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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Diversity Within Earthchurch

I'm only talking about diversity of ecological footprints. Let's call them EF's for short. A person's EF is the total of all of his impacts on the biosphere. For example, when you sit in your warm home in the winter, there is some fuel being burned to generate the heat. The burning of the fuel puts some contaminants into the air. And so on. Our EF is a composite of many things. Automobile and aircraft use are important components, but so are many things that we don't even see, such as the diesel powered ships that transport the goods from China. When you buy a nice shirt that was made in China or Indonesia, some pollution was enabled, since a diesel ship and then a truck was used to bring it to you. Of course there was energy used to manufacture the shirt, and the cloth from which it was made. Laundry, especially the drying, also uses a lot of energy.

Within our Earthchurch group we have a wide diversity of ecological footprints. In my opinion we need to welcome them all. We have two people who have a very low EF. They have a lifestyle based on walking and bicycling, and a minimum of purchasing new things. Jay wrote about that when we were discussing saving money and helping the planet. At the other end we have some members who have a high EF lifestyle, living in large homes, putting lots of miles on large vehicles, taking a couple of plane trips each year, and buying lots of stuff. The rest of us are spread across the EF spectrum. My own EF is in the middle, perhaps a little less than the north American average. That's mostly because I'm retired and don't drive to work every day. I own a small car, but I also walk and bicycle quite a bit. I don't buy a lot of stuff. I haven't flown since April of 2001, but that's because it's become such a hassle. I hate waiting in lines. Also, I like it where I am.

We need members all across the EF spectrum. Our long term goal is to help change the mind set of many millions of people, worldwide. That's what it will take to rescue the biosphere. If we were to restrict our membership to those who are already living a low EF life, we would fail in that endeavor. The high EF people represent the mainstream, at least in north America. Furthermore, the high EF people typically are more influential than the low EF people. Our
community leaders, of all kinds, are almost always very high EF people. This is true worldwide. An extreme example is Al Gore. He has brought his ecological message to more people than perhaps anyone, and he also lives a very high EF lifestyle.

There is no possible way that we can convince millions of people to quickly shift from a high to a low EF lifestyle. They LIKE their high EF lifestyle. So we need to take a long term approach, and hope to change things over the next decade or two, or three. The low EF people serve as an example, perhaps a model, for the direction that human beings need to move. Our members who are currently high EF can also take a long term view, and look toward lowering their
EF gradually, over the coming decades. Perhaps they will buy a small car next time. Perhaps they will install a solar water heating system. Given a long term viewpoint, there are many things they can do.


Click for Earthchurch website.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Save Money & Help the Biosphere

Things you can do that save you money while also reducing pollution and other planet harming activities:

Indoors, in the winter when you are heating the house, wear a sweater and other warm clothing, and turn the thermostat a few degrees cooler. You will save money on your heating costs. You will still be comfortable. You just have to wear more clothes in your house. That's not much of a sacrifice, is it? And a dollar saved is a dollar earned*. Another advantage, not often thought about, is that when you go outside there is less of a sudden change, so you may be less likely to catch cold or other illness.

Use less gasoline. You can do that by putting on fewer miles each year. Don't make unecessary trips, combine errands, choose closer destinations when there is a choice, etc. When it comes time to get a different car, get a smaller one, or a more fuel efficient one. When it comes time to move, move closer to where you work. Or maybe you can get a job nearer to where you live.

I asked for suggestions on this topic on our Earthchurch discussion list, and I got dozens! There are too many to list here, but here's a selection:

Take the bus instead of driving. (also, walk or bike)

If you drive, set up a rideshare system so several people can leave their cars at home.

Have an automatic thermostat that lowers temperature at night and raises it during the time you are at home.

Get up earlier and go to bed earlier, to save using electricity for light;
also get fluorescent bulbs.

Use solar barbecue instead of coal, gas, or electric.

Take shorter showers to use less hot water hence less energy cost.

Wash your clothes with cold water, using a cold-water detergent.

have fewer or no children

live in an apartment

buy services instead of things

repair things instead of trashing them

Get some canvas grocery bags and take them with you to the grocery store.

tell others about the things on this list


*A dollar saved is worth quite a bit more than a dollar earned, because it's tax free!
Click for Earthchurch website.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What if it was another species?

What if it was another species?

Let's just take raccoons as an example. I know this is bizarre, but
suppose we were to discover that those cute raccoons were digging up coal and oil and burning it, and were also running various industrial processes that dumped mercury and lead and hundreds of chemicals into the air, soil and water. And in addition they were cutting down huge tracts of forest, using some of the wood, burning some of it, and letting some of it rot. Furthermore, they had increased their population to over 6 billion, and were inhabiting almost every region of the globe. And finally, both their population and these activities were predicted to steadily increase. Measurements showed that the composition of the atmosphere had changed markedly. Even the seas were slightly more acid, and poisonous chemicals could be detected in them. Raccoon trash could be found on the shores of the most distant pacific isle.

How would the human race react? How would YOU react to that news?

It seems pretty clear that the raccoons would be treated as worse than rats, and we would make war on them, trying to kill as many as possible.

But, as you know, the human race is doing all of those things. Because it's us, our attitude is different. Few people will advocate killing large numbers of humans in order to protect the biosphere. Although I love the earth and its plants and animals, I also love my children and friends and myself. I want the humans and the biosphere to both survive and be healthy.

That will not be easy to achieve. The present day habits and attitudes of the dominant human cultures are leading us slowly toward catastrophe. There are potential solutions, but they are complex, and require sustained effort by all major nations. The fundamental requirement is to change peoples attitudes and expectations, even aspirations. If most people in the world struggle to acquire a large vehicle and a large home we cannot avoid the catastrophe. Although science and technology played a major role in creating the problem, they are essential ingredients for solution.

I'm hoping that Earthchurch will help to change peoples attitudes, and to support the required technological innovations.