Macadamias and Wild Horses: Macro and Micro Sustainability

Dear Sunaina,

This morning I woke up to a seemingly in depth discussion between some wild turkeys and quail. The cat was even attentive to their back and forth banter. Speaking of cats, the one who has decided to guard my cottage is a man-hater, but she loves me. I’m not sure if it’s a compliment to my firm but gentle nature or an insult to my masculinity, but I pet her just the same. Last I spoke to my family I not-so-jokingly told them that if it wasn’t for the cats here I’d be looking for company, but luckily they absorb my affection with gratitude.

On to sustainable living! What does it mean to live sustainably? I define it as a way of living that allows ones needs to be met, without causing long term harm to the world around us, in a manner that can be maintained. It’s not necessarily someone making their own paper, growing their own lumber, mining for metals…etc, not at all. Who could jump up and do that today? I certainly couldn’t! Perhaps I’m not a puritan when it comes to that, but there’s no need for people to abandon modernity to reach a more sustainable, reasonable, and ethical way of life. It’s not so important that everyone live in a completely sustainable manner, but that they approach the ideal. Perhaps the website title should read, “Yarden of Eden: Where philosophy meets the farm, an approach to sustainable living.”

I break sustainable living into two levels. Macro-sustainability, which I define as large portions of society seeking a sustainable way of life. This would be governments, and large communities, supporting and implementing sustainable practices on a broad scale, and as a part of government and community function. And there is also Micro-Sustainability, which I define as individuals in society, acting alone or as part of a smaller community, seeking a sustainable way of life.

When we think about how governments and large communities function today it’s easy to see that it’s not really with the long-term public health in mind, and that it’s not sustainable. Imagine if city planners in government would have fruit and nut trees, and vegetables, planted in the common grounds and right of ways in cities, rather than the ornamental plants that cost millions of dollars a year and do nothing but look pretty, if we’re lucky. Hunger may still exist, but not like it does today. What if they collected rainwater/snow-melt on government/community building rooftops and used that “grey water” for flushing their toilets, as a way to reduce their impact on the environment and as an example of what people could do at their homes? So many cities face droughts and water restrictions, it would be that much less of a burden. What it they offered people incentives for taking extra steps towards reducing their impact on the grid? It could be free classes based on conservation, or tax rebates for implementing sustainable features in their homes. These things would be awesome, and so helpful! The federal government and some states, for a while, have given a very nice tax rebate to people that purchase solar panels, why not expand that sentiment to include other things that would help people to be more self-reliant? It would be healthier for every part of society, from the individual to the organization. These things can happen, and perhaps they will. It’s so easy to get excited and motivated when thinking about the potential!

Just like cells are the foundation of an organism, the individual is the foundation of society. Micro-sustainability is the foundation of a sustainable society. Governments and large scale communities can do a lot, but without our individual participation it wont get very far. People have all the power, and people tend to forget that! There doesn’t have to be life changing sacrifice, in fact it’s actually profitable to live more sustainably. When a 1000 square foot roof can collect about 700 gallons of water from 1″ of rain, that’s money in the bank! A pack of tomato seeds costs about $1, and one tomato plant can make 10lbs of tomatoes, how can people pass it up? There’s usually 20-50 seeds in a pack, even a 10% germination rate, which is horribly low, could yield months worth of tomatoes for a person. If that’s too many, they can be traded to a neighbor for something they grew! The more people learn the harder it is for them to pass these things up. Glass is just about the most recyclable material that I can think of, besides food waste used as compost. I think it’s a pretty cool idea to cut the tops off of bottles to make drinking glasses and bowls, that in itself uses the “four Rs”, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle. You end up with cool looking dishware a fun story to tell. There are so many things that we can do to be good stewards of the environment and culture, on the personal level. We don’t have to be perfect in our pursuit as long as we’re taking steps in the right direction. Maybe “how” is a good topic for the next letter.

This place is full of nuts, Macadamia nuts!

This place is full of nuts, Macadamia nuts!

This evening was fun. I harvested some fresh Macadamia nuts and sauteed them in butter and garlic, then cooked Swiss Chard, Kale, and Broccoli from the garden, and later I had fresh turmeric and ginger tea. My host cooked ravioli and meatballs, and we had our neighbors from up the mountain over for dinner. The food and conversation was great, and one of the neighbors played guitar for us. Wednesday (tomorrow) my host leaves for her world tour, and I’ll be here mostly by myself until about September, it should be interesting. It was cloudy again today, unhappy solar panels, and tonight as I lay in bed I can hear the wild horses stomping around on the other side of the fence. I’m going to tame one before my time here is up.

Next week I’m planting coffee! If they fruit while I’m here I’ll send you some.

Aloha,

Colin

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