Achieving a sustainable lifestyle today is of paramount importance for the health of future generations. The devastation of our natural environment by individuals and corporations who carelessly pollute the water and air, clearcut forests, and destroy topsoil and natural habitats is in many cases irreversible. Those of us living an urban or suburban lifestyle may just be beginning to feel the repercussions of our industrial lifestyle in the form of climate change. However, the perpetuation of anti-environment practices is sure to cause consequences that we cannot even imagine.
The world in which we live is a system in which all elements interrelate and coexist in a harmonious balance of creation and destruction. Nothing exists or functions in isolation. Everything is interconnected and every act affects the future of countless other elements. This concept, also known as systems thinking, is easy to see when observing an ecosystem, especially when the harmony of that ecosystem is disrupted. The extinction or reduction of one species rebounds through the entire food chain, causing havoc on the lives of the rest of the species.
A sustainable lifestyle is one that seeks to harmonize with the elements of the natural world. We can use the forces of nature to our advantage, without abusing them and causing as little disturbance to the natural environment as possible. One such example is harnessing the energy of the sun. Solar energy can be captured in a variety of ways. The most basic way, passive solar energy, refers to the type of construction materials used and their placement. For example, a house designed to face the south allows the heat of the sun to warm the house all day long. Add to that other passive solar features such as thermal mass and the house is already well on its way to energy-independence.
Industrialism and the Information Age have provided our society with the tools it needs to reverse our current path of environmental degradation. Solar panel technology and the multitude of other inventions for collecting the energy of the sun are constantly improving and becoming more affordable. We may also gather energy from the wind, water, ground and even our own waste products.
The key to becoming sustainable as individuals and as a society is our own willingness to change and to be creative. Permaculture is a design system that guides us to build and manage sustainable living and working environments in which all of the elements overlap and interrelate to create a functioning whole. Combining our knowledge of ecological principles with our earth-friendly technology we have only to succeed in achieving a more sustainable lifestyle today, and a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.
Dayna Schueth works as a permacultural design consultant in Boulder Colorado and South America.
She teaches people how to become sustainable and create sustainable gardens that can feed entire families.