Towards Interdependence Day
I received the following a few days ago from Brian Malarkey, a friend and colleague of mine at Kirksey, a green architecture firm in Houston. He and John Kirksey are trying to raise awareness about the connection between the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and climate change. I thought it was worth sharing on the Fourth of July:
Happy Independence Day!
Ponder this while you savor the anniversary of the American Revolution.
As we approach July Fourth, the 72nd day of the BP oil spill, the USGS’s Flow Rate Technical Group estimates that the flow of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico has averaged 500,000 gallons per day or roughly 1500 tons of carbon per day.
As tragic as this event is, it does not compare to the 86,000,000 tons of carbon per day we introduce into the earth’s atmosphere through our use of fossil fuels and deforestation. In other words, each day we voluntarily release carbon comparable to 57,000 times the amount leaking into the gulf on a daily basis.
Did you know… Of the carbon that we add to the atmosphere each day, roughly 90% of it will remain, active on our earth 500 years from now.
Did you know… There are three major carbon sinks (repositories) on the earth; the oceans are the largest, followed by the land (rocks), and lastly the tropical forest. The world’s oceans are reaching full saturation and are taking up less and less carbon while becoming highly acidic. This combination is having a significantly negative impact on marine life. The tropical forests sequester about 1 billion tons of carbon per year while simultaneously deforestation is contributing about 2 billion tons of new carbon each year.
Did you know… The US spends about $1 billion per day on imported oil and petroleum products, many of these products coming from governments with strong anti-American sentiments.
Did you know… The fossil fuel industry spends roughly $1.5 billion each year with lobbyists in Washington to influence our energy policies (does not include political contributions).
Did you know… Contrary to the speculation that volcanoes represent a large source of carbon, scientists calculated that there was an actual reduction in the total carbon output during the Iceland volcanic eruption last month, due primarily to the grounding of an extensive number of airline flights coming into and out of Europe.
Did you know… 2010 is unfolding as the hottest year on record since reliable instrumental temperatures records began in the late 1800s. The first decade of the 21st Century is already the the hottest decade on record.
Did you know…Coal produces 2100 lbs of carbon per Mwhr of energy, while natural gas produces 950 lbs of carbon per Mwhr, or only 45% the carbon of coal.
Is it time for another American Revolution; a technical revolution? Can we envision another Independence Day in our future?
Think about it.
There's certainly a lot here to ponder. We seem to be reaching some kind of turning point in the country's understanding of the high environmental price we pay for fossil fuel and the importance of developing clean energy alternatives.We may not be at the turning point, but we are approaching it.
I would go beyond the above argument, though. No doubt technological innovation will be a major component of any effort to build a more sustainable future. But we also need a cultural revolution, a completely different way of understanding the relationship between human society and the natural world. We need to figure out that we don't stand apart from the natural world but instead are enmeshed in it and that our very lives depend on the health of this relationship.
What would this culture look like? I think it would look a lot like EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI), where I'm privileged to serve on the board. A 176-acre co-housing community and nonprofit educational organization just outside of Ithaca, NY, EcoVillage has been up and running for over twenty years now and has emerged as one of the most advanced sustainable communities in the world.
Thanks to the visionary leadership of its executive director, Liz Walker, EVI is now undertaking a third neighborhood, called "TREE." This latest neighborhood will feature 30 affordable and accessible energy efficient homes and apartments that will have a near zero carbon footprint. They will be designed to allow its occupants to "age in place," thus contributing to the richness of the EVI community by making it easier for folks to stay as they grow older.
How much demand is there for this kind of housing? Well, if EVI is any guide, it's significant. TREE has filled all 30 units before even breaking ground and there is a waiting list.
"EcoVillage is far more than just a residential community," observed Walker in a recent interview. "It's a whole concept, an experiment in sustainable living and holistic agriculture. Part of our mission is to demonstrate a new way of living, to increase biodiversity. We focus on the conservation of open space using organic farming, and we had one of the first CSAs (community-supported agriculture organizations) in the country."
So, yes, clean technology is part of the answer. But just as important, perhaps even more so, is the fostering of communities like EVI. We need more than a "technical revolution." We need, as Liz Walker puts it, a whole "new way of lviing." That's what a real Independence Day would look like: something we might call "Interdependence Day."