Earth First

EarthIs there any chance that we can put the earth’s needs before our own and conserve resources? It’s a tall order and I’m not really sure it’s possible. Not because we don’t want to save resources in theory but because our way of life is so ingrained that it’ll take generations of concerted effort to change our habits, lifestyles, goals, systems and values.

Many humans consume natural resources as if they are unlimited or perpetually renewable (We used a year’s worth of resources by mid-August this year). It seems the world is slowly getting a science lesson that we are part of one complex ecosystem (UN’s Climate Change Report – damage done is irreversible ). We’re finding out that the earth’s ability to cleanse itself of our waste and regenerate its natural resources has real limits.

Earth is Talking is Anyone Listening?
Unlike humans, insects, birds, mammals, are very temperature sensitive (we are too but we can put on/take off clothes and have shelters everywhere, we’ve very adaptive). They can only live, reproduce and eat within specific air and water temperatures, for instance. As temperatures change, plants and animals shift their habitat and some will become extinct (shifted right off of this planet).

Most often we have a myopic view of how our lives and jobs are impacted by climate change instead of telescoping back out to see how the entire world is being impacted. Warmer water in Maine has caused the cod population to collapse and people have lost their jobs.

“It paid for fishermen’s boats, fed their families and put their children through college. In one halcyon year in the mid-1980s, the codfish catch reached 25,000 tons.

Today, the cod population has collapsed. Last month, regulators effectively banned fishing for six months while they pondered what to do, and next year, fishermen will be allowed to catch just a quarter of what they could before the ban.”

Our livelihoods and food sources are being negatively impacted by climate change – are we listening?

I’m going out on a little limb here, but climate change is going to negatively impact our transportation system too. I think air travel is going to become impossible as air patterns become more unpredictable. There are more and more reports like this one of severe turbulence that injures people and causes planes to change course. You can imagine how this will play out. Heavy doses of denial, designer crash helmets for airline travel, harness seatbelts, etc.

Closer to home, Mount Rainier’s glaciers are melting at six times the historic rate due to climate change.

It could be time to start eating crickets. We need to find ways to let the earth heal itself, if that’s even possible. It’s shaking us by our shoulders, are we listening?

No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
I’ve been pinning my hopes on solar energy as well as other renewable energy sources as a way we might reduce our impact on the earth. But, after reading articles such as Bird by Bird in the NY Times this month it’s clear that we need to reduce our consumption of resources — period. We can’t just swap one resource for another and hope it’s OK.  It’s the fact that we consume enormous quantities of our resources that’s the problem. The article talks about birds getting fried by large solar arrays – the same solar arrays that are supposed to help us reduce our impact on the environment BUT still allow us to live exactly as we do today.

“Climate change is everything, a story and a calamity bigger than any other. It’s the whole planet for the whole foreseeable future, the entire atmosphere, all the oceans, the poles; it’s weather and crop failure and famine and tropical diseases heading north and desertification and the uncertain fate of a great majority of species on earth. The stories about individual birds can distract us from the slow-motion calamity that will eventually threaten every bird.”

Will Phone Apps Save Us?
So, what does a low-impact life look like — a cabin in the woods with no running water? Let’s hope not. One of the earliest attempts to define a low-impact lifestyle was No Impact Man and more recently there are books and blog posts advocating a Zero Waste Lifestyle. However, Millennials may have taken low-impact to a new level without sacrificing their lifestyle. As an article in The Atlantic points out Millennials prize access over ownership so they aren’t buying cars and houses as quickly as previous generations. (Isn’t consumerism (and the pressure to constantly consume more to improve GNP) one of the main reasons we’re experiencing climate change?) See: The Story of Stuff.

Apps such as AirBNB, VRBO, Lyft, RelayRides, Getaround, DogVacay, and even tool rental apps such as Zilok have changed the relationship people have to their stuff.  It’s a cultural breakthrough and maybe just what the earth needs – another way to build community and a sharing, service-based economy instead of one built around consumerism.

Gratitude the Older Sister of Sustainability
My friend Joy wrote a great blog post for her birthday about gratitude – for all of the elements of our lives most of us take totally for granted. If we were truly grateful for the comparative ease of our modern lifestyle would we be so quick to fill our lives with more stuff, and, debt, as Momastery points out in a post about a potential kitchen renovation? Can we jump off of the consumerism carrousel and still find value and fun in our lives? I think so.

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