucks use a lot of fuel. ATV engines produce a lot of pollution and careless use can create damage to ecosystems.
Fuel burnersDiamondBack Truck Covers / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

The real culprits here are not industry or governments. It is you, me, our friends and neighbors. Our insatiable demand for bigger, better and more is unsustainable and may leave our grandchildren a world of want. It is up to you and me to change the way we live. We have to learn to use less.

You may wonder where I am going with this in a blog that is primarily about building yourself a house. Well it is also about building smaller, more efficient and less costly. It is about building stronger houses with a longer useful life. It is about choosing designs and materials to lessen environmental impact. It is about reusing material and appliances to lessen the strain on our resources.

There are many significant factors to address. I intend to further discuss the choices in design, materials and construction methods in future articles. In particular, their environmental impact.



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