Archive for January, 2008

Reimagining Our World

While I’m glad that “going green” is now the trend, it is a consumption based trend that will not solve the problems that plague humanity. To achieve truly sustainable solutions will require a paradigm shift in both how we think and how we live. And, our greatest challenge to realizing that change is overcoming our process of imagination – one that is incremental and based on the current systems that sustain us.

For example, many may imagine a future filled with Hydrogen powered cars that may someday fly – a combination of the ultimate green fuel and convenience. But if you reflect on the matter, the hallmark of our modern society is not the car itself; it is the mobility it offers the individual. As I argue in Transportation and Social Equity, I believe private cars actually contribute to poverty and the growth of government – both of which we hope to discourage, if not eliminate, as a society. So, as we imagine a sustainable future, we should focus on transportation systems that enable mobility in an efficient way rather than trying to improve the buggy carriage and its wheels.

Another vision of the future is one in which we all have perfect health. Today our modus operendi to achieve that vision is through working out at gyms, plastic surgery, diet aids and great medical care – a very resource intense system. The thing is that we already know the formula for health – diet and exercise. But, in our quest for a “modern” life, we sabotage this reliable formula. We take the car instead of walking. We replace labor with a sterile gym. We eat ready-made foods instead of preparing wholesome, home-made meals. The pattern is one of perceived convenience to accommodate a work schedule that allows us to bring home the bacon. But, the reality is that these modern habits contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression that make basic health care unaffordable for everyone.

The remedy to these problems can be taken from examples that already exist. What if communities were designed around pedestrians that travelled between communities via people movers and not cars? What if these communities each were organized around CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and instead of paying taxes, we each chipped in to produce the majority of food products we consumed? The kibbutz model demonstrates the premise. Organized in larger numbers, the wisdom of “many hands make light work” could take the chore out of “farming” and we could derive the benefits of exercise and community building. What if we followed the Amish example and built our zero-energy homes with the help of our friends and neighbors from locally available materials like straw? Again, we gain a health benefit, a knowledge dividend, remove the need for insurance (because the community becomes our insurance) and we could earn less since our costs are less.

By integrating these living systems people will need to “work” less and can spend more time with their family – taking care of aging parents and investing time in their children’s education rather than delegating these responsibilities to the state. While this “vertical integration” of living systems may seem strange from our current perspective of how the world should be, as I argue in Understanding the Sustainability Puzzle, sustainable systems will “squish” many aspects of life that we consider separate and distinct today. As I stated earlier, our biggest obstacle to achieving our goals is our ability to re-imagine our world.

Related Entries

Understanding The Sustainability Puzzle

The Home: The Cornerstone of a Sustainable Future

Educationally Challenged

Transportation & Social Equity

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January 21, 2008 at 12:00 am Leave a comment



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