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Old hammy's eco scale.  RSS feed

 
                  
Posts: 59
Location: NW Ontario
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Originally this post was in response to the http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/3069_0/permaculture/the-wheaton-eco-scale thread but I decided to move it:

I agree that there is a definite spectrum of eco-ness out there and I think I understand your need to try to classify things with an eco-scale... I'm not sure I agree that your scale defines what you are trying define though. Too much seems benchmarked against how much food consumption is home-grown while not taking into account what practices are used to grow the food. Obviously, there is also more to being eco than just growing food...

I recently engaged in a debate over the usefulness of the term "green" specifically with respect to how it's used in describing a house. My contention was that the term "green" is essentially meaningless since its definition can be written to suit any situation you want. Ie: "I am green because my house is green. My house is green because I put in bamboo floors and curly light-bulbs." Never mind the fact that the bamboo was steamed across the ocean, the 4000 sq ft floorplan or the petrochemical foams used to insulate and "save" energy. Within these "shades of green" I think are where the 0s and 1s reside on your scale.

I would like to propose my own scale if I may:
0: People who just don't care, who don't understand or who view being "green" as a marketing opportunity.
1: People who care or think about being eco but who are not actually able to bring themselves to change anything meaningful about their consumeristic lifestyles and who think that simply buying "green" things is doing their part.
2-10: People who have gained the awareness that being eco or green involves constantly changing the way you live on the earth. 2 would be where most people start when they achieve their awareness and 10 would be a theoretical pinnacle of sustainable living. The numbers between 2 and 10 represent each individual's journey of self discovery and lifestyle change.

I like this scale because once you become a 2 or more, it acknowledges that you understand where you need to get to but gives people the room to not feel depressed about where they are (think of the guy who has an epiphany while in the middle of his 2 hour commute). I'm not sure anyone can be a 10 since there's ALWAYS more you can do to be more eco...  like the Zen equivalent of reaching enlightenment.

Another thing I like about this scale is that it separates two totally different points of view. In other words, there's no reason for a 2 or more to disparage against another 2 or more since idealogically they should be on the same page despite the fact that one individual may not be as far along the same road to eco-ness.
 
Emil Spoerri
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There are beef farms that feed some minerals to their cows and all they do is build topsoil and make meat and diverse pastures by grazing at extremely large densities. I think that if you can do this on marginal land, you can live off of milk and blood and honey and fruit and weeds and sleep under the stars with a tunic and be a 10.

The problem comes in when you need some kind of fencing... if only on enough land with enough animals! Oh yeah those were called buffalo! And aurochs!

what about living off of water fowl and water plants in wetlands? Oh yeah and cows and bees.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I like your scale old hammy, as someone who often becomes depressed about my inability to make faster progress towards a sustainable way of life. 
 
Brenda Groth
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this Mo Backwoods Home magazine had a great article in it on self sufficiency..showing how little people realize how much is involved in being truly self sufficient and how you can get there step by step..or at least make some progress..it was quite descriptive
 
Matt Ferrall
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This scale is better at addressing our inability to accurately quantify any sort of linear progression.People living in studio appartments in the city with no car are probably using less resources than most permies so it seems like it depends on someones idea of green.IMO decentralized industrial society uses MORE recources than centralized society so those going back to the land and bringing civilization with them probably have the biggest footprint.They are also less dependent on the "system".Perhaps not by much but by some so is green(as defined by ecological footprint) even a good goal if it leads to slightly more dependence?The problem of people just wanting to buy solutions trickles down to the homesteading scene in the form of farming related infrastructure and most minifarms are projections of how people think sustainable country living SHOULD look like rather than reflecting what truly sustainable cultures actually look like.
 
                  
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Location: NW Ontario
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IMO decentralized industrial society uses MORE recources than centralized society so those going back to the land and bringing civilization with them probably have the biggest footprint.They are also less dependent on the "system".Perhaps not by much but by some so is green(as defined by ecological footprint) even a good goal if it leads to slightly more dependence?


Here's a relevant article from The Oil Drum:
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6842

Sustainable living is a complicated subject.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Excellent read!In some ways I stand corrected although I remember reading about rural people in the US who have to travel great distances to get to a store and they do.China,being more dense,probably requires less travel for rural peoples to access civilized resources.It also is very resource intensive to get things like electricity to rural people.Our land taxes are greater as a percentage than wealthy centralized communities to reflect that increased cost.
 
                  
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Location: NW Ontario
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Mt.goat,
I really enjoyed it too. I think he hits the nail on the head in his conclusion:
Similarly, it suggests that “green buildings” with low or net-zero operational energy may not be “green” at all if the embodied energy of the materials used in the building are considered in the calculation. This exercise also adds a different perspective to the impact of such popular programs such as encouraging CFL use or buying more fuel efficient cars: though important in their own right as a matter of waste reduction, the contribution to changing the overall energy picture is quite small.


Ludi,
Unless you're born into it, it I would think that it could take a looooong time to untangle yourself from all the non-sustainable entrapments of modern life. These entrapments are the product of over a century of cultural evolution and are so powerful that many, many people cannot even fathom that other ways can exist. The important thing is to keep looking for a way out and remember that even small changes are worthwhile. Also remember to take pride and satisfaction in those changes
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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While "operational energy"can be quantified,"embodied energy"dilutes into too many transactions to easily quantify and since the "green"shell game involves hiding our ecological footprint from ourselves,"embodied"energy becomes the perfect spot to hide it ;unquantifiable.One of the reasons its so hard to untangle oneself is these tricks in logic and the inability of human cognition to see every facet of our actions thus we are tricked over and over as we attempt to evolve by lifeways and products that hide their embodied energy elsewhere.Does embodied energy include clean up costs and mitigation?If so civilization cant possibly be "green"!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you old hammy. 

Mt. goat, I think the harder we try to hold onto civilization, the less "green" we will be.

 
Paul Cereghino
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Maybe 'individual sustainability' is an oxymoron, or at least irrelevant.  Specialization is a time honored tradition in every society.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Not sure what specialization has to do with this but IMO it ist an either/ or but rather a matter of degrees.As civilizations advance ,specialization increases until peoples lives seem meaningless and their role as a cog becomes smaller and more removed .The left hand can no longer see whats in the right hand which creates an enviroment ripe for abuse.i.e.an enviroment where ecological costs are harder to quantify and track.Also after further thought;People living ruraly and using civilization require the city but also require its products be redistributed back into rural areas.Perhaps in China,rural people are living simpler than Urban folks which would reduce their impact?
 
Lisa Paulson
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I don't know that anyone can truly measure and make an accurate comparrison comparing the footprint of an urban apartment dweller and a permaculurist.  An urban  environment involved massive amounts of resources to build and maintain ,  I don't see them walking to work across the soil and grass as I do.  I think you would have to look at the positive inputs a permaculturist makes on soil , water and healthier air by being stewards of greenspace and hosting biodiversity and wildlife, and not just mammals but fish, insects, birds, amphibians, plants, fungi etc. 


 
tel jetson
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Synergy wrote:
I don't know that anyone can truly measure and make an accurate comparrison comparing the footprint of an urban apartment dweller and a permaculurist.


I'm going to call that a false dichotomy.  there are plenty of urban apartment dwellers that are worthy of the title "permaculturist".
 
                  
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Location: NW Ontario
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An urban  environment involved massive amounts of resources to build and maintain

Yes. This is what the article I linked is about.

I don't know that anyone can truly measure and make an accurate comparrison comparing the footprint of an urban apartment dweller and a permaculurist.

I'm not sure anyone made that comparison. Rural inhabitants are not necesarily permaculturalists.
 
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