Monthly Archives: January 2010

Radical Sustainability

I’m not a spiritual or religious person, but I do take notice when the stars align.  Justin and I were having a discussion last week about how solar panels, hybrid cars, and CFLs aren’t really and truly sustainable, at least not in the way I’d like to be sustainable.  The next day I began reading Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, and it introduced me to the phrase, “Radical Sustainability”.

toolboxRadical sustainability means using only what you can find in nature or can scavenge easily, in other words, using things that are locally sourced.  To me being sustainable means not relying on goods, especially complex ones, to be readily available for purchase forever.

The word “radical” actually means “root”, so a radical solution is a solution that attacks the root of a problem.  It makes you wonder how being a “radical” got a negative slant over the last few decades, kind of like “liberal”.  I guess if the root of the problem is the military-corporate-media-government complex and they’re making the definitions, it makes sense.

Long story short, I’m rad, and yes, I know the 80’s called and want their word back, and no they can’t have it.

Here’s an instance of how radical sustainability differs from regular sustainability. Say you give some solar panels and CFLs to a rural village in Africa.  That’s great for however long the bulbs and panels last, but then what?  They can’t make any more.  If you want real sustainability you show them how they can make lamp oil from crops and animal fat, or candles from bees wax.  If they need electricity, showing them how to make wind generators from easily sourced “junk” like bike parts and simple motors means they’re not SOL when one generator goes out.

This basically hints at the fact that I believe we are heading for a much less energy-rich future, and to be quite frank, the thought of how much more our society could destroy with unlimited energy scares me.  I think most people view this as a “sky is falling” scenario or they want to avoid thinking about it altogether because a future like that seems painful, dreary, and downright terrifying.

I don’t believe that has to be the case. In fact, I’m totally convinced that we can live far better than we do today as long as we’re smart and prepared. Most people are totally oblivious to how much we are missing with our modern lifestyles.  The personal connections to nature, food, housing, and other people have all decayed to the point where we don’t even realize what we’ve lost.

The solar panels that I ordered didn’t get processed.  Apparently the shipping was twice as much as they told me when I ordered them, not to mention an additional credit card fee, so I canceled my order.

I’ve taken to temporarily using the truck as a type of generator and running an extension cord from the car inverter to the camper.  I’ve been researching how I can build a simple wind generator cheaply from scavenged or easily found materials.  I’m leaning towards one like the photo here, with blades built from a piece of PVC pipe, a scavenged motor from things like ceiling fans, treadmills, old printers, or even making one from magnets scavenged from hard drives and coils of wire.  You can find more info on this wind generator here.

One thing I’ve noticed after being out here and looking for the simplest, cheapest, and most environmental way of doing things is that you develop a sort of MacGyver eye.  It’s creative problem-solving, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t a lot of fun.  Even though I haven’t built this wind generator yet, you can be sure I’ll be a proud papa one day.

In other news, I’ve got the camper about 75% surrounded with bales, but I’ve run out and my farmer friend migrated south for the Winter and won’t be back until Spring.  I found another source, but it’s twice as expensive.  I don’t think I’m going to bother finishing with the rest of the bales as it’s already quite comfortable in there, even when it was sub-zero here during the recent cold snap.

I’ve also taken to painting the purple “No Hunting” stripes on the trees along the property line.   I’m hoping that if I can increase the wild turkey population significantly they can put a bigger dent in the tick population.  I considered planting native food sources for them, but after I looked at a list of what they eat I found that there is already plenty out here for them… they just need to quit being hunted.

On my way back from painting some trees yesterday I decided to stop by the lake to check it out.  On the way I ran across a herd of wild turkeys.  I’d estimate there were at least 25, but maybe more.  So that’s a pretty darn good start.  Seconds before I snapped this picture of the lake I saw a coyote running up the hill on the other side.  He may also be happy about the turkeys…

Tomorrow Justin and Melainia are coming out to visit along with Jesse and Tracy, a couple that lives towards St. Louis.   I know Justin and Melainia wanted to help out with something, but there’s really not that much to do just yet.  I might just run my cold frame, greenhouse, and wind generator plans by them and make plans to actually work on it another day.