Allotment (photo from freefoto.com, by Ian Britton)
The Amish have succeeded by asking just one question: ‘What will this do to our community’?
- Wendell Berry, Poet and Environmentalist
Being good caretakers of the world around us would be so easy if only we didn’t have our own needs, our own interests… but we do. We can’t change that, because we too are part of this world. Our first duties are to our own race, before that of even the cutest little monkey. Since we tend to be short-sighted, we must take care of the world around us because that is what sustains us. In order for a community to really be sustainable, we must carefully balance the needs of humans with that of everything else. If we begin to destroy rare or endangered plants and animals it is very possible that we might end up losing the very things that will sustain us in the future. We will explore this more in the overharvesting section. But what are our needs? We must better understand them and learn how we can meet our own necessities of life yet have still them available for future generations.
Food and water are what we need to keep us alive, and should be our top concerns when trying to build a sustainable community. In a sustainable community you must have a renewing water system (streams, rivers, wells, reservoirs…) because without clean water it is impossible for the human race to survive. Food supply is another important consideration. Whether it is farming, fishing, or livestock, it needs to be managed in a sustainable way. In Sri Lanka today, there are a large problems with over-harvesting of the fish supply that is the major source of food. The people are scrambling to get as much fish they can, and the fish are not able to reproduce quickly enough. Unless the situation there changes, the fish may become extinct. The government is encouraging the fishermen to go into the territorial waters of other countries, endangering their fish supplies. Although there have been many failures in this area, there have also been successes. Throughout all of history people have used farming and fishing in a sustainable way. Today the problem is becoming larger as the population increases. In order for us to keep the food sources sustainable we will have to be extra careful, so that the same bounty we enjoy in our lifetime will be available to generations to come.
It is impossible for human beings to survive without shelter. We need a place we can rest our body and minds, but also protect us from the sun, rain, wind, cold, heat, and storms. Making shelter requires the use of building materials which must come from natural resources. A problem occurs if we use up all our available land for housing. This converts good agricultural land to house lots, and we then lose areas in which to grow food. Thus we need a balance between using land for housing needs and yet leave room for agriculture, stores, industry or open spaces for recreation. Later in this site we will explore housing options that are sustainable, like co-housing.
When we think of energy we think about the power which operates our homes, cars and factories. We don’t often think about where we are getting this energy from. Today most of our energy comes from burning fossil fuels, that is, oil, coal, and natural gas. This is great, but there is a problem… these are not a sustainable sources of energy because they cannot renew at the rate that we consuming them. Instead of depending on things like fossils fuels, oil, and other types of non-renewable forms of energy, we must look towards new methods of getting energy which can regenerate. Options today include solar, wind power, hydro, biomass, geothermal, and nuclear energy. We will explore these options in more detail in the site.
This is an important issue, as humans need to stay healthy to live and work. Therefore we need to treat our environment in ways that help us do this. One issue that comes to mind, is the decreasing number of trees today. Trees you might ask? Yes, because without them we would have less oxygen, and more carbon dioxide in the air we breathe. Trees and other plants renew the oxygen that we need by talking in carbon dioxide, which we breathe out, and giving off oxygen as a by-product of their respiration. Cutting down trees in a sustainable way, and allowing them to renew their numbers is a way to be sure that the people who come after us can breathe the same good air that we do. In our society today it is essential for us to have hospitals and labs which treat us when we get sick, or injure ourselves. In the past a huge plague erupted in Europe in 1330-1340. This was the bubonic plague. It was caused by the corpses of people being left out in the open. And rats began to carry around the sickness that caused this. Half of the people in Europe died. This was all caused by lack of sanitation. Today many cities around the world dump their sewage in the ocean assuming that it is vast enough to efficiently remove it. Cities like Boston and New York have large clean-up programs in place to clean up their harbors, but other countries like Ghana are dumping their wastes into the ocean until they can get treatment plants made. Later in this site we will explore some options for managing our waste products.