Living well on 10% the impact

Can you imagine a lifestyle that uses only 10 percent of the energy that the average American consumes? And is doable on $10,000 a year per person? Does that bring up images of poverty, deprivation and limited choices?

If so, please invest 19 minutes watching this TED talk by a woman from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri. She does a great job of explaining clearly how the 75 members of her community are not “flaky dreamers out of touch with reality” but rather pioneers in sustainable living.

We write a blog about how we’ve simplified our lives and lowered our household’s carbon footprint, and why we think it’s gratifying to the soul and crucial to the planet. But we haven’t come close to what the people in this intentional community have accomplished together in reducing energy use for electricity, cars, food and buildings.. This video, called “Sustainable is Possible,” goes a long way to dealing with the PR problem of people thinking that a low-carbon lifestyle must be a dismal one.

The reason this is important is that we are well on our way to making the Earth unlivable for our children and grandchildren. On Thursday night, I went to a talk by Ray Bradley, a UMass professor of geosciences, who calmly said that “we are entering completely uncharted waters” as the planet warms up.

He explained in understandable terms how increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to unprecedented warming. That level ranged from 180 to 280 parts per million for hundreds of thousands of years, but since 1980 it has shot up to 400. “It’s like having an extra duvet on the bed,” he said.

If we ignore the problem, the average world temperature could increase from 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit this century, causing coastal flooding, droughts, severe storms, wars, relocation and other catastrophes. Here on the East Coast we had record cold this winter, but we were among the few places in the world below normal, Bradley said. California’s drought is so severe it could run out of water this year.

Although most Republican political leaders (but not our governor!) have their heads in the sand, insurance companies and  the Bank of England are paying attention, Bradley said. And European countries have set a target of a 40 percent cut in emissions by 2050.

This is an international problem, and Bradley explained why it’s a vexing one. China now produces more emissions than the U.S., but points out that from 1750 to 2000, the U.S. and Europe produced far more, and largely caused the fix we’re in now. Meanwhile, while India plans lots of coal-fired power plants, it points out that its per-capital emissions are very low.

This ecovillage in Missouri is demonstrating how we in the developed world can make the lifestyle changes we need to make without sacrificing the good life.

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2 thoughts on “Living well on 10% the impact

  1. Loved your post. Like you, we are a homesteading family for about forty years. The TEDtalk was really well done, but as they say, the devil is in the details. The abstracts are very good, but would like to have seen more day to day details. I guess making the effort is better than burying our heads in despair.

  2. Pingback: A simple living index | Adventures in the good life

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