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    Sustainable Living
    The world spins out-of-balance

    Long before organic grocery stores and hybrid cars, our ancestors led the kind of sustainable lifestyle that everyone from environmentalists to celebrities are now endorsing.
    As the world struggles with its ecological crisis, it's time to look back at how the previous generations lived if we want to save the planet for the next.

    The world in which we live spins wildly out-of-balance. From natural resources being near to exhaustion, industrial poisons indiscriminately dumped into waterways, chemical pesticides once used as weapons of war, now dumped by the gallons on our food sources and injected into our soils, while global warming gives rise to temperatures significant enough to cause catastrophic fires, hurricanes and the melt of the Polar Ice Cap. With warning signs like these, still most refuse to see the edge of collapse to which we all live perilously close.

    unsustainable civilization, collective consciousness and psychic revolution

    As it seems impossible to change our way of living on an international scale (Kopenhagen) I think it is up to individuals choosing to live their life another way. I'm talking about a more holistic way of living, respecting Earth as a balanced system of interconnected fauna and flora. The Human species has a place in this system as a technologically advanced, nature-involved, spiritual being, we see this explained in the video's regarding "Sustainability : Information / Matter / Energy" posted by Counterform.

    Societies today are built on money.

    This money, which man invented for mere convenience of barter, so that we did not have to bring all our goods to the market for a spot-exchange, has turned into the present economic structure, with stock markets, interest rates, investments and the competition in the international economy. Nobody knows now what is happening and why it's happening. It has got so complicated because the entire psyche of man has got involved with that, with money. And it's now the money which is driving man, and no longer man who is using the money. You can observe that: we publish what will get money, we do that work which will get us money. So the simple thing which we invented is now governing us. Wars between nations occur because we attach ourselves to a nation.

    Entropy

    All matter and energy in the universe are subject to the Laws of Thermodynamics. In the discipline of Ecological Economics, systems are delimited so that they are meaningful to our economy. What does thermodynamics have to do with the sustainability?

    The two essential forms of stored thermodynamic potential are "energy" (e.g., a barrel of oil) and "order" (e.g., clean drinking water and deep topsoil). "Entropy" is a measure of the
    unavailability of energy: the entropy of oil increases as it burns, and the entropy of a water table increases as it falls because more energy will be required to pump it to the surface.

    Entropy can also be thought of as a measure of disorder in a system: (e.g., polluted water that requires purification has higher entropy than the same water unpolluted, and the entropy of
    topsoil increases when it erodes or is polluted by salt from evaporating irrigation water.)

    Sustainable systems are "circular" (outputs become inputs)

    All linear physical systems must eventually end. Modern society is increasing entropy in all its sources (e.g., energy, soil, ground water,...). Thus, modern societies and economies are not circular - they can not be sustained.

    Consider the most important limiting variable: energy.

    There is no substitute for energy. Although the economy treats energy just like any other resource, it is not like any other resource. Energy is the precondition for all other resources and oil is the most important form of energy we use, making up about 38 percent of the world energy supply.

    No other energy source equals oil's intrinsic qualities of extractablility, transpotability, versatility and cost. These are the qualities that enabled oil to take over from coal as the
    front-line energy source in the industrialized world in the middle of this century, and they are as relevant today as they were then.

    40 years ago, geologist M. King Hubbert developed a method for projecting future oil production and predicted that oil production in the lower-48 states would peak about 1970. These predictions have proved to be remarkably accurate. Both total and peak yields have risen slightly compared to Hubbert's original estimate, but the timing of the peak and the general downward trend of production were correct.



    World Resources Institute published
    a report that stated:

    "Two important conclusions emerge from this discussion.
    First, if growth in world demand continues at a modest 2
    percent per year, production could begin declining as soon
    as the year 2000. Second, even enormous (and unlikely)
    increases in [estimated ultimately recoverable] oil buy the
    world little more than another decade (from 2007 to 2018).
    In short, unless growth in world oil demand is sharply lower
    than generally projected, world oil production will probably
    begin its long-term decline soon — and certainly within the
    next two decades."


    Money and oil are interconnected.

    Current societies and economies are too much dependent on oil.
    The issue is not one of "running out" so much as it is not having enough to keep our economy running. In this regard, the ramifications of Peak Oil for our civilization are similar to the ramifications of dehydration for the human body. The human body is 70 percent water. The body of a 200 pound man thus holds 140 pounds of water. Because water is so crucial to everything the human body does, the man doesn't need to lose all 140 pounds of water weight before collapsing due to dehydration. A loss of as little as 10-15 pounds of water may be enough to kill him.

    In a similar sense, an oil based economy such as ours doesn't need to deplete its entire reserve of oil before it begins to collapse. A shortfall between demand and supply as little as 10 to 15 percent is enough to wholly shatter an oil-dependent economy and reduce its citizenry to poverty.

    The effects of even a small drop in production can be devastating. Source For instance, during the 1970s oil shocks, shortfalls in production as small as 5% caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple. Source The same thing happened in California a few years ago with natural gas: a production drop of less than 5% caused prices to skyrocket by 400%. (source:lifeaftertheoilcrash)

    too late?

    Fortunately, those price shocks were only temporary. The coming oil shocks won't be so short lived. They represent the onset of "a new, permanent condition".
    It might then be too late for most people to develop a sustainable style of living, since it will be too late to gather the resources needed and produce the infrastructure that supports this type of living.

    The resources of our planet are precious and necessary to our survival as a human species. It must surely be possible to marry today's technology with a cultivated, sustainable lifestyle were we are aware of the consequences of our actions, and learn simple ways to tread more lightly on the earth.

    Why not shift to small sustainable communities while we still have time and access to the sources that make this lifestyle possible?

    garbage warrior
    sustainable community
    Back to communities as a sustainable way of living

    Fri, Dec 25, 2009  Permanent link

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    Manuel Dahm     Mon, Dec 28, 2009  Permanent link
    Thanks for this article.
    Indeed it is very obvious in our "linear" system that it works against fundamental laws of biology and physics. Uninterrupted growth, inherently required by the economical system (debts, technological advances, greed), in a limited system (space, resources) is obviously not achievable. A 10-year old would understand that. Yet greed is stronger then any reasoning. And as you have highlighted correctly, money has taken over from tool to reason.
    Today I came across an article how the exaggerated bonus-payments in the banking sector are encouraging the receivers to break laws and act against their own and societies morale standards, thus further perpetuating an economy that builds on exploitation, unfair distribution of wealth and ecological damage. Just a small example how the system is inventing new ways of improved exploitation, rewarding individuals to act selfishly and greedy instead of responsible and just.

    Now we are closing in on the area of scarce resources and the battle for it will likely be fierce, it already started with Iraq 1 & 2 and many other military and diplomatic operations.

    An interesting observation can be made from the most recent economical development, a global super-liberal economy is directly opposed to the (in my eyes obvious) solution to the crisis in economy and ecology - a local economy with stronger ties between individuals then between corporations.
    Concluding from this I am thinking that we will actually see a deep change in our political
    and economical system, far deeper then we might anticipate now, likely within the next 30 years. The old forces are fighting hard to stay in control, but the planet and the people are realizing their power, once again. There's hope.

    My dream is to build a fully sustainable village, probably not in a first world country, and start living the future. Not the cyborg, machine, death future, the future that was our past once and will be again our life. In tune with the planet.

    keen     Mon, Dec 28, 2009  Permanent link
    thx for the comment,

    I think it would surely be possible to merge modern technology with the aspect of sustainable living, and thus create sustainable villages that function as closed circular systems.
    A primary need for such a sustainable community is a renewing water system.
    This can easily be done by settling near a river or by catching rainwater and filtering it.
    Food supply is another important consideration. Whether it is farming, fishing, or livestock, it needs to be managed in a sustainable way. Throughout all of history people have always used farming and fishing in a sustainable way, except for the last century. With today's technology, sustainable farming can be done with a lot less effort then our ancestors. Energy is another concern. But again, renewable energy isn't really an issue because nowadays we can rely on solar panels, windmills, hydro power from dams and so on...

    What I'm trying to say is that we are perfectly capable of living in a sustainable way and still have the comfort of our current lifestyle - even more; because we don't have to work and stress to get our income at the end of the month to pay our electricity, food, tax, leisure... bills.
    A downside may be the transportation aspect. Traveling for long distances would become more difficult as we can't rely on cars or planes anymore. But then again, why do we need to travel? if you're an adventurer and want to see the world, you can still sail, bike or hike around.

    A problem might be the fact that mass production of high-tech products will become extinct. For example; How can we keep the internet infrastructure up to date in this kind of society? if there are no more large corporations, these technologies will slowly fade away. And after 50 years or so, who is going to repair solar panels or were will people find a new wind turbine if the old one broke down. I think we'll still need to have some centers of technology to provide these needs.

     
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