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Welcome to an experiment in hypertext. This frame is dedicated to defining terms and proclaiming prejudices. Seems to me, if you have a wonderful palette (and HTML is certainly that!) why not use it as well and intricately as possible before resorting to Java, graphics that take hours to load, yada yada yada (as the president says.) After all
The Pomo were the first people living across the coastal ridges of northern California, where the Solar Utilities Network makes its home. We wonder constantly what they knew about living well with this land ...and suspect we are becoming more like them every day. The land is indigenizing us. Sadly, though, their special knowledge has been lost.
America : one often misused word. Does it mean 'citizen of the US'? or 'resident of one of the american continents'? Canadians, Mexicans, and Chileans all grit their teeth when dumb UnitedStatesians say, "That's not the way it's done in AMERICA." Personally, I have come to feel that nationalism in general and US-jingoism in particular is cause for shame. Our planet is too small for such prejudices. I am proud to be Gaian. My belligerent fatherland continues to embarass me through short-sighted decisions, policies, incursions, and tail-wagisms. As a Californian, I am similarly disenchanted with europe. I was greatly relieved to discover that folks in other countries consider americans as distinct from their government. Maybe it says it's of, by, and for the people, but it hasn't acted that way in decades. As far as I can tell, it and most developed nations are of, by, and for corporations, which are the dangerous new life-form on the block. We would be better off without them.
DDT is considered one of our most dangerous endocrine disruptors. More on this topic may be found in a report of an international consensus, but in summary, DDT, apart from its known devastating effects on the eggshells of raptors, is also implicated in a number of human health problems from low sperm motility to increased cancer rates.
Current Solar Income means the energy that falls on us on a daily basis. This turns out to be an enormous amount of energy, nearly a kilowatt per square meter at temperate latitudes. It can be harvested directly using photovoltaic panels (which are only about 15% efficient) or stored as heat in hot water. Plants are the most efficient converters, using photosynthesis to convert sugar into food and biomass. For the purposes of this article, 'current' can be taken to mean 'this year', so shortfalls in winter can be met with summer's stored abundance. Biomass fuels -- firewood -- regenerate quickly, and are considered 'current solar income'. Fossil fuels, which require hundreds of millions of years and special circumstances which may never again occur on this planet, are not income, but an inheritance; burning them is the equivalent of squandering a fortune.
Substances from the earth's crust: petrochemicals, asbestos, uranium, chromium and the other heavy metals, mine tailings of all kinds, and the chemicals associated with extracting, purifying, and refining these substances... the list is endless, but suprisingly, the bulk of this damage has taken place in the 20th Century.
Substances produced by society which never before existed in nature, or existed in small quanities, and which are slow to decay. Plastic is a simple example, but some of the 'organics' are the worst of this breed. According to Theo Colborn, senior program scientist, who manages the Wildlife and Contaminants Program at World Wildlife Fund, "Everyone of you [reading this] is carrying at least 500 measurable chemicals in your body that were never in anyone's body before the 1920s." Is it any accident that in the same period of time, a whole new class of illnesses and diseases has appeared among us?
The physical basis: in a word, Nature. We are familiar with the loss of forests generally and in recent decades the rain forest, but the loss of tidelands, wetlands, grasslands, riparian margins, and the devastation of most of the other 'habitable' or 'tillable' land is even more cryingly important. From an ecological perspective, humanity has become a disease which has attacked the natural order, primarily with its heedless and arrogant assumption that all is here for our use. Many who subscribe to the Gaian Hypothesis expect that the Greater Organism will protect itself by shrugging us off like we shrug off a troublesome parasite. Of course, to us it won't feel like a shrug...
The Natural Step & the Hannover Principles
indigeneity: the fraction of indigenous species amongst all surviving life forms. In land undisturbed for centuries -- if there were such a thing! -- the fraction would be 100%; in a botanical garden, it might be only 5% -- the stubborn weeds. This measure is more interesting when applied to flora, because in fauna there is generally a great diminution -- loss of biodiversity -- within the last century for ALL species.
Are these good changes? Take eucalyptus, for an example. Please! Introduced in the first part of the century around the globe by get-rich-quick greed-heads (its only claim to fame is it grows fast) eucalyptus has gotten out of control. We now find that it's virtually ineradicatable, growing back from its roots persistently. It poisons the ground for any other life forms, including animals. It is a terrible fire and freeze hazard, even in its native land. It has no natural predators to keep it in check. Its wood is 'cross-grained', which means that if it isn't sawed or split within days of falling, it becomes uncuttable, and since nothing eats it, it takes years to decay. Agencies like the California State Parks system, who value indigineity, are spending millions to get rid of this plague. The answer, unfortunately, is that with very few exceptions, introductions are very damaging when allowed to escape into the 'natural' environment.
accountants (our tribal storytellers) : I am indebted to Dee Hock, founder of Visa International and the chaordic principle, for this insight. Think about it: the way we evaluate the goodness and success of an enterprise or a person or even an idea is by 'bean counting'. "How much will it cost?" and "How much does she make?" are too often our first questions, not "over its life, who will it benefit?" or "is she happy?" Our near-sighted time frame, artificially shortened by these storytellers to the next quarter, the fiscal year, obscures our vision into the future. Executives make decisions about forests which take centuries to regenerate based on their need to show a profit in the next quarter. The devices accountants use to tell these dramatic stories -- junk bonds, derivatives, interest, future value -- are as arbitrary and fictional as those of renaissance jongleurs adjusting fact and timing to suit rhyme and dramatic effect.
Haolewood: the Hawaiian term for white interloper is haole. The kama'ainas -- literally, people of the land -- grin and giggle when haolis build their new england style settlements and live their mainland lifestyles in the midst of the garden of earthly delights; they call these forlorn and dysfunctional settlements Haolewood.
dominion: the quasi-religious and wholly wrongheaded (in my view) doctrine that the earth is here for us to use, to own, to sacrifice and subjugate without a thought for the future, even for our future generations. This toxic perversion, generally blamed on the Bible, has flowered in our lifetimes, and now offers Gaia an excuse for expunging us in favor of less greedy and short-sighted life forms.
hedonism: "The doctrine or theory of ethics in which pleasure is regarded as the chief good or the proper end of action." [Oxford English Dictionary] The activities or ideas in this list presumably bring pleasure, but some cannot be sustained without damaging our planet. The point of this exercise is to show that precious few truly worthwhile 'pleasures' must be abandoned for us to live well; there's a sustainable pleasure right next door.
lawns and golf courses require prodigious amounts of chemical intervention to achieve the correct degree of homogeneity. Maui County in the state of Hawaii, which "enjoys" the largest acreage of golf courses per capita in the world, also enjoys a devastated inter-tidal zone and fishery, because of all the chemical run off from this peculiar form of agriculture. Furthermore, lawns require mowing, usually with two-cycle infernal combustion engines, the most polluting type of petroleum burning known.
Volunteer grass is what just pops up most places when there's enough water and warmth. Most folks call this 'weeds' but if you mow it, the 'weeds' that tolerate having their heads repeatedly cut off -- mostly grasses -- make a pleasing green patch. We mow just enough for a good summertime frisbee pitch.
"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it... But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill... If one just keeps on walking everything will be all right."
"Hybrid" vehicles will combine all the possible strategies to improve sustainability: photovoltaic tops, regenerative brakes, reduced rolling resistance, lighter weight. Powered by efficient electric motors, not internal combustion engines running sub-optimally because they are harnessed to the wheels. These sprightly little cars will probably still have a little gasoline-powered generator on board, running at peak efficiency only when the batteries need recharging. Batteries? will these cars be 'lead sleds' heavy with batteries, or will their energy storage employ something lighter and more innovative, like fly-wheels? We'll see. For a preview, check out Reinventing the Wheels by Amory and Hunter Lovins.
Common sense tells us that our planet is overcrowded with people, but we cannot seem to bring ourselves to the next logical conclusion. If we can, in our generation, let every woman coming to her child bearing years, know that she would be right to have ONE child (or fewer) we could reduce the population load by 50% or more each generation ...and we would have happier children.
Factory farms are just another way for corporations to extract the richness of the earth. They do this with little or no thought for future generations, only next quarter's bottom line ...and the land suffers. Loss of topsoil may be, after overpopulation, the greatest threat facing us in our time, and most of this loss is due to corporate agriculture.
Mono-cropping: planting a large acreage in a single crop, be it corn or pine trees. The timber industry proudly trumpets its 'tree farms' but these lifeless places bear as much resemblance to a forest as a deck of cards does to a Shakespeare comedy.
Integrated pest management uses physical and biological, rather than chemical, measures to keep crops healthy. In Caspar, the largest fraction of our IPM strategy is removing the snails by hand and throwing them to the cows. Ick -- but somebody's gotta do it. Sure beats biocides. Chickens are better.
The way agribusiness grows meat consumes huge amounts of water, petroleum, and uses large amounts of synthetic hormones (aka endocrine disruptors). Farm animals have their place, but we don't need to kill them to use them well.
food preservatives and stabilizers prolong shelf-life, a boon to manufacturer and distribution chain, but no favor to the consumer. They want us to eat this drek?!? There is an abundant literature about the effects of these chemicals and human development and behavior. For a brilliant commentary on this and other favors we do the chemical industry to our detriment, I refer you to RACHEL'S NEWSLETTER.
I have no problem enjoying machine made stuff; I'm writing this, and you're reading it, with a computer. Incidentally, isn't that a delightfully sustainable exchange? No electrons were hurt during the making of this publication. But there are many machine made products which are destructive, and many more where the benefit to the final holder is less than for the lengthy distribution chain -- and that is not sustainable. Does it make sense to drink water from France?
Exotics: exotic species, plants and animals from other places. The mosquito was not native to Hawaii; its progenitor emigrated via jet airplane. Hawaii is a unique laboratory for the study of the struggle between indigenes and invaders, but we all feel the unintended negative effects of globalization. We can start being headier in our importations.
Natural fibers like kenaf and hemp are better than tree fiber, and much more sustainable. The hemp story is especially tragic: we are deprived of a wonderful gift from our planet by the greed of a few fearful men. That was then; this is now: let us legalize the benefits -- principally fiber, oil, and surcease from pain --while we quarrel about recreational drugs, including caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in our deliberations...
asphalt roofing: a classic of marketing! Starts as a toxic waste, but the refinery owner has a better idea! Mix it with gravel, and get people to PAY HIM to dump it on top of their houses! Very poor durability, and a constant source of low levels of toxics onto the grounds around the house; not suitable for rainwater catchment. A nightmare to remove. A really bad idea ...unless you own a refinery.
HVAC: Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Jargon is a useful device for keeping the uninitiated from understanding the otherwise simple-minded work of the various priesthoods like architecture, engineering, and medicine. Is jargon sustainable?
Think of a window as an appliance providing heat and light. Super windows use the best technology to work better, letting in heat and keeping it. Single-pane glass is a costly energy-burner in most of the US, and RETROFITTING makes as much sense as replacing a fuel-inefficient heater or refrigerator. Any window better than R-6 (six times better than single-pane glass at R-1) is a net producer.
Allopathic medicine responds to illess and disease (that's the path part) without much regard for healthy living and prevention. It works miracles, especially in the face of trauma -- too often, these days, due to unsustainable practices like fast automobiles and sloppy use of dangerous chemicals.
Integrative medicine attempts to bring together the best of all medical practices, including allopathy, herbal remedies, body work, healthy living, enhancement of the healing process ... sounds like a sensible notion to me. For more, follow the work of Dr. Andrew Weil.
Optimizing income is an alternative to the more conventional "More Is Always Needed" approach to finance, on a personal or corporate level. This is a revolutionary notion: there could be enough! The optimum is generally less capital intense, as well as more mindful of sustainable values. It requires a great deal more consciousness. Jonesing for that new unbelievably fuel-inefficient 4WD Urban Insult Vehicle is easy.
Second homes, according to William McKibben in Hope, Human and Wild, are only necessary when the first home is not working. When half the world lives four to a room, we really don't need to make this kind of statement.
Contrary to popular opinion, competition is not natural, although its champions say it is instinctive and pervades nature. If you look for trouble, you'll find it, and they did. New-found evidence for cooperation is much more convincing, and calls into the question the way we allow our minds to be swayed by special interests masquerading as scientific truth.
Fossil-fuel powered "sports" have wrecked nature, and are prolifically consumptive and polluting. Thumbs down for sustainability. Furthermore, howzit that a fast car or a funny truck are sporting? Jet skis and snowmobiles are an abomination except when used for a legitimate transportation purpose, although a canoe and a horse probably work better in the long run.
meanness : A student was asked at lunch what he felt returning home after six years in europe. He looked thoughtful, then sounded sure: "Meanness," he said. "Americans have turned into a mean people." And I perceive it's true. To acheive sustainable life, we'll be increasing our practice of random acts of kindness. When I can do that, it feels good. Hedonistic? For sure!