Understanding Sustainability pt.1

Throughout history mankind has displayed its inherently innovative ability to adapt to continuously changing circumstances. Ever exploring new opportunities to create a safer environment. Due to the industrialization of many processes we have gradually become more and more detached from this environment to a point where we have locked ourselves out and seemed to have withdrawn into patterns and grids which look completely out of place and function at unsustainable levels in the natural world.

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For many decades numerous people have addressed this alarming subject, some with more success then others but all with the best of intentions, with passion and the will to set an example and show the world their innovative approach to the challenges of their time.

A great variety of challenges have come upon us and many solutions have been developed over the years. However we have to come to terms with the simple fact that we are still depleting our natural resources at an unsustainable rate and are not in the process of reversing that trend.



We can not deny that we as humans are an integral part of our environment, nor can we deny we have impact on that environment. The global ecosystem is not divided by lines on maps and patches of turquoise, pink, red and yellow on a globe. Nor are the effects halted by the building of a wall or the closing of a door.

In order for human to sustain itself it must create sustainable conditions and solutions for its challenges. Any non-sustainable solution as by its definition is negatively effecting the sustainability of mankind, furthermore any depletion of resource negatively impacts the future generations development options by limiting resources available for new innovative solutions which have not been developed or discovered at this time.

Acceptance Of Response Ability

In this series of articles we will present various alternative methodologies and solutions for challenges concerning our basic necessities and the challenges we are facing as a result of non sustainable choices made in the past which have contributed to the establishment of an inherent non sustainable society gravely endangering our future potential.

It is for that reason we must take our responsibility as custodians of this planet we all inhabit and develop these solutions.

We accept this definition of sustainable as found in the Oxford dictionary. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources. 

For any society to be sustainable it must have abundant access to those resources necessary to sustain the needs of the society for the relevant period of time, while not restricting any future alternative solutions.

To find a common and accepted grounds for debate we will discuss matters regarding the basic necessities for a sustainable society in terms of Shelter, Water & Food, Waste Disposal and Energy Production. Each of those subjects are essential in human habitat and are basic requirements to any functioning society.

To Be Or Not To Be  

Your way pointerWith a global spike in interest and growing awareness and understanding of the urgency of finding sustainable solutions for the challenges which are facing our societies today, we find there is still a world to be won when it comes to creating an understanding of how to achieve such solutions.

With the rise of technology and the development of internet in particular it has for the first time in the history of mankind been made possible for individuals, regardless of location to collaborate in real time, on finding the best alternative solutions available today, while combining resources to develop the best solutions for tomorrow.

It has also given us access to the largest amount of information ever available to an individual, allowing and promoting a rapid distribution of knowledge not bound by the limitations of culture, nationality, sex, age, religion or race.

With such a wealth of resources available at the tips of our fingers and in front of our eyes we have to put in the effort to seek the best alternatives for our specific circumstance, fitting for our environment, adapted to our needs, with regards for our cultural values and respect to our ecosystem. And we can, which we know as we have been before.

We however do not seek to go backwards, if we want to develop the best solutions for tomorrow we need to start at those of today, with the lessons of yesterday to enrich our knowledge and understanding.

Lessons Of Yesterday

“hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works”

6a00d83451b96069e2016763fe810a970b-400wiOne of the more infamous lessons when it comes to sustainable living and lifestyle choices is the lesson which we have learned from Earthships as designed, patented and promoted by Mike Reynolds of Biotecture. In his efforts to deal with solutions for the challenges he noted where present in his society about forty years ago he has developed an elaborate structure called an Earthship. And although each of those challenges Mike Reynolds identified indeed in itself were crying out for a solution, some have somehow ended up becoming part of the problem.

We are not here to in any way shape or form to deny the achievement he and his team have accomplished in helping the discussion about sustainable alternatives become more mainstream. He has fought institutions to defend his believes and has attracted a wide variety of people all over the globe to the concept of sustainable lifestyle which in itself is an admirable achievement.

Time however does not stop to celebrate such victory, nor does nature allow for a pause, technology and science made enormous leaps forward since and we have no doubt this will continue to be the case if only because it is the only option for mankind as a whole to become sustainable and have a future on this planet we call earth.

If we adhere to our definition of sustainable we quickly realize that although an Earthship does incorporate certain features which are considered basic necessities in a sustainable society it fails at many others and can therefor never be accepted as a sustainable alternative.

An Earthship relies on massive amounts of high embodied energy materials such as concrete, petrochemical insulation materials  and incorporates toxic materials with unknown potential hazards within its structure. While limiting the potential of superior up-cycle and re-cycle technologies by downgrading resources due to a lack of understanding or knowledge of value within alternative utilization opportunities.

Technicalities 

“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work” (Edison)

head-in-the-sandEven if the design would be constructed with the use of sustainable materials its use would be very limited. Its thermal mass based design furthermore highly limits it usability to a narrow band around the globe as it relies heavily in passive solar energy for its comfort features.

Any deviation of the location of the structure outside its “comfort zone” directly causes a wide variety of challenges which would need to be addressed to make the design function as intended and supply for the basic necessities of its inhabitants.

Its arrangement of  a food providing greenhouse and grey water treatment system attached to living spaces does in any other but a low humidity and warm climate pose challenges and risk to the indoor environment and air quality enhanced by the lack of ventilation and circulation in the design of the Earthship structure.

Its rainwater harvesting system is a viable choice in regions with low or polluted water-tables, or where a well system is technically unavailable however in many regions of the world a well system would be a more sustainable alternative as this besides providing a healthier mineral rich water does allow the ecosystem water supply to take its course and nourish the entire system without withholding this valuable resource from the natural cycle.

Discuss, debate, share & learn

As we have established the non sustainable nature of the Earthship design we will dismiss this design from being a solution and a responsible alternative. For any of you who wish to debate, discuss or find more information on the subject, or discover alternative solutions for the challenges we are facing today in our societies you are welcome to join the discussion on facebook here.

What’s next.

In part 2 of this series we will investigate further to seek out and identify the solutions relevant to our future and those which are available today. Please feel free to share this article and comment if you desire.

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