Poem to Headwaters Forest

Oh bitter news, oh bitter news-
Here come the hard pressed logging crews.

With chainsaws and their bulldozers strike-
To take away this ancient life.

Thousands of years these trees doth stand-
They’ve seen the ancient native lands.

Seedlings they were, upon the birth-
Of the one called Jesus on this Earth.

Remove these ancients, and find with pain-
That much good will dissolve, even the rain.

Many plants will die. Many animals will die. Many streams will die.

Saving Headwaters Forest

Saving Headwaters Forest was a long-fought and partially-successful struggle to protect 2000 year old redwood trees in Northern California. This environmentalist versus corporate-logging battleground at the end of the last century resulted in permanently preserving 3,088 acres in some of the last remaining ancient forests in the area.

On site action dedicated to environmental protection has shown what a small group can accomplish when working together. Groups such as Earth First, and individuals such as Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and the famed tree-sitter Julia Butterfly Hill, are examples of taking a strong stand against ecological destruction at the local level. Redwood forests are dynamic and much work is still needed to protect the ancients, but thanks to the efforts of the early environmental pioneers awareness for the redwoods has grown. Read more at the Save the Redwoods League.

Remember to pause during crisis, especially if you’re feeling flooded with emotion or exhausted, and reflect on your successes. Reflect on what you are grateful for, maybe vision yourself sitting at the base of a great tree. Then take a deep breath and get back to work. There is much to do and little time to do it in. Do your part in your corner of the world for the sake of nature, for which humans are an intrinsic part.

Take a moment to fill yourself with gratitude for what we have accomplished, providing you further strength and resolve for the journey ahead.

 

Less = More: A New Equation for Lasting Abundance

The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s kicked off America’s race to automation and gave us the gift of gadgetry. Yet, despite exponential advancements in technology, we continue to lose the lifeblood of this system – affordable housing, efficient transportation, available land, and other means of production.

“But can’t we just make more stuff, find more land, and regrow the economy the old-fashioned way, until everyone has what they need?”

Nope, not this time.

There’s no growing our way out of this quagmire. We need a new way entirely, one that acknowledges – and eliminates – the logical flaw of expecting infinite growth in finite conditions with finite resources.

We realize this is no simple task, but every complex project starts with small, attainable steps in the right direction.

Those with the family-planning resources – and luxury – to do so can start by having fewer biological children. According to a new study by Lund University of Sweden, “having children is the most destructive thing a person can to do to the environment.” By having fewer kids, we can stretch the value of our legacy – our family wealth and resources – so that the next generation has a fighting chance.

Slowing population growth also helps redress the issue of inequality. In even middle-class families, it’s too common to find parents struggling to get by paycheck to paycheck. Every generation basically starts from scratch each time, with minimal access to higher education and no financial resources to ease the transition into adulthood. Inheritances are modest, rarely stretching past the adult children to the grandchildren, and saving for retirement is always too little, too late.

Currently, only the wealthiest families can get ahead. They can afford the best housing, food, healthcare, and transportation. Their children can enter adulthood unencumbered with higher-education debt and free to explore family-funded entrepreneurship. It takes money to make money, and these powerful dynasties continue to gain the upper hand.

The deck may be stacked against the average family, but we can play our cards smarter. We can make better, more realistic decisions. Until money grows on trees, our best bet is to reduce our expenses by having fewer children and investing more in the ones we have.

This 21st, start a dialogue with your family about the benefits of pooling our resources. The isolated nuclear family of the ‘50s has proven to be a total bust, and it’s time to bring our “extended” family back into the fold.

By limiting population growth and uniting our families, we have more time, money, and energy to dedicate to our entire clan, immediate and extended alike. We can create culturally rich networks of family members who can support, raise, and teach each other.

  • Are you a parent? You can discuss how the pooling of limited resources – when combined with reduced demand for those resources – provides much more leverage against the current dynastic system and offer greater returns.
  • Are you an aunt or uncle without kids? You can talk about the importance of the special parenting role you play, and about the ways you can financially and emotionally contribute to the next generation’s success.
  • Are you a grandparent? You’ve survived so much and gained so much wisdom, and you’re in a great position to give your time and teach good life skills.

We realize that there are tax considerations for having children, and not all families get along. However, the fact that something may be challenging doesn’t mean that it can’t be the most worthwhile decision of your life.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime gift. You have an opportunity to teach money-management skills to your family’s youngest – and most vulnerable – generation. You have a chance to strengthen or rebuild your entire family network, opening new lines of communication, trust, and familiarity. You have an excuse to finally turn those relative strangers into your closest-knit kin. And you have a reason to support the development of better policy that rewards sustainable family-planning decisions.

If saving our planet doesn’t light a fire under you, let your bottom line motivate you. Put a unified plan into motion today. Take that first step toward creating and securing your family’s dynasty and empowering those kids – while enjoying the perks of having more by doing less.

Affordable Housing made for Sustainable Living

Millions of homes are built each year and many are designed to last over 50 years. If we’re going to achieve even minimum climate goals we’ll need to built those homes to use much less energy and in a way that externalizes much less carbon.

Fortunately one of the hottest trends in home building is Zero Net Energy (NZE) homes. A zero energy home combines advanced design and superior building systems with energy efficiency and on-site solar panels to produce an ultra-comfortable, healthy, quiet, sustainable homes that are affordable to live in because they don’t have any power bills. Essentially NZE homes are built with excellent insulation so they use much less energy to heat and cool and then what energy they do use is generated on site, usually with solar panels. In California, USA all new residential home will be NZE homes starting in 2010.

Once we build a home to be net zero energy use we can start to look at the carbon it takes to build that structure. This is most often referred to as embodied energy. New wooden skyscrapers and straw bale homes are examples of structures with lower embodied energy.

Affordable Housing: The Environmental Crisis That Hits Too Close to Home

Last month, we rallied around the idea of using less stuff and working fewer hours.

Using less stuff is relatively easy. Letting go of excessive consumerism provides fairly instant gratification: your wallet grows fatter, experiences become richer, and time seems to multiply.

But working fewer hours? That can be more challenging, given the ever-increasing cost of living. Fortunately, there are many ways that we can live affordably while also advocating for housing as a human right:

We must champion a housing-for-all campaign.
No one who needs and wants shelter should have to go without—and no one should spend more than 33% of their income on housing. Earnings and expenses may be relative, but exceeding a third cannot be considered affordable. As we work to ensure housing security for everyone, let’s remember to Turn21 by insisting on green and net-zero construction.

We can build affordable housing.
Government agencies aren’t the only ones who can create change. Local citizens, through private organizations like Habitat for Humanity, are already working to create new affordable housing. We can establish new—and strengthen existing—local inclusionary zoning policies that mandate a percentage of new housing to be built affordable. We can demand that new affordable housing be distributed throughout the community, which not only creates a feeling of equality, it also helps thwart the stigma of being on the so-called right or wrong side of the tracks. However, it’s important to remember that new housing isn’t a magic pill: construction projects may move too slowly to make a real impact, available lots may not offer enough land, and critical water and sewer resources may be inadequate to support population increases.

We can convert existing properties into higher-density housing.
Sprawling, car-centric malls are becoming obsolete and rundown. Big-box stores that went bust are still gathering cobwebs. Foreclosed overly-large single-family homes languish in sparse neighborhoods. Making an effort to repurpose and “green” our existing infrastructure—and maintaining what we have—requires the lowest energy investment to see a positive return. This kind of transformation is already becoming a trend, and the oldest shopping mall in the U.S. has become micro-apartments.

We can consider moving to more-affordable areas.
When major cities and coastal hamlets become too pricey, one option may be for some people to relocate to lower-cost areas. It’s true that there may be unequal privilege when it comes to the employment, telecommuting, and financial stability required to move, and we must be aware of community reaction to a sudden influx of newcomers. However, as population growth, climate instability, and resource availability become increasingly volatile, relocating will likely become unavoidable. If nothing else, those of us who don’t necessarily need to live and work in the city can help alleviate housing-supply pressure by reducing demand for the limited amount that exists.

We can build smaller, more-affordable units. Tiny houses, small flats, and cozy cottages are all trending, and the sharing economy is making it unnecessary to own a home that will be mostly empty and unused. Voluntary simplicity and the streamlining of one’s lifestyle are increasingly favored over extravagantly large, stuff-filled properties. These smaller homes are naturally more affordable: not only do they require less time and fewer materials to build them, they also need less maintenance and fewer resources to heat and cool them.

We can buy housing for the purpose of protecting its affordability.
When communities publicly buy up housing stock in an area and create locked-in, deed-restricted affordable units, they’re able to ensure that young people can continue to live in the area in which they were raised—and that more people can live closer to where they work. If each municipality converted even a mere 10% of housing stock to permanently affordable housing, we could see incredible transformations for the better within our local communities.

Remember, as we move forward to a holistic solution, we need to make sure that we’re reducing or limiting the overall growth of the human population, which will ultimately help lower the cost of housing. The reason is simple: we still live in a world with an entire economic and life system predicated on a mathematical impossibility, one that assumes we can enjoy infinite and exponential growth by fueling it with finite, dwindling carbon resources.

Until we can reduce demand, we must work to provide housing to all people who need it—not only because it’s the morally correct thing to do, but also because it keeps us focused on working together to solve our big problems.

Working together, we’ve used science to put a man on the moon, and when called upon in times of scarcity, we’ve grown gardens to put food on the table. Our generation’s greatest challenge will be carbon reduction, and it’s time to help each other change the world—starting right in the comfort of our own home.