Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Age of Stupid

The Kamloops branch of the BC Sustainable Energy Association showed the movie The Age of Stupid last night at Thompson Rivers University.

The movie is essentially a collection of documentaries highlighting environmental degradation around the globe. The documentaries are well done and certainly make you question what is happening to the environment.

These mini-documentaries are tied together by an apocalyptic narration pointing to inevitable negative consequences for people (possibly extinction of humanity by 2050) unless dramatic steps are taken now in how we live.

I have a difficult time with the climate change and global warming debate. I believe that human activity is dramatically altering the world's landscape, and that fossil fuels are having (and will continue to have) long term impacts on the environment, temperature and human sustainability. I also recognize that the best efforts by scientists to accurately predict and model future events can be ... unreliable (I am trying to be polite). So I always try to take imminent disaster scenarios with a grain of salt; things may turn out better, or we may be in deeper s#@t because of something that nobody expected!

So, although I find myself in support of the changes advocated by this narration, I think that at best it is preaching to the choir and at worst brow beating the majority of people who simply do not want to contemplate their own extinction (who would?)

I guess the question that a movie like this leaves for me is what is the next step? How do we motivate change among the majority of the population who do not wish to think or be threatened in such stark terms?

We are used to thinking in economic measures about our world as these measures have worked for us for a long time. We use GDP as a measure for the wealth and vitality of our society, and compare everyday items in terms of their dollar values.

These measures worked for so long because the world ecology surrounding our man made economies was huge in relative terms. We took what resources we needed to expand, attached economic values to them and trashed them at the end of their obvious use to us. The resources we took and the wastes we dumped into the environment were like a pebble thrown into a pond ... the surface rippled and then was still again.

Our unparalleled and successful growth as a species means that our global economy has now caught up with (some would say overwhelmed) the capacity of the world to accommodate it. We are now rolling boulders into the pond with the enthusiasm of little kids, and no parents are telling us to stop before we kill all the goldfish.

The paradigm of endless growth that has worked so well to guide our expansion has run into the reality of the limited carrying capacity of our planet. We need to be thinking about the world as an ecology, and measuring our success in different ways. This new thinking requires a cognitive disconnect with beliefs and assumptions that have been ingrained since birth for most of us, and consequently we are incredibly resistant to this thinking. Despite overwhelming contrary evidence we continue to chase unrealistic visions of the American dream while the world seems to collapse around us.

At the end of the movie there was some time set aside for discussion, and to ask what can be done locally. There is a rally in Kamloops on October 24th at the Farmer's market in support of is 'building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis--the solutions that science and justice demand' according to its website. Specifically, this rally is to convince world governments in advance of the Copenhagen Summit (where a global treaty on climate emissions may be hashed out) that we really do want the treaty to have some teeth. In the past I have steered clear of political involvement, but I hope to make it to this rally!

Also, I think it is important to reduce the issues involved to a size that can be managed individually. We risk being overwhelmed by a message of imminent worldwide calamity to the point that we do not want to get out of bed in the morning, much less take a step in a new direction.

In our family we continue to try and make decisions that reduce our impact on the environment and align us with what we believe in. Sandra and I are planning to take a trip this winter using the accumulated air miles that we have 'earned' on our credit cards to get us free airline tickets to our destination. I am hoping to convince her to go to New Mexico so that we can see finished earthships to give us ideas in our own construction project.

Unfortunately, last night's movie reminded me of something I have known for a while. Airline travel has extreme negative environmental consequences. I find myself caught between justifying a flight that I have already 'earned', or traveling in a more sustainable fashion. After all, its just one flight, we are only two people ... what difference can it possibly make?

I wonder how Sandra would feel about driving to New Mexico ...

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