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Mother and daughter with reusable shopping bag - Designing a sustainable lifestyle

“Treat Nature well, and Nature will treat you well. Hurt or destroy Nature, and Nature will soon destroy you.” – Aldous Huxley, Island

Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness is not just a psychological therapy, but a way of living life, and it involves conscious choices.

Last year, I read a number of books on the need to conserve energy and develop systems that foster the use of renewable energies. I found them educational and inspiring, because they all provide practical ideas, resources and facts.

If you’re wondering why it’s necessary to reduce our oil consumption, 50 Simple Steps to Kick Our Oil Habit by The Green Patriot Working Group gives a good explanation of the various reasons that make this action compelling.

Pentagon officials believe that oil resources could be at the heart of international tensions for years to come, and predict an age of resource wars emerging, with China, Russia, Europe and the United States in a dangerously volatile scramble for the remainder of the globe’s fossil fuel reserves. Going beyond the politics of what this implies, and how it translates into the study of history, is another matter altogether that could potentially open up new dimensions to help us understand the problems that assail humanity today.

In the meantime, we can all make conscious choices. For instance, carpooling is fun, and by doing so, in addition to saving energy, money and time, we help curb air pollution levels.

The problem with plastic bags

Are you taking your own bag with you when you do your grocery shopping?

The U.S. alone uses 4,000 barrels of oil per year to make plastic bags. If you include Asian, Australian and European contributions along with that number, you’ll see that we’re letting a lot of oil go down the drain—and down the mouths of many creatures who end up choking and dying as a result of our negligence.

Cutting down on plastic bags is a reasonable starting point if we want to improve our ecological footprint. Currently, there’s a substantial patch of global garbage (including plastic bags), about the size of Texas, floating in the water off the California coastline.

“We are extracting and destroying the Earth to use a plastic bag for 10 minutes,” Stephanie Barger, Executive Director of the Earth Resource Foundation in California, has said.

According to Vincent Cobb, founder of www.reusablebags.com, about 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Most bags end up in landfills, where they’ll break down after about 1,000 years, or they end up in rivers and oceans, where they’re likely to choke animals.

The advantages of renewable energy

Another important point to be considered is that fostering the use of renewable energies has a positive impact on the economy.

“Thanks to wind and other renewable energy projects currently underway hundreds of thousands of workers are now being employed in newly created non-polluting green collar jobs throughout the world. This number will continue to increase if we promote smart policies aimed at curbing our oil addiction and addressing its resultant problems, like pollution and disease—many petroleum-derived chemicals are associated with cancer.”
– The Green Patriot Working Group, 50 Simple Steps to Kick Our Oil Habit

Energy Independence by Christine Woodside is an easy, interesting read brimming with practical ideas that can help us reduce fuel consumption and increase our understanding of the need for renewable energies. It also contains interesting historical details about the use of solar and wind energy in America. Wind Power Basics by Dan Chiras explains, in detail, the concept of harnessing the power of wind. It parses the pros and cons of the strategy, and provides specific information about wind site assessments, tower installation, batteries, and more. The book also explores legal matters, maintenance, insurance requirements, and how to work with your local utility.

A final important reason why conserving energy and resorting to renewable energies makes sense is because it will help mitigate the effects of global warming. For decades, climate science has been distorted and censored by the media in order to protect the interests of fossil fuel companies. To learn more about how this has been done, I recommend the book Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen.

The oil companies’ Arctic drilling results in serious consequences for the Earth’s ecosystems. Relying on fossil fuels as opposed to renewable energies increases the production of carbon dioxide, which leads to the acidification of the oceans. This is a problem for many sea creatures, since they require certain chemical conditions and pH within their environments in order to live. The overproduction of carbon dioxide is disrupting the lives of organisms (both plants and animals) that are vital to oceanic ecosystems since they provide nursery habitats for fish, serve as food for marine predators, and act as natural defenses against storm and erosion.

There’s no method that has been proven effective for cleaning up oil spills in icy water. Drilling disturbs fish and other animals, so as long as this continues to be done, both the subsistence and cultural livelihood of indigenous people living in the Arctic remain at stake. Moreover, whales and other marine mammals use sound to navigate and find food and mates in the ocean, so the noise generated by oil and gas companies when exploring for oil offshore can cause confusion, injury and even death in these sea creatures.

We don’t have five spare planets sitting around…

The world’s population has grown seven times larger since 1800. There were one billion human beings back then. Now there are 7.5 billion.

In his latest book, Creative Schools, Ken Robinson warns that five planets are actually needed to continue to satisfy the United States’ current level of food, fuel and water consumption. Unfortunately, other countries are willing, or are even trying to, follow this model. The world economic system has been designed to function as if resources were infinite, but resources are not infinite, so our current situation is not sustainable.

An important question arises as a result of this analysis: Is modern technology geared towards a sustainable future?

Ignoring the facts presented above, and this essential question, is not going to make the issue go away. Taking care of our environment is an ethical responsibility that deserves our urgent attention.

If we don’t create solutions for this critical situation that we find ourselves in, Nature will fix it through famine, wars and natural disasters, as Aldous Huxley wrote in his book Island.

Mother Nature is always at work, and she does not care about our country of origin. She can strike with the same strength anywhere!

Read more on this topic in FROM IDEAS TO INSIGHTS: Understand sustainability through mindfulness»

Julia Hones has had her works published in various magazines and anthologies. These works explore the challenges of being yourself in today’s society, relationships, gender and ethnic bias, the interaction between humans and nature, the impact of technology, modern slavery, and other subjects. Her poetry has been a semi-finalist for the Mary Ballard Poetry Prize in 2015 and was shortlisted for the erbacce Prize in 2016. To learn more about her published works, check out her blog.

image: Japanese girl with the eco-bag via Shutterstock

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