Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, And Justice for All, Community Building, Creating Community | Tags: bike lanes, biking, biommass, capitalism, cob ovens, community building, energy savings, public safety, resilience, self reliance, sharing, sharing economy, solar heating, tipping point, walkabillity
Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation: using L.E.S.S. just might be a meaningful part of our response to the crises of our age. If you’re a new reader to this blog, perhaps you’re asking yourself, “what IS the crisis of our age?”. If so, check out my ‘about’ page for a bit more information. If you’ve “been there, done that”, then just pick one…crisis, that is. Adopting new measures of prosperity needn’t be considered a bitter pill to swallow, but instead a new and exciting taste of freedom and resilience!
A recent (and quite long!) article I read titled “The End of Capitalism has Begun” touched on how Greek citizens are creating a new economy via food cooperatives (as is Cuba!), alternative producers, local currencies and exchange systems. According to the article there are hundreds of smaller initiatives there too, ranging from land squats to carpools to free kindergartens. I recently wrote in this blog about what I called “An Informal Economy”, but I have since learned that the media has dubbed this meme as “the sharing economy”. I believe I like that better. Whatever it’s called, it’s going to be the new global system eventually because the capitalist system we have now is simply not sustainable. All together now, “perpetual growth is not sustainable”!
Let’s start with energy: Even though my own energy use for transportation has been greatly reduced since moving from our old home that was located out in the country into the urban neighborhood that we live in now, I’m a long way from energy independence. Our newer location allows me to walk or ride my bike to many of the places that I need to go: from the dentist to the grocery store, I can get in my daily exercise while running those errands and keep the car parked at home most of the time. Many towns, including mine, are adding bike lanes and racks to make cycling safer and easier, but don’t forget carpooling and mass transit options to lower your own energy dependence. Car sharing has long gone on in families, and extending that to communities could be a logical next step, and has in fact begun in larger cities.
Home energy needs can be provided via a variety of ways, but lower prices on solar panels and wind turbines, along with tax incentives in many states, are making renewable energies a more affordable alternative. Biomass, waste recycling and community owned power stations are all viable ways of providing our energy needs on a local basis. Natural gas quality landfill gas that is produced from the methane that my town’s local landfill emits, is piped to the nearby VA Campus, a hospital and the university campus to provide their energy needs. How cool is that? Conversely, on a very low tech scale, I enjoy using my solar cooker whenever I can, and I’m exploring the possibility of building a large cob oven in a nearby local park where the community garden has its’ home. In this picture you’ll see a tiny one, next to a larger one, that was built last summer by kids at the site of our local “Tree Forest”, proving that this low tech combination of clay, straw and water is doable by any of us! And CLAY is an abundant natural resource right here in Tennessee…
Cob ovens can be used to consecutively cook breads, pizzas, desserts and more with just one firing
I completely understand these alternative ideas may not easily integrate into your home, your lifestyle or your neighborhood but I believe the benefits can outweigh the hassles if appropriate technology and community assistance is applied. It really does “take a village” and that ‘sharing economy’ I mentioned earlier is the only way capitalism will ever be replaced with an economic model that works for all of us, not just the privileged few. I also encourage you to never underestimate the sheer effectiveness of cross breezes, cotton clothing, deciduous shade trees and awnings in the summer, and eliminating the extra heat that using dishwashers, clothes dryers and ovens can create. Washing your dishes by hand, hanging your clothes outside to dry and preparing meals in a crock pot or on the stove top will easily eliminate that unwanted heat completely. Reflective window coatings, insulation and weatherstripping, fans, kiddie pools and cool showers are excellent ways to cool down in summer heat without turning on the AC, while layered clothing, space heaters, and passive or active solar gains make good alternatives to turning up the thermostat in the colder months. If we all did nothing more than grow some of our own food, preheat our water with a simple batch solar collector and travel car free as often as possible we could decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our personal resilience factor tremendously!
But let’s talk about our ‘Stuff’ now. We have a problem with Stuff. We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division. The way we make, use and throw away the stuff in our lives is senseless and shameful. I have never asked my readers to do this, but I’d like you to see this profound 52 second video that graphically shows just how far we’ve sunk within our capitalistic lifestyle of stuff. These 52 seconds really impacted me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMTu4ixp9kw With renewable energy, sustainable use, reuse and “upcycling” of resources, and the smart design of everything from candy wrappers to cities, we can have both sustainability and abundance.
Before I end this already too-long post, let me say this about stimulation: from technological wonders and homework, to club meetings and soccer games, too many distractions and activities have robbed kids and families of the unstructured time we need to thrive and be creative and connected. Setting some new limits for ourselves and our kids might be all that’s needed to keeping those distractions in check. Those limits will necessarily have to be personal and adjustable for each of us, but we might begin by adhering to just one simple rule in our households: for example, no phones or Ipads at the dinner table. Families eating dinner together has been proven to be the best thing we can do in order to maintain open lines of communication, good grades, better health and a host of other positive outcomes within our lives and our families.
We’re actually close to a tipping point to address these issues. This is the new world we have to learn to live in. Instead of debating outdated economics, let us come together to forge a new path—one that is practical and truly provides equal opportunity for all, even those desiring to live a simple life. Capitalism served us well, but it’s become evident that working together cooperatively rather than in competition is the foundation for a new economy and peaceful world.
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, Climate Change | Tags: community building, justice, local foods, peace, renewable energy systems, resilience, sustainability
I’ve been quite busy the last few weeks with garden chores, civic work, a wonderful once-a-week discussion group taking a course called “Peace, Justice and Sustainability” and all kinds of fun things! But I’m always thinking of this blog and how I might best use it to inspire you, my readers, to find ways to create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time- I swear it’s not too late- to take stock and to begin re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being.
Since I started this blog almost three years ago, we’ve all witnessed what appears to be an increased rate of decline in the health of the Earth, as she reels from the affects of climate change and resource depletion. At first a gradual process, the changes are becoming increasingly faster as our Earth reels from humanity’s impacts on her. In these 3 years alone, we’ve seen everything from Sandy Superstorms to disappearing honeybees and monarchs, from California’s too-late-for-rationing drought to thousands of beached sea lions.
Along with the effects of climate change, perhaps you’ve also noticed the lack of good paying jobs, or the rising price of groceries and college degrees. Perhaps you’ve seen more potholes in your town, or fewer public works projects? Many of America’s towns and cities are experiencing gradual, but definite, declines in their abilities to replace and repair aging infrastructures, while large corporations often fail to provide living wages for their employees. Perhaps you know someone that is no longer able to afford tires for the family car, a new roof for their home, or even a needed prescription? Maybe that someone is you.
However, unless you’re directly affected, you might not take notice of the cumulative effects of these insidious problems. If that’s the case, lucky you! But I encourage you to not wait until the well runs dry to begin the work of adapting to these changes. There are things we can all do to transition to this new paradigm we’re all facing. I love this quote by a woman that overcame adversity like few of us have ever experienced…
I keep practicing and preaching local food production, and am currently involved with a group of people working to bring a food cooperative to our town, serving as coordinator of a large community garden and have started spending Friday mornings teaching a group of young women going through rehab how to grow and preserve food. But that’s my thing. Perhaps you are more interested in renewable energy systems, or developing websites or practicing wholistic health care. My chemist friend Gerald has developed and is marketing a line of green cleaning products, and another good friend is developing a close knit community of folks learning to play music. Maybe you have a useful skill you could turn into a moneymaking business; I understand that chimney sweeps are in high demand because of the increased use of wood stoves for home heating use. Home-crafted beers have taken the place of moonshine, and it’s difficult to find good, reliable repairs for almost anything! I, for one, could use the expertise of an orchardist to help me learn to grow fruit and berries organically. We all have strengths and talents that can be shared with others, for either love or money or both. Those skills are going to be the backbone of tomorrow’s localized economies.
Maybe you feel very strongly about a change you’d like to see in the world. like the group of students at Harvard that is currently staging a sit in the office of their president. Why? The students are asking that Harvard University divest its endowment from fossil fuels.They say Harvard has a responsibility to address climate change. “The impacts of the fossil fuel industry are going to be harming our future way more than the need for money”, said their spokesperson. Civil wars are being fought all over the world, nuclear agreements are being drawn up, while peace and climate talks are ongoing. Humans everywhere are hungry for change, and many are even willing to be arrested or die for their beliefs. (Surely I can be responsible enough to recycle my plastic)
Which brings me back to that course I mentioned earlier…our group members are trying to be that change we wish to see, but in a nonviolent way; every week we each declare an intention of some action we’re willing to take, either at home or in our community, that might help us live in a more peaceful, just and sustainable way. We’re concerned about our own futures, as well as those of our children and grandchildren and are committing to changing it, instead of just talking about it. Actions as small as turning off the water when brushing our teeth or writing letters to our elected officials are declared, as well as much larger ones that will require a great deal of time and energy to accomplish have been declared by our members. We swear it’s not too late!