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I received a really good question on my last post, so I wanted to follow up with a second part and address the question that was raised. Sarenth asked the following question;
“Will you be exploring more of the positive aspects of our relationship with the world around us in future posts? I think that if we’re going to rethink our relationships with ourselves and the natural world, then really digging into the ways that we can positively affect the world is of vital importance.”
I think this is a great point and something I would like to explore in more depth. I’ll admit, my last post was a little murky, and started to touch on some of the more theoretical aspects to my animism. If you are interested in those topics, be sure to visit my expanded post here.
With that out of the way, I want to look more deeply into Sarenth’s question. It is true, that we as a species have a lot of really unhealthy relationships with the Earth. It would be easy for me to go on at length about fossil fuels, pollution, and a whole host of other topics. But I think Sarenth’s point is an important one, and I would like to run with it.
There is a lot we can be doing to bring about a more positive relationship with each other and the planet. I have been recently writing a great deal about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Social Democracy, Animism and Project Drawdown. I am just getting started with that series, and have not yet had the chance to create a master index. The short version is that there is a heck of lot we could be doing to build better relationships. Some of these are individual actions, some are community actions, and some are a lot bigger than either of those. Some solutions are changing in policy, some in our mentality, and some in technology.
The fact is that the work ahead is bigger than any one individual, a lot bigger. While as Sarenth rightly points out that there are no small actions; this is something that has to happen at every conceivable scale if it has any chance of working.
As I said, there is a lot that can be done. I won’t even have the space to scratch the surface here. With that in mind, I want to focus my attention on Project Drawdown. In short, Drawdown is one of the most comprehensive plans to fight climate change and to build a more sustainable world. It has quickly become one of my go to sources, and one of the most cherished books in my collection. I highly recommend you pick up the book, because it goes a lot deeper than the online sources. Personally, I’m of the opinion it should be required readings for pagans.
As such, that is going to be my go to for this blog as well, keeping in mind that there is so much more. One of the things I really love about Drawdown is that many of the solutions are scalable; they can work for households as easily for cities or entire countries. While there is no such thing as a perfect solution, the fact is that we can do better. So let’s look at some things we can do, as presented by Drawdown.
First, have a look at the solutions by rank. It clearly lays out what solutions will have the greatest effect on carbon reduction and creating a more sustainable world. Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the table, and compare the numbers for Net Cost vs Net Savings. The collective cost to implement most of these solutions is nearly $30 trillion dollars, but doing so could save nearly $74 Trillion by 2050. Not to mention it would remove 1051 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the air.
Now, let’s look at a few select solutions that I pulled out based on scale;
Micro-Wind is any kind of wind generation that produces 100 kilowatts or less. Overall, the impact isn’t very much on the grand scheme of things. However, these fall into small scale solutions that even individual family’s can afford. It could help offset cost for electrical bills, as well as help the environment. Maybe one household isn’t very much, but imagine if it is 1,000 or even 10,000 households. The benefits stack.
Rooftop Solar is in the same kind of box that Micro-Wind is. With a little bit of personal investment, or even subsidy programs, this is something that can be available to many households. The prices for solar are dropping all the time too, so this is something more people will have access two in the coming years.
This one should come as a no brainer, and it one of the many solutions that is immediately scaleable. From individual backyards to industrial scales, composting is something we could all be doing. It would help return vital nutrient back to the Earth, keep waste out of landfills, and keep carbon out of the air too.
This one is naturally more effective at scale, but there is no getting around that our food systems are pretty messed up. Now, I’m not saying for a second that we need to all be vegetarians or vegans, but cutting some meat out of our diets really would go a long way. Notice that this particular solution is ranked #4.
Do I even have to harp on this one? Recycling is the process by which we can reclaim materials, from plastics to metals. Working to keep the materials process circular can save a lot of unnecessary new material extraction, and can also keep a lot of unneeded waste out of landfills.
Micro-Grids are pretty straight forward, and it is really hard to estimate the exact impact overall since it intersects with that of building a more renewable energy system. However, it is a great community level project that allows off-grid (or far from grid) communities to pool energy resources. Even in the case of on-grid (the macro-grid that is) communities, such strategies can be implemented in order to construct more localized renewable power systems.
Green roofs are scaleable too, which means they can implemented from smaller villages to our largest cities. These kinds of ideas can range from simple grassy roofs, to fully implemented gardens or micro-ecosystems. The benefits go without saying, and provide not only insulation but heat management as well.
Regenerative agriculture can be anything from personal gardens to large urban gardening initiatives. These practices intersect a lot with the ideas behind permaculture, and help to keep both the earth as well as the people healthy. This particular solution is ranked in the top 15 solutions according to Drawdown.
Larger Scale Solutions
Let’s face facts, sometimes we have to think big. Onshore wind farms rank as the #2 solution according to Drawdow, and often involve the collective resources of utility scale endeavors. This solution alone would remove nearly 90 gigatons of carbon from the air and have an estimated net operation savings of $7.4 trillion dollars. The environmental as well as economical benefits cannot be understated here.
Solar farms fall into the same kind of category as scaled up wind turbines. Solar farms at the utility scale rank as #8 on the Drawdown solutions list. They would remove almost 40 gigatons of carbon from the air, and have an estimated net operational savings of $5 trillion US dollars.
I have to admit I have a great loves of forests, so I combined several different solutions all together. Tropical forest management, Temperate forests, and afforestation rank as solutions number #5, #12 and #15 respectively. The impacts of properly restoring and managing complex forest ecosystems I cannot stress enough, not only for today but to also ensure sustainable forestry practices into the future.
If we are going to build our electrical generation grids on renewable energy, the next best thing we can do is get fossil fuel powered vehicles off the road. Several cities as well as countries are now pushing EV mandates, and some have even implemented timelines that will entirely phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles. This is a big and important step, and electrifying our transportation system is vital for a more sustainable world.
What kind of sci-fi author would I be if I didn’t at least glimpse into the future? Heck, in some cases the future is already here…
Living buildings are already in development, and they take the concept of net zero buildings one step farther. As the link points out, a living building should grow food, use rainwater, create more power than it use, and protect vital habitats. The idea is create an entirely biophilic and holistic structure that meets most of it’s own needs.
Can you imagine an entire city constructed of living buildings?
Right in line with living buildings is the idea of building with wood instead of concrete and steel. Both concrete and steel have heavy environmental costs in both their extraction and manufacture. Several projects are already in the works that replace these materials with wood, or more specifically laminated timber products.
Laminated timber has several environmental benefits, even if it is somewhat costly to produce at the moment. Wood sequesters carbon, which remains in the timber. In addition, the processes for making laminated timber release fewer greenhouse gases than concrete or steel.
More than this, laminated timber is also very flame resistant, and very strong.
Okay, I couldn’t end this piece without at least one mention of fusion energy. It has been a science fiction staple for decades, and it is a technology that is getting closer to reality all the time. Most nuclear plants now operate on fission, the breaking of larger atoms into smaller pieces, which releases energy. Fission is a dirty process, from toxic waste, to the risk of meltdown. Not to mention Drawdown lists nuclear fission as a “regret” solution. One we have many regrets about already.
Fusion on the other hand, creates larger atoms from smaller ones, usually hydrogen. This is the exact same way that stars create energy.
It is one of those technologies that would create nearly limitless cleaner energy, but it is not quite here yet…
I do hope I have provided you some food for thought. There are many, many ways we can change our relationships to our environment and our planet. While this piece is a far cry from being comprehensive, it is a start. It is important that we talk about all of this, and educate others. It will take a collective effort to shape a sustainable world, and I think we pagans are uniquely positioned to do just that.
Thanks for reading!